Friday night marked the kickoff of the sixth annual San Francisco Beer Week, which runs through this week, until Sunday, February 16, with tap takeovers, beer dinners, and other events all over the Bay Area. Below, a few tasty highlights from Friday's gala, as well as a few cool events to put on your agenda, should you be in a hoppy mood.
This year's opening event, which featured 80 brewers from all across Northern California pouring multiple beers each, proved that one trend is definitely here to stay: sour beers. 7x7 covered the trend last winter, and in the past five years of SF Beer Week's existence, sours have always remained a bit on the periphery, with last year's fest marking the first time they started appearing on taps in notable numbers. This year, it seemed like every other brewer brought a sour or two, and we now have the entry of local micro-breweries like The Rare Barrel, which makes only sours, and Almanac, who showcased multiple sours.
Once again, Russian River Brewing was the cult favorite, and beer geeks by the hundreds clamored to line up for a taste of the latest version of Pliny the Younger (it is malty and delicious, but I still don't totally get why it's so hyped). And San Leandro-based Drake's drew lines as well for the limited edition "Black Label" release of their triple IPA Hopocalypse, which clocked in at 12.5% alcohol and went down disarmingly smoothly.
Among my other favorites were Sacramento-based Ruhstaller, who I discovered last year, and who are responsible for reviving a 140-year-old California beer brand using all locally grown barley and hops. Their Gilt Edge lager, which comes in a vintage-label can, is complex, refreshing, and just mildly bitter -- the kind of "sessionable," easy-drinking Stella replacement I didn't know I was looking for until I found it. Local nano-brewer Pine Street were pouring their easy-drinking and citrusy session beer called Atom Splitter. And brand new S.F. brewer Cellarmaker had a yummy saison, dubbed Saison Francisco, as well as the hoppy and definitely dank-flavored Original Dankster, with a distinct cannabis-tinged finish.
Events This Week
For a full schedule of dinners, tap takeovers, and other tastings, check out the full, interactive S.F. Beer Week schedule here. There are literally hundreds of things happening here, in the East Bay, and all over, so be sure to select the day and location you'd prefer before browsing.
Almanac 2014 Barrel Aged Release Tasting
Join two-year-old Bay Area brewing company Almanac as they bring tastings of three barrel aged beers to Blackbird: the Sourdough Wild Ale, Valley of the Hearts Delight Sour Ale, and Brandy Barrel Peche. Tuesday, February 11, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. 2124 Market Street
Pliny the Younger Pours at Monk's Kettle
If you want to know where the beer geeks will be at lunch on Wednesday, it's here. Monk's Kettle will have one keg of the sought-after Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing, and it'll be $10 for a 10-oz pour, limit two per person, with all proceeds going to charity. Wednesday, February 12, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or until they're out. 3141 16th Street
A Festival of Firkins
Magnolia Pub is hosting a day devoted to "real ales," since English-style ale is the favorite beer type of brewer Dave McLean, featuring "as many cask-conditioned ales as we can fit in our cellar and on top of our bar for the day." Thursday, February 13, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., 1398 Haight Street
F%&k Cupid: A Tap Takeover Story
In honor of the hateful holiday, Mad Dog in the Fog is having its taps taken over by Pyramid Brewing, with selections including their Strawberry Blonde Saison, Irish Red Ale, and a special anniversary edition of their original beer, the 1984 Pale Ale. Friday, February 14, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. 530 Haight Street
San Diego Night at The Willows
Check out one of SoMa's newer hangouts and have the opportunity to sample an array of beer from (arguably) our state's trending epicenter of craft brewing. On tap will be Ballast Point's cult favorite Sculpin, Green Flash's Super Freak Belgian IPA, Coronado's Hoppy Days, and a half dozen more. Added bonus: There will be carne asada fries. Saturday, February 15 from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., 1582 Folsom Street
Toronado's Annual Barleywine Festival
Once again, Toronado is hosting their annual blowout of all things boozy, pouring dozens of high-alcohol barleywines on tap starting on Saturday just before noon. The event runs through Sunday and into the next week, until all the kegs have been killed. Beginning Saturday, February 15 at 11:30 a.m., ish. 547 Haight Street