Celebrate craft beer with SF Beer Week

With SF Beer Week looming just weeks away, Joanne Marino seems remarkably calm.
In 2016, her first year as executive director of the Guild, Marino wrangled some 850 events crammed into nine days. She also had to cope with the inconvenience of rescheduling Beer Week due to the Super Bowl, which was held in the Bay Area. “Last year because the dates changed, it was a little bit confusing. Getting back to our regular dates this year has been more familiar for everybody,” Marino says. 

Tighter Guidelines for Events
As the number of SF Beer Week events continues to grow, Marino and the Guild are looking for the right balance of quality and quantity. “Venues want to make sure that their events are well attended, and if there’s like a thousand events it can be a challenge,” she says. “For the consumer, having a thousand events to choose from can be overwhelming. I’m less concerned about how many events we have than the quality of the events.”
The Guild is also trying to eliminate some of the “gamesmanship” of venues trying to secure a higher listing placement by misrepresenting their event. For example, a venue that announces that a brewer will be on hand must verify that the brewer will actually be there and state how long the event will last. “We’re trying to make sure that the information about the event is accurate and that it’s really a special occasion, and not just somebody trying to get people in their door,” Marino says.

More Diversity in the Guild
Beer Week and the Brewers Guild are barometers for the state of the industry. “This is a maturing industry and people are becoming more specialized in the products they’re offering and the customers they’re trying to appeal to,” Marino says. 
“Of course, it all starts with making a great beer. But it’s reached a point where everyone is making great beers. So how am I different and how do I differentiate myself? What are my passions and what do I want to focus on? The market demands that you define who you are and what you’re offering to people,” she says.
Among the 32 breweries that comprise the SF Brewers Guild, several of the newer members are establishing a specific niche:
               Barebottle, a Bernal Heights brewery that incorporates recipes from home brewers.
               Sufferfest, which makes gluten-free beer.
               Seven Stills, a brewery that makes whiskey from the craft beer they brew.
               Black Sands, which offers hands-on home brewing education.
               Ferment, Drink, Repeat, a combination brewery and home brewing supply store.

The newcomers are having an impact on the Guild, says Marino. “All of these businesses have unique personalities, which is reflected in their tap rooms and business models, and how they approach producing their product. And they’re also very supportive of each other,” she says.
“It’s true that there’s more diversity among the members, but that means that there are also more members to help each other, too. And they can help each other in a specialized way,” she says. “There’s not just one brew pub out there by itself; there’s a lot of brew pubs. It’s not just one person doing gluten-free beer, but a lot of our members are looking at gluten free beer and are supporting each other in that process. Old Bus is a good example. A lot of their beers are near gluten free, but a lot of people don’t know that,” says Marino.
The Beer Week collaboration beer is a good example of the Guild’s community spirit. “Nearly all of our members were in attendance for the collaboration beer brew day and there was great camaraderie,” says Marino. This year’s collaboration beer is a “post-modern Kolsch,” brewed at Fort Point. “It’s a nod to innovation in some of the techniques used to extract flavor from the ingredients,” Marino says. The beer is flavored with Douglas fir tips and satsuma mandarin juice.

Planning for Beer Week
Even though Beer Week is still a few weeks away, it’s not too early to sign up for some of the more popular events, especially those that highlight the synergy between beer and food. “Beer and food events show another dimension of beer for people who are less familiar with craft beer to see how the flavors mingle,” Marino says.
Check out the SF Beer Week page for a full list of events. 

The Opening Gala
Beer Week kicks off with the Opening Gala, which will be held at Pier 48 on Feb. 10. 
Pouring at the Gala will be 125 breweries from the Bay Area and beyond (see the full list below). This event always sells out, so get your tickets ASAP. You can purchase them here

San Francisco
21st Amendment Brewery, Almanac Beer Co., Anchor Brewing Co., Barebottle Brew Co., Barrel Head Brewhouse, Bartlett Hall Brewing, Beach Chalet Brewing & Restaurant, Black Hammer Brewing Co., Black Sands Brewery, Cellarmaker Brewing Co., Ferment. Drink. Repeat, Fort Point Beer Co., Harmonic Brewing, Headlands Brewing Co., Holy Craft Brewery, Laughing Monk Brewing Co., Local Brewing Co., Magnolia Brewing Co., Old Bus Tavern, Pine Street Brewery, San Francisco Brewing Co., Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery, Social Kitchen & Brewery, Southern Pacific Brewing Co., Southpaw BBQ, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Standard Deviant Brewing LLC, Sufferfest Beer Co., Sunset Reservoir Brewing Co., ThirstyBear Organic Brewery, Triple Voodoo Brewery & Tap Room and Woods Beer Co.

