Photo & Video Recap: The Bay Brewed Rock & Roll Beer Festival

Photos © Brian Stechschulte

A sold out crowd of 300 people piled into the depression era Verdi Club this past Saturday for the first edition of The Bay Brewed Rock & Roll Beer Festival. City Beer Store, the San Francisco Brewers Guild and local indie music experts The Bay Bridged hosted the event. Performances by Terry Malts, Extra Classic, Sleepy Sun and Weekend stretched over five hours in that order.

Participating breweries nearly surrounded the dance floor. Members of the SF Brewers Guild, which included Anchor Brewing, Magnolia Brewing, 21st Amendment, Social Kitchen, Speakeasy and the Beach Chalet, occupied one side, while Ale Industries, Marin Brewing, Lagunitas and Drake’s Brewing sat along the other wall.

Festivities got off to a thrashing start with Terry Malts, but the crowd didn’t follow suite until the beer started to take effect and the lights began to dim. Most of the breweries served standard selections, but there were a few exceptions. 21st Amendment brought a keg of Allies Win the War, Lagunitas cracked a few bottles of Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale, and Marin Brewing brought their tasty chocolate Air Porter. A few taps ran dry early, but most of them lasted until nearly the end of the last set.

Overall the event appeared to be a resounding success. The crowd had ample space to roam and jump around, beer lines moved quickly and each performance was outstanding. The Bay Brewed should become an annual event.

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Beers & Bands Unite For The Bay Brewed: A Rock & Roll Beer Festival

Live music at any beer festival is typically treated as background noise. That’s not to say it isn’t appreciated, but beer is always the main promotional draw. Organizers of The Bay Brewed: A Rock and Roll Beer Festival, are hoping to change that scenario by pairing local beers and bands on equal footing at the Verdi Club in San Francisco on December 3rd, from 2-7pm.

The event hosts include local indie music experts The Bay Bridged, City Beer Store and the SF Brewers Guild. For $45 in advance or $55 at the door, you’ll be treated to music from Weekend, Sleepy Sun, Extra Classic and Terry Malts. You’ll also be handed a commemorative mug that can be refilled with unlimited tastings from 21st AmendmentAnchor BrewingBeach ChaletDrake’s BrewingLagunitasMagnolia Pub, Marin BrewingSocial Kitchen and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.

You should also know that your money will benefit The Bay Bridged non-profit, which is “committed to two principal purposes: 1) educating the public about the San Francisco Bay Area independent music community and encouraging public support of local independent music; and 2) providing Bay Area musicians with unique opportunities to receive public exposure and create original musical works.”

So if you love local music and beer, head over to the event website where you can listen to samples from the participating bands and purchase tickets.


City Beer Store’s Expansion Revealed

The new bar. Photos © Brian Stechschulte

The long awaited City Beer Store expansion will be revealed to the public later today at 5pm after ten months of planning, bureaucracy and two weeks of brisk construction. Owners Craig and Beth Wathen finally knocked down the cement block wall that separated their popular bottle shop and bar from the adjacent storefront. It’s a project they envisioned since opening just over five years ago and the results will certainly be appreciated by the craft beer community.

The list of upgrades and new additions is lengthy, but simply put, everything has more then doubled in size from taps to shelf and elbow room. The first thing guests will notice upon entering is the wrap around bar and a clear division between the bottle shop and tasting area. According to Beth Wathen, this design will allow people to easily peruse the bottles without dodging large crowds. Customers will now be surrounded by a library of bottles sitting on shelves and in new five door cooler. If it took you a while to choose a beer in the old space, plan on spending a little more time among the dizzying array of choices.

Craig Wathen putting the final touches on the expanded bottle selection.

The view from the old space, now the bottle library, into the new tasting area.

Behind the wood and poured concrete bar you’ll find some of the most exciting additions. Guests can now choose from 15 taps or drool as they inspect the new rare beer cooler, where bottles from Cantillon and early Russian River batches have emerged from off-site storage. These bottles are available for on-premise consumption only. It’s a tactic Craig Wathen has decided to employ so more people can try the beer at market rates and deters Ebay auction gouging.

New taps drilled into the keg cooler.

