By Justin Dolezal, Foodable Contributor
As the popularity of craft beer has grown in America, cities have jumped at the chance to create events to celebrate their city's beer cultures. Since its inception, the craft beer movement has had strong ties to a sense of community, with breweries often celebrating civic pride via events, product names, and charitable programs that support local organizations. These events, be they single night affairs or week long celebrations, are a chance for local breweries and operators to celebrate their crafts, and for consumers to support their local beer economies.
San Francisco Beer Week, one of the oldest such events in America, kicked off with a huge opening gala on Friday January 22nd. San Francisco has a beer culture that is as strong as any city in America, so it's no surprise that San Francisco Beer Week events often draw huge crowds. Breweries and beer bars obviously take the lead in organizing and hosting beer focused events, but restaurants and food operators are also quick to take advantage of the increased crowds and awareness that Beer Week can provide by putting together beer-centric menus and tasting events. Let's explore the two primary ways that Bay Area operators are using San Francisco Beer Week to draw crowds and woo consumers.
Bring Out Something Special
For breweries and beer bars, events like Beer Week are a chance to celebrate craft beer culture by either brewing specialty beers, or by pulling rare, hard to find brews out of their cellars. A large part of craft beer culture involves enthusiasts seeking out rare, hard to find beers that are exciting in part because of the challenge of getting them. The addition of a rare beer to your menu can mean big crowds and lines stretching around city blocks.
San Francisco favorite Cellarmaker kicked off Beer Week by releasing rare, one-off editions of two of their favorite brews. Imperial Coffee and Cigarettes, a rich, smoky imperial coffee stout that helped put the brewery on the map, has gone on tap, as well as a quadruple version of their classic Citra pale ale, Dobis. Needless to say, Cellarmaker fans have lined up in droves for a chance to get both beers. Mikkeller Bar, the brick and mortar home of gypsy brewer superstar Mikkeller, will be hosting a guided tasting of five of Mikkeller's rare “Spontan” sour beer series, an event that should see the focus of the San Francisco beer scene shifted to the Tenderloin.
San Francisco's renowned beer bars have also gotten in on the action. The Willows, a SOMA favorite, will be tapping a keg of Founder's Canadian Breakfast Stout, a Bourbon barrel-aged maple coffee stout that currently ranks seventh on beeradvocate.com's list of the best beers in the world. Lower Haight's Noc Noc will host a rare beer face-off, with kegs of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Dogfish Head's legendary 120 Minute IPA tapped on the same day. And if barrel-aged stouts or hop bombed IPAs aren't your thing, Market St. bar Blackbird has got you covered with an unfiltered keg of Pilsner Urquell being flown in directly from the Czech Republic. Rare beers bring the crowds, and these events should be full of them.
Thoughtful, Local Pairings
As previously mentioned, you don't have to be part of a specifically beer-centric establishment to get in on the fun of Beer Week. Many San Francisco restaurants have put together special multi-course meals specifically highlighting local breweries and the impressive possibilities that pairing beer and food can create. Hong Kong Lounge, a stalwart of authentic, quality San Francisco Chinese food, is hosting a Dim Sum brunch with buzzed about local newcomer Fort Point Beer Company. The ticketed event will allow chefs and brewers to discuss their products, how they pair together, and how food and beer have evolved in the Bay Area.
Red Dog Restaurant and Bar in the SOMA is teaming up with San Francisco sour lovers Almanac Brewing and Alaskan chef Beau Schooler for an Alaskan seafood dinner, complete with Almanac pairings. Highly acidic sour beers can often be a perfect match for robust seafood, an angle that Red Dog and chef Schooler are sure to highlight. The dinner will also feature fresh produce from the Ferry Building's farmer's market, arguably the best spot in San Francisco for eccentric, fresh, flavorful produce.
Mission Cheese, no strangers themselves to putting together delicious pairings, will be hosting separate cheese pairing events with Altamont Beer Works, Fort Point Beer Company, and San Diego hop grand-daddies Stone Brewing. Mission Cheese is also out to prove they can create sublime pairings outside of the cheese world, as they'll host Heretic Brewing Company for a beer float event with some of Humphrey Slocombe's beloved ice cream, proving that the only limitation in pairing beer is your imagination.