Booze enthusiasts come out for SF Beer Week
February 9, 2010 1:13 PM
The sound of glasses touching amidst smiling faces and proclamations of "Cheers!" started off San Francisco's 2nd Annual Beer Week on the right note Jan. 5, at the Brewers Guild Opening Night Gala at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
About 30 Bay Area brewers carted their wares under one roof to start off the 10-day celebration of ambers, porters, hefeweizens, stouts, lagers, ales, pilsners, and everything between and beyond.
"This is as San Francisco as you can get," said Rich Higgins, President of the San Francisco Brewers Guild.
It is an area indeed known for some great microbrews. From the eternally local Beach Chalet brewery to nationally distributed Anchor Steam, this event had hops for everyone. And it's just the tip of the iceberg.
"The opening gala just scratches the surface of Beer Week," Higgins said. Events are planned for more than a week at different venues around the Bay, culminating in a closing party at the Trumer Pils brewery in Berkeley.
In the meantime, event goers can follow Beer Week via Twitter or Facebook, and, in true San Francisco style, there is an iPhone application available so attendees can share their experiences or find the best event suited for them.
"The beer community is simply an amazingly supportive network," said Jim Woods, founder and president of Mate Veza, a naturally caffeinated beer. "When an industry can post almost double-digit growth every year, there's plenty to go around. Everyone in the industry has such a love for their product and is willing to help each other out."
Woods' point was evident to see - and taste. The San Francisco Brewers Guild, a group of six city-based brewers bottled their combined beer knowledge and love and named it Imperial Common.
Speakeasy, the company responsible for beers such as "Prohibition," produced the lager for the event since they "have the biggest facility," explained Anthony Raggio, operations and logistics coordinator for Speakeasy, and SF State business management alumnus.
Aged in whiskey barrels, Imperial Common is San Francisco to the core - a unity of different people with different tastes. Fermented at San Francisco's ambient temperature, the lager might represent a shift in beer ideology, as it's pushing an alcohol volume past 10 percent. Most domestic beers have an alcohol volume of roughly four percent by volume. Anything more, and the beverage is considered a malt liquor.
"People have come from all over the world to see how the Bay Area makes beer," said Dave Barrow, brewer for the Beach Chalet Brewery, who obtained his masters from SF State in the broadcast and electronic communication arts department.
And people come to the Bay Area to make beer, like Trumer Pils.
"Like all great things in the Bay Area, we started locally," said David Lagueux, one of the brewers at Trumer Pils. "Trumer had a long history as a mid-size family brewer in Austria." After a 400-year history of providing Europe with beer, the company opened its second brewery ever in Berkeley.
"For beer brewing, the most important ingredient is water. And Berkeley has nearly identical water sediment-wise to Salzburg, Austria, where Trumer was started in 1601," said Lagueux.
While Trumer gained success making a traditional beer, younger companies in attendance were trying to increase their foothold in the boutique beer business, like Mate Veza.
"I just sort of stumbled on the idea," said Woods. "I was sitting around one day drinking mate, followed it up with a beer and I thought 'man, these would go great together.'"
Experimental brewing with mate began, and as the hops were toned down, the tastes married. "Mate is unique in that it is one of six plants in the world with natural caffeine," said Woods.
This resulted in a totally organic product, a very chic commodity in these changing times. Mate Veza started roughly three years ago and is already distributed at Whole Foods and BevMo.
"This is a special time for beer," said Woods. "Like jazz in the Fillmore in the 1960's."
Beer Week ends Feb. 14.
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