Next to the bar sits a new walk-in cooler for kegs, which is no ordinary cold space. It’s outfitted with a window so customers can see the snaking tap lines and aluminum barrels when they’re not resting on the additional seating. Yes, instead of standing you’ll have more benches, high tops and bar seating to choose from.

An old barrel stand has become a table.

So what else can you expect from the new City Beer Store? Your beer will now be served in City Beer Store glassware, there’s a small private event/prep space with a one-way mirror, a new ADA lift is available in the old entrance, they’re planning to open on Mondays and might partner with nearby Citizen’s Band restaurant to do a small tasting menu. Whew!

All of the upgrades and new additions have solidified City Beer’s reputation as the premiere bottle shop and tasting room in San Francisco.

Craft Brewers Conference Public Events

Are you feeling left out during this weeks Craft Brewer’s Conference? No worries, although the conference is only for industry professionals there are special public events happening every night this week around the Bay. If your looking to rub elbows with the pros or get your hands on great beer here’s a list of things to do:

Tuesday, March 22

Brewery Night: Deschutes Brewing
5:00pm, Hop Yard, 3015 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton, CA.

Deschutes Brewing will have an arsenal of brew on hand along with Woody their barrel shaped beer dispenser on wheels.

Saison & Cheese Pairing
6:00pm, Beer Revolution, 464 3rd St., Oakland, CA.

Features the finest selection of Belgian & Belgian Inspired Saison & some very fancy stinky cheeses!

Deschutes Beer Pairing Dinner
6:00-9:00pm,  Monk’s Kettle, 3141 16th Street, San Francisco, CA.

“Deschutes Brewery Chef Matt Neltner and Monk’s Kettle Chef Adam Dulye collaborate to deliver a menu made for beer. The special menu, from which anyone visiting the restaurant can order, takes the expertise of these two chefs to create food and beer pairings that will kick off the week just right. On tap will be a large variety of Deschutes beers including: The Abyss 2010, The Abyss, 2009, Black Butte XXI, Hop Henge Experimental IPA, Red Chair NWPA, Mirror Mirror, Jubel 2010, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Green Lakes Organic Ale. Visitors will also have a chance to discuss the beers and brewing processes with Deschutes Brewery brewer Robin Johnson.”

Wednesday, March 23

Drake’s Brewing Barrel Aged Beer Tasting
5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Porky’s Pizza Palace, 1221 Manor Blvd, San Leandro, CA

“Join us at “The Palace” for an Exclusive Tasting of 8 different beers from San Leandro’s local brewery Drake’s Brewing Co., celebrating the Craft Brewers Conference Week in SF.
Some Limited, Barrel Aged & some of our favorite Drake offerings from
the past & present with a twist added!
1.2009 Jolly Roger-Imperial Brown Ale
2.Bourbon Barrel Aged 2009 Jolly Roger
3.Bourbon Barrel Aged Drakonic Imperial Stout
4.Exclusive CBC I.P.A.1/2 Brewed for CBC attendees and in limited
release-we have just 1 keg! Not quite a double IPA with a just right
balance of malt and hops!
5.1500 Dry Hopped Pale Ale(Nitro-Dispensed)adds a creamy body to one
of our favorite beers from Drake’s!(think hoppy Boddingtons)
6.Hop Salad-8% Agressively Hopped Limited Double IPA, a limited
release from mid-January, saved for this event, Cheers!
7.Hopocalypse Imperial IPA – Bronze Medal Winner at this years “The
Bistro” Double IPA Fest, 3rd out of a field of 56 other professional
judged Double IPA’s!
8.Alpha Sessions-American Session Ale-Lighter session ale with a big
hop character just 3.8% & 75IBU’s.
Serving Great Pizza, Chicken & Beer since 1963.”

Deschutes & Old Woody
6:00pm, Beer Revolution, 464 3rd St., Oakland, CA.

20 different beers from Deschutes Brewing will be on tap along with their beer barrel on wheels called Woody.

Deschutes Brewing Black Butte XXII CA Debut
8-11pm, The Republic, 3213 Scott Street, San Francisco, CA.

