Sunday February 10th found me heading into The City for some fun and suds at this year’s San Francisco Beer Week (Feb 8 -17). Last year was my first time attending and I had a blast, so I had high hopes for this year as well. Luckily, so far I have not been disappointed.
I started by driving to the Speakeasy Tap Room, which was crowded by the time I got there and absolutely swamped by the time I left. The reasons for starting here were twofold: I’m a big fan of the Speakeasy Beers (in flavor and in attitude) and there were promises of barbeque! Out in front of the building was a food truck serving up sandwiches and sides from the major bbq regions: Texas, the Carolinas, and Kansas City. Inside (where the staff was more than happy to let people bring in their food), the staff was pouring all the classic Speakeasy favorites (like the Big Daddy IPA and Prohibition Ale) and their recent bottlings (Betrayal and Scarlet) which are available at Beltramo’s.
But they also had several new beers and rarer releases that seldom see store shelves such as the Old Godfather Barleywine and their much sought after Double Daddy which were great to try. The two that really stood out for me were the Black Hand Milk Stout and their brand new Payback Smoked Porter. This new Payback is a smokier, headier version of their already rich and tasty porter, and it paired perfectly with the bbq, especially the Texas-style brisket. The Black Hand Milk Stout was very creamy, syrupy, and definitely high ABV. It proved to be the perfect dessert after my meal.
Next I hopped on a bus to ride to Dynamo Donuts, a San Fransisco institution I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Word on the street was that they were serving up donuts using Almanac Beer – and I’ve got quite the fondness for cooking with beer – so I had to go. I got there at 2:30 in the afternoon and these donuts were long gone. According to the Dynamo people, the Almanac-based confections were sold out in half an hour. Ouch. I missed out, but luckily Dynamo will be cooking these up every morning for Beer Week, so there’s still a chance to grab one or five…if you’re a morning person. I “settled” for a delicious salted caramel donut, and then jumped on another bus, shooting over Potrero Hill and on to Folsom to check out a spot called Jamber.
This self-described “Wine Pub” boasts a single page food menu featuring local ingredients and a single page drinks menu featuring a solid array of California wines and beers. The restaurant itself has a predominantly wood interior accented by a little stainless steel and cork with a low-lit front patio area, all contributing to a rustic yet trendy vibe. I wanted to come to Jamber because they were hosting a “Meet the Brewer” night with Patrick from Pacific Brewing Laboratory.
I arrived a bit early, so I settled into my seat and started off with Pac Brew Lab’s Squid Ink, a Black IPA and an appetizer of fried rosemary/parmesan mashed potato balls. The Squid Ink was probably the best Black IPA I’ve ever tried because of the great balance between the bold hop and dark malt flavors which can be very difficult to perfect in this beer style. Also on tap from Pac Brew Lab was their Nautilus Hibiscus Saison. Patrick told me that he was inspired to make Nautilus after a trip to Spain when he drank the best Rose he’s ever had and he wanted to capture those characteristics in a beer. He knew he wanted it to be a Saison, but went through a lot of trial and error trying to get the accents he was looking for to capture the spirit of the Rose. After attempts to incorporate various fruits and herb flavors, he stumbled across hibiscus. And the result is great. There’s a lot of transition through the palate with this beer: it begins aromatic and floral, changes to slightly tart like a very light sour beer, then ends on complex notes of soft fruit. It impressed me, but surprisingly it was a bit of a palate wrecker. No matter what beer I had afterwards a definite floral tone would creep back onto my tongue. Pac Brew Lab is based in SF and unfortunately they don’t bottle beer at this time, but they’re certainly a place to keep an eye on with their unique take to bold and challenging beer types.
I left Jamber very full after the sun had sunk behind the tall San Francisco skyline. I want to make it up for another day this week and I hope get a chance to do so. With so many new beers and old favorites to try at events all across the Bay Area, you would be remiss not to scope out the scene. Just remember that Beer Week is a full-force event. You must be prepared and know that you meet a lot of people, wander all over the place, taste things you’ve never tasted, and I beseech you to utilize public transportation!
And remember this Friday, Beltramo’s will be hosting a Barleywine Tasting of it’s own from 4:30-6:30, so we hope to see you here to taste a lineup of this style, including some vintage Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.
Neal F., Beltramo’s Beer & Spirits Staff