Old Mining Town Gives Up Gold for Hops

Brewmaster Brian Ford / Photos © Brian Stechschulte

Auburn Alehouse is located in, well, Auburn, CA.  An old mining town that has had to re-purpose itself for tourism, Auburn sits so close to I-80 that by the time you get off the exit you’re in the heart of downtown.  The first thing you’ll notice is the town’s strict adherence to the old “mining era” vibe.  The storefronts look like they’re from an old western movie, which made the Hawaiian-themed store all the more silly looking.  Nothing says cold mountain town like Bermuda shorts and t-shirts that a cruise line threw up on.  But enough of that, let’s get to the brewery.

The layout of the Auburn Alehouse is spectacular.  It’s a large building and the owners have been very creative with all the space.  The bar is made from a beautiful piece of wood stretching the length of the restaurant and the brewing area is located behind tall windows at the back of the building.  All the tanks are stacked on steel beams and clean as a whistle.  It’s great when a brewery showcases their tanks. It never feels like a brewery without at least some equipment on display.  Brewers tend to hate being featured like zoo animals in a cage, but it appeals to customers.

After ordering the complete flight of samples I started off with their pilsner and lager.  It’s really hard to find good lagers and pilsners and I didn’t want to blow my taste buds away at first.  Up until then my experience with Auburn Alehouse was limited to their tasty uber-hoppy Gold Digger IPA, so I didn’t expect much from their lagers, but they weren’t just good, they were delicious. Both were crisp, refreshing and so flavorful that after the flight was finished I ordered a pint of each before heading out the door.

Their Gold Digger IPA is a staple of mine, but in all honestly those two beers were my favorite beers of the day.  The Shanghai Stout also stands out as a great beer, but my mind kept wandering back to the lagers whenever I thought about the brewery (the pilsner won Bronze at GABF in 2010).

Brewmaster Brian Ford was there working on his latest batch and took some time out of his day to show me around the brewery and answer questions.  Like many small breweries that produce popular beer, Auburn is running into supply issues and just can’t keep up with demand.  A good problem to have, but also frustrating.  The brewery is nearly maxed out of space and might have to start contract brewing like many popular small breweries.

Altitude also plays a role in the brewing process at Auburn. Higher altitudes means water boils at lower temperatures and it also takes longer to boil (crazy, eh?).  This increases costs a bit. I can’t imagine what breweries in Colorado have to do to make their beer.

Expanding into different styles, Ford just released a barrel-aged version of his Old Prospector Barleywine. He even went the extra mile by wax-sealing the bottles.  He was aiming for that cool Makers Mark drippy wax look to the bottle, but they must use some sort of plastic because I’ve never seen a beer bottle with that drippy look.  By the way, brewers might want to avoid that red appearance since Makers Mark seems to be “sue-happy” about its wax look.  An interesting wax factoid that surprised me, was that dipping bottles in the gooey substance can damage the beer if the heat is too high or it’s exposed for too long. Apparently it’s a very delicate process.

All in all, Auburn Alehouse is a great place to stop and have a pint on your way through town. The beers are fantastic, the vibe is welcoming and if you’re passing through to hit the slopes or are headed to Reno I couldn’t recommend it more.  I just wish they could spare a few more hundred gallons of beer and send it down to the Bay Area.

Brewer Spotlight: Steve Donohue at Firehouse Brewery in Sunnyvale

The South Bay doesn’t get a fair shake when it comes to craft beer in the region. Maybe there aren’t enough breweries consistently stirring the pot of innovation? On the other hand, maybe people need to take a closer look and set preconceptions aside? In spite of the debate, high quality beer can be found at breweries and bars in the shadow of Silicon Valley if you take the time to explore.

One brewer who consistently garners attention and respect from the beer obsessed is Steve Donohue at Firehouse Brewery in Sunnyvale. He’s won a string of Great American Beer Festival (GABF) awards and his fan favorite, Hops On Rye, is starting to take on cult status. His success is proof once again, that you don’t need to be big to make waves in the craft beer world.

I spent the afternoon with Donohue last December to get some insight into his past and where he’s headed. We talked about his origins in homebrewing, his goals, approach to brewing, how he’s dealt with success and the why the South Bay’s reputation lags behind.

When and where did you start brewing?