“This imperial bourbon-aged version of our popular Black Butte Porter, brewed in 2010 with chilies, dark chocolate and orange peel, is well worth a taste during its California debut. You may be familiar with Black Butte XX and XXI which were released to celebrate the Brewery’s past anniversaries, but because XXII was not available outside of our brew pubs, most have not had the pleasure of tasting this spectacular beer.”

Thursday, March 24

Northeast Night
Monk’s Kettle, 3141 16th St., San Francisco, CA.

“Two breweries not usually found in the Bay Area, Pretty Things Ales and Cambridge Brewing Company. Pretty Things, from the East Coast, will soon be available in this area; we will be pouring the first keg of their saison Jack d’Or to be found on this coast. We will also be pouring two drafts from Cambridge Brewing, Project Venus and Blunderbuss. Dann and Martha, owners of Pretty Things, and Will Myers, brewmaster of Cambridge, will be on hand for the evening.”

Craft Brewers Council Sierra Nevada, Russian River Collaboration Event
4:00pm, Public House, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA.

Come down to Public House for your chance to try Sierra Nevada and Russian River Brewing’s 2011 Collaboration Beer.

Brewery Night: Deschutes Brewing
4:00-8:00pm, The Englander, 101 Parrott St., San Leandro, CA.

Deschutes Brewing continues its invasion of the Bay Area this time in San Leandro. Deschutes beers will take over the taps along with Woody, their mobile beer dispensing wooden keg on wheels.

TCHO Chocolate & Brewers Supply Group Tasting
6:00-9:00pm, TCHO Factory, Pier 17, San Francisco, CA.

$25 entrance fee CASH ONLY includes tasting of brews and chocolate. Tickets may only be purchased at the door the night of the event. A portion of the event proceeds will be donated to the ALS Associaton. This event will be held at the TCHO factory on Pier 17. 6-9pm. 21 years and older ONLY.

Brewer’s Dinner
7:00-10:00pm, Pyramid Brewery, 901 Gilman St, Berkeley, CA.

Come enjoy an evening with the Pyramid Brewers & Chef! We’ll be serving up a savory 4-course meal paired with our deliciously crafted summer seasonal Curve Ball. Here are the details: Cost is $45 (all inclusive) and tickets must be purchased IN ADVANCE by calling (510) 527-9090 x223 -Limited to 20 seats
Pork Tenderloin wrapped in filo dough on baby mustard greens and Dijon apple sauce
Fig vinaigrette drizzled on frisee salad greens with honey candied figs and hand rolled almond covered goat cheese
Crisp and buttery almonds coat Hawaii’s native mahi-mahi Served with julienne tropical relish of pineapple, mango, and apple
Sugar covered green apples crown a creamy blend of caramelized blond apple parfait with sweet vanilla crème and crunchy granola

Deschutes Beer Tasting
8:00pm, Toronado, 547 Haight, San Francisco, CA 94122-2767

Join four Deschutes brewers for some beer and sausage. Rosamunde will be grilling up some of their best to wash down with a bit of any of the following beers: The Abyss, The Dissident, Mirror Mirror, Nitro The Abyss, Hop Henge Experimental IPA, Red Chair NWPA, Green Lakes Organic Ale and Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

Upright Brewing at The Trappist
8:00pm, The Trappist, 460 8th Street, Oakland, CA.

Upright Brewing brewers and representatives Ezra Johnson-Greenough and Ben Edmunds are in town for the Craft Brewers Conference and will be making a stop at the great beer bar The Trappist to pour some of their special brand of Farmhouse ales with a Pacific NW twist and will be bringing along some rare barrel-aged bottled treats.

Black Star’s Craft Brewers After Party
9:00pm, Boom Boom Room, 1601 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA.

“You’re invited to attend Black Star’s Craft Brewers After Party on Thursday, March 24th at The Boom Boom Room in San Francisco! Join us from 9pm until the bands stop at 2:15am! Meet Marcus Duffey from the Great Northern Brewing Company and Minott Wessinger, founder ofBlack Star while you enjoy live music, dancing and of course, some cold Black Star beers. If you are attending the Craft Brewers Conference or are a member of the beer/bar industry, present badge/industry ID for complementary VIP admission.

