By Bob Eastwood
Last Friday, February 8th marked the kickoff of this year’s 4th annual SF Beer Week—an event featuring an embarrassment of beery riches with somewhere around 80 breweries participating in more than 400 different events across the Bay Area. Over 65 Northern California breweries converged on the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco for the Opening Celebration, which kicks off a ten day marathon of beer tastings, festivals and food pairings. This was one of the four largest of the week’s events including: the following day’s 13th annual Double IPA (DIPA) Festival at The Bistro in Hayward (my favorite); the 20th annual Barleywine Festival on Saturday the 16th at the Toronado; and the final event, Celebrator Beer News 25th Anniversary Party on Sunday.
Last Saturday found yours-truly on a cool sun-drenched and closed-off block in downtown Hayward
surrounded by fellow hop-heads for the 13th annual DIPA festival. I accidently happened across this event when it was only in its 3rd year and have been returning ever since. For years it was the only festival of its kind on the planet, and currently boasts being the only event in the world to judge Triple IPAs—something that Bistro owner Vic Kralj considered aloud while handing out medals “could become another separate event!”
It’s no surprise that in the food-focused bay area there are numerous happenings that address our love of cuisine with the week featuring special menus and pours at local pubs and restaurants, including food trucks, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, chocolates and pairings of all kinds. The Saturday DIPA festival housed a cart distributing fried pickle chips from Those Fabulous Frickle Brothers with a variety of sauces. Yum! Even sweets are included this week with Dynamo donuts’ Biere de Chocolat doughnuts and Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream’s variety of malt-inspired treats including a tart Passion Fruit Lambic Sorbet and a creamy Magnolia Stout.
Even Alameda, California— the island home of Engage—boasts two events. The PS Eatery on Park St. is featuring Belgian style beers from NorCal breweries all week and The Fireside Lounge on Webster has California craft beer flights with your choice of any four of the brews on tap. Speaking of Alameda, recent scuttlebutt is that the island will soon get its own brewery, Faction Brewing. While at the fest I ran into former Drake's and Triple Rock master brewer Rodger Davis and his wife, Claudia. Starting this year, they will begin churning out barrels of medal-quality beer at the island’s famous “Spirits Alley” on Alameda Point’s Monarch Street, where they will occupy half of a former hangar next door to St. George Spirits and just a stone’s throw from Rock Wall Winery. (Sorry Rodger and Claudia, the pictures didn’t turn out.) I also ran into Lost Coast local distributor Jack Van Stone, but that’s an entirely different blog.
Technology and Social Media
Since Engage is a hi-tech PR and marketing communications agency, I would be remiss if I didn’t include mention of SF Beer Week’s many tech-savvy followers and their use of apps, blogs, hash tags and other technologies. While at the festival I noticed an entire wall of people standing in the shade staring intently at their smart phones; texting and tweeting their latest photos, videos and proclamations to their friends using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (@sfbeerweek) and a host of other real-time social media. I should also use this venue to give a special shout-out to the incredibly responsible Beer By Bart, a blog site that encourages you to “Get to craft beer without driving” by riding to 40+ beer venues on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Even while I was writing this blog I saw the following tweet from one of SF’s local neighborhood pubs, designed to encourage Tweets about the bar and the event:
@TheAveBar One hour to go until Tap Takeover! Three hours of exclusive local beer. Mention Twitter and get your 7-brew flight for only $6! #SFBeerWeek
To place your photos onto SF Beer Week’s Gallery, you can use Instagram to share, just tag your photos with #sfbeerweek to add them to the feed. At the bottom of the homepage it says you can “Download the official SF Beer Week mobile app for iPhone and take Beer Week with you wherever you go.” Unfortunately, the reviews of the app’s performance are not good, and Android users are acknowledged only by the phrase “Android coming soon.” Nonetheless, my overall rating of sfbeerweek.org and its use of technology is positive, as the home page features an extensive schedule and interactive map of events for you to easily find a happening near you, and—let’s face it—these are beer people not software engineers. Prost!