SF Beer Week 2014: When It Rains, It Pours
By Eric M. Pietras
It’s winter in the Bay Area again, which means two things: rain and SF Beer Week. Despite the unfortunate lack of the former, the latter appears on the calendar with clockwork regularity, this year from February 7-16.
It’s the usual expansive deal with hundreds of events: beer-food pairings, brewery tap takeovers, brewer meet-and-greets and the like. For beer fans in San Francisco and beyond, this is annual heaven on earth. And like every year, there are always events worth highlighting.
Here are a few notable dates for the 2014 event, so you can start planning any days off (and your excuse for taking them) early:
SF Beer Week Opening Gala (February 7, 6-10 p.m., $65): The Beer Week opening party, at the Concourse Exhibition Center at 635 Eighth St., is worth the rather high cost. You will find the Bay Area beer industry providing unlimited pours of their wares, including much of the interesting stuff you’ll see during the rest of the week. Get tickets very soon, and yes, Pliny the Younger gets poured here, attracts a big line and runs out early.
The smart attendee is conscious that there are many other excellent beers to sample and will treat the four-hour event as a marathon, not a sprint.
This year, the gala will be made richer by the presence of Cellarmaker Brewing Co., the SF Brewers Guild’s newest member. People who are really into the beer industry or galas in general will also want to show up at Trumer for the Celebrator 26th Anniversary Party, which marks the end of Beer Week on February 16.
United Sours of America (February 8, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.): Monk’s Kettle gets into the ever-expanding sour ale game, with midday palate-benders featuring sours from 20 different American breweries. Expect a good representation of California breweries here.
Admission is free (beer is not), but Monk’s Kettle is small, and even with its new patio, I suspect it may not be able to accommodate all comers before the most interesting bottles and kegs are emptied.
Fear not, as the venerable Sour Sunday at Triple Rock (imports) and Jupiter (mostly California stuff) on February 9 is a roomier affair. Sycamore, Whole Foods and The Abbot’s Cellar are also doing sour events during the week.
Beer Talks 2014 (February 8, 2:30-5 p.m.; $25): This is a beer-themed lecture series loosely modeled on TED talks, held at the Fairmont Hotel (I don’t anticipate too many black turtlenecks, though).
Science folks will feel at home in a seminar-like setting, except that each talk is accompanied by a beer, which will make future conferences seem like much less fun.
Subjects to be covered include technical stuff like brewing with Brettanomyces and Bourbon barrel aging, presented by Crooked Stave’s Chad Yakobson and Fiftyfifty’s Todd Ashman, respectively.
Other topics of interest include starting a brewery (spoiler: find lots of money) and, predictably for a Bay Area event, IPAs.
British-style beer and cheese with Magnolia (February 13, 6-9 p.m.; $35): The ability to make beer and cheese is what separates Homo sapiens from other organisms, so why not enjoy both at the same time?
This event at Mission Cheese features five Magnolia beers paired with an equal number of artisan cheeses. Given the fastidious care with which Dave McLean and company produce their beer, the cheeses are no doubt very well chosen to complement their companion beverages.
For those looking well outside England, Belgian beer/dim sum pairings will be featured at Mama Ji’s in San Francisco on February 11.
NorCal vs. SoCal IPA Smackdown (February 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; $25): I suspect the Jug Shop is a bit overlooked as a stop for beer folks in The City. It shouldn’t be. Its SF Beer Week events are always worthwhile.
This year will feature a blind tasting of six IPAs from the north and six from the southern half of California. It’s an elimination contest, with one winner of the 12 based on attendees’ opinions.
I imagine the lineup of beers will include many of the usual suspects: stuff from Lagunitas, Green Flash, Russian River, Stone, Drakes, etc. — although I could be wrong — so it probably wouldn’t be something you’ve never had before.
In any case, the fun will be in the tasting and result of the contest. The admission fee is cut to $15 if you bring a Valentine’s Day companion, so you might as well make it part of a romantic night out.
See you at Beer Week!
Eric M. Pietras is a postdoc who studies hematopoietic stem cell biology and beer, but not at the same time.