Friday, March 25

Dogfish Head Happy Hour
Urban Tavern, 333 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA.

Dogfish Head is hosting a tasting in Urban Tavern and will be pouring Aprihop, Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron and 90 Minute IPA. Come join the Dogfish crew! Note: Urban Tavern is located inside the Hilton Hotel and specific event hours have not been listed. It will take place sometime Friday afternoon.

East Bay & North Bay Total Takeover!
4:00pm,  Beer Revolution, 464 3rd St., Oakland, CA.

Breweries from the East & North Bay will takeover the taps at Beer Revolution.

Firkin Friday
4:00-9:00pm, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, 1195 Evans, San Francisco, CA.

In celebration of the Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC) landing in San Francisco, we have pulled out all the stops for this week’s party – including some new beers, live bands and delicious food. All pints are only $3.

Live music will kick off at 6:00.  Starting with the guitar jammin’ duo Andrew Blair and Ross Warner. The night will be closed out with a grass land stomp set from the The Easy Leaves. San Francisco’s Good Foods BBQ will serve delicious barbecue.  We’ll round that off with tasty Mexican food from local favorite La Laguna Taqueria.

In addition to featuring our regular line of beers, Friday will be the public debut of our new beer brewed special for the CBC called Snatch Racket India Pale Lager. Snatch Racket – named for the surge of kidnappings and ransoms in 1920’s during prohibition – is a unique blend of styles, a 6.5% full bodied lager dry-hopped like an IPA with all German hops. We’ll also be pulling a few rare aged beers from the cellar just for the night.

A Brewers Gathering
6:00pm, The Trappist, 460 8th Street, Oakland, CA.

“In attendance will be Jean Van Roy from Cantillon, Yvan de Baets from De La Senne, Jens from Haand Bryggeriet, Kjetil from Nogne-O, and Stephane, JP, and Luc from Dieu du Ciel! Your chance to meet some of the top brewers, innovators from five of the best breweries in the world! We will have several selections from each brewer on tap.”

Deschutes Beer Tasting
6:00pm, City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St Suite 101, San Francisco, CA.

Deschutes will be serving appetizers and bringing down some favorites and specials such as The Abyss, Jubel 2010, Mirror Mirror, Hop Henge Experimental IPA and Red Chair NWPA. Meet brewmaster, Larry Sidor, along with three other Deschutes brewers as they discuss this wide variety of beers.

Marrón Acidifié Kick-Off
7:00pm, Rosamunde Sausage Grill – Mission, 2832 Mission, San Francisco, CA.

The Bruery and Cigar City Brewing are psyched to release the fruit of their collaborative efforts during the Craft Brewer’s Conference. Join the brewers at Rosamunde Sausage Grill’s Mission location for the first public tapping of Marrón Acidifié. Over a year in barrels has left this 8.5% ABV “imperial oud bruin” layered with notes of cranberries, tropical fruits, leather and aged balsamic vinegar, balanced by wood tannins and roasted malt.

Saturday, March 26

Brewing up Cocktails with Ninkasi
5:00-9:00pm, 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA.

Ninkasi owner/brewer and figurehead Jamie Floyd will be on hand, while Brewing up Cocktails mixologists Ezra Johnson-Greenough, Jacob Grier, and Yetta Vorobik will be behind the bar making a variety of beer cocktails. There will be one for each of Ninkasi’s year-round beers, including Wired Magazine’s Most Wired Beer Believer Double Red, Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops Double IPA, Oatis Oatmeal Stout, and seasonal release Spring Reign.

City Beer Store Reflecting on 5 years of Business

Beth and Craig

Nowadays, it’s pretty easy to find craft beer in a corner store. There may not always be great stuff, but decent options nonetheless. Five years ago it wasn’t that easy when City Beer Store opened up in San Francisco. Craig and Beth were curious about this hole in the marketplace and filled it with their bottle shop and tasting bar in SOMA. It’s a casual spot for friends to gather and chat while sipping beer. Bombers and six-packs line the walls in addition to the five fresh taps.

The store is now a mainstay in the craft beer community. During events, elbowroom is often tight and their stock of Pliny the Elder flies out the door. Last week ranked their humble shop 31st among beer retailers worldwide.