Professionally I started in 1996 down at Coast Range Brewing in Gilroy. I basically worked there for free for a couple years and then went to Lost Coast brewing company for another two years. I then came to Stoddard’s, which is the current location of Firehouse, and brewed here for almost five years until they went under. When that happened I went back to Gilroy for another year. When Firehouse opened I came back here and I’ve been brewing here for almost five and half to six years now.

Did you start out homebrewing?

I did. A buddy of mine in college got bored one day at three or four an the afternoon and was like “What do you want to do? I don’t know? What do you want to do? Let’s make some beer. Alright.” We went to the homebrew shop and bought everything we needed to make beer. I thought it was awesome. It was fun and the first product was drinkable. I wouldn’t say it was good. Like most people I’m sure. For the first batch we had a little extract can and it had a list of instructions that we didn’t deviate from.

The second batch we were like “screw that,” let’s just put in some extra hops and just play with it, and that’s when I found out that you don’t necessarily need to follow the instructions, you can just do what you want to do. At that point I was hooked. My dad and I had a cigar store in San Jose and one of my customers was from Coast Range. When we sold the store they told me to come down and work for them. That was the beginning.

So did you just pick up brewing knowledge as you went along?

After about two years of brewing I did end up going to the American Brewers Guild for their correspondence course, just for my own education. I knew what was going on, but I just wanted to know why? It’s been almost sixteen years now, which is hard to believe.

What are your goals for the beer coming out of Firehouse?

I basically want to challenge the people that come here. I want to make them think there is other stuff out there. Hence the motivation for brewing Hops on Rye, a Barleywine, Imperial Red or even the Cluster Fuggle, which people are shocked to learn is less then 4% alcohol. It’s not an extreme beer. It’s fun-brewing beers like that. It’s a challenge to brew a beer with limited ingredients and get that much flavor.

I tend to lean towards brewing huge beers sometimes like Imperial Stouts and I’ll be doing a Barleywine in a few months, which I haven’t done in 5 years. I’m motivated to push people here towards other things you can taste and try and hopefully they’ll think about having it again.

I should also point out that this brewery’s kind of annoying at times because I only have four serving tanks. So I’m very limited at what I can have on tap. I’ll occasionally read reviews of the place and get absolutely ripped on for my lack of beer selection and it’s just a function of the brew house. There’s really not a lot I can do about that. In 1993 when this place opened as Stoddard’s, having four house beers was huge. There was no one around here doing that. There was Los Gatos and Gordon Biersch of course. Fast-forward to 2012 and people are like why do you only have four beers? I don’t really have room for a lot of kegs. I have Hops On Rye on tap right now in kegs and they’re clogging up my space big time. Hefe and Pale are always on tap here. They’re the crowd pleasers, Hefe especially. During the summer time I’ll go through twenty barrels of that in a week, week and half. It’s crazy how much we sell of that. The other two or three beers I serve depend on what I feel like brewing.

With fewer brite tanks and a smaller system is their extra pressure when you do experiment to get it right?

No, I use to kind of freak out, but I don’t really care about it anymore. I care if it sells obviously. I’m going to throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. If it doesn’t stick, then I’ll move on and do something else next time. I tried that with the Barleywine I did five years ago and I was expecting that thing to sit here and it sold well. The first batch of Belgian IPA I did sold out in three weeks during the summer time. It was 90 degrees and 9% alcohol and people were just throwing it back. You just never know? If I come up with something new I don’t brew small batches of it first. I do twenty barrels of it. So that’s does kind of stop me from doing something really funky. I would love to have a brewery that’s half the size and twice the number of serving tanks, but I don’t.

How would you characterize your approach to brewing?

That’s a good question. I don’t know.  I’m a traditionalist to a point, but I also get board with tradition, kind of. I will never brew a fruit beer here unless it’s in a barrel or something like that because I don’t really like the traditional fruit beers, not traditional, I mean the new fangled fruit beers like wheat beer with raspberry. So I’m traditional in a sense that I just use the core ingredients except when I do a Belgian styles I’ll throw candy sugar in their and my Imperial Red has brown sugar. Experimentation is fun. So my approach to brewing is basically making sure stuff sells, but I also want to brew stuff that challenges people. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and just say screw it, I’m going to brew it I don’t care.

