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Raise a Glass to SF Beer Week! What to Attend

With the ever-increasing prominence of beer lists, beer tastings, beer dinners, and Cicerones (the suds equivalent of a sommelier), San Francisco is prepped and ready to celebrate a panoply of offerings at Beer Week, which starts next Friday. 50+ small, independent craft breweries will showcase their wares at the fest, with many brewers coming in person to talk shop. Beer Week also means plenty of beer dinners at SF restaurants, special offerings at stalwarts like Toronado, City Beer Store, and The Monk's Kettle, and lots of other fun events. Here are our picks for the best activities during Beer Week. We'll also be featuring some Beer Week steals in next week's Lowering the Bar column. The complete schedule, and information on tickets, can be found here. (FYI: Beer Week events take place all over the Bay, but given our San Francisco focus, we're only featuring the best events happening here in the city.)

Opening Gala: The San Francisco Brewer's Guild is opening the fest with a lively party, featuring over 20 local breweries, food from 4505 Meats and Tacolicious, and the unveiling of the collaborative beer made by members of the Guild, a barrel-aged Imperial Common. It should be a fun way to meet fellow drinkers, talk to brewers, and explore the diverse selections of Bay Area producers. If you're interested, be sure to purchase tickets soon-- after Sunday, they go up by $10. Friday, February 5, 5-9 pm. Tickets are $45 for general admission and $55 for VIP admission.

Beer to Brakers: If you've ever seen a tattooed messenger downing a pint at Zeitgeist, you're probably aware of the close relationship between brewers and bicyclists. (See also: Fat Tire's pedal-powered Tour de Fat, which rolls through every summer.) This bicycle beer crawl will start off with some suds in the Mission, then proceed to SOMA for brews at ThirstyBear and Gordon Biersch. It's a great way to enjoy the carmaraderie of the Fest while burning a few of those beer-related calories. Saturday, February 6, 10 am-3:30 pm. A $15 donation is requested; proceeds will benefit the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation.

A Night Without Hops: Hops are to beer what the layer of cookie is to a Twix bar: sure, chocolate and caramel (or malts and yeast) are great, but the crispness is what really ties it all together. The little buds add stability, interest, and that hint of bitterness that makes beer beer. So we're interested to see what Moonlight Brewery's Brian Hunt has been able to pull off with his selection of hopless brews, which will be on tap at the Monk's Kettle. Tuesday, February 9, 5-8 pm, at the Monk's Kettle, 3141 16th St., Mission. Admission is free, but does not include beer.

A Beer vs. Wine Valentine: There are still a few skeptics out there who doubt that beer can be paired with food as deliciously as wine. Know one? Take him or her to Bar Crudo's beer vs. wine dinner, where each course will be paired with an offering from the grain and the grape. The five-course meal will center around sustainable seafood, a Bar Crudo specialty. Tuesday, February 9, 6:30-10 pm, at Bar Crudo, 655 Divisadero St., Divisadero Corridor. Admission is $95 and includes food and drink.

Beer & Nosh Dinner at Scala's: Blogger Jesse Friedman, also known as Beer & Nosh, regularly deconstructs the dinners, beer lists, and tastings of restaurants around the Bay Area. After hosting a barbeque with Ryan Farr and Humphry Slocombe in the fall, he's moving up to bigger game: a fancy four-course dinner at Scala's Bistro, paired with "Mostly Barrel-Aged Beers." Friedman has high expectations for restaurants that do beer pairing, so look for this dinner to be elegantly managed and perfectly paired with chef Jen Biesty's food. Wednesday, February 10, 6:30-10 pm, at Scala's Bistro, 432 Powell St., Union Square. Admission is $100 and includes food and drink.

Beerlesque: The Schmaltz Brewing Company, makers of proudly Jewish He'brew, have expanded their line to include a sideshow-inspired collection, Coney Island Craft Lagers. To celebrate the 2010 release of their high-octane Human Blockhead, they're throwing their very own freak show at Paradise Lounge, with the burlesque-variety team Hubba Hubba Revue as headliners. Expect some weird feats, curvy ladies, and plenty of lager to wash it all down. Thursday, February 11, 8 pm-2 am, at Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom St., SOMA. Admission is $8 before 10 pm and $10 after.

Toronado Barleywine Festival: Beer Week wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Toronado. The long-running event around which Beer Week was built, this annual barleywine bacchanal features samples from dozens of brewers, each with their own take on the high-alcohol, deliciously sweet winter brew. (Yes, the "wine" part is a misnomer.) It's a great way to rub elbows with brewers and drinkers over a few pints. Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14, 11:30 am-2 am, at Toronado, 547 Haight St., Lower Haight. Admission is free, but does not include beer.

A Porcine Valentine: Not everyone wants to spend their Valentine's Day learning the difference between a dubbel and a tripel and between American and Italian butchery methods, but food-loving San Franciscans aren't everyone. Adventurous couples should love this demonstration of hog butchery, supplemented with a pig-out and lubricated with La Trappe's astounding selection of Belgian beer. Champagne and white tablecloths are overrated. Sunday, February 14, 3-11:30 pm, at La Trappe, 800 Greenwich St., North Beach. Admission is $95 and includes food and drink.