NorCal Beer Blog: SF Beer Week Opening Gala 2014

Hello beer lovers and welcome to NorCal Beer Blog…
This past Friday, February 7th I made my way over to San Francisco for the SF Beer Week Opening Gala.  Last year I attended for the first time and had a little too much fun so this year I was determined to have a good time, but return home in better shape.  I happily accepted advice from a Beer Fest veteran, Jade from HopTech Homebrewing and placed a wrist band I had received from the fine folks at Pine Street Brewing on my glass to ensure short pours and “tasting” rather than “drinking”.  I also decided that I wasn’t going to drink beers I had tasted before (in most cases) and primarily sought beers that I knew I HAD to try.
Upon entering I got my glass and promptly placed my wrist band on it.  My wife was surprised at how low I placed it, but I was determined to enjoy the evening and be able to talk to folks in a coherent manner.  With a handful of business cards in tow I began my evening.  I’m not planning on writing about EVERY beer I drank or took photos of, but rather the ones that stood out to me that evening.
I began with 101 North Brewing Company’s Naughty Aud Imperial Stout an 8.5% ABV offering.  Black in color with scents of mocha, vanilla and bourbon.  Tasted of caramel and chocolate malts, vanilla, molasses and a touch of bourbon. I’m looking forward to seeing this one once it hits the market. Find 101 North Brewing Company’s website here and a review I did of their Heroine IPA here.
Next up I stopped at Anderson Valley Brewing Company for a taste of their Bourbon Barrel Stout (reviewed here) and although I had already tried this one, reviewed it and am sitting on a few bottles of it I just had to.
After some conversation a bottle of their soon to be released Huge Arker Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout appeared. I’m really hoping to get my hands on a bottle or two of this 13.5% ABV offering.  The aroma was incredible – oak, bourbon, candy sugar and bready malts and the flavor was equally incredible – dark chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, molasses, coffee and dark fruits. 
Find Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s website here.
At Baeltane Brewing I tried their Tapestry Dubbel – a 9.2% ABV Abbey Dubbel. Flavors of stone fruit, raisins and bread and spot on for style. Really enjoyed this one.  Find Baeltane Brewing’s website here.
At Marin Brewing Company I tried their Broken Cherry Tart Cherry Ale – a 5.7% ABV offering and an incredible sour. The cherry flavor was exceptional. Find Marin Brewing Company’s website here.
Next up was another beer previously enjoyed and written about (here), but I couldn’t resist having a Russian River Brewing Company Beatification. I also had the opportunity to say “hello” to Mike “Tasty” McDole as well as meet Liz Sale from Drake’s Brewing Company. Find Russian River Brewing Company’s website here.
I had planned on walking past Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s booth, but the 2008 Bigfoot caught my eye.  Many years ago my brother in law recommended that I start cellaring Bigfoot.  He said it transforms over the years into something magical and after about five years it is amazing.  Since then I’ve been cellaring a case each year.  I believe the first case I am about to break into is either 2008 or 2009.  Either way I’m very happy I decided to have this one poured (and a little more than the pour line I might add).  Even my wife liked this one which is surprising as she doesn’t like the non-aged versions. Find Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s website here.
Next I headed over to Almanac Beer Company. Knowing I had a lot more beer to taste I decided to only try only one of theirs.  Brandy Barrel Pêche – weighing in at 7% ABV was outstanding. Sour upfront with peaches, vanilla and a slight brandy flavor.  I’ll be reviewing this one soon as I have three bottles in my beer fridge now. Find Almanac Beer Company’s website here.
At this point I was very close to Pine Street Brewery and wanted to say “hello” and show them how their wrist band was saving me from getting smashed. I had the opportunity to try their Black Bay Milk Stout a 5% ABV offering.  Well balanced and delicious – chocolate and coffee. Find Pine Street Brewery’s website here.
Across the aisle from Pine Street Brewery was 21st Amendment Brewery and at first I thought perhaps they were only pouring beers I’ve tried, but then I spotted the Almond Milk  Porter which was a homebrew contest winning recipe (the winner pictured in the shot even!).  Smells like chocolate and almond milk and the flavor is excellent – roasted and chocolate malts, almonds and vanilla.  Find 21st Amendment Brewery’s website here.
My wife brought me over to Pizza Orgasmica Brewing Company as she’s a fan of their food and since I had not tried any of their offerings I thought I’d drink my first IPA of the night.  Their Triple IPA weighed in at 11% ABV and was excellent! Find Pizza Orgasmica Brewing Company’s website here.
I stopped by Uncommon Brewers as I noticed they had a barrel aged Belgian-style Dark Strong.  The Belgian Tramp – Aged in Chardonnay Barrels is a 12.2% ABV monster.  This Quad was brewed with figs, dates and raisins and was aged for a year in Chardonnay barrels. This was a 2013 collaboration beer from the Band of Gypsies featuring folks from Bison Organic Beer, Calicraft Brewing Co., Highwater Brewing, Lucky Hand, Oakland Brewing Co., Pacific Brew Labs, Triple Voodoo & Uncommon Brewers. This beer was sweet and boozy with lots of dark fruit, caramel and roasted malts, smooth and a slight Chardonnay grape presence, oak barrel notes and hop bitterness. Find Uncommon Brewers’ website here.
The next beer in my glass was Ale Industries Cherry Kush – 4.4% ABV – sweet cherries with a nice wheaty finish.  Very drinkable and enjoyable and provided a nice break from the heavier beers I was tasting. Find Ale Industries’ website here.
At Calicraft Brewing Company I got to talk with Blaine and taste his The City IPA which I enjoyed. He mentioned his barrel aged Buzzerkeley and I certainly wanted to try that one as well. Calicraft Brewing Company was the only place I had more than one taste, but I’m glad I did.  Both beers were great. Find Calicraft Brewing Company’s website here.
Next up I visited Steve from Altamont Beer Works and got to try their Scarcity Triple IPA – an 11% ABV hoppy, yet smooth beer with tons of citrus and tropical notes. Find Altamont Beer Works’ website here.
My final beer of the night was from Linden Street Brewery and their Hop Candi Session IPA.  At 4.5% ABV I had them fill the glass a little above my fill line.  Floral nose and nice citrus hop flavor balanced nicely with caramel malt.  Indeed VERY sessionable and delicious.  Find Linden Street Brewery’s website here.
I did have a few other tastes, but decided to keep what I didn’t really care for quiet.  As I’ve said before my blog is about positive experiences so beers I don’t care for or brewers that aren’t cool don’t have a space here.
In closing I wanted to mention that this blog does not generate an income and it is rare when someone offers me free beer or gear.  The reason I write this blog is for my own enjoyment and to spread the good news of great craft beer (and beverages).  As a home brewer I know how much work goes into brewing – that it is in an artistic extension of oneself. I appreciate those who take the time to read what I write – whether you agree with me or not.  The key here is to keep things positive and promote great beers from great brewers.
Mark Harvey

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