The Barleywine I’m going to brew is something I’ve never done before. It’s going to be a one percent two row mash that’s very light in color. It will be typical brew day mash in, do my thing, send it to the kettle, clean the mash tun out and set the kettle at about 195 degrees to 200 degrees and go home and just let the burner click on and off all night long and caramelize. I’ll come in the next morning, fire it back up again, boil it for another four hours, and hop it as needed. I want all the color and the vast majority of the flavor to come from kettle carmelization rather then crystal or any other malt. That’s the plan.

Have you heard of anyone else doing that?

I’ve heard that’s how Thomas Hardy does it, but I don’t know that for a fact, but I figured why not give it a shot? You can get into the routine of brewing and get bored doing Pale Ale and Hefe constantly. You’ve got to keep yourself interested, entertained and excited. Coming up with new styles of beer that I’ve never done before, that’s when it’s fun again. I have a great time trying it out of the fermentor occasionally to see how it’s coming along. With the Hefe I don’t really do that. I know what it’s going to be like.

When did you win your first GABF medal?

My Porter won silver in 2008. Then my Baltic Porter won a bronze in 2009 and Firehouse Porter won a bronze in 2010 and that won silver again this year.

You’ve had a steady stream of awards.

It’s been shocking. I don’t know how the hell it’s been happening. Its cool and it’s awesome, no question about it, but its still kind of humbles you every time you get one.

So when you won your first GABF award what was the reaction around here and how did it affect your psyche?

It was completely unexpected. I was insanely hung over that morning. Just out of it. I walked in with a giant bottle of Gatorade. That award pretty much took care of the hangover. Then Bill Brand came over. I still miss that guy. He was awesome. He came over and took some pictures and the San Jose Mercury news did this big article on us. They put me for whatever reason on the section cover and my phone was ringing off the hook with people telling me I’m in the paper. It’s going to frighten people away! All the regular customers I have here who are friends were absolutely fired up.

It was nice and unexpected. It’s unexpected every year. Getting validation from my peers was also nice. From a marketing standpoint it’s obviously good for Firehouse. That’s not how my brain works. My brain works like wow, I made a beer that people like. My main motivation is brewing beer for people in the restaurant that they can enjoy. Winning awards is awesome no question about it, but seeing people face to face every day, drinking and enjoying it, that’s what its about it for me.

How much added pressure comes with success?

Well everyone thinks we’re Firestone Walker. “Can I have a double Jack? Yeah we don’t make that here.”

Really? You’ve had that many people come in and ask?

Yeah. Even at GABF I was right next to them the last few years. People would ask for a Union Jack and I would say, “That’s them.” Then occasionally people would walk up to Firestone Walker and say I’ve heard I have to try your Hops On Rye, and they’re like that’s this guy next to us. Yeah I don’t know if there’s any added pressure. It’s still stressful the morning of GABF medal day. I shouldn’t say you couldn’t take it too seriously, because its obviously very serious and nice to win, but I try not to put any pressure on myself. If I win something that’s awesome, it’s great. If I don’t, you know, I’m still making beer.

You’ve been around the South Bay beer scene your whole career, how has it changed? Have you seen more of a reception to craft beer?

Yeah, definitely. People think of the South Bay as a complete beer wasteland and to a certain extent their right. All the breweries down here are doing really good stuff, but not a lot of them are pushing the envelope. They have their niche and they’re filling it. People are enjoying it and if it gets people away from drinking Stella and Bud thinking this beer has flavor, then maybe it’s a stepping-stone to trying more new beer? So they’re all doing really good work, but there are no craft beer bars, like Beer Revolution or City Beer Store that have a wide selections of beers. They simply don’t exist around here. Now I’m hearing people talk about opening some, which would be great, but the only problem with the South Bay and I think one of the reasons that contributes to it’s reputation is geography for starters.

San Francisco is easy to get around. Oakland’s got BART, but down here we have no public transportation. Caltrain is very limited. There’s no easy way of getting from place to place after drinking. You can rent a limo or try and take the buses, but if I went to Faultline from here it would take an hour plus. That’s not fun. That’s the main reason the South Bay is the way it is. You have to drive and it’s not cool to have a few beers and get behind the wheel. That’s the main thing working against it. Demographics are a little different down here too. There are a lot of high tech people from other countries who don’t drink.

So it’s a cultural thing?

