It's hard to believe that this will be the fifth SF Beer Week -- and it just keeps getting bigger. With more than 400 events spread over 10 days, this year's festivities offer an average of 40 beer-related things to do every single day -- many of them in the East and South bays.
When this project began in 2008, the founding committee agonized over what to call it -- Bay Area Beer Week? Members fretted that people outside California might confuse our Bay Area with theirs and think the events were in, say, Chesapeake or Tampa. The name San Francisco was very well known, so the group went with SF Beer Week, but the geographic boundaries have always encompassed more than that city. That first year, events were held in Sacramento, the Bay Area and even Los Angeles, where the Blue Palms Brewhouse hosted an event with all Bay Area taps.
It's worked. By my calculation, more than 100 "beer weeks" are held in diverse communities worldwide, but SF Beer Week is one of the most famous -- and despite the San Francisco moniker, there are some amazing events taking place in Richmond, Livermore, San Jose and beyond. Find the full schedule online at www.sfbeerweek.org, but here are a few highlights.
Go East, young man
The first marquee event after Beer Week's opening gala Friday in San Francisco is the Bistro's Double IPA Festival in Hayward. This annual celebration, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, showcases the hoppiest creations on planet beer with more than 80 Imperial IPAs. Later that day, you also can taste wine barrel-aged beers at Oakland's Beer Revolution from 2 to 11 p.m. and enjoy a new beer release party at Berkeley's Pyramid Alehouse from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The festivities continue Sunday with the very popular Sour Sunday at Berkeley's Triple Rock. If you love sour beer, you cannot miss this one, which starts at 11 a.m. Pyramid (in Berkeley and Walnut Creek) will host beer bingo from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, while Pleasanton's Main St. Brewery gets in on the fun the next evening with a Fat Tuesday party starting at 5 p.m.
Celebrate Valentine's Day at Triple Rock's Decadence and Chocolate Milk Stout event, New Belgium's Lovefest at Beer Revolution and a Beer-Lover's Valentine party at Pyramid.
After all that beer, you'll probably want some exercise. Join the Tour de Biere East Bay Brewery Bike Crawl on Feb. 16. The ride begins at 9:30 a.m. at Drake's Barrel House in San Leandro and runs all day. Richmond's Craneway Pavilion is hosting its fourth annual chocolate and beer festival that afternoon as well.
When SF Beer Week comes to a close Feb. 17, it will do so with a bang at the Oakland Marriott Convention Center, with a Celebrator Beer News 25th anniversary party that goes from 4 to 8 p.m.
Plenty of terrific events will stretch across the South Bay as well, starting at 9 a.m. Sunday with Strong Women Brew Day at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. The
Enjoy a beer dinner with Hermitage Brewing's award-winning brewmaster at Scott's Seafood in Mountain View at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Chat up Stone Brewing's brewmaster the next evening when Harry's Hofbrau in Redwood City will feature 28 taps of Stone Brewing's beer.
Celebrate Valentine's Day at San Jose's Original Gravity Public House, which is hosting an all-day Sour Tap Takeover, and Wine Affairs is hosting a Valentine's Allagash pairing dinner.
Serpents and Stouts, anyone? Head for San Carlos on Feb. 15, when Jungle James Animal Adventures teams up with the Ale Arsenal for an evening of rare dark beers and snakes from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Don't miss the Twisted Tasting at the Top of the Ritt in Santa Cruz on Feb. 16. The Rittenhouse's afternoon tasting runs from 1 to 4 p.m., with a gala featuring 40 unusual beers from 6 to 10 p.m. And any day of the week, you can indulge your sweet tooth at Half Moon Bay Brewing's beer and dessert pairings, which run Saturday through Feb. 17.
One from the North
While there's plenty to do throughout the Bay Area, there is one more event I want to mention, because it's personal to me. My 11-year-old son, Porter, is autistic, and that's the cause being supported by the Black & White Beer Ball, a semiformal beer tasting 8 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. I'll see you at that one. Get details at www.ales4autism.org.