With more than 80 styles of beer available, the craft beer market is stronger than ever and slowly stealing wine’s spotlight in the food-pairing world.
“Beer has just as much to offer to consumers in terms of experience and taste,” Brian Stechschulte, executive producer of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, said. “There are more styles to choose from and it pairs better with a wider range of food. There are lot of reasons beer is on par with wine. I’m glad it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.”
A notable event that showcases such beers is SF Beer Week. The San Francisco Brewers Guild gave birth to the event merely four years ago in 2009, but it has now grown to become one of the most world-renowned beer festivals.
“SF Beer Week is, for lack of a better word, awesome. It offers so much more than any other beer festival I have ever been to,” Ryan Hilton, SF State broadcast and electronic arts major, said. “It opens up a variety of things to do involving beer and food. In one day you can travel from bar-to-bar and restaurant-to-restaurant offering one remarkable deal after another. It also allows anyone to be able to taste a wide array of beer and see how, as well as where, the beer is made. To top it off, it’s a week-long ordeal of fun and excitement.”
The extended festival began with 50 to 70 events, but has now evolved to roughly 400. The success of the festival dovetails with the rising popularity of craft beer around the world.
Events of interest to SF State students
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According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers sold more than one million more barrels of craft beer in 2011 than the previous year. The Brewers Association also states that there are 2,075 United States craft breweries operating as of last June, an all-time high since 1887.
“There’s so many participating breweries, I love it, and I love that there’s something for everyone,” SF State hospitality major Devan Lane, said. “There’s everything from brunches to cheese pairings to cupcakes and then just straight beer. One of my favorites, Knee Deep Brewing, will even be there… on top of so many others.”
Of these thousands of United States craft brewers, 15 belong to the San Francisco Brewers Guild. Among many others, guild members and local favorites 21st Amendment, Anchor Brewing and Speakeasy, will be hosting multiple events and serving special beers throughout the week.
“The beer world is dramatically improving, people are improving possibilities of beer, especially served with food. It’s important because beer is so food friendly, and such a good culinary experience,” Jesse Friedman, co-founder of Almanac Beer Company in San Francisco, and a member of the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild, said.
The festival is set to encompass the endless possibilities of craft beer, featuring about 80 breweries holding events at an estimated 130 venues across the Bay Area, starting with the Opening Celebration Feb. 8.
Opening Celebration is one of the main fundraisers for SF Beer Week and the San Francisco Brewers Guild. This event will feature more than 65 northern California beers that span from Eureka, Santa Cruz and all the way east to the California/Nevada border. Opening Celebration will also include beer-infused goods, dinners and an opportunity to meet the brewers.
“Guests can try beer from all over the state and don’t have to travel; they can taste in Lassen, then walk 100 yards and be in (the) South Bay,” Stechschulte said.
Participating breweries, including big names like Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada, are expected to bring their regular popular beers and some rare beers. Food vendors and trucks will be abundant as well as parlor games and live music from El Radio Fantastique, Travis Hayes and the Whiskerman.
Adding to the uniqueness, the San Francisco Brewers Guild brews a collaborative beer to release at Opening Celebration. This year’s collaboration beer is Green Death. Made with 30 percent corn (used to produce creaminess and increase alcohol content), the brew clocks in at 7.75 percent alcohol by volume.
“It’s a modern interpretation of a historic West Coast ale, once produced in San Francisco, that beer fans have enjoyed in green bottles and cans since Prohibition ended,” Stechschulte said.
Almanac Beer Company will host Butchers and Beers, which has grown from 65 attendees last year to 200 this year. The event is a fundraiser for The Food Pantry in San Francisco and features a live butchery demo of an entire pig. Half of the cuts are used in beer-paired pork dishes, and the other half are sold in a silent auction to benefit the charity.
“We really try to make sure that they are quality events. Quantity isn’t important, we want venues to produce interesting and fun events. They need to take it a step further, something they don’t do throughout the year normally,” Stechschulte said. “We’re more about appreciation and learning than consumption.”
For those wary of entering the craft beer world, SF Beer Week is a great place to start, simply for the extensive variety.
“I always tell people that think they don’t like beer: It’s not that they don’t like beer, they just haven’t had any beers they like. There are low alcohol to high alcohol beers, sours to stouts, so many flavor combinations, they just haven’t had the right thing yet,” Friedman said.
Stechschulte shares this excitement, urging people to refrain from knocking a beer before trying it.
“Beer is very much an individual pursuit and appreciation. I would say the most important thing is just to keep an open mind, if you don’t like one that doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there you’ll like.”
SF Beer Week takes takes place Feb 8-17. A full schedule of events can be found on the festival’s website and the iPhone and Android apps.