To an extent. I’m not trying to pigeonhole this whole area but there are parts of it where a lot of people don’t drink. It’s a cultural thing, but I think its mostly geography,

That’s the first time I’ve heard that reasoning.

Well another thing is there’s not a lot of downtown. Sunnyvale is block long. Santa Clara doesn’t have a downtown. Cupertino doesn’t have a downtown. Los Gatos has a nice downtown, but it already has a brewery. It’s a lot of strip malls that don’t necessarily draw a lot of people. Real Estate is just as expensive as anywhere in the Bay Area. It’s a combination of all those things I think. It will change, I hope, because I want to go places more often and try other people’s beer. I’m tired of drinking my own beer. You know?

Other then the Barleywine, what else are you interested in brewing down the road?

Well, I’ve got Scotch Ale already brewed and chilling that should be on tap in two to three weeks. I’ve always wanted to do a Weizenbock and I’ve never done one. So that’s on the agenda at some point. I just don’t know exactly when. I’ll probably try some other Belgian styles. It would be kind of fun to do a Berliner Weisse or a Gose, just something completely out of the norm down here. Nothing is off limits.

Last question, what’s your desert island beer?

There are so many damn good beers. I don’t know. It would have to be something pretty hoppy. I’d say Hops On Rye, but I drink that all the damn time. I would want something different.

How about a particular style?

Probably an IPA or something that’s relatively thirst quenching and flavorful. A nice balanced IPA. There are just so many damn good beers out there. I don’t have a favorite beer. If you went into my cellar or my fridge there are so many different styles of beer from a bunch of different breweries. I guess if I had to pick any beer that’s always in my fridge this time of year its Celebration Ale. I’ve always loved that beer along with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which is such classic pale ale that is so damn good after thirty years.

Beer Review: Four Bombers from Half Moon Bay Brewing

While the surfing world patiently waits for fifty foot waves in Half Moon Bay for the Maverick’s Surf Competition, we thought the nearby brewery deserved some attention. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company opened its doors in 2000 and although they’re off the beaten beer nerd track, their beer can compete many other brews we know and love. Their hard work and effort has earned a local following and they sit on Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s Best Beach Bars.

I was recently able to try four of their beers. Two are available year-round, the Amber and IPA, while the other two are seasonal releases, a pumpkin ale and a winter warmer for the fall and winter respectively. Here’s my take on each of these beers.

Mavericks Amber Ale

This one pours a fairly clear red color with a touch of brown. A finger of frothy tan-brown head forms atop and leaves some spots of lace on the glass as it fades down. The aroma is fairly true to style with rich sweet lightly toasted caramel malts and a touch of citrus hops. There is also just a touch of bread lingering in the background. Absent here is common metallic element that sometimes comes with the style.

The beer hits the tongue in a very similar way it hit the nose. It starts off with the toasted caramel malts that are quite sweet and almost border on a bit syrupy. There are a bit of orange and grapefruit flavored hops that provide a touch of bitterness. Through the middle, the orange flavor of the hops comes through a bit more and the syrupy sweetness starts to mellow out. The finish is more of the same, but with a better balance than at the start. The beer feels just a touch thinner than medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

Though I appreciated the absence of the metallic taste that comes along with so many American Amber Ales, I felt that the malt flavor started off a bit too rich and syrupy compared to the body of the beer. A stronger hop presence could have done a lot to balance things out a bit. All in all, the beer is still an above average example of the style that would be a great entry point into craft beer.

Mavericks Princeton By-The-Sea IPA

The IPA pours a cloudy orange-red color with a finger of frothy slightly off-white head atop. The head fades down leaving behind a layer of lace all the way around the glass. The aroma is full of citrus hops that really open up as the beer warms up. There is a sweet caramel malt backbone and just a touch of grassy hop mixed in as well.

The beer starts off with some citrus hops, but not quite as strong as they were in the nose. There is a bit of bitterness and some sweet caramel malt alongside. Through the middle, some pine hop flavor joins in as the grapefruit flavored hops and bitterness grows a bit stronger. The finish is a mix of grapefruit hop flavor with some light grassy hop and bitterness. The beer feels a tad lighter than medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It has a sweet and slightly dry finish.

