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Get Ready for SF Beer Week

The following is a press release from the organizers of San Francisco Beer Week, the biggest event series on the northern California beer calendar:

SF Beer Week Celebrates the Creativity of Craft Beer, Feb. 7-16

SAN FRANCISCO – SF Beer Week is back. The SF Beer Week Opening Gala on Friday, February 7, will launch ten days of community, collaboration and independence. This annual craft beer extravaganza at the historic Pier 35 on San Francisco’s waterfront, shines a light on the region’s exceptional brewing creativity.  

Over 120 independent Northern California breweries will tap more than 300 select beers for tasting. Attendees may also sample five limited-release beers designed and brewed collaboratively by members of the five chapters of the Bay Area Brewers Guild. 

Representing the North Bay, East Bay, South Bay, Monterey Coastal region and San Francisco proper, these collab beers will pour side by side in a friendly showdown. (Tickets for the SFBW Opening Gala are on sale now at sfbeerweek.eventbrite.com).

The rest of SF Beer Week follows through Feb. 16 at venues stretching north into the Napa-Sonoma beer country, south beyond Monterey Bay and east into Livermore Valley. 

All ten days of festivities are aggregated at sfbeerweek.org, where craft fans select from events that express the latest and most compelling examples of beer creativity.  

  • Find a brewery pouring experimental beers you may never taste again – or that may be a harbinger of the next big trend in the craft beer world. A flight of extreme special effects beers designed to amaze taste buds and eyeballs alike will be on tap at the Barebottle Brew Co. Experimental Beer Night. Mon., Feb. 10, SF. 
  • Look for smaller festivals among the many happenings. Almanac Beer Co. is hosting an artisan Valentines night market at their Alameda brewery. The Almanac & Friends Night Market brings locally crafted beers, foods and gifts together with a cosy town square vibe. Fri., Feb 14, Alameda.
  • Dine marvelously with beer, the most food-friendly family of beverages. This time of year, chefs get the green light to design dishes to elevate classic beer styles and new creations alike. Look for multi-course dinners as well as specific culinary pairings such as the Uptown Funk Beer and Cheese Pairing at Drake’s Dealership. Tues., Feb. 11, Oakland.  
  • Along with the opportunities to take beer seriously, you’ll find plenty of events that are just plain entertaining. Share a beer and laugh, sing, stretch your brain or perhaps exercise your eye-hand coordination at Pinball and Pints. Support the Pacific Pinball Museum as you sip from 20 select beers and play unlimited pinball on over 100 vintage machines. Sun., Feb. 9, Alameda. 
  • Raise a toast for a cause! You’ll find plenty of fundraisers listed. The generosity of the Bay Area brewing community relies on enjoyment of beers they donate, so bring some friends to fundraiser events for a win-win night out. One cherished tradition is SF Beer Week edition of the California Academy of Sciences NightLife, an evening out for adults supporting the science museum, aquarium and planetarium in Golden Gate Park. Sip beers, explore fermentation science and beyond. Thurs., Feb 13, SF. 

Build a custom itinerary at SF Beer Week.org 

SF Beer Week is produced by the Bay Area Brewers Guild, a non-profit trade association whose mission is to promote local, independent craft beer and breweries throughout the greater Bay Area. Stay on top of the region’s craft beer scene year-round at DrinkBayBeer.com.

Exciting news from Russian River

Well, the news that has gotten the local beer internet’s attention is the announcement that Russian River Brewing Co. will start bottling its famous Pliny the Younger triple IPA.

Pliny the Younger, as you may know, is a triple IPA, actually brewed with almost triple the amount of hops of a regular IPA, with a starting gravity of 1.088 and a finishing alcohol content of 10.25%. It was first brewed by Russian River in 2005 and has been brewed seasonally since then and released only on tap at Russian River’s pub and at select locations in California during a two-week period each February. Pliny the Younger is one of the most eagerly awaited beers, with people arriving from every state and even from abroad to sample it, often waiting in line for hours.

Last year, with the opening of its new production brewery in Windsor, Russian River was able to more than triple the production of Pliny the Younger, thus reducing wait times and being able to supply more off-site accounts. Clearly taking advantage of that increased production capacity, and seeking to “find ways to add to … guests’ experience”, Russian River will, for the first time, bottle Pliny the Younger.

According to the announcement made by Natalie Cilurzo on Dec. 23rd (though her blog post is dated Dec. 24th), in 2020 Russian River will offer 510 ml. bottles of Pliny the Younger for sale at their brewery in Windsor and the pub in Santa Rosa. However, each guest will be limited to two bottles, and in order to be eligible to purchase them, guests must “come for the full experience in our brewpubs”, which will be tracked via the wristbands each will receive upon entering.

Pliny the Younger will be available from February 7th to the 15th 20th at Russian River, and offsite draft distribution will start the 2nd week of February. Like last year, pours of Pliny the Younger will also be offered to those who book brewery tours during the release period.

2019 Anchor Christmas Ale

I’ve received a couple of bottles of the 2019 Anchor Christmas Ale courtesy of Anchor Brewing, and decided to pop one open for review tonight.

First off, let me say that it is a pretty beer. It has a big tan, rocky head. It appear dark brown and opaque, but when held up to the light a beautiful dark, deep garnet hue comes through.

