Share the Excitement
SF Beer Week is telling a story your audience will want to hear. It’s one of pioneers and innovators. Of experimentation and pushing envelopes. Of making a mark.
Throughout the years, throughout the region, Bay Area brewers have forged paths, started trends and embraced craft beer’s cutting edge — all to deliver the tastiest brews and greatest experiences to fans and followers. It’s never been a better time to be a lover of craft beer, thanks to such an innovating spirit.
The ingenuity, creativity and enthusiasm that make our craft beer community so special is on full display during SF Beer Week.
Covering SF Beer Week? Share the excitement — read about regional innovation; grab snippets and story ideas; and contact us for interview contacts and other resources.
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A Celebration of Innovation
OVERVIEW – below
“If you’d told me five years ago that kettle-soured fruited Gose would be a beer trend, I’d have never believed you,” chuckled long time craft beer observer, author and SF Beer Week co-founder Jay Brooks on a warm afternoon.
Relaxing at Iron Springs Brewing Co., one of the Bay Area’s venerable brewpubs, Brooks was drinking a Kölsch, an entirely different—but increasingly trendy—style, reflecting the delicate traditional flavors of the brews of Cologne, Germany. Suddenly, many more of the world’s brewers and beer drinkers have been caught up in the thrill of beer flavor discovery, a passion reignited in San Francisco during the adventurous 1960s.
Why do the San Francisco Brewers Guild and the region’s breweries plan all year for a week of craft beer celebration? Each successive SF Beer Week has answered that question in hundreds of satisfying ways. But as Brooks points out, heading into 2017, the craft beer landscape has shifted in ways both weird and wonderful—and come February, this brave new week of ever-increasing innovation and creativity will be on full display like no other SF Beer Week before it.
The SF Beer Week Opening Gala, the top-tier regional invitational festival that kicks off the festivities on February 10, will spotlight flavor-driven brewing innovations glass by glass. Revelations and discoveries will continue through hundreds of thirst-quenching events throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, wrapping up on February 19.
Over 100 breweries now operate in one of the world’s most creative regions. The San Francisco Bay Area continues to be a hotbed of beer innovation, where trends and techniques are created, rediscovered and riffed on. From flipping beer styles on their heads to adapting experimental beer-making techniques, from wielding increasing influence on celebrity chefs’ dishes and beverage menus to creating specialized businesses such as fermentation-only facilities and California’s first artisan malting company in over 35 years, innovation continues apace in the City by the Bay and its surrounding areas.
This February, let the region’s leading craft beer sherpa, SF Beer Week, guide you through ten days of craft beer discovery.
THE BAY AREA AS A CENTER OF BEER STYLE INNOVATION
San Francisco is where it all began: America’s first craft brewing region. Craft beer sprang from the Bay Area’s spirit of innovation, which still drives brewing excellence and eclecticism today.
The craft beer renaissance started with Anchor Steam and Fritz Maytag’s decision to save Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco in 1965. Ten years later, Anchor’s famous Liberty Ale, a British-inspired dry-hopped pale, would lay the groundwork for the modern American IPA movement by using little-known American hops. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., out of Chico, Calif., would put hop flavor and aroma front and center with its use of Cascade, the same hop varietal, for its eponymous Pale Ale. By the 1990s, a few bold microbreweries were making stronger, hoppier versions—distinctly American IPAs.
Those hoppy beginnings led to Russian River Brewing Co.’s acclaimed double and triple IPAs, Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger respectively, providing brewing inspiration around the globe.
Today, the continuing explosion of substyles, combined with the rediscovery of styles thought long lost, make SF Beer Week an epicenter for beer exploration.
Brewers are sure to deliver diverse IPAs—the hazy, the clear, the single-hopped, dry-hopped, dank, citrusy and more. There will be sours, delicate or bracing; gruits shunning hops for herbs; traditionally brewed beers showcasing clean, classic ale and lager styles; malt-forward and “imperial-ized” approaches delivering rich, viscous beers tasting more dessert than drink; and the appearance of diverse specialty ingredients, bound to add intriguing, sometimes unexpected flavors. The diversity of beers presented by local and regional brewes will be something to behold.
[ See SFBW Snapshot: The Bay Area and Beer Style Innovation ]
BEER AND FOOD PAIRING CREATIVITY
Beer-and-food experiences in the Bay Area are as much about the moment as the meal. San Franciscans—and visitors to this region of culinary distinction—consistently seek out the most talked about restaurant openings and celebrated food havens in search of exceptional cuisine and singular bar programs. International influences and farm-to-table inclinations have inspired talented local chefs to expand the concept of Cuisine à la Bière. Many top restaurants in the region, from The French Laundry to State Bird Provisions, devote welcome attention to their beer lists and pairings. Gastropubs and beer-centric eateries— such as The Monk’s Kettle, Smokestack at Magnolia and Hog’s Apothecary—bring kitchen cred to casual and bar top dining as well.
During Beer Week, dozens of beer dinners take it to another level. Diners return to their favorite events annually, seeking sublime satisfaction in pursuit of the perfect pairing, as brewer and chef guide them through a thoughtful, vibrant meal. On these occasions, a succession of courses showcase beer’s propensity to complement and elevate no matter the fare, from light to hearty, from spicy to sweet, from the most delicate seafood to the richest cassoulet.
