SF beer week is past the halfway point, so I though it would be good to share my experiences so far, and plans for the final weekend. Friday kicked things off with a boom, with the release of Pliny the Younger at Russian River Brewing Company up in Santa Rosa. My original plans were to drive up with a couple friends Saturday morning, but I ended up going friday with the family instead. It’s a good thing that I did, because Younger ran out at the brewpub the first day! It was honestly a zoo up there, but I was able to meet up with some guys from the Hoppress and Ratebeer, and had a great time. We arrived just after noon and stuck around for a couple hours before getting a couple growlers and making the drive back down south. Younger was amazing and definitely among the best double IPAs that I have ever had. I also got to try Russian River’s Rejection, which is a black belgian-style ale brewed for Valentines day, and was very impressed by it as well. Even with those two, the star of the show may have been the new batch of Supplication that was also just released; a beautiful sour brown ale with a great cherry presence and acidity.
Saturday was all about Bistro’s 10th annual Double IPA Fest. For most of the year, Bistro is a relatively unassuming beer bar in Hayward that always has a great selection; a few times a year however, they throw absolutely insane beer festivals. The IPA festival and Barrel Aged Beer festival are both fantastic, but the Double IPA Fest is the king of the bunch, and one of the marquee events of San francisco Beer Week. We arrived a little late after stopping at City Beer for a few bottle purchases before catching BART over the bay from SF. Bistro was already packed, and the street to the side of the bar was closed down to accommodate the festival, including a massive row of draught stations and a stage with live music. Sadly, a couple beers that I really wanted to try had already run out, including 21st Amendment’s Hop Crisis, and Pizza Port Carlsbad’s Welcome Back Wipeout. With 58 beers total though, I hardly had to put in effort to find some amazing double IPAs. After sampling about a dozen beers, Breakwater Brewing’s Mavericks, Kern River Citra DIPA, and Triple Rock’s IIMAX were my top three new beers, with Russian River’s Pliny the Younger making an even stronger showing than the previous day when compared to other beers in its class, and not just its own massive hype. The SF Brewers Guild collaboration beer for SF Beer Week, a barrel-aged imperial common, was also in tap, and was an interesting surprise. There were tons of beer lovers and industry people on hand, and my friend Mike and I had some great homebrewing conversations with Jeremy from Lagunitas and Tasty from The Brewing Network. Even with all those strong beers pouring (most were 8%+) the crowd was generally pretty calm and high-spirited. Hops will do that to you. Overall, it was an awesome afternoon. Major props to Bistro for putting on a great festival. I will continue to try to make it to every festival that they put on.
After a Sunday of splitting a growler of Younger with my parents and actually going to work on Monday, it was time for Russian River -tion night at Toronado. I actually hadn’t even planned on doing anything beer related on Tuesday, but was tipped off to a once-in-a-lifetime tap list at Toronado and made the last-minute call to drive up. Toronado is generally a craft beer Mecca, but I have had some less than stellar experiences there in the past. -Tion night (named after the suffix of all of Russian River’s Belgian-style beers: Damnation, Supplication, etc.) finally brought me around for good. Toronado was pouring 23 Russian River beers, including several that haven’t even been brewed in a few years including Deviation, Deification, and Toronado’s own 20th Anniversary Ale that Russian River brewed for them. Despite a huge crowd the bartenders were in a surprisingly good mood, and we never had to wait more than a couple minutes to get a beer. Deviation absolutely blew me away and is probably my favorite sour beer from Russian river so far.
The coming weekend holds at least one more event that I’m planning on going to, which is the Toronado Barleywine Festival on Saturday. There is plenty else still on offer though. If you are interested, check out http://www.sfbeerweek.org/ for the full lineup of events and post-event coverage.