Following on that impression, it is also a beer that can fool one a bit. Due to its dark hue and big tan head, one might allow oneself to expect a robust beer like a porter or stout. In other words something with a very malt-forward character. However, the 2019 Christmas Ale is actually surprisingly light-bodied, and the first impression upon tasting is one of smoothness, almost as if it had been dispensed on a nitro system.

It has a malty nose, with a light hop aroma, with some subtle conifer notes in the background. As it warms and the head subsides, some caramel or invert sugar aromas come forward.

In the taste, I got some spice, some coffee, and baking chocolate up front, backed up by some malt or caramel notes. It finishes dry, with the bitter chocolate flavor lingering, and some more of that pine at the back end.

It is a good, tasty beer, but to be honest, I’m not as partial to it as I have been to previous years’ iterations of the Christmas Ale. The recipe changes every year, and taste is subjective, so that is to be expected from time to time. I guess I just miss the more robust mouthfeel of those other versions.

However, because it does have that lighter mouthfeel, it is more drinkable than a lot of other seasonal ales that come out at this time of year. This is one that one can have more than one of in a session.

Nightshade by Epidemic Ales

When one operates a small craft brewery the vicissitudes of barrel-aging beers means that one cannot foresee with any great anticipation when a such a beer will be released. It will be ready when it is ready, as they say.

Well, yesterday was the release of this year’s batch of Nightshade by Epidemic Ales. I was reminded of why I so much look forward to when this beer comes out.

Nightshade is a 10.3% abv vanilla stout. It is released on tap at the brewery in Concord, CA, and in 22-oz. bottles, about once a year, after spending, if I recall correctly, up to six months or so in Bourbon barrels.

It is a gorgeous beer; intensely dark, with deep mahogany tones, and a moderate head. It doesn’t have any harsh coffee notes or overt bitterness. Instead it is rich and smooth, with notable sweetness, and plenty of vanilla -some undoubtedly contributed by the oak.

With its high alcohol content, Nighshade does pack a punch despite not having any alcoholic or Bourboney “heat”. So, while it goes down easily at any time of day, a 22-ouncer of Nightshade is particularly nice shared as part of a dessert course; specially at this time of year.

Fort Point Beer Co.’s new beer hall on Valencia

On Monday, Oct 7th, Fort Point Beer Company will open the doors to its brand new beer hall at 742 Valencia St., in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Fort Point Beer Co. was founded five years ago by Tyler and Justin Catalana, who had previously operated the Mill Valley Beer Works. Today it is San Francisco’s largest independent brewer.

However, despite its beers being found in bars and retailers throughout the city and beyond, and having a toehold in the Ferry Building market hall, Fort Point remained a production brewery and not open to the public. The company was thus wanting of a space in which to show off its beers the way it wanted, while having the opportunity to interact directly with the public. Enter: Fort Point Valencia.

Export Dortmunder-style lager (5.2% abv)

As founder Justin Catalana explained at a media preview soft opening event on Friday evening, opening a place such as Fort Point Valencia had been kind of a dream for them, and that they’ve striven to make it a space which invites customers to feel free to move about the hall, meeting people and enjoying its different areas.

A lot of care and thought went into designing Fort Point Valencia. It certainly does not have the semi-industrial look that is somewhat typical of brewery taprooms these days. While keeping the open ceiling and exposed beam timbers, they’ve eschewed the all-too-common black paint in favor of a pleasant tan or off-white base with vibrant accent walls.

Near the entry is a sort of front room, painted blue, which houses a low, sit-down bar with its own line of beer taps. The main space is populated with round tables of varying sizes with bar-height chairs. There follows a cozier space at the back with tables for two and booths for groups, with red accents and dimmer, more intimate lighting. The anchor for it all is the 40-ft standing bar.

The bar has recesses which accommodate the taps and leaves the bar top uncluttered, freeing customers and servers to interact without having to duck around a forest of towers and tap handles.

Westphalia Nuremberg Red Ale (5.6% abv)

According to head of brewing, Mike Schnebeck, all of Fort Point’s regular lineup of beers will be available full-time, along with seasonal offerings and a few guest beers from other craft breweries. Beers from the Black Sands brewpub, which Fort Point purchased last year, will also be available, as well as experimental brews and one-offs which will be served exclusively at Valencia. (A selection of wines and cider is also available.)

As for food, of course one cannot aim to be a proper beer hall without some food on offer. In this regard, the menu at Fort Point Valencia does not disappoint. It is certainly a cut above typical pub grub fare.

Chef Eric Ehler -who was pulled in from Black Sands- explained that he drew on his Korean heritage and on having grown up in Illinois (I’m pretty sure he said Illinois; maybe it was Indiana?) to create the range of flavors and dishes -from the cheeseburger to the dungeness crab rangoon, to the #00 on Rye open-faced egg salad and corned beef tongue sandwich. One of my favorites was the”pork chop bun” (think schnitzel sandwich) which, by the way, pairs really well with Westphalia red ale.

There are also plenty of genuinely tasty vegetarian options, from a crudités plate, to a luxed-up artichoke, to a lovely “hand salad” of endive, quinoa, pickled cauliflower, and black garlic.

Clockwise from top left: Hand Salad, Cheeseburger, Crudités, #00 on Rye

As of now, the menu doesn’t have anything very sweet on it, but if you’re in the mood for a dessert, I’d recommend ordering the “party bread”, which is a really tasty sweet-and-savory fry bread (it was a crowd favorite at the event on Friday).

Fort Point Valencia
742 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA

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