Monday, February 10, 2014

SF Beer Week 2014 - Part One

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Since Friday, it has officially been SF Beer Week here in the Bay Area… and boy, have we been having some serious fun. It seems at just about every bar and/or microbrewery in Northern California (and let me tell you… there are a LOT) there have been everything from special event tap room takeovers… to “Meet the Brewer” events… to discussions & festivals about IPAs, barleywines, and the craft beer market in general… and a lot of other interesting things in between. Well, being a recently HUGE fan of everything craft beer & market related… Dizzy & I decided to brave the rainy weather (which we love anyway) & check some of the more interesting (and affordable) events out.
First up Saturday was a panel discussion called Beer Talks… which is basically like the TED Talks that you see online and various outlets, but about Beer. How does that work? Well, we had special presenters from some of the major microbreweries on the West Coast talking about subjects like the future of the craft beer market… whether with regards to the availability of barrels for barrel aging techniques… to brewing with brettanomyces (wild yeast & bacteria that produce good & bad effects depending on use)… to the future pairings of beer & food… to things like the correlation between craft beer & pop music… which may have been a bit of a stretch… but the clientele was affluent white men with combinations of glasses, beards & flannel so… the guy was trying to sell his album & you can’t hate on that. The final speaker was none other than a GOD in the microbrew world, Mark F**king Carpenter from Anchor Brewing who has been there from the beginning in the 70’s and was just a great speaker as well.

With each speaker (there were about 7?), there was a beer sampling that they brought along with them to pair with their discussion, along with snacks available throughout like cheeses, fruits & salads. Not too bad, though I wasn’t a fan of some of the samples… I LOVED Fifty Fifty’s bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout & it made me even more excited for our BB Porter which should be ready just in time to finish Beer Week. Overall, we had an amazing time at Beer Talks & I would highly recommend it for anybody interested in this kind of subject matter (beer geeks). It was pretty amazing & very interesting to people like us who are trying to learn as much as we can about not only the processes, but the market & the real world applications of certain elements of beer making… and apparently I need to work on my beard. Perhaps in a few years I’ll look like your standard brewmaster / lumberjack.
Next we headed over to see the new Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room in Berkeley. We’re pretty big fans of Sierra Nevada & their selection of beers. Luckily, the staples are readily available just about anywhere (and Dizzy’s Aunts always have plenty at their events) but here we were able to sample some of their more rare & elusive options like Narwhal (Imperial Stout), Bigfoot (Barleywine) and their Ovila Abbey Ales (Belgian style quad with plums & a saison with mandarin oranges & peppercorns) among some other treats. It was pretty much standing room only at this point, but we stopped for a few samples including their Chocolate Cream Stout (very interesting & surprisingly good), Narwhal, Weizenbock & their Off-Kilter Scotch Ale. All were fantastic. I highly recommend this place if you’re in the Berkeley area… and I’m sure in a future adventure, we’ll probably check out their big brewery in Chico.

