OK, I'M IMPRESSED. I've been writing this beer column for nearly 20 years and I've tasted a lot of great beer and been to some fabulous events, but I've never seen anything in the Bay Area to equal SF Beer Week. All I can say is: Wow!

Many of us who love great beer are far from smug about it. We're kind of like the blue-collar kids who sneak into a fancy party and find the spotlight turned on them. SF Beer Week shows the world is rushing to our table, and the effect's a bit head-spinning and dazzling.

Listen to Paul Bertolli, whose top-rated Rockridge restaurant, Oliveto, is holding a beer dinner tonight, featuring the beers of Russian River Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo, the brewery co-founder and creator of the estimable Pliny the Elder, the just released Pliny the Younger and many other elixirs.

"Typically, beer was what you drink with barbecue, and it's great that way," Bertolli says. "But beer has become an entirely different beverage experience. It's really taking its rightful place at the dinner table. It has complexity, different layers and styles." Bertolli explained that beer chef Bruce Paton, whose beer dinners at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco sell out, is a steady Oliveto customer. He suggested a beer dinner at Oliveto, then brought over a selection of beers and the beer dinner emerged.

The cost will be between $110 and $125 a person, Bertolli said. It's going to be a no-holds-barred, elaborate dinner, he said. It may be sold out. If you're interested, call Oliveto, 510-547-5336 without delay.


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It also may be too late to snag a reservation to Paton's own Beer and Chocolate Dinner Friday night in San Francisco. $95, reservations only at http://www.beer-chef.com. Never fear, there are many more dinners and other events ahead. Here's a tiny selection. For the whole list — well over 100 events — go to www.sfbeerweek.org.

To attend the big kahuna, the 16th annual Toronado Barleywine Fest, you don't need a reservation. Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday. Over 60 barleywines, pay for your beer. And there'll be plenty of room for the SF Beer Week closer, a bountiful fest: The Celebrator Best of the West Beer Fest!, $35, 4 to 8 p.m., Oakland Convention Center, 1000 Broadway. 510-538-2739.

What's going on today:

n 6:30 p.m., Beer & Nosh Five Course Beer Dinner, $100, Scala's Bistro, 432 Powell St., San Francisco, 415-760-7019. $100, benefit for San Francisco Food Bank.

  • 6:30 p.m. Stone Brewing Beer Dinner, $70, Monk's Kettle, 3141 16th St., San Francisco, 415-865-9523.

  • 7 p.m. Annual Rogue Beer and Cheese pairing, $25, Rogue Ales Public House, 673 Union St., San Francisco. 415-362-7880.

  • 7 p.m., Malheur Belgian Beer, Cheese and Chocolate Tasting, $25, the Trappist, 460 8th St., Oakland. Reservations not required. Also a Triple Karmeliet tasting, 7 p.m. Friday.

    Thursday, Feb. 12

    n 6 p.m., Night of Ales, Firestone Walker Beer Dinner prepared by Homebrew chef Sean Paxton, $95, Peacock Lounge, 552 Haight St., San Francisco, co-sponsored by the Toronado.

  • 6:30 p.m. Beer Mixology and Sensory Appreciation, $40, Bistro, 1001 B St., Hayward, 510-886-8825 with Judy Ashworth, an expert in mixing beers; and Sierra Nevada head brewer Terence Sullivan.

  • Sour Belgian Beer and Chocolate, City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St., San Francisco. No admission; pay for beer and chocolate.

  • All week, Local Brews at Chez Panisse Cafe, Chez Panisse, Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-5049. Selected à la carte menu items paired with California craft beer.

    See you somewhere on the trail "...

    Reach William Brand at whatsontap@sbcglobal.net or call 510-915-1180 and ask for his Retail Beer Store List or Good Pub List. Read more by Brand at www.ibabuzz.com/beer.

    Ratings
    HHHHH World classic
    HHHH Don't miss it
    HHH Very good.
    HH Good beer; no defects.
    H Demand a refund.