I really enjoyed the hop profile of this beer, with some really nice grapefruit and citrus flavors coming through. I felt that the rest of the beer did not quite hold up, as the body and malt flavor seemed just a touch light in comparison. However, this is really a light criticism and did not get in the way of my enjoying this very drinkable IPA.

Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale

Half Moon Bay Brewing’s take on a pumpkin ale pours a cloudy red-orange color with a finger of frothy white head atop. The head faded down and left behind only a touch of lace on the glass. The aroma is a nice balance of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, clove, and brown sugar) and actual pumpkin. There is also a backbone of biscuit malts present as well.

The beer hits the tongue at first with more pumpkin flavor than spices, which is the opposite of many pumpkin beers. There is also the backbone of sweet biscuit malts that was present in the nose. Through the middle, the spices begin to grow a bit with clear cinnamon and brown sugar coming through with a bit more biscuit malt flavor. The beer mellows out as it finishes with a nice balance of all of the flavors. The beer feels a bit lighter than medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It finishes sweet with the spices tickling the tongue a bit.

I found myself quite impressed with this beer. So many pumpkin ales become spice bombs that might as well be called pumpkin pie beers. However, I felt the balance here was much better, and the malt character and pumpkin flavor provides a great balance to the spices present.

Mavericks Old Soulstice Winter Ale

This winter warmer pours a dark brown-red color with a finger of frothy tan-chocolate colored head. The head hangs a round for a bit before fading down leaving behind some lace. The aroma is a mix of sweet lightly roasted caramel malts with some raisin and other dark fruit elements and a bit of earthy hop.

The flavor starts out a bit more dark fruit forward than expected with raisin and date flavors hitting the tongue. There is some sweet caramel malt and a touch of rye spiciness that form a backbone. Through the middle, some earthy hop flavor comes through with a touch of bitterness. As the beer finishes it gains a bit more hop flavor that lingers alongside some more dark fruit sweetness. The beer feels medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It finishes sweet with a touch of earthy spiciness.

Half Moon Bay Brewing’s take on the Winter Warmer style definitely differs a bit from the common American take on the style in that it is more malt and dark fruit driven than spice driven. While I like the focus, I just found that body felt a bit light in contrast to the big malty flavor. That being said, it was still a very enjoyable beer, I just felt it had a bit more potential.

In the end

This taste of Half Moon Bay Brewing beers has definitely piqued my curiosity. They don’t seem afraid of departing from the common take on many of these styles, which in their case is a good thing. I hope I get a chance to check out their brewpub in the not too distant future. In the meantime, their beer in available in some scattered Bay Area retailers, as well as some popular beer bars.

Note: The beers included in this article were provided by Half Moon Bay Brewing Company to the author.

New Year Brings New Brewery to San Francisco

Photos © Brian Stechschulte

“This is one of the larger projects to happen in this area and the brewing community. I invite everyone to come see it.” – Chris Lawrence

If all goes as planned, Southern Pacific Brewing will open its doors in the Mission District at 620 Treat Ave in mid to late January. Planning and build out has been in the works for two years. San Francisco native and beer industry veteran Chris Lawrence is working with his business partner Anthony LaVia to put the final touches on the new space, while waiting for the last permit to be approved.

Once that’s behind them, patrons will arrive and be greeted by an outdoor patio and a lofty two-level interior bathed in natural light and framed in steel, chain link fence and wood. Architect Seth Boor of Boor Bridges Architecture took on the project, who is well known for transforming old industrial spaces. Former projects include Four Barrel Coffee and Flora Grubb Gardens.

The space feels cool and hardened like you might expect, but a few soft touches breath life into the bar, which is backed by reclaimed Redwood. Lawrence, who also served as the general contractor, acquired the antiquated wood from a 130-year-old barn on his parent’s property in Mendocino that was falling over. Only the barn door seems to have remained intact, which is pinned to the wall next to a restroom entrance. The bar top, tables and chairs were also fashioned from reclaimed Douglas fir.

Along with some vintage light bulbs and forest green tile work, that’s the extent of the decor as it stands now except for one final touch that’s yet to be installed. Two holes were cut out of the concrete slab so large trees could be planted that will rise toward the skylights and give the space a beer garden touch. Capacity should clock in around one hundred for guests who want to sit and eat, while there is plenty of standing room.