Next was a stop at Elevation 66 Brewing down the street in El Cerrito to sample the first batch of beer that Dizzy helped out with two weeks earlier, their collaboration with Pacific Coast Brewing called Coast 66 Double Rye IPA, which came in at about 10.5% ABV. Pretty strong for a beer that only takes about two weeks to make. Typically the higher alcohol content takes a long time for the yeast to do their thing, but apparently this one didn’t take that long. Despite being a higher alcohol content than most are used to, it was actually surprisingly (almost dangerously) delicious & very easy to drink. The bitterness was less than expected (maybe 60-70 IBU) but as Dizzy put it “This is a $teve Beer!” She was right.
As for a “Dizzy Beer”, she tried their new Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale, which is basically tailor made for her tastes… and just under 10% ABV itself. However, this one was so high because they took their standard Scotch Ale (about 6-7%) and put it in the Bourbon Barrel to age for a few months, thus taking some of the bourbon sugars out of the wood, and allowing more time for the yeast to break them down into alcohol, raising the content another 2-3% and also allowing some of the bitter notes to smooth out and gain a little complexity. Very well done.
Sunday, we went to Steep Brew in Portrero Hill for an event where Anchor Brewing was doing a release of their new IPA simply called… Anchor IPA. They like to keep their beers simple in name, yet incredible in execution… and the IPA is no exception. We sampled that along with a few other brews on tap… and we also got to meet one of the brewers & one of the sales team (though the brewer surprisingly did most of the talking) sitting at the bar next to us. He went into some of the stories behind the beer, and even gave us some great tips as homebrewers to make some exceptional beers since we had nothing but fabulous things to say about Anchor’s selections… and we mentioned that we were part of the SF Homebrewers Guild so we frequented his establishment monthly at least. Good dudes… and fantastic beer. So after some samples, some chatting, and a jalapeno & cheddar pretzel, we were off to our next stop…
The VP of the SF Homebrewer’s Guild (great guy named Kevin) was holding a Crowfunding Campaign for his & his wife’s dream of a nanobrewery called Ferment.Drink.Repeat or FDR. You can read more about the nanobrewery / incubator HERE but basically, it’s a very small scale establishment (a 3 barrel system) that will give homebrewers access to facilities to share their magnificent brews on a slightly larger scale. He’ll provide the equipment & environment to not only share their award-winning recipes in a Taproom setup… but it’s also a great location to teach homebrewing to others interested, sell equipment & supplies, and just create a good sense of community in the area. His fundraiser on Sunday was at Danzhaus (it’s a dance studio during the week) in Portrero Hill, and we got there a little early to help with set up… but they seemed to have it all under control. Below are some pictures of the event…

Random art at the dance studio...

Poutine tater tots...

Personally, I think it’s a great idea… and is basically what we’re looking to start out with regarding our brewery… so I’m VERY excited how it will turn out… and yes, I’m already a backer on his crowdfunding campaign for $400. What do I get with that? Well, along with some sweet swag like T-shirts, etc. we’ll also be able to collaborate with him to design our own signature brew which will go on tap… and we’ll also get to name it. That’s right… Terrible Lizard Brewing… will be OFFICIAL!!! Of course, this is as long as the financial backing goes through… and it’ll be a few months down the road… then the place has to open… and then I’m sure there’ll be a waiting list… and blah blah blah… but yeah, by then… we’ll basically be f**king EXPERTS and have our own recipes ready to go with samples to make sure the Guild can give us notes… and by then, we’ll probably already be entering local contests & stuff like that… so yeah, VERY excited about the possibilities of this place when they get it off the ground & kind of excited to be part of it… even in a small capacity. It also give me a lot of hope for when/if Dizzy & I decide to start our own little place. We’ll definitely keep you posted on this.
Unfortunately due to time constraints & day jobs getting in the way, our Oktoberfest Brewing has been pushed back to next weekend… but that’s quite alright because… here is what else we have planned for the remainder of SF Beer Week… and this is just planned. We’ll probably stumble on a few other things along the way:
·         Wednesday – Early Morning Brewing with Elevation 66
·         Thursday – Dogfish Head is at Hops & Hominy (may stop by quick)
·         Saturday – Barleywine Festival at Toronado Bar in Haight-Ashbury
·         Saturday -  Magnolia Brewery since we’re out that way
·         Sunday – SF Homebrewer’s Guild Party at Pi Bar
·         President’s Day – Brew batch of Oktoberfest…
·         Bottle our Winter Warmer and…
·         Taste our Bourbon Barrel Porter and Quick Mead
Yes, it’s certainly a busy schedule… but the important thing is that we learn so much from each event… whether it’s brewing in the real world (Elevation 66), testing out some great beers for research (most), mastering our own brewing process, and then at the SFHG Party… we’ll not only have fun & network & meet some great people to just party with… but we’ll also be able to share our homebrews, get some constructive feedback from certified beer judges (Yes, they’re a real thing) and help us hone our craft to use in the future. I’m EXTREMELY excited about things right now!!! And I hope that you are too!!! VIVA LA CERVEZA!!! Happy Beer Week everybody!!! Go forth & enjoy responsibly!!!

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