Although we celebrate holidays throughout the year, we reserve the term "holiday season" for that belt-busting period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day when we channel the time and energy normally given to work into the rewarding pursuits of eating and drinking with family and friends. And with Hanukkah just ending, the next milestone on this year’s calendar is Christmas Eve. For beer lovers, this is a prime opportunity to enjoy the dark and hearty ales that traditionally mark this occasion.
With the winter holidays fast approaching, it’s time to stock up on the really good stuff. Unfortunately, even though we have some well provisioned Bay Area beer retailers, some of the brews you might want to give as a gift or enjoy yourself aren’t available locally. However, there are other options.
As San Francisco’s Belgian Beer month winds down, it’s a good time to consider a growing trend: The small but increasing number of brewers who are flipping the old adage about how it takes a lot of beer to make a great wine. These inventive brewmasters are using wine (in the form of fresh juice or crushed grapes) to make great beers, which are mostly Saisons. The resulting genre-busting, lightly hopped, beer-wine hybrids are yet another delicious foray into the ever expanding world of craft beer.
Belgium. No other country has a wider variety of native styles, or a larger impact on modern craft brewers. Belgians have spent centuries developing the world’s finest beers by brewing with combinations of top fermenting or wild yeasts, warm fermenting temperatures, and adjuncts as diverse as fruit, candi sugar, orange peel, coriander, black pepper, and star anise.
The roasted meats and seasonal root vegetables that traditionally cover fall tables are best enjoyed with beers that are also tied to the season. Pilsners and other summertime lagers are replaced with maltier, richer and more complex brews as the days get shorter. And while pumpkin ales are popular this time of year, several other beer styles complement the foods of the season just as well.
Beer and bicycles don’t always mix, but this weekend is a notable exception. Marin’s Biketoberfest offers bicycling beer lovers a chance to burn off as many calories as they consume.
Located in Fairfax, Biketoberfest is a relatively flat, 20-mile ride from downtown SF. If you prefer to ride with friends, join the SF Bicycle Coalition’s casual-pace group cruise from the Ferry Building at 9:45 a.m.
The first Oktoberfest was held 1810 as public celebration for a royal Bavarian wedding. In the ensuing two hundred years it has morphed into what’s been called the largest secular celebration on Earth. Its growing popularity has been fueled by pork, potato pancakes, the chicken dance, and lots of beer. As with other holidays, we Bay area residents put our own spin on the festivities.
President Obama ushered in a lot of firsts. Besides being the first African-American president and the first president to openly support marriage equality, his is the first administration to have beer brewed in the White House.
Summer is nearing its end, and Oktoberfest is around the corner, which means we’re in that blink of a season for wet-hopped beer. The end of August and early September marks the usual harvest season for the flowering cones of the hop vine. These catkins are normally kiln dried and packaged immediately after harvesting for later use when brewing. But traditionally, brewers with ready access to fresh– or “wet” – hops would sometimes make small batches of “harvest ale” with just-picked hops for personal enjoyment.
The late Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter, not the pop music icon) once dismayed that Saison style beers were becoming scarce to the point of vanishing altogether. He would be heartened to learn that this classic beer style has not only been revived, but is thriving in ways he could hardly imagine–particularly in San Francisco.
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