A couple of years ago, the California Senate declared February “Craft Beer Month.” Our livers, shuddering in fear, took solace in the fact that February is the shortest month and promptly declared the other 11 months “Post-Beer Week Trauma Intensive Therapy Time.” (Naturally, we didn't listen to our livers, and spent the rest of the year training in anticipation of the Bay Area's most glorious month. As the T-shirt saying goes, “the liver is evil and must be punished.”)
SF Beer Week grew out of a smattering of local annual beer events, including the Toronado Barleywine Festival and Magnolia and 21st Amendment Breweries' Strong Beer Month. The current incarnation of Beer Week has become a massive undertaking, so much so that the “week” takes 10 days to complete. With hundreds of events stacked throughout the Bay Area, it can be difficult to separate the wheat (read: barley) from the chaff. In an act of pure altruism, we've jumped on the booze grenade and compiled a targeted list of worthy events:
If you like to pucker up, check out one of the many events focused on sour beers. Brewed with wild yeast and bacteria (trust us, lactobacillus and pediococcus taste better than they sound), these beers feature a quenching acidity, and are often barrel-aged with all manner of fruit and other unique additions. Grab the BART to Berkeley to check out the annual Sour Sunday event (Feb. 9, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) featuring the week's largest selection of funky brews. Triple Rock will serve international sours from the likes of Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen, while Jupiter will pour domestic wild ales from local outfits such as Russian River and Drake's Brewing. Or, check out United Sours of America at Monk's Kettle (Feb. 8, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.), where all 24 taps will flow with domestic sours from 20 breweries such as Cascade, Prairie, and The Rare Barrel.
If you like your brews from a barrel, reserve a ticket to attend The Jug Shop's Barrel-Aged Beer Festival (Feb. 15, 7:45-10:45 p.m.), where more than 160 oak-aged beers will be available for sampling (no, 160 is not a typo). Another good pick is Drake's Barrel-Aged Beer Night at Churchill (Feb. 13, 6 p.m.), where brewers will chat about and pour barrel-aged creations while the bartenders sling spirits pairings.
If you want to learn a thing or two, head to the TED Talks-inspired Beer Talks event (Feb. 8, 2:30-5:30 p.m.) to hear guest speakers from Fifty Fifty Brewing, Almanac Beer Co., Crooked Stave, and more speak about the design, process, and community aspects of brewing. Naturally, a host of fine beers will also be served. Or, see Master Cicerone Rich Higgins lead an interactive seminar in food and beer pairing at 18 Reasons (Feb. 15, 3:30-5:30 p.m.). Remember, “knowing is half the battle.” Not sure about the other half, but sampling a bunch of beers usually seems to work.
If your default expression is “bitter beer face,” satisfy your inner hop-head at The Bistro's 13th Annual Double IPA Festival (Feb. 8, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.), with more than 50 double IPAs and 30 Triple IPAs on tap. Because Triple IPAs are a thing now. Another great option is City Beer Store's Hop To It! Tasting (Feb. 15, 1-4 p.m.) which showcases brews from the 2-Hop Collaboration project, wherein storied brewers such as Alpine, Beachwood BBQ, and Kern River created new beers highlighting two hop varieties. Wax poetic about hop varietals while throwing around words like “dank,” “resinous,” and “expressive.”
If you like to mix beer and booze, attend a beer cocktail event, where mixologists will artfully blend spirits and brews. Don't expect sake dropped into an Asahi or Bailey's dubiously blending with a Guinness, as these bartenders take their craft seriously. Enjoy the SFBW Beer Cocktail Series at Alembic, where each day of SF Beer Week brings a new beery cocktail to the menu for one day only. Expect beer-infused foams, syrups, and other heady creations. For a nightcap on the last evening of Beer Week, head to 15 Romolo for the 4th Annual Booze & Brew Brawl (Feb. 16, 6-10 p.m.), where six competitors from the Bay Area's best cocktail joints will vie for your liver's undying affection. All of the cocktails will feature beer from Pacific Brewing Laboratory.
Most importantly, SF Beer Week is an important (and potent) reminder that we have a flourishing brewing scene right in our backyard. Drink local!