Jester King flight with cheese pairing at Øl Beer Cafe and Bottle Shop, in Walnut Creek (CA) on Sunday.
Category: SF Beer Week Page 1 of 2
On Friday night I attended the San Francisco Beer Week Opening Gala for the first time, courtesy of the Bay Area Craft Brewers Guild, and the first descriptor that comes to mind is “Wow!”
With nearly 130 breweries represented, and almost 400 beers on offer, the Gala is an amazing experience. As very brewery brings their best beers, many of them brewed specially for Beer Week, the event is truly a showcase not only of the breadth of the Bay Area’s craft brewing community, but of the quality and skills that make it a leading force in craft brewing nationally.
I was, of course, happy to find my friends Luis Castro, owner and brewer at Del Cielo Brewing Company, and Matt Sager, head brewer at Danville Brewing Company, pouring their beers side by side. Another friend, Craig Danielson, head brewer at Shadow Puppet Brewing Company, was also nearby.
Luis was pouring one of the IPAs that he makes so well, along with Guava Dreams, a kettle sour, and Coffee State, a coffee-infused blonde stout.
Matt was pouring three beers that I really like a lot: his GABF medal-winning Chux double IPA, Tres Diablos, a triple IPA brewed specifically for Beer Week, and his amazing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. I swear that that one tastes just like the oatmeal raisin cookies my mom used to make!
Craig, for his part, shared Livermorium, a really nice collaboration IPA produced at Shadow Puppet by brewers from all the breweries in Livermore.
Although all the big-name players in Northern California craft brewing were, of course, represented, and I did sample some very tasty beers from them, after a while I opted for hitting the booths of smaller breweries and ones I was unfamiliar with.
That strategy led to some pleasant highlights.
One such was finding Blue Oak Brewing Co., from San Carlos, present and serving their excellent Cordilleras Kriek.
A nice discovery was Ocean View Brew Works in Albany. They’re a fairly new brewery, and were having a great time at the Gala. They poured me a very tasty brut IPA, Mosaic Fizz. The brewery’s first anniversary will be celebrated with an event on Feb. 10th.
Another pleasant discovery was Woodfour Brewing Company, from Sebastopol. Woodfour was pouring bottles of their Sour Farmhouse Ale. John Roberts, the brewery’s Bay Area sales manager, explained that the beer is produced via spontaneous fermentation in oak barrels that are not isolated from the external environment, and then blended in what he described as a “reverse solera” method. He also pointed out that they are producing other beers in open-topped wood foeders, and are the only brewery in the region that practices spontaneous open fermentation year-round.
All in all, having attended, it amply clear why the Gala is one of the most anticipated beer events in the local beer calendar and why people come in from all over the country to attend it and SF Beer Week.
The San Francisco Brewers Guild has set the dates for the 11th edition of SF Beer Week: February 1st through 10th.
On February 10th, I attended Admiral Malting‘s “Open Malthouse Day”, hosted by Admiral’s founders, Ron Silberstein (of ThirstyBear Brewing) and Dave McLean (of Magnolia Brewing), as part of San Francisco Beer Week.
Guests were taken on thirty- to forty-minute behind-the-scenes of the malthouse, where we were able to learn about and observe the full production process. Both farmers and brewers were also on hand to experience the tour and to share their stories and speak about their experiences with Admiral’s malt.
Today, industrial malting is typically done in what is referred to as the “compartment process”, in which grain is passed through large, stainless-steel tanks able to accommodate tens, or even hundreds, of tons of grain. The grain is agitated with auger and aerated with large fans, as it passes through a series of alternating wet and dry stages, before being kilned.
Floor malting, on the other hand, is a more traditional, slower and more labor-intensive method, which is said to produce superior malt with deeper, richer flavor. Upon opening in July of last year in an old dry-goods storage facility on the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Admiral Maltings became the first commercial floor malting facility in California since before Prohibition, and California’s first maltster with a California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification.
On my tour Silberstein explained that the barley spends 38-42 hrs steeping in the hydration tanks, then 4-5 days germinating on the malting floor, before being sent into the drying kiln for 24 hrs.
The malt is then passed through another machine which removes the rootlets before it is bagged. A ton of rootlets are removed from each 10 ton batch of barley. With the addition to husks and other debris that is removed, there is a 20% loss, per weight, in the malting process, such that each 10-ton batch of barley results in 8 tons of finished malt. Currently, Admiral is approaching ten batches per month, but are looking into some material improvements which would enable them to attain fourteen batches per month.
With the Bay Area being a hub of the growing farm-to-table (or in this case, farm-to-glass) movement, the opportunity to avail themselves of locally-produced, small-batch, and certified organic, malt has generated a great deal of interest among local brewers. Enough so that Admiral has been able to outfit it’s own taproom exclusively serving beers brewed using its malts.
The tour ended with tastings of Admiral malts and of beers made with those malts, guided by the brewers who made them. On hand were brewers from Harmonic Brewing Co. (serving Prague Rock, made with Admiral Pils malt), Armistice Brewing Co. (serving Berthday Beer English Golden Ale, made with Feldblume malt), Social Kitchen & Brewery (serving California Grown Lager, made with Gallagher’s Best malt), and Independent Brewing Co. (serving Escaped the Island Blonde Ale, made with Maiden malt).