Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Get Thee to the Bistro Double IPA Fest This Saturday

By William Brand
Friday, February 9th, 2007 at 9:57 pm in Uncategorized.

OK, I’ve been under the weather with the flu for the last four days, but I’m coming out of the fog. Lots of things happening in the beer world. But something great’s happening here in the San Francisco East Bay tomorrow: The Bistro’s Double IPA Fest.

It’s the kickoff for the Bay Area Beerapalooza. This column ran two weeks ago in MediaNews papers:

Beer Season in February? Why Not?

FEBRUARY is the dark heart of winter — and even here in the Bay Area, where the sun usually shines, however coldly, historically it’s a lousy time to drink beer. No wonder. Who wants to drink a light, fizzy lager when there’s frost on the lawn or a cold, gray rain’s blowing off the bay?

The craft beer movement, which mostly eschews light and fizzy, has changed that in a big way. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the Bay Area, In fact, we’ve become a destination for beer lovers around the world.

David Keene behind the bar at the Toronado.

It all began with the annual Barleywine Festival at the Toronado, a San Francisco bar that’s truly a mecca for those of us who like beer. Sometime back around 1990, proprietor David Keene noticed that he had several barleywines on tap. These beers are so strong that they’re approaching the strength of table wine, which averages about 12 percent alcohol by volume.
Why not have a little festival, he thought. Why not? It grew from there. This year, which David reckons is about the 17th or 18th annual, he expects upwards of 50 barleywines, from West Coast craft brewers, from the East and the Midwest and abroad. There’s professional judging, and beers remain on tap until they’re gone.

The next step in the transformation of February into a strong beer wonder-month happened in Hayward. Vic Kralj, proprietor of The Bistro, has a similar story, but with a different beer. Kralj says he began receiving so many over-the-top, uber-hoppy, uber-strong entries to his annual India Pale Ale festival that he decided to hold a separate fest: The Double IPA Festival. Like the Toronado’s Barleywine festival, it was a shot heard’round the brewing world.

Credit for the third element to our beery Bay Area festival goes to Tom Dalldorf and his Hayward-based Celebrator Beer News, the national, bi-monthly publication covering the craft beer movement. He noticed all the beer-filled events around the Bay Area in February — nearly every brewpub and good-beer tavern has events planned — and coined a word for it.

It is, he proclaimed, a “Beerapalooza.

And to cap the month, the Celebrator holds its own Beerapalooza anniversary party-beer blast after most of the other major events. One warning: All of these events feature strong beer. Bring along a designated driver or plan to take public transit or a cab. Interested? Here’s a list of major events:

– Feb. 1 through Feb. 28, fifth annual Strong Beer Month. There’s strong beer wherever you can usually find good beer in the Bay Area this month — at brewpubs and taverns. But Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder and head brewer at 21st Amendment Restaurant and Brewery, 563 2nd St., San Francisco, and Dave McLean, founder and head brewer at Magnolia Brewery & Restaurant, 1398 Haight St., San Francisco, have made it their own. Each has brewed five strong beers. The idea is to visit each pub repeatedly during February, sample all 10 brews and win a prize. I have no idea what the prize might be. I’m not sure they do. I know there are special glasses and yes, T-shirts. I talked to Dave and Shaun the other night at the Toronado. They said the whole idea of strong beer month, beerapalooza and the fests have turned business around in February.

It used to be a slow month, Shaun says. No more. He told me one of his specials, a Belgian-style strong ale, was blended with 10 gallons of Lindemans Framboise, a Belgian lambic ale, made with wild yeast and fresh raspberries. The Lindemans had first been aged in an oak barrel. Whew.
Strong beer here

Feb. 10, seventh annual Double IPA Fest, The Bistro, 1001 B St., Hayward, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Music, food. Outdoor patio, tent. $20 admission buys five tastings. Call (510) 886-8525 or visit There will be professional judging and medals will be awarded.

Feb. 14, Beerapalooza Beer and Cheese Tasting, Rogue Ales Public House, 673 Union St., San Francisco. Craft beers, some rare and unusual, paired with craft cheese from Northern California cheesemakers by Sheana Davis of the Epicurean Connection, Sonoma. Doors open 5 p.m., pairing begins at 6. Tickets: $30 advance, $35 at door, if tickets remain. Call (415) 362-7880 for reservations. Hint: This event is becoming extremely popular and most likely will sell out, so if you’re interested, make a reservation now.

– Feb. 16, Beer and Chocolate Dinner, Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco. This one’s sold out. A first for beer chef Bruce Paton, whose regular beer dinners have become increasingly famous. To get on the mailing list so you don’t miss the next dinner, e-mail Bruce at Late word: Bruce says the dinner is sold out. Damn.

– Feb. 17, Toronado Barleywine Fest, 547 Haight St., San Francisco, 10 a.m. until closing, and onward during the week until the beer runs out. Beers are listed on a chalkboard, pay by the glass. No cover. Hint: This is a total mob scene. Best to come late or on Sunday. However, the fest is professionally judged and the beers of the top five winners tend to go fast. Call (415) 863-2276 or visit

– Feb. 18, Celebrator Beer News 19th Anniversary Party, Trumer Pils Brewery, 1404 4th St., Berkeley, 4-8 p.m. At least 15 breweries will be pouring beer, live music, including the Anchor Brewery band, Cajun and barbecue food. Free shuttle will run continuously to and from the Shattuck Avenue BART station, $40. For tickets call (800) 439-BEER.

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