San Francisco Beer Week Opening Gala: My Five Must-Try Beers

It looks as though I’ll be going to the SF Beer Week Opening Gala after all.* Though I still thoroughly anticipate an event that will try my patience for crowds, and which will be comprised largely of hop-seeking dunderheads, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to get my hands on a ticket and to drink what will surely be some outstanding beers.

In keeping with my year long theme of structured consumption, I’ve set two ground rules for myself. Foremost among them, is no beer that is available year-round shall pass my lips. If it’s not a one-off or special release of some kind, why bother? The point of the whole event is to get beers you can’t find in other places. Second, with a few exceptions, I’ll not drink any IPAs, especially of the double or triple variety. One could spend the evening drinking those alone, but that’s a one-way ticket to oblivion. Tasting 25 XXXIPAs sounds good until you have to get home on the bus, shit-faced and ready to piss yourself. I’m sure the latter will be unavoidable; the former I can likely work around. The notable exception to the IPA proscription is Russian River’s Pliny the Younger; unlike most places pouring it, the line will be short and I’ve not had it in a few years now.

At over 120 breweries strong, the list of beers being tapped this Friday is deep. I’ve spent the last few days combing over it, making list of just under 30 beers to hunt for. To get even that may would be a chore. I’ve narrowed that down further to come up with my top five must-try brews. In no particular order they are as follows:

  • Ale Industries, Raw Ale. An ale featuring gin influenced botanicals, including bay, rosemary, cardamon, and juniper. Moreover, it’s unboiled (hence the raw part) and has no hops. None. I’ve been studying up on medieval gruits and herbal ales, so this one is of particular interest. As a side note, Ale Industries is a place I’d like to see figure more prominently in the coming year. Nothing is quite true to style, but everything they make is good. On top of that, they’re committed to sourcing materials ethically, and being environmentally sound. Stop by their tap room next time you are in Oakland.
  • Bear Republic, Tatare Rouge. An American Wild Ale, spontaneously fermented with airborne wild yeast. There is something I love about the idea of literally throwing caution to the wind, and letting nature do what it may. It’s gutsy, it’s different, and it sounds delicious.
  • Firestone Walker, Agrestic. Another Wild Ale that started its life as FW’s delicious Double Barrel Ale gets transformed by some yeasty magic into something else entirely.
  • Laughing Monk, Barrel Aged Peach Pulpit. I don’t go in for Belgian beer too much, nor do I really like Chardonnay. But Something about this beer has really caught my eye; a Belgian tripel aged in Wente Vineyard Chardonnay Barrels with peaches. That’s one I have to try.
  • Moonlight Brewing, Legal Tender Herbal Ale. Another hop-less beer. Though it might seem like I’m waging a personal war on lupulin here, I love hoppy beers as much as anyone. As previously stated though, I’ve been up to my neck in gruit research the last week and really want to see that style realized as best I can. No list of herbs is given for this one, but I’m hoping for bog myrtle to be in the mix.

Other beers that fell short of must-haves, but that I’ll certainly get to include, Eight Bridge’s One Box IPA, Local Brewing’s Macaroon Coconut Oatmeal Pale Ale, Old Bus Tavern’s Wookie’s Delight, Speakeasy’s unfiltered Pop Gun Pilsner, Hop Dogma’s Ol’ Keller, and Moylan’s Haze Craze IPA.

A final brew that bears mentioning is the collaboration done by the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild; a post-modern Kolsch style ale with satsuma and evergreen. Not only does the guild put this whole thing on, but they’re contributing what promises to be one of the more interesting beers served. I can’t wait to try it.

*Special thanks to  the amazing Franny Fullpint for the ticket. I don’t deserve such generosity and cannot thank her enough.

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