How to Spend SF Beer Week in the East Bay

It’s called “SF” Beer Week, yet the schedule is packed with happenings all over the Bay Area. If you were so inclined, you could spend the entire week ten days (another misnomer) in the East Bay. For the record, this was true even before the New York Times decided Oakland was hip.

Keep an eye on sfbeerweek.org for the most complete list of options, but the groupings of events below should help you narrow down your choices a bit if you live or work in the East Bay.

Chow Down

Drake’s Sau & Brau is probably the most talked-about SFBW beer and food event on the eastside, and I’ve heard only good things. It’s back in all its porky glory on February 16 with more Chop Bar whole pigs and a ton of Barrel House beers. Tickets are $45 and only available in advance online.

Other food fun:

  • Wine Thieves in Lafayette is repeating its successful Extreme Ale & Cheese event on February 14. (Click to read about last year’s).
  • Master Cicerone Nicole Erny is reprising last year’s Beer & Cheese of the British Isles event at the Commonwealth, with two sessions this year to accommodate more lactose lovers.
  • The Chocolate & Beer Festival is back at the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond on February 11. It’s family-friendly: kids under 9 are free and chocolate-only tickets are available.
  • Get some food in you before a long day on February 12 with the Beer Chef Brunch at Barclay’s in Oakland. Chef Bruce Paton has been throwing beer dinners since before some of you could read, so trust him.
  • Vegan-owned Beer Revolution will have non-animal-based food on certain nights, like a chocolate pairing with Stone and a sorbet pairing with Speakeasy on February 14.

Show Your East Bay Pride

You’ve got two beer week opportunities to let your local flag fly: the East Bay Brewfest at Pyramid and East vs. West night at Barclay’s. The Pyramid fest is a celebration of all breweries on this side of the Bay Bridge, with unlimited tastings for $20 per person or $35 per pair. Barclays will offer a la carte side-by-side comparisons of SF and East Bay beers.

Meet the Brewer

I’m biased (I work there), but Beer Revolution really outdid itself with brewery nights this year. Every day of beer week means meet-the-brewer events, sometimes with three or even five breweries in one night. Big names include Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker, Fal Allen from Anderson Valley Brewing Company, and Terrence Sullivan from Sierra Nevada, but don’t overlook the fine beers and good folks of local breweries like Black Diamond, Firehouse, Marin, and Dying Vines. Some nights are still in the works, so check Beer Revolution’s events listings for the most up to date info.

More meet and greets:

  • Bobby G’s in Berkeley is another great spot to schmooze. Check their schedule for nights with Iron Springs, Ale Industries, and Auburn Alehouse.
  • On February 11, The Trappist welcomes Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø from Evil Twin Brewing, Brian Stillwater from Stillwater Artisinal Ales, and the owner/founder of 12% Imports – and they’re all collaborating on a special beer for the event. On February 17, the Trappist will host Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson and serve food made with his beer.
  • Get your whole family some pizza and chat with Morgan Cox from Ale Industries at Mountain Mike’s in Lafayette on February 13.

Focus, People, Focus

It’s fun to hone in on one particular style for the day. Saturday, February 11 brings us the 11th annual Double IPA Festival at The Bistro. There’s a blind judging before the fest with winners announced midway through, plus a people’s choice vote. You’ll never get to sample all of the 75+ beers on tap, but it’ll be fun to try. (Take BART!)

Other places to go deep:

  • The ever-popular Sour Sunday at Triple Rock and Jupiter is a very worthwhile event for fans of the funk.
  • On the 14th, Jupiter is having an Anti-Valentine’s Cask Beer & Blues Night with live blues and casks from Jupiter (duh), Drake’s, Triple Rock, Dying Vines, Magnolia, and Moonlight Brewing.
  • On Monday February 13, The Trappist is having a Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge blending seminar, where you’ll taste a young beer, an aged beer, and different ratio mixes of the two.
  • On February 17, enjoy a blind IPA tasting at Barclay’s and see if the most hyped-up brands actually are all that. The same night, Bobby G’s is focusing on strong IPAs, including tapping a keg of Pliny the Younger at 5pm (which I expect to be gone by 5:45, but plenty of other tasty beers will remain.)

Learn Something

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you were better at picking out unwanted flavors in your homebrew or describing the great beer you just drank, Beer Judging 101 at Pyramid on February 19 may be for you. Get an introduction to evaluating and describing beer from Grand Master beer judge David Teckham and Master beer judge Brian Cooper. Both these folks guest-lectured at a BJCP class I took last year and have forgotten more about beer than most of us will ever know.

More geek-out opportunities:

  • Another local beer expert, Nicole Erny, will put you to the test with a blind tasting session at the Trappist on February 13. You’ll learn to describe beers and identify styles, and eventually you’ll find out what the mystery beers were.
  • On February 15, Bobby G’s popular Wednesday night trivia game is all beer trivia, with questions written by the Anderson Valley Brewing Company crew.

Burn Some Beer Calories

If you have a bicycle and $25, you can visit five breweries on February 12 at the Tour de Biere. The day includes tours of Trumer, Linden Street, and Pyramid, plus discounts at Triple Rock and Elevation 66.

More vaguely healthy activities:

  • Pyramid is throwing a “Head Brewer for a Day Dodgeball (S)mashdown” in Berkeley. Those who donate wish-list items to the Berkeley Food & Housing Project can participate in a dodgeball game, and two winners and their guests will get to shadow head brewer Simon Pesch on a future brew day. (Details.)
  • Uh…does walking from BART to the bar count as exercise?

Try a Brand-New Beer

Be on the lookout for beer premiers during SFBW. For instance, Ale Industries is turning the release of its sour cherry imperial stout into an all-day shindig at the brewery with food, music, and other limited-release beers.

More new kids on the block:

  • Triple Rock always releases its imperial stout Keyser Soze during beer week, and older versions are usually available for side-by-side tastings.
  • Black Diamond chose beer week to release its first barleywine in years. It was brewed during SFBW 2011 with eight local homebrewers, is 15% rye, and portions were partially aged in rye and brandy barrels then blended back in.

The Grand Finale

If you have any stamina left on Sunday, the Celebrator anniversary fest at Trumer’s Berkeley brewery includes all the samples you can handle, a BBQ dinner buffet, music, a free shuttle from BART, and a cheerful “we survived the week” vibe. San Francisco may start SF Beer Week, but Berkeley finishes it.