All around the greater Bay Area, breweries and beer-forward restaurants will embrace the possibilities to show their matchmaking artistry. Educational beer pairing sessions won’t hide their hedonistic flair, drawing happy crowds. Easygoing food events—think artisan cheeses or select chocolates paired with elegant beers—will abound, too. Over the years, local food makers have jumped into the fun, designing goodies including craft beer donuts and artisanal ice creams with creative brewery partners such as Almanac Beer Co.
[ See SFBW Snapshot: Follow That Food ]
BREWING TECHNIQUES GO VIRAL
The current wave of experimental beers and emerging substyles—like that salt- and fruit-infused Gose Brooks mentioned—can be traced to both audacity in the brewhouse and a highly collaborative, curious and supportive industry.
The craft brewing community never stops questioning how each individual beer ingredient and process interacts with the whole. Even the slightest adjustment of any one variable may impart change. And there are so many variables—temperature, equipment, ingredients, ingredient handling—that in each step of the brewing process, brewers are finding opportunities for thoughtful evolution.
And revolutionary techniques are not just about the drinking experience. Brewers such as Bear Republic Brewing Co. have adopted and driven technology and sustainable practices for water use in the industry at large. SF Beer Week brings brewers from around the world together to learn from one another and keep the innovations rolling.
[ See SFBW Snapshot: Brewing Techniques – Innovation in the Brewhouse ]
BUSINESS AGILITY RESULTS IN NEW NEIGHBORHOOD HANGOUTS
The rise of hyper-local breweries entirely focused on serving their communities has created new neighborhood hangouts across the Bay Area. Dozens of breweries—Barrel Head Brewhouse, Harmonic Brewing Co., Black Hammer Brewing Co., Barebottle Brewing Co., Ferment.Drink.Repeat, Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery, the aptly named Local Brewing Co. and many more—are shunning traditional distribution and retail channels in favor of selling fresh-brewed beer on site and hand-delivering kegs to a few trusted bars. If their full taprooms and expanded hours are any indication, the communities they serve are loving it.
Concurrently, some brewers are moving away from year-round brands, instead embracing continual rotation and experimentation in their taprooms.
Often a random visit to a local brewery can provide a once-in-a-lifetime chance to try a one-time-only specialty brew.
Still other brewers faithfully approach a classic recipe time and time again, iterating towards perfection, consistently delivering a memorable experience for fans and first-timers alike.
All this in-person engagement is only half the story—small local breweries deftly deepen relationships with their customers via social media and specialized Internet applications. Beer entrepreneurs embraced the ’net early on, creating new media companies such as RateBeer, in Santa Rosa, and The Brewing Network, in Concord, to facilitate the exchange of ideas between Bay brewers and the international craft beer community. Hopsy, in Albany, Calif., supplies patrons with draft beer from local breweries via growlers—delivered to their doors—ordered via an app, of course. SF Beer Week itself, showcasing hundreds of events filterable by venue, geography or interest (beer and food, festivals, etc.), puts the craft beer universe—as captured during its 10-day stretch—right into one’s pocket.
[ See SFBW Snapshot: Taprooms – Welcome to the Neighborhood ]
BEER PACKAGING & DESIGN ON THE MOVE
Innovative design and graphics flourish in the Bay Area—all the better to complement beer’s evolution. With the growing popularity of the Crowler, a one-way, large-format aluminum can filled on demand at taproom counters, gorgeous label art has found a new canvas. Refillable growlers, too, have evolved from traditional glass to insulated high tech vessels, all emblazoned with iconic graphics.
Bay Area brewery art goes beyond expressing local brewers’ identities. For beer appreciators, the tribe is craft beer, expressed through visual design. Brewery and festival shirts have taken over the cultural function of band t-shirts, touting the wearer’s tastes, loyalties and badge-worthy experiences.. Each year, SF Beer Week sports playful—and much anticipated—visual themes tying beer enjoyment to Bay Area culture and back to the art of brewing.
There’s no doubt about it—the can is back! Bay Area operations such as 21st Amendment Brewery adopted craft beer canning early, promoting the format as better for beer, the environment and personal portability. Smaller Bay Area breweries have taken to the Northern California-conceived convenience of a mobile canning line offered by San Francisco’s The Can Van, providing perfect small batch tests for brews and brewery logos along with a welcome mode for specialty releases.
[ See SFBW Snapshot: The Whole Package ]
COOPERATION & COLLABORATION
The San Francisco brewing community innovates together, cooking up collaboration beers with colleagues near and far, for the camaraderie, the creative challenge, or just to mix things up. Much of the modern brewing community shares these traits, passed along by early craft brewers. In the face of growing competition, brewers continue to cooperate and brew together.
For example, as tradition dictates, the thirty-plus members of the San Francisco Brewers Guild will be collaborating on a special beer recipe in the run-up to SF Beer Week 2017, featuring culinary ingredients from local and artisan food vendors donated by Whole Foods Market. This one-time-only original beer, will be tapped at the SF Beer Week Opening Gala on February 10, and available at beloved craft beer bars and retail outlets throughout SF Beer Week.
Last year, two collaboration beers from Guild members featured sea salt and yuzu peel in one brew and coffee plus chicory in another. The nature of these creations and the sagas of the brewing jam sessions differ every year, but the friendships formed around the process are enduring, and the resulting beers often surprising and always enjoyable.
The Guild’s collaboration brew will no doubt be one among many intriguing collaborative creations poured during SF Beer Week. Stay tuned to learn what local brewers will dream up for 2017. Maybe they’ll even come up with the seed of an enduring new style. If craft beer history in the Bay Area has taught us anything, we are sure to be beguiled.
[ See SFBW Snapshot: Collaboration + Cooperation = Creativity ]