SF Beer Week is like walking into a bar and seeing a rare beer on tap:
you can choose to participate or not — and maybe if you’re jaded you roll your eyes a little
— but deep down you admit it’s kinda neat to know it’s there.
This clumsy analogy brought to you by going to Toronado the week after
beer week, seeing Younger on tap, and not ordering it. I did do beer week though. I can even sort of
remember it. This was the year I recalled how many ways there are to approach this beast.
Drink the leftovers
This has long been one of my favorite ways to enjoy beer week: skip the
crowded event that will keep me up past my bedtime, and hit the venue ASAP the next day. The taplist
will usually still have some unique stuff on it and there may even be a “kick the keg” special to
clear room for the next event. Sure, you miss the most limited beers that way, but you know by now I
On the Thursday of beer week, I wandered into the closest beer bar, Ocean Ale House, for a glass or two of get-right after a
job interview. It was a good sign that I sat down at the bar then turned to my left and saw I was
sitting next to beer pioneer Dave McLean (more on him later). Ocean Ale House seemed to be recovering
from events with Drake’s and Propolis. I grabbed a Drake’s pin for my work apron and a Tiberius
barleywine, because if you’re going to have a beer this early in the afternoon you might as well go
big. Co-owner Miles was enthusing about the 2-year-old barrel aged beer that was somehow still on tap
despite its delicousness, Propolis Prunus, and I’m not dumb so I stayed for one of those. Dave’s
burger looked amazing but I had to get out of there before I drank the whole taplist.
Ocean Ale House is a hidden gem in a city that isn’t supposed to have
any hidden gems left. Oh yeah, I got the job, so I’ll be back.
Treat it like a road trip
I have some friends who like use beer week as an excuse to hit corners
of the Bay not normally on their radar. Which is how I found myself playing Skee Ball at a Chicago tap
takeover in SF.
My first question was, how did an arcade bar I’ve never heard of get a
taplist full of Pipeworks and Off Color? Well, it turns out Emporium is part of a small chain of barcades based in Chicago.
Cool. And bonus points for the indoor street art.
After a couple of beers and middling games of Burger Time, we got back
in the car and headed to Ale Arsenal in San Carlos. I’d been
there many a year ago, by Caltrain I think, with the Bay Area Beer Bloggers. (Remember blogs? Oh
wait…) They treated us well then and this return visit was also a win. It’s a great place, even
though I kind of hate their logo. These folks had a mighty fine all-stout taplist going. This event,
had it been in SF or Oakland, would have been slammed. In San Carlos, I got a seat. And that $20
Reuben next door at the Refuge actually was $20 worth of delicious. Damn.
Look at this epic shit
Keep it super low key/educational
If geeking out about malt at 4pm on a Monday in a homebrew shop doesn’t
already appeal to you, nothing I say will change that. But I am the type of nerd (with Monday off) who
greatly enjoys any trip to Oak Barrel even though I haven’t brewed
beer in years. Oak Barrel was hosting Ron Silberstein and Dave McLean, who opened 2 of SF’s earliest
post-prohibition breweries — Thirsty Bear and Magnolia, respectively — before their latest
gambit as co-owners of Admiral Maltings. Malt talk, beer
samples, a low-key homebrew crowd, and bites of Oak Barrel’s Homer Smith’s legendary BBQ…that
was a good Monday.
has already been written about Admiral Maltings, and you should go read it. I will add that I
too am pumped to have a malting operation in the Bay Area! As Old Kan’s Adam Lamoreaux pointed out at
Oak Barrel, nothing beats brewing with 2-day-old malt.
Revisit the classics
What is there left to say about the Celebrator anniversary party?
Everyone loves this bash, except breweries grouchy that they weren’t invited to pour. But it’s
refreshing, after a week of hijinks, that you could fit several Celebrator parties inside an opening
gala in that “how many _________ can you fit inside Texas” way. It’s a lot of people’s
favorite beer week event, and once inside it’s easy to remember why. And I can take the #72 bus
to Trumer, so there’s that.
Usually I love any festival where Russian River is pouring, because
then queues for other sought-after breweries are shorter. This time, as long as Younger was pouring,
there was no line for the geniuses at Beachwood
(all great, and yes, I *may* have tried them all). By the time the masses were crowding Beachwood, I
was able to walk right up to the Marin Brewing table and
get my mind blown by their Redwood Kriek.
However, my peak Celebrator/Trumer moment may have been when Russian
River tapped Supplication…and because they were out of Younger, no one cared. My crew and I
quickly realized this situation was as perfect and rare as any beer, and gorged on no-line
Supplication like Romans at an orgy. A fine reminder that things are always changing, but as beer
lovers in the Bay Area we do still live in the promised land.
If there’s anything better than all the Supplication you can drink,
it’s all the Supplication you can drink with good people