Lawrence cut his teeth doing local and national sales at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers and then did a stint with Matagrano, a regional wholesaler. He recruited another Speakeasy alum, Andy French, to crank out brew from their 15-barrel system, which was pulled out of a warehouse where it had been sitting since Potrero Brewing Company closed in March of 2002. French will also be working on a 4-barrel system to craft experimental batches. Brewing capacity is set at 2,000 barrels per year.

Southern Pacific actually holds two alcohol licenses that make it a brewpub and production brewery. One license, a type 75, allows them to function as a brewpub and serve wine and liquor in addition to beer. The other license, a type 23, is for retail production.

According to Lawrence, “Technically we’re two different breweries on the same premise.” This may seem odd, but it’s not terribly unusual. For customers it means they can enjoy the beer on-site and find it at another bar in town.

The brewery has already made a few batches and the style sensibility will be decidedly West Coast. Right now you can expect a Pale Ale, IPA, a White Beer and a Porter along with three other beers, which is all their seven serving tanks will allow. “If there’s a demand we’ll make more,” said Lawrence, whose also going to let French play with barrel aging down the road. The winery next door, A.P. Vin, may even provide the barrels.

Aside from Southern Pacific’s beer, they’ll also offer a fully stocked bar, wine, guest taps and food will be prepared by Chef Tyler Morrish. He’s worked at Osteria Coppa and with Rich Higgins on his Brewmaster Dinner Series at Social Kitchen & Brewery. Lawrence described the menu as “pub fare” and it will include burgers, sandwiches, small pizzas, and salads. “We want to keep it casual and be here for everyone, whether they’re looking for a neighborhood bar or want the brewpub experience.”

So far some of the neighbors have welcomed Southern Pacific with open arms. Even the Principal of a nearby school wrote them a supportive letter, who appreciated how the new business would benefit the neighborhood. Lawrence said “It’s unique, there’s no other business like it in this area.”

The breweries name actually stems from industrial history of the Mission District. The Southern Pacific Railroad carved right through the heart of the neighborhood within a block of the brewery and down Harrison.  “The imagery and the industrial feel of what San Francisco was at the time spoke to us,” according to Lawrence. Beer names may even pay homage to the past. The railroad company had a passenger line called the Cascade Limited. Sounds perfect right?

Southern Pacific Train at Harrison & 21st, 1905. Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

It’s been awhile since the city has welcomed a newly built brewery of this size and ambition. With demand for craft beer continuing to increase, up 16% in 2011, I expect a thirsty audience will descend on Southern Pacific.

Calendar of Events

Happy New Year! Bay Area Craft Beer is officially one year old and after a brief vacation we’re ready to bring you another year of news and in-depth coverage of the region’s beer community.

The January calendar is a little light for now. Consider it the holiday lull or the quiet before the storm of events that arrive in February during SF Beer Week. Regardless, there are a few noteworthy festivities taking place this month you should check out, particularly in the South Bay, where Strike Brewing will be celebrating their launch on the 14th and the Kraftbrew Beer Fest will commence on the 28th.

If that doesn’t satisfy you then stay in touch with our main calendar for late breaking events that are sure to crop up as the month goes on.

January 5, Thursday

Allagash Pint Night
Harry’s Hofbrau, 390 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose. (map)

Featuring Interlude, a stout aged in French oak barrels.

Anderson Valley Sour Night
6:00pm, Petaluma Taps, 205 Kentucky St., Petaluma. (map)

January 8, Sunday

World Beer Traditions Series with Master Cicerone Rich Higgins: American Class
5:00pm – 7:00pm, Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts, 1161 Mission St., Suite 120, San Francisco. (map)

“This class in the World Beer Traditions Series covers America beer and will include lecture, discussion, and lots of sampling of great beers. Rich will cover the basics of beer styles and flavors, how to evaluate a beer, and how technology, taxation, taste, and terroir have affected the flavors of the beers and the evolution of the beer traditions.”
Each class is $55 per person.

January 9, Monday 

Beer Tasting: High Water Brewing
6:00 pm–8:00 pm, Wine Affairs, 1435 The Alameda, San Jose. (map)

$12/person or FREE for members!

