SF Beer Week is finally here an on Friday, festivities were kicked off with the SF Brewer’s Guild Opening Gala at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The format of this event was basically a beer festival, complete with souvenir glasses, 20 or so craft breweries, live music, food, tons of people, and unlimited pours. Early in the evening there were toasts to commemorate the festivities and special release beers abound.
The following are only a few of the great beers that I sampled at this event.
SF Brewer’s Guild Imperial Common. This is the official beer of SF Beer Week 10 and is a collaborative brew by the SF Brewer’s Guild. It looks like the plan is to make it available at several events throughout the week until it is gone. It has a nice malty and caramel sweet aroma with a woody, green hops bouquet and a touch of citrus. It doesn’t really taste like a stronger version of Anchor Steam but is not also a complete surprise. It has a nice malty flavor, slightly toasty, and a noticeable hop bitterness. Although the hop bitterness is pronounced it is nicely balanced against the malt sweetness. The Imperial common is medium bodied with a smooth bitter taste and is more sweet than dry while not being boozy at all. I find this to be an enjoyable and well craft beer made with Northern Brewer hops and St. George Spirits whiskey barrels.
Sierra Nevada Weizenbock. This was quite a surprising special release beer from Sierra Nevada. This is by far one of the cloudiest beers I’ve experienced with a wonderful yellow-orange hue. The smell has a nice fruity fresh ripe bananas and rich maltiness and lacks cloves. It might have just a touch of vanilla, enhancing the banana-split-like smell. This beer is rich with flavor. It is malty with some grainy qualities accompanied by a hint of banana and a touch of lemon zest. The Perle hops in this beer give it a noticeable but smooth bitterness and some earthy notes. It is full bodied, nicely carbonated, tasty, and delicious.
Black Diamond Tenzing Imperial Porter. This dark, rich, and delicious beer is named after Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa that climbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary.This beer has a lot of clarity but nearly opaque due to the dark brown color. The head is like chocolate milk. The predominant smell is that of a high quality dark chocolate bar which is, in part, likely due to the presence of vanilla and cocoa nibs in the beer. The flavor has chocolate but also has a rich roasty flavor with a hint of espresso. The mouthfeel is full bodied and this beer has a richness to it that in some ways makes it seem more like a stout.
Black Diamond Quadrupel. This is a high gravity ale that is dark amber in color with an off-white, tan head. It smells very malty and somewhat like molasses and just a bit fruity without much in the way Belgian yeast characteristics. The flavor was sweet, roasted malts, and just a little boozy. It is a full bodied beer which is a pleasure to drink.
Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball. This is a high gravity beer that is malty sweet balanced with spicy hops and quite drinkable for such a strong beer.
Drakes 1500 Pale Ale. This crystal clear amber-orange colored beer is quite a hoppy pale ale made. It is made with Simcoe and Amarillo hops which is quite apparent in the nose with notes of citrus, fresh grapefruit, pomelo, grass, and earth. The taste has a smooth bitterness and the grapefruit and pomelo flavors are present. It is not too bitter but the bitterness and the flavor of the hops dominates the maltiness. This is another great California hoppy pal ale.
Valley Brewing Bill Brand Brett. This sour beer is a tribute to the departed beer writer Bill Brand. It has a cloudy straw color and a sour ale aroma with just a nice hint of bready yeast. The sourness in the flavor is prevailing but combines well with a touch of sweetness from the malt. The sourness is fruity, not like vinegar, and quite refreshing. It is a medium bodied beer and quite drinkable for a sour ale.
Valley Brewing Pomegranate Saison. Valley has made a wonderful fruity, Belgian-style farmhouse ale with a nice orange amber hue. The flavor is a little sour and fruity with just the right amount of pomegranate flavor. The sweetness balances the sour for a pleasant drinkable medium-bodied beer.
Other notable beers that I tried were Gordon-Biersch Dampfbier, a German steam beer, Shmaltz Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah with 13% abv, 13 malts, 13 hops, Devil’s Canyon Bill Brand Brown, Thirsty Bear Winter Warmer, NapaSmith Lost Dog Red Ale, and Firestone Velvet Merkin.