In the Napa Valley, crush doesn’t just mean the time of year when grapes are harvested. It often translates to heartbreak—the kind that comes from rolling to a complete stop on Highway 29 in bumper-to-bumper traffic—which, in the popular month of October, is par for the course. So much for your relaxing Wine Country getaway. But there is a solution: Sail by on a bike.
Moving quietly across the valley at a slower speed allows you to experience more of its sights, smells, and sounds. Whether you want to pedal all the way from SF to Napa, drive up with your bike on a rack, or rent a two-wheeler when you arrive in Wine Country, we’ve stitched together a mellow 27-mile cyclist’s loop of leisurely wine tasting. It can easily be trimmed to 20 miles, should you want to veer off and head back to the hotel for an early, guilt-free, and much-earned nap. After all, you’ve got to gear up for dinner.
One of the joys of ordering online is that, when your package arrives, it’s always a bit of a surprise. If you’re a beer fan, consider giving yourself (or someone whose refrigerator you share) a subscription to a beer of the month club.
While it’s certainly manageable to stay current on the Bay Area beer scene, it can consume much time, money, and liver cells to research and locate the great beers of the world. The clubs below are priced similarly, and each club’s website includes a compilation of previous selections.
Just as seasons vary from one part of the country to another, so do regional seasonal beers. In the east, the local brewpubs are all about pumpkin ales this time of year. On the west coast, we have the succulent orange squash as well, which is the subject of a future blog, but right now it’s the end of our hop harvest season and time to enjoy beer bittered with fresh or “wet” hops. We asked the experts for their tasty suggestions for autumn brews.
This coming weekend will be the third and final in a series of local Oktoberfest celebrations and the biggest of the fests will be held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Pier 48.
Oktoberfest by the Bay has been rated as one of the top 10 Oktoberfest celebrations in the US. It boasts two alternating bands - the 20 piece Chico Bavarian Band and The Internationalists. The Oakland Nature Friends Schuhplattler dance group will perform traditional Bavarian and Austrian folk dance and there will be typical German dainties like sausages and pork cutlets. The festival hosts will be pouring enough Spaten to convince even the skeptics that the chicken dance is genius.
The Bay Area’s Oktoberfest season continues; this weekend you can enjoy beers from twenty five brewers for twenty five bucks. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) and Access4Bikes are hosting Biketoberfest, a combination Oktoberfest and bicycle expo at the Fair/Anselm Plaza in Fairfax. While many of the major west coast breweries will be pouring their wares, the real draw for locavore beer drinkers will be the inclusion of area nanobreweries such as Beltane Brewery, Pine Street Brewery, and Van Houten Brewing. Since the event is a benefit (all proceeds go to MCBC and Access4Bikes) you’ll be able to help yourself to samples from several breweries whose beer is not yet commercially available or is only sold at the brewpub where it’s made. In addition to the suds, there’s a variety of food available and live music.
This Sunday, the Marin Chapter of the Nature Friends Tourist Club opens their clubhouse for their annual Oktoberfest and Kinderfest celebrations. The Tourist Club is one of the area’s great treasures and this weekend is the chapter’s most popular event. The clubhouse is an Alpine style chalet on the side of Mount Tam with balconies and an outside dance floor that overlook Muir Woods. Club members will be pouring several German beers and selling home-cooked German food. Starting about 2, the legendary Joe Smiell and His Bavarian Band will be putting down the Bavarian style polka music and a folk dance group or two will perform periodically during the day.
If you love craft beer and have ever thought about trying your hand at homebrewing, there has never been a better place or time to get started than right here and now. There are great local DIY courses and other resources to help you brew your first batch and Beer West Magazine awarded San Francisco the title of "Best Beer City" this year in large part because of the "distinct energy surrounding the craft beer scene and the cohesive way it’s represented throughout the city.” Simply put: people here have beer skills.
Oktoberfest officially begins in Munich on September 17th, though related festivities, like Brews On the Bay kick off here in San Francisco a week earlier. Hey, we're a progressive city! The traditional Oktoberfest beer style is the Märzen, which some consider the earliest form of the lager. Originally brewed in the spring (März is March in German) the beer undergoes a long cool fermentation using lager yeast and is then consumed by the bootful during the fall. The longer fermentation clarifies the beer and gives it time to build complexity. Oktoberfest beers typically contain up to 6% alcohol, are medium bodied, slightly sweet and balanced with Noble hops.
It's the tail end of the dog days which means there's still time to squeeze in one more rocking summer party. The folks at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers just happen to be throwing a sudsy soiree this Saturday to mark 14 years of craft brewing and to launch a new addition to their lineup: Butchertown Black Ale.
This black IPA-ish brew is the first release from Speakeasy’s newly christened Bootlegger Limited Series. It will be a two month release as will all subsequent offerings. Butchertown Black Ale is a light bodied but dark brew, paired with an aggressive hop bill of Amarillo, Chinook and Cascade. While the beer has a touch of roast character, black malt gives the beer color without adding the body or flavors familiar to a porter or stout. Scoreboard: 8.2% ABV and 60 IBUs.
While most of the craft beer world has been exploding the boundaries of ale brewing, New York’s Shmaltz Brewing has been de- and reconstructing the world of craft lager though their sideshow-inspired Coney Island Lagers. Most lagers enjoyed in the US are known for their light and crisp styles, but Shmaltz has been creating a riotous freak show lineup and this latest two-headed lovechild is the progeny of their Human Blockhead lager and some Kentucky Bourbon Barrels.
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