On a recent afternoon, BACB sat down with Craig to chat about Unicorn beers, the store’s origins, challenges, upcoming Anniversary and plans for SF Beer Week.

Did you envision a career in craft beer early on and what triggered your interest?

I wanted to pursue the beer industry coming out of school, but when I was attending Indiana University I moved around between departments. I have a business minor but ended up with a history degree by taking my mom’s advice. She told me to do something I enjoy since I had access to a great educational system and could figure everything out later.

While I was in school I took an overseas trip to the Czech Republic and one day my friends and I had a beer that caught our attention. It was something to pay attention too, not just drink. I couldn’t believe how much was going on in that beer.

Coming back from Europe in 1997 the craft beer movement was really hitting Indiana and I remember my first pitcher of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I didn’t know anything about hops at the time. Guys were also coming back from spring break in Colorado with 22 oz’s of Fat Tire and Indiana University had its first beer festival that year. It was good timing.

Did you see this business filing a void in San Francisco?

In San Francisco there wasn’t really anywhere to buy good beer, but one factor, and this may sound a little hokey, was 9/11. It played a role in our decision to open. It affected everybody, especially if you lived in the urban city. We didn’t know what was happening?

I was in my mid 20’s wondering where I wanted my life to go? There were changes a lot of people thought they probably needed to make. In 2002 I took the day off just to think and relax. I reflected on everything I went through during the weeks after 9/11 and felt I hadn’t done anything. From that time on Beth I decided we were going to make a change. We both quit our jobs and took a year off to travel. We took half that time to work at different places, like waiting on tables and moved around.

During that time we decided to start a small business. We had a bunch of different business plans. One plan was for a paper shredding business, another for a bed and breakfast, and the beer store, which was the first one. When I did the first beer store analysis I determined it wasn’t feasible. It didn’t add up. I tried to do some research, but couldn’t find any similar beer bottle stores combined with a bar like the one we wanted to open except for this place in Chico that I found on the Internet, but it was closed.

Ultimately, we decided to try and find a way to make it work. Also, the timing was good. A resurgence of beer was right around the corner. When I first came out to California I sold wine, beer and spirits and worked for Pete’s Wicked Ale as a customer service rep working with wholesalers, so I had a good sense of the industry. Now I have almost a decade of experience, all of which was a factor in deciding to start this business.

A lot of people have this romantic vision of owning and operating a beer store. What’s the biggest challenge you face running the store?

The thing that I probably underestimated the most was the physical work. Moving stuff around and even just standing on your feet for 10 to 12 hours a day is exhausting. Anyone interested in running a bar like this should work somewhere similar for at least 6 months.

Also, it’s a challenge learning how to run a small business on the fly. If something doesn’t work you have to figure it out. If the windows need to be cleaned or are broken at 3 in the morning, you need to clean it up. When you go on vacation it’s like having a pet. You have to have people come by and make sure things don’t get vandalized or a cooler doesn’t break. You don’t think about these things at first.

How has the industry changed since you opened?

The industry is completely different. I think it’s almost over crested right now. I’m trying to be optimistic, but I experienced the previous bubble and it feels a lot like the mid to late 90’s.

I just read an article about a drug store chain in New York that put a beer store inside their Williamsburg location just to be a part of the neighborhood. If it was a Walgreens or something people would’ve protested, but because they formulated it around beer store they could open their doors.

Now that may sound natural to some people, but for a guy who did a business plan seven years ago and didn’t see much of anything, it’s amazing. Its gotten to a point where not only does a large chain know about the craft beer movement but formulated a plan around it to sell band-aids and Pepto-Bismol. Whole Foods is also doing the beer bar concept now in Santa Rosa and its weird. It’s kind of strange. It happened so fast. It’s really the last 2 years.

Has it been difficult keeping up with changes in distribution and pricing?

It is. When I started it wasn’t that hard. Now I have to redo my math all the time because prices change so quickly. Distributors just don’t know or aren’t telling people. I think its a little of both. That’s what I spend the most time on in addition to working with breweries to find the next new thing.

