Toronado Barleywine Festival 2011

You have to pace yourself during SF Beer Week or you won’t reach the finish line at Toronado. Each year this Haight Street institution in San Francisco gathers some of the best barleywine produced on the West Coast and attracts throngs of salivating people. This year was no different on February 19 and 20, but the rain diminished the Saturday morning line that started forming at 7:00am, three hours before the scheduled opening.

One group brought a round of cheese to compliment the beer.

The double-sided beer list chronicled fifty different options (see below) and all were priced at $3 or $4 depending on pour size. Early birds who grabbed a table or seat at the bar arranged rows of glassware filled with their selections while the remaining throng filled six packs with tasters and squeezed through the crowd. A few scarce beers emptied out by mid-afternoon, but few people seemed disappointed. After all, just a few of these high ABV beers will ease any tension.

Beer Name

Old Stock 2009
Big Woody
Big Foot
Mirror Mirror
Old Boardhead
Angel’s Share Grand Cru
Good Ass
Old Thunderpussy 2009
Old Embalmer
Barleywine 2009
Old Guardian
Olde School
Critical Hit
Olde Bluehair
Old Foghorn
Old Dipsea 2008
Old Scoutters
Old Godfather
Lower de Boom
Hog Heaven
Drunken Horn
Old Blowhole
John Barleycorn 2010
Jack & Ken’s Ale
Vertical Jewbelation
Triple Exultation
Old Diablo
Three Sheets
10 Squared
Gnarleywine 2009
John Barleycorn 2009
Bunny’s Toes
Old Okole
The Menace
Grateful Dog
Arctic Devil
Wood ya Honey


North Coast Brewing
Glacier Brewhouse
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Deschutes Brewery
Full Sail Brewing
Drake’s Brewing
Lost Abbey
Full Circle Brewing
Magnolia Pub & Brewery
Widmer Brothers Brewing
Green Flash Brewing
Moylan’s Brewery
Stone Brewing
Dogfish Head
Ninkasi Brewing
Big Sky Brewing
Anchor Brewing
El Toro Brewing
Marin Brewing
Mill Valley Beerworks
Bear Republic Brewing
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
21st Amendment Brewing
Avery Brewing
Anderson Valley Brewing
Kona Brewing
Anderson Valley Brewing
Six Rivers Brewery
Mad River Brewing
Lost Coast Brewing
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Half Moon Bay Brewing
Schmaltz Brewing
Eel River Brewing
Schooners Brewery
Ballast Point Brewing
Fifty Fifty Brewing
Fish Brewing
Lagunitas Brewing
Mad River Brewing
Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse
Seabright Brewing
Epic Brewing
Ale Industries
Firestone Walker
Iron Springs Pub & Brewery
Napa Smith  Brewery
Midnight Sun Brewing
Jackie O’s Brewpub

Drake’s Brewing Throws Old Fashioned Pig Roast

Beer and food pairings abound during SF Beer Week. Either throw a dart at the schedule or pick your artery clogging poison. Chocolate, cheese and cupcakes are a delectable option or you can vie for a seat at an elaborate dinner. Bay Area Craft Beer decided to venture into the East Bay this week for a more down home-style event at Drake’s Brewing. It’s their first year as a major sponsor and they hosted a Sau & Brau party to celebrate at the brewery in San Leandro.

The event took place on a chilly Wednesday night thanks to a winter storm that blew in just in time for beer week. Before the doors opened at 6:00pm, attendees huddled around glowing embers roasting the special guest. The Chop Bar in Oakland prepped and cooked the pig along with several sides and desserts that were on the menu. Drake’s offered a selection of their flagship beer during happy hour and paired 6 barrel-aged beers with the food. Everything cost a mere $40.

The industrial space managed to be a warm and cozy respite from the cold. Guests were greeted with festive lights and long dinner tables stretched between aging barrels. During the first hour three taps poured Drakes IPA, 1500 and the seasonal Imperial IPA called Hopocalyspe, while patrons chatted and perused the tall stacks of packaged beer and brewing equipment.

After a brief introduction from a member of Drake’s sales staff, dinner was served at 7:00pm in an orderly fashion. Guests gathered in a short line where the Chop Bar staff dolled out a spoonful of salad, potatoes, grilled flat bread and a portion of the succulent hog that beautifully dressed the table. The ferocious clatter of the cleaver slicing through meat and bone into the butchers block was not for the faint of heart.