East Bay
Alameda Island Brewing Co., Ale Industries, Altamont Beer Works, Auburn Alehouse, Benoit-Casper Brewing Co., Berryessa Brewing Co., Bison Brewing Co., Black Diamond Brewery, Calicraft Brewing Co., Cleophus Quealy Beer Co., Diving Dog Brewhouse, Drake’s Brewing Co., E.J. Phair Brewing Co., East Brother Brewing Co., Eight Bridges Brewing, Elevation 66 Brewing Co., Epidemic Ales, Farm Creek Brewing Company, Federation Brewing, Ghost Town Brewing, Heretic Brewing Co., High Water Brewing, Hoppy Brewing Co., Knee Deep Brewing Co., Lucky Devil Brewing, Mare Island Brewing Co., New Helvetia Brewing Co., Novel Brewing Co., Ol’ Republic Brewery, Pacific Coast Brewing Co., Rubicon Brewing Co., Ruhstaller Brewing & Taproom, Schubros Brewery, Sudwerk Brewing, Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., Temescal Brewing Co., The Rare Barrel, Track 7 Brewing Co., Triple Rock Brewing Co., Trumer Brauerei and Working Man Brewing Co. 

North Bay
101 North Brewing Co., Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Bear Republic Brewing Co., Cooperage Brewing Co., Eel River Brewing Co., Fogbelt Brewing Co., HenHouse Brewing Co., Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Lagunitas Brewing Co., Lost Coast Brewery, Mad Fritz Beer, Mad River Brewing Co., Moonlight Brewing Co., Moylan’s Brewing Co., Napa Smith Brewery, North Coast Brewing Co., Old Redwood Brewing Co., Petaluma Hills Brewing Co., Plow Brewing Co., Russian River Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Sonoma Springs Brewing Co., St. Florian’s Brewery, Stumptown Brewery, Third Street Aleworks and Woodfour Brewing Co.

South Bay
Alpha Acid Brewing Co., Alvarado Street Brewing & Grill, Armstrong Brewing Co., Blue Oak Brewing Company, LLC, Camino Brewing Co., Campbell Brewing Co., DasBrew, Inc., Devil’s Canyon Brewing Co., Discretion Brewing, El Toro Brewing Co., Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Freewheel Brewing Co., Golden State Brewery, Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., Hermitage Brewing Co., Hop Dogma Brewing Co., Loma Brewing Co., New Bohemia Brewing Co., Palo Alto Brewing Co., Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Strike Brewing Co., Tied House Brewery & Cafe and Uncommon Brewers. 