January 12, Thursday

Schmaltz Brewing Pint Night
Harry’s Hofbrau, 390 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose. (map)

Featuring Shmaltz Hebrew 15:15

Anchor Brewing Night
6:00pm, Petaluma Taps, 205 Kentucky St., Petaluma. (map)

January 14, Saturday

Strike Brewing Company Launch Party
8:00 pm–10:00 pm, First and Main Sports Lounge, 397 Main Street, Los Altos. (map)

“Join us on January 14th, 2012 at First & Main Sports Lounge in Downtown Los Altos (397 Main Street) from 8-10pm for a laid back celebration of the launch of Strike Brewing Co. We will be there with all three beers available (Blonde, Brown, Porter), at a special price for the night. Come out, say hi, and check out the latest brews to hit the South Bay Area! “

January 19, Thursday

Brewery Night: St Fullien
6:00 pm, Petaluma Taps, 205 Kentucky St., Petaluma. (map)

January 22, Sunday

New Belgium Brew Dinner
6:00 pm, HopMonk Sebastopol, 30 Petaluma Avenue, Sebastopol. (map)

“Dean Biersch, owner and proprietor of the acclaimed HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol and Sonoma, is thrilled to be hosting an extraordinary Brewer’s Dinner on Sunday, January 22 at the Sebastopol Tavern. The evening will feature special guest, Jamie Mastin, Brew Master of New Belgium Brewery (www.newbelgium.com). New Belgium will highlight five of their beers paired along side a menu prepared by Executive Chef Billy Reid. The special evening will also feature a “surprise beer”, either a fresh seasonal or unreleased beer, and guests will be able to take home a New Belgium globe glass.
The dinner begins at 6:00 PM, please call for reservations at (707) 829-7300. The cost for the evening is $65 per person includes tax and gratuity.

THE EVENING’S MENU

Opener
Fat Tire Amber Ale
Baked Brie with Garlic and Cherries

Course I – Appetizer
Belgo IPA
Crab and Mango Croquettes with Herbal Chimichurri

Course II – Soup
Snow Day Winter Ale
Duck and Dumplings with “Snow Day” broth served with Jalapeño Corn Bread

Course III – Entrée
Ranger IPA
IPA marinated Bone in Pork Chop, over Rosemary Vegetables, Potato au gratin with Artisan Cheese Sauce

Course IV – Dessert
1554 Enlightened Black Ale
Fudge Brownie with Chewy Carmel and Black Ale Sauce”

January 26, Thursday

Victory Brewing Night
6:00 pm, Petaluma Taps, 205 Kentucky St. Petaluma. (map)

January 28, Saturday

Winter Brews Festival 2012
12:00pm – 4:00pm, Tados Santos Plaza, Concord. (map)

“Visitors will enjoy unlimited tastings from more than 30 world class breweries, including 21st Amendment, Drakes, Heretic, Lagunitas, Magnolia, Triple Rock, and Russian River. This Winter Brews Festival promises to expose beer lovers, new and experienced, to a variety of appetizing and innovative beers. A portion of the proceeds will also benefit a local nonprofit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tastings will feature a wide variety of beers from some of the best brewers around, many of whom will be pouring their own creations, giving visitors an opportunity to learn more about how the beer is made. The event will happen rain or shine, with arrangements in place to keep festival goers dry or out of the sun. And with the Concord BART station just two blocks away, this afternoon event will no doubt satisfy locals wanting to enjoy some great beers for a great cause. $35 pre-sale, $40 at the gate, includes unlimited pours and a commemorative glass “

Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
3:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Landmark Ballroom at the San Jose Women’s Club, 75 S 11th Street, San Jose. (map)

“Winter Kraftbrew will be in the Landmark Ballroom at the San Jose Women’s Club. We will be pouring some fantastic Winter Spiced Ales, Porters and Stouts. Delicious menu to be provided by Naglee Park Garage. Come by for some excellent brews, live music, and good food. Free Admission”

January 29, Sunday

Beer & Food Pairing Series with Master Cicerone Rich Higgins: Superbowl Eats
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts, 1161 Mission St., Suite 120, San Francisco. (map)

“This class in the Beer & Food Pairing Series will delve into the pairing of beer with Superbowl food and will include a lecture, discussion, and lots of sampling great beers and foods. Rich will cover the basics of beer and food flavors, how to evaluate a beer, and how to pair beer with food. Students will learn how great pairings of beer and food are better than the sum of their parts, and they will learn when to order which beers while eating at restaurants.” $65 per person