That’s what you pay for when you come here. I do the research. It’s actually a wine philosophy that I’m adapting to beer. We taste all the wines so that you don’t have to. You can trust us. If it’s in here, it’s a good beer. It’s worth whatever the price is. You can make that determination, but I wouldn’t have bought it if I didn’t think it was worth someone’s hard earned money. At the beginning I just bought everything because it was available. Now I think about what’s different that nobody else has. I’ve tasted a lot of beer and now I have a profile I’m comfortable with.

So how are you going to celebrate your big 5th Anniversary?

We’ve decided to celebrate West Coast brewing and asked five brewers to reflect on the last five years and brew something they had in the back of their mind, but weren’t sure if it would have a large production appeal or couldn’t get around to it. We wanted them to take a look back. When people do that its pretty cool. It’s historic. We also wanted to be a part of the brewing process as much as possible.

Who did you ask to participate?

We chose brewers that we have relationships with or they had a hell of a five years, like The Bruery in LA. They weren’t even around five years ago and look where they are now. We met them at the Boonville Beer Festival and we were the first store in San Francisco to carry their products. We’ve benefited tremendously from their reputation and success.

We also chose the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild. We have great relationships with all the breweries and inviting only one would have been a challenge so we thought working with the whole Guild made the most sense. They were some of the first supporters who embraced us and told people to visit our store. We were the first store to receive 21st Amendment cans. Shaun O’Sullivan was here and it was a great experience.

For the third brewery we decided to go up the mountain with Fifty Fifty Brewing in Truckee. They’ve also blown up in the last 5 years. The owners have a similar story to Beth and I so that connection made sense.

Then we went to Portland and talked to Cascade Brewing. They’ve been around more then 5 years, but 2005 is about the time they started their barrel-aging program. They were already successful and had this idea to put money into barrels with the hope of selling it to a market that didn’t really exist like it does now. They weren’t the only brewers with this concept but it’s been very successful.

The final brewery we chose was Midnight Sun in Alaska, who we totally dig and get along with. There history goes back farther then 5 years as well. We came across them while looking for Unicorn beers.

What are Unicorn beers?

They’re beers or breweries you here about or might be able to see, but are hard to get. For example, people would go up to Alaska and bring back bottles of Midnight Sun and it was awesome, but I couldn’t get their stuff in the store. It took about a year and a half to get their beer down here.

So is the whole project going to culminate in an event?

The actual anniversary is May 2nd and we’ll have an off-site party on that Saturday to serve the beer. It should be a lot of fun. We think we have a SOMA warehouse lined up and were going to invite some of the talented people who visit our store to perform 2 or 3 songs. This neighborhood has so many people like that. We haven’t completely solidified that concept with the venue, but we hope to bring together the whole local community since all the businesses support one another. In some ways SOMA is a small town.

How are your plans for SF Beer Week shaping up?

This year we’re trying to collaborate a little bit more. We kind of did that last year. We’re doing two big events this year.

The first is a dinner at Citizens Band Restaurant with 12% Imports and Stillwater Artisan Ales. It’s going to be more of a wine style event. Instead of having the hosts talk before each course we’ll have two seating’s that are staggered by 15 minutes and you’ll be able to follow the pairings at your own pace with the hosts approaching each table like a wine steward. If you want more interaction with hosts you’ve got it or you can just relax and have a good food and beer experience. I’m excited about that because it’s something different.

On the same night we’ll also have Tomme Arthur from Lost Abbey here in the store and then Bloodhound across the street will be doing a desert thing. The idea is that you can come down to this block and go around between each establishment and enjoy yourself.

The other big event is on Friday and it will also be off-site at TCHO chocolate with Eclipse Beer from Fifty Fifty Brewing. It’s a ticketed event because the beer and space is limited. The other days will function like our normal brewery nights but were going to stagger two each night to disperse the crowds. We’ll be closed on Valentines Day.

Is there any particular beer that you would like to carry but can’t get your hands on?

I would like to get more beer from the Midwest like Founders, Three Floyds, and Bells. There’s some really cool stuff there. I took a 5-day trip out there awhile back and tried to convince them. I thought I had a good solution but they weren’t ready for it. Once we get one of them all of them will follow suite. Once a truck is coming its easier to get the rest of them moving in this direction.