CCBA Summit Celebrates California’s Booming Craft Beer Industry

By Chuck Lenatti
The California Craft Brewers Association recently announced another historic milestone: California is now home to 700 craft breweries. That’s a stunning number, up 124% from just four years ago.
“Our industry is changing so fast right now it is literally making my head spin,” said Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of Russian River Brewing and president of the CCBA Board of Directors. “For example, in 1994, when my husband opened his first brewery, we bought the only high-quality growler available: the flip-top 2 liter Palla bottle. Now there is a dizzying array of super-technical, high pressure-rated insulated growlers in various materials, shapes and sizes available.”
Becoming a commercial brewer is no less daunting today than it was when Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo opened Russian River Brewing — maybe even more so, given the stiff competition. But unlike in the 1990s, organizations like the CCBA are eager to help brewers navigate the business side of commercial craft brewing.
The annual California Craft Beer Summit in September is a chance for new brewers to learn the nuances of the beer business, pick up tips from veterans and make valuable contacts, as well as for established breweries to keep up with the rapidly evolving California craft beer industry.
“The Summit is a great opportunity for networking in all tiers, particularly for someone who is new to the industry,” said Cilurzo. “Looking back 20-plus years, having an event like the Summit would have been extremely beneficial when we first started in the industry. It’s everything you need, from insurance companies to distributors and bankers to customers, all in one place,” she said.
“The Summit not only showcases the growth and the excellence of California’s craft beer industry, but provides educational and networking opportunities for new and growing breweries to improve the quality of their beer, build distribution channels, learn about new equipment or services that support the industry, and stand out in front of craft beer lovers in a growing industry,” said Leia Ostermann, managing director of the CCBA.
“One of the most valuable parts of the Summit for newer brewery owners is meeting the brewers that have walked the path before them, building friendships and a network to call on if needed, and bonding with the community of commercial brewers across the state,” she said.
“Attending the talks and educational seminars is a great way for new brewers to learn about trade practices, different beer styles and the history of our industry,” Cilurzo said. “The ability to network with so many people is invaluable for anyone new to the industry. Even as a seasoned vet to craft beer, I still ask questions and learn from others at events like the Summit,” she said.
Educational seminars and networking can help all breweries avoid some of the legal pitfalls that might crop up in areas such as marketing and social media advertising. “Laws and regulations are changing rapidly, the marketplace is becoming more competitive, and it’s important to stay up to date with changes and transitions in the industry to succeed as a craft brewer in California,” Ostermann said. “The Summit provides all of this and more to California’s craft beer family,” she added.
“This year’s Summit includes five educational tracks specific to brewers and the beer industry,” Ostermann said. “These tracks include business and industry sessions to improve understanding and knowledge of the marketplace, hospitality and retail training, building a brand and throwing events for beer lovers, technical skills and cicerone tasting classes, and a special ‘meet a distributor’ session, allowing one-one-one opportunities for brewers to meet new distribution partners at the Summit.
The Summit concludes with a massive party on the Capitol Mall in Sacramento. Beer lovers will have an opportunity to enjoy brews that they might not otherwise see.
“At the Summit Beer Festival, we have more than 160 California breweries pouring 450 beers from all over the state, including special releases, hard-to-find beers and possibly even a firkin,” said Ostermann. “Many of the breweries pouring at the Summit don’t distribute outside of their home towns, so you’ll have a chance to taste new beers and new styles that you won’t be able to try anywhere. It truly is a tasting tour through California craft beer.”
Cilurzo considers the Summit “our premier event in California, and California brewers are bringing their A-game. I’m bringing Pliny the Elder, our flagship double IPA, and a new sour beer that has never been released for sale to the public.  It’s a surprise!” 

California Craft Beer Summit
When: Sept. 8-10
Where: Expo Hall, Sacramento Convention Center, Downtown Sacramento


All hands on deck for San Francisco's Brews on the Bay

Muster the craft brewers from the San Francisco Brewers Guild aboard the historic WWII Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien docked at scenic Pier 45 on Fisherman’s Wharf, add live music and food trucks, and what do you have? The answer is, one hell of a party.

The 12th annual Brews on the Bay from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, promises to be bigger and better than ever, with 24 San Francisco breweries pouring more than 60 beers, up from 18 breweries a year ago.
The guild recently confirmed that music will be provided by country/Americana bands Slow Motion Cowboys and Assateague. Food will be available from Korean BOBCHA (Korean and Asian Fusion), Kabob Trolley (cheesesteaks, Middle Eastern, halal and gluten free), Subs on Hubs (sandwiches, gyros and Italian), and Street Fusion (Vietnamese, healthy food, organic and gluten free).
This year’s event honors the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead and the spooky spirit of Halloween.

Brews on the Bay is a rare opportunity to sample beer from San Francisco craft breweries all in one place and to celebrate the people who make it. San Francisco brewers took home five medals from this year’s Great American Beer Festival, including Social Kitchen’s Kim Sturdevant, who won a gold medal for his English-style pale ale, Mr. Kite.

New executive director
Along with the new breweries, the San Francisco Brewers Guild is welcoming a new executive director. Joanne Marino might be new to the guild, but she’s no stranger to beer or San Francisco. Marino co-produced Austin Beer Week and she’s lived in San Francisco since 2012. Marino also has a technology background. She’s been a partner at Skematic, a consultancy focused on startups and early-stage businesses, since 2002.
In a recent interview, Marino noted the similarities between starting a tech business and opening a brewery. “At the heart, that spark of creativity that both a tech startup and a startup brewer brings to the table is passion,” Marino said. “That’s what motivates people and hopefully that’s there for both industries: to continue to run on passion and make something that’s useful and loved by the community.”
Brews on the Bay is one of the three pillars of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, along with San Francisco Beer Week and the monthly meet the brewer events at San Francisco breweries. “The meet the brewer nights are not just for the public,” said Marino. “They’re a way for the brewers to get together and support eachother. The leading statesmen in the guild are ready to answer technical and business questions. It’s structured to be supportive of what can be an overwhelming process: getting a new business off the ground and running it successfully.”

