Frankly, this article was supposed to be written and published a day or two ago. The events that the article chronicle were a little too fun, however, and the Robert Burns plan went agley (as they oft do). As some of you might be aware, the San Francisco/Bay Area is currently in the throes of Beer Week. Beer Week features a variety of special brews, more than a few of which are noted for being strong. I, to put it mildly, enjoy strong beer. I, to put it slightly less mildly, found this week-end really enjoyable.
Things kicked off with the 11th Annual Double IPA Festival at the Bistro in Hayward. This is one of my preferred festivals and I look forward to it year-round. The beers start pouring at 11:00 AM and I like to sample beer as the classic voting protocol dictates: early and often. With 58 beers on tap, there is ample opportunity to sample. I barely made it to the 11:00 AM start after being stuck a-train-station away due to a little police activity somewhere on the BART line. I hadn’t planned on spending the beginning of the festival on a train platform with a disparate group of increasingly agitated beer aficionados. Thankfully only 10 minutes were blown in this fashion and while they were a length ten minutes, they were up by 10:50. An excellent spread of beers quickly cleansed me of the experience, in any event. Imbibed from under the bower of a shading tree and in the company of good people who had had the foresight to get there early enough to reserve a few extra seats, I savored my double IPA. Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum, Firestone Walker’s Double Jack, Lagunitas’ SF Fusion, and Midnight Sun’s Cohoho Imperial IPA stood out. Perhaps Kern River’s Citra DIPA stood out just a little bit more. And if the hordes of afternoon drinkers slowed the pours down, I am not one to complain. The pours were better (read “to the rim”) than years past, the weather was clement, I was viewing the sky and sun from the safety of the shade, and the myriad of bitter and citrus notes I adore abounded.
And then I was off to It Came From the Wood Barrel Aged Beer Night at the Jug Shop in San Francisco. Revitalized by near-daily curry transfusion, I scored some space at the counter. Considering that many revelers were reduced to drinking in the aisles, I was pleased. The line-up involved 12 barrel aged beers poured from the bottle and it did not disappoint. Among the contenders were The Lost Abbey’s Angel’s Share (brandy), Firestone Walker’s 14, North Coast’s Old Stock 2009 and Rasputin 12, and three flavors of FiftyFifty’s Eclipse (Evan Williams Bourbon, Four Roses Bourbon, and Heaven Hill Rye barrels). I confess to have gotten a bit antsy while waiting for the next in the queue to open. Still, any residual impatience was eventually quelled by the last leg of the tour with the Rasputin 12, which, in addition to being yummy in an insidiously satisfying way, gets that balance of stout, bourbon, and sugar just Goldie-Locks-right. Each intense in their own right, but never dominating the palate. A formidable line-up well-presented and tended by Eric Cripes of the Jug Shop.
And then it was Sunday. It hadn’t been twenty-four hours since the beginning of the double IPA festival and I was lined up and ready to partake of the greatly anticipated barrel aged and sour beer festival at Triple Rock and Jupiter in Berkeley. Ended up standing in an increasingly long line with the sun beating down on my baseball cap. Except I hadn’t brought it so my baseball cap was the beer list from the double IPA festival. While it got a late start, spirits appeared generally good and were buoyed in particular by a short, explicative-laden political debate between one of the revelers and a passing bicyclist. Again scored some good seating thanks to people with better timing than myself. The beer list was somewhat cryptic and included some pages upside down (best navigated when sober, which wasn’t exactly the case ) and there were serious tap issues for the first few hours. Once all was straightened out, though, it was an unqualified blast. A tasty variety of flavors from bottles to taps, from the shockingly sour to the bawdy and boozy (and those are good things in my book). Lots of experimentation, something I love about this festival… envelope and taste bud pushing. I would love to deliver more coherent notes on the contenders but you will have to be left with all I still possess, the vague, gestalt expression of a beer festival that should not be missed. And they have given out my favorite glass two years running. -Nate