Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

SF Beer Week vs. Philly Beer Week? We get a little cheeky

By William Brand
Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 11:19 am in what's on tap.

Note: This is my column from the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday, Jan 21. 2009, Comments are welcome? Did I go too far? Is Philly way ahead of us?

Bay Area to answer Philly with big week of beer events

By William Brand
for the Mercury News
Posted: 01/20/2009 05:00:00 PM PST

Have you heard about SF Beer Week? It’s a Bay Area celebration of great craft beer beginning Feb. 6 with the tapping of a special barrel at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco and ending 10 days later with a festival of more than 60 breweries in Oakland.

In between are dozens of events, including more than a few in the South Bay: beer dinners, beer-and-cheese pairings, meet-the-brewer nights.

So what’s this all about? Blame Philadelphia. Last spring, craft brewers and fans of good beer in Philly held a week of beer-related celebrations; they called it “Philadelphia Beer Week.” It was a great idea — but they went too far. They proclaimed Philadelphia “the best beer-drinking city in America.”

Indeed. While we respect Philly and its many craft breweries, those of us who live in the Bay Area don’t think so.

  • Consider history: It’s true that many pints of strong ale helped Ben Franklin and his fellow revolutionaries draft our Constitution. But the ale they quaffed was washed away in a century of light lager, and that’s mostly what Philadelphians were drinking when the craft beer revolution began.

It started right here in the Bay Area in the mid-1960s, when Fritz Maytag bought Anchor Brewing, resuscitated it and blazed a good beer trail for America to follow. In 1976, Jack McAuliffe, who learned about good beer while stationed with the U.S. Navy in Scotland, opened New Albion Brewing in Sonoma on a shoestring.

  • I don’t know what they were drinking in Philly at the time, but it wasn’t hop-smacking bottles of Anchor Liberty Ale or tall bombers of dark, strong, malty-yeasty New Albion Ale.

The first brewpub in America opened in 1982 in Yakima, Wash. The next two opened in 1983 here in Northern California: Mendocino Brewing in Hopland and Buffalo Bill’s in Hayward.

And Philadelphia certainly wasn’t the first to hold a beer week. Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Hayward-based Celebrator Beer News, came up with the idea, and since 2003, with the help of friends, he has packed a mid-February week with events and called it Beerapalooza.

Then Philadelphia came along with its cheeky slogan.

After months of strategizing and a beer or two, SF Beer Week was born. Personally, I hate the name: It ought to be San Francisco Bay Area Beer Week. But that’s a minor point; we’re stuck with that big, gorgeous city, aren’t we?

  • “The whole idea is to bring a focus to the rich treasure trove of beer and brewing that started in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Dalldorf says. “We may not have the density of small breweries that, say, Portland, Ore., has. But if you look at the aggregate in Northern California, there really is a lot going on. “We’re trying to have enough events going on that it will make people realize the wealth of brewing we have here,” he said.

Bottom line to all this: It’s fun, but it’s folderol. The important point is that the craft beer revolution has gone so far that two great, American metropolitan areas — and let’s not forget Portland, Seattle and Denver — can have a friendly quarrel over good beer.
It shows how far we’ve come from the time when most beer was brewed in a handful of big beer factories and mostly it tasted like water. Three cheers for SF Beer Week, and hats off to Philadelphia, too.
Contact William Brand at whatsontap@sbcglobal.ner. Read more beer reports on his blog, www.ibabuzz.com/beer.

Some beer week highlights

For details and many more listings, go to www.sfbeerweek.org. Some events have a ticket charge, but at most you”ll just pay for what you eat and drink.
Friday, Feb. 6
Uncommon Brewer Beer Dinner, 6 p.m., Red Restaurant & Bar, 1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; about $70. Brewer Alec Stefansky will bring kegs of previously unreleased beers. (831) 621-6270.
Saturday, Feb. 7

  • Ninth annual Double India Pale Ale Fest, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Bistro, 1001 B. St., Hayward; $25, includes commemorative glass and five taste tickets. More than 60 beers on tap. One of California”s premier beer festivals, highlighting strong, highly hopped double IPAs.
  • Santa Cruz Ale Works Beer and Cheese Pairing, noon-6 p.m., Parish Publick House, 841 Almar St., Santa Cruz. (831) 421-0507.
  • Beer and Chocolate Tasting, noon-7 p.m., Seabright Brewery, 519 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. (831) 426-2739.

Sunday, Feb. 8

  • Alembic Sunday Supper, 3-7 p.m., Alembic Bar, 1725 Haight St., San Francisco. With Sam Calagione, co-founder, Dogfish Head Brewing.

Wednesday, Feb. 11

  • Firehouse Grill & Brewery and Milk Pail Market beer and cheese pairing, 6:30 p.m., Firehouse, 111 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale, (408) 773-9500.

Thursday, Feb. 12

  • Sour Beer and Chocolate Night, 5-9 p.m., City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St., San Francisco.

Friday, Feb. 13

  • Beer Chef Bruce Paton”s Beer & Chocolate Dinner, 6:30 p.m., Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco; $80. This is a big deal, featuring some of America”s finest beers and great food. Reservations essential; it will sell out. (415) 674-3406, www.beer-chef.com.
  • Meet the brewer, with tasting, 6-9 p.m., Devil”s Canyon Brewing, 111 Industrial Way, #7, Belmont. (650) 592-2739.
  • Firehouse Chocolate Dinner with Pete”s Wicked Ale founder Pete Slosberg, Firehouse Grill & Brewery, 111 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale, price to be determined. (408) 773-9500.

Saturday, Feb. 14

  • Sixth annual Barleywine Fest, doors open at 11 a.m., Toronado, 547 Haight St., San Francisco. People come from around the world; expect a crowd. (415) 863-2276.

SUNDAY, FEB. 15

  • Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and India Joze Culinary Beer Journey, 1-6 p.m., Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, 402 Ingalls St., Suite 27, Santa Cruz; $20. (831) 425-4900.
  • Celebrator Best of the West Beer Celebration, 4-8 p.m., Oakland Convention Center, 1000 Broadway, Oakland. $35-$50. A really big festival with dozens of breweries.

“” William Brand

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  • craig

    beerapalooza was a perfect name …but if they want to copy philly(i wish our local sports team would)that’s fine…who needs to be original any ways?…i was woundering that since no food will be served at the “celebrator best of the west beer celebration”…if designated driver ticket are going to be offered…i want to get my tickets in advance …but hate paying 35$ for somone who does not drink…the web site doesn’t mention any…thanks..

  • Ivan

    Question about the Celebrator Celebration – does the $35 include drink tickets? Or do you purchase them inside?

  • http://www.ibabuzz.com/bottomsup William Brand

    Includes drink tickets. I think the admission gets you inside, then you drink what you want. Will check with Tom Dalldorf

  • craig

    all the other years it has been unlimited tasting…as it should be for 35$…..it is always a great time..it will be strange without food this year…good thing chinatown is only blocks away…

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