Beer Week starts early
Because San Francisco is hosting the Super Bowl, SF Beer Week will begin earlier than usual, with the opening gala on Jan. 22, 2016, at Pier 35. Expect 100-120 breweries.
In conjunction with SF Beer Week, the guild is organizing a friendly competition between teams of brewers from the north side of Market Street against their counterparts to the south. Team NOMA and Team SOMA will each brew a collaboration beer that will be released at the opening gala. Craft beer fans will be invited to share their comments about their favorite collaboration beer.

A few tips for enjoying Brews on the Bay:
• Don’t drive. Take public transportation, such as the historic F car, or walk along the Embarcadero.
• Hydrate. Drink a glass of water for every beer you have. Even though the Jeremiah O’Brien is not scheduled to leave the dock, your legs can get wobbly after several beers.
• Request half pours. The servers will likely be generous with their pours, but if you plan to sample a lot of beers, ask them not to fill your glass (pouring out in buckets is OK, too).
• Don’t forget to eat. Make sure not to drink on an empty stomach. The alcohol by volume in beer is relatively low compared with spirits and wine, but the alcohol still adds up after a while. Food is available from the trucks on the dock.
Make conversation. Meet the brewers and ask them about their beer. You’ll be amazed what you might learn. Also, talk to the volunteer crew that maintains the beautiful ship. They are a treasure trove of information.


Thirsty Bear takes on the challenge of the lamb

Taking on an entire four-legged herbivore, nose to tail, breaking it down and creating a seven-dish menu is a daunting proposition for any chef. More so if that animal is a lamb, with a distinctive flavor profile that could easily seem repetitive after a while. Then, just for the hell of it, pair the all-lamb menu with all of the beers on the tap list. Thirsty Bear Organic Brewery Chef Rob McCarthy was up to the task, and along the way he discovered some dishes that we hope will find a permanent place on the brewpub’s small plates menu.

Thirsty Bear was one of four American restaurants chosen to participate in this week’s “Brews, Ewe’s, and BBQ’s,” sponsored by the American Lamb Board to highlight a meat that is popular around the world but somewhat underappreciated in the United States.

McCarthy included beer in several of his recipes and paired Thirsty Bear’s beers not so much with the meat as with the overall flavors of the dishes. Although the menu listed beer pairing suggestions, we ordered a tasting flight of all of Thirsty Bear’s regular beers, as well as a couple of new IPAs, to experiment with our own combinations.

Right off the bat, McCarthy knocked it out of the park with an ambitious Merguez Sausage dish that included grilled octopus, potato and lemon, pimenton aioli and pea sprouts. McCarthy made the sausage himself (although casings were not provided with the lamb) and slow cooked, then grilled the octopus so that it was tender with an endearing smoky flavor. It all came together with the aioli and lemon. Although the menu suggested pairing the dish with Polar Beer Pilsner, we liked it even better with the Valencia Wheat, which seemed to pick up on the citrus flavors while complementing the Merguez sausage and balancing the grilled flavor of the octopus. McCarthy said he wants to keep this one on the menu, and we heartily agree.
Lamb Belly Pastrami was another standout. Nicely poached asparagus and eggy sauce gribiche accentuated the many flavors of the deftly cured lamb belly. Grilled Lamb T-bone consisted of a small, thick, flavorful chop that we preferred medium rare rather than the suggested medium. The T-bone was accompanied by a lemon-mint gremolata and marinated fava beans. It paired nicely with the Citra Double Down IPA, brewed for last week’s IPA Day. 
In another dish, a pair of Piquillo Peppers were stuffed with ground lamb and rice and bathed in a sherry tomato cream sauce. Thirsty Bear was right to suggest pairing those hearty, delicate flavors with their Meyer ESB.
McCarthy was clearly stoked by the lamb challenge, and he didn’t forget the offal, either. Lambs Head Cheese was served almost like a pate, with Challenger Hop Mustard, atop grilled bread. We thought that toast or something crispier would have stood up better to the headcheese. Lamb Sweetbreads came fried and puffy with heirloom tomatoes and tiny flavorful padron peppers. You’ll either love them or hate them.
Thirsty Bear will be serving the seven-dish beer-pairing menu all week, and if we’re lucky we’ll see at least a few of the dishes on the restaurant’s regular small plate menu.

Thirsty Bear Organic Brewing
661 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94105 

(415) 974-0905