Beer Tourists Travel from Abroad for SF Beer Week
Sometimes we forget how good we have it in the Bay Area. Every corner of the region is filled with celebrated breweries, craft beer centric watering holes, and leading edge restaurants serving great beer. Along with our cultural, natural and historic attractions, it’s no wonder that beer tourists from around the world travel here for SF Beer Week, when the options for great beer are even more mind numbingly good.
Travelers from abroad periodically reach out to SF Beer Week organizers. We answer questions and offer advice. We also hear about long distance beer tourists from event hosts and attendees who’ve bonded with them over a few beers. One case in point is a band of fun loving “Crazy Swedes” who’ve been popping up at events all over the Bay Area each year.
We were curious about their dedication, and by total chance, their ringleader Michael Blom got in touch with us a few months ago with a question. Some emails flew back and forth across the pond and we thought it would be fun to share their story through a little Q & A with Blom, who’s from Uppsala, Sweden. He offers some great advice for first time visitors and regular attendees.
When did you start attending SF Beer Week and what inspired you to visit?
My brother and I started going to SF Beer Week almost three years ago. 2010 was our first visit. We’re both interested in beer and started talking about going somewhere far away from Sweden. We had of course read about SF Beer week and knew Bay Area breweries produce a lot of good beer. My brother had also traded beer with a few people in San Francisco and we wanted to visit them as well. Based on those two things it felt like an easy decision, and an adventure to go, and I always wanted to visit the city of San Francisco. The first year we combined a lot of events with tourist attractions. After the first year it was of course an even easier decision to go a second time, and in 2011 we got five more friends to tag along. The experience spread in our beer friend community and for SF Beer Week 2012, twelve of us came over from Sweden. I am hoping for a similar number in 2013, but so far only 3 people who have actually booked flight tickets. Five or seven more will book soon though.
How long do you stay during SF Beer Week?
We usually fly in on the Thursday before SF Beer Week. We usually stay for the full duration, however in 2013 I can only stay for 7 days due to work back home.
Are there any events you attend every year and do you have a strategy?
We try to go to as many events as possible, but in the end there are a few we keep going back to. The Opening Celebration of course, the DIPA Festival at the Bistro, the Sour Sunday in Berkeley at Triple Rock and Jupiter, and the Celebrator Beer News Anniversary Celebration on the last day. There are other events we have visited more than once, but those four we do each year. Beyond these I try to find events that also include food pairings or other kind of odd things, like the canned beer event at the Jug shop.
Do you have any memorable moments?
One of the best events I’ve been able to attend so far, other than the 4 mentioned above, the seven-course dinner in 2010 hosted by Jesse Friedman, who now runs Almanac Beer, was memorable. That dinner simply blew our minds with world-class beer paired with awesome food. I still relish those memories with great happiness. That same year we did a full day where we started off with a bus trip to Santa Rosa to have a great afternoon at Russian River Brewing, which was followed by a five course dinner and beer pairings at Lagunitas Brewing. It was a lot of great beer and people all throughout the day. Other memories usually include a variety of people, and that is also one of the reasons we keep coming back, to visit old and a lot of new friends. I never imagined I would meet so many nice people out there, and it’s always so easy to talk with them. Most seem genuinely happy to talk to us strangers from far away.
Do you have any advice for people traveling from abroad to SF Beer Week?
My advice would be to always remain open-minded and don’t be afraid to ask fellow beer people for advice. I’ve found that I can ask whomever, wherever, and most will be friendly and helpful when I have questions or issues. I think it’s also good to stay at a hotel that’s fairly central in San Francisco, close to a BART station. We take a lot of trains and buses to events in various parts of the city and around the Bay Area. If you’re there for the first time, and if you haven’t visited San Francisco before, I would also try to spend a few more days to really experience the city itself and not only the beer scene. I’ve also found it to be extremely handy to plan, in advance, what kind of events you plan to attend, and make sure you have maps printed to the various locations. Due to the extremely high number of events (which of course is good!) I don’t want to spend a lot of time while in San Francisco reading about SF Beer Week, and then planning to go to a specific event. I want to have that planned already before leaving home to make sure I can try as much beer as possible and meet a lot of new friends. My last piece of advice would be to check what your luggage limits are on your return back to ensure you can bring all the goodies home you bought or traded for without having to pay too much for excess baggage.