Once the food was portioned out a selection of barrel-aged beer complimented the roasted flavor depending on your preference. You could pick just one or try them all. The list included:

  • Hooked on Drakonics, a 2009 Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels (10.5% ABV).
  • Barrel Droop, a 2008 Barleywine also aged in bourbon Barrels (11.5% ABV).
  • Aged Barrel Droop, which spent two years in steel barrels (10.5% ABV).

If guests didn’t have their fill with a second serving of the main course, dessert finished off their appetite at 8:00pm when two different cakes were paired with two sour beers. BACB chose the Red Velvet cake and sampled the following beers inoculated with brettanomyces.

  • Brett Butler, a Belgian Triple aged 14 months in Pinot Noir barrels.
  • Sauer Brauer, a blend of Belgian blonde and Drake’s Amber aged in Merlot barrels.

Following the wonderful meal everyone mingled and compared notes. Judging by the comments, its safe to say everyone left full and happy. If your taste buds are chomping at the bit, unfortunately you’ll have to wait for Sau & Brau to occur again next year during SF Beer Week.

SF Beer Week Kicks Off With Opening Gala

The SF Beer Week pressure valve was released on Friday, February 13, after weeks of social media fervor bolstered anticipation. With tickets in one hand and nervous fingers twitching for a treasured tasting glass, attendees formed a line that stretched around the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

At 3:30pm the doors leading to the Gala swung open for the ninety-minute VIP session. Inside Bay Area breweries lined the walls and occupied an island of taps in the center of the large room. For the time being, the floor was spacious and hopheads rushed around searching for the rare and unreleased. A line quickly formed in front of Russian River Brewing for a small keg of Pliny the Younger that emptied in minutes, but there was plenty of incredible beer to go around.

The highlight of the evening was the panel discussion that featured several brewing luminaries that included Terrence Sullivan, Vinnie Cilurzo, Pete Slosberg, Brian Hunt, Mark Carpenter, Shaun O’Sullivan, and Matt Brynildson. Rich Higgins, president of the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild, lobbed questions that fueled a wide-ranging discussion filled with history and knowledge laced with a passion for craft beer. Several video cameras were documenting the dialogue, which will hopefully reach a wider audience.

With highlights also come low-lights. When the doors opened for general admission at 5:00pm rumbles of discontent also trickled into an already packed hall. The line to get in was immense and ticket holders faced an hour-long wait or more. At one point they were even told capacity had been reached and refunds were offered. Topping it all off, when patient attendees finally crossed the threshold, commemorative glasses were gone in addition to some very desirable beer.

This debacle should have been avoided. Clearly way too many tickets had been sold. Jen Rizzo, author of the blog Pedals and Pints, was caught up in the headache and offers a very insightful editorial on her website.

Once tensions were eased with beer, the night carried on with tremendous fanfare. The Gala kicked off a week filled with over 300 tastings, beer dinners and other special events that will leave many beer connoisseur’s pleased in the end.

Update (2/14/2011): In response the difficulties surrounding the Gala festivities, organizers issued the following response via e-mail to ticket holders, which includes info on refunds and glassware.

Dear SF Beer Week Opening Gala ticket holders,

Thank you for your continued support of local craft beer and SF Beer Week! While the Opening Gala was a success on many fronts, we’d like to address our capacity issues with you, below.

We are profoundly sorry that some ticket holders couldn’t enter the Opening Gala. We are awed by your overwhelming support of the craft beer industry.  In brief, the problems we encountered were as follows:

1.  Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the fire marshal and SF Beer Week planners all had different understandings of the event’s traffic flow and capacity. We sold tickets based on the total capacity for the venue.  On the night of the event, the YBCA and fire marshal worried that too many people in one particular area of the entire venue created a hazard.

2.  Peoples’ enthusiasm for particular beers created lines that crowded too many people into one particular area of the entire venue.  We could not predict this beer lovers’ bottleneck.  Consequently, YBCA staff limited admission for the entire venue.

We will send refunds to ticketed individuals who were not admitted to the event. The refunds will begin on Monday, Feb 14 through Eventbrite.  If you do not receive your refund by Feb 18, one week after the event, please reply to this email at with your name and ticket information. Thank you for your continued patience and support of the many grass root events that combine to create SF Beer Week.

Further, if you did not receive a commemorative glass, more are on their way.  We will be in touch with more information in the week to come!


SF Beer Week
Opening Gala

Steve Donohue pouring his beer from Firehouse Brewery.

The crew from Devil’s Canyon Brewing.

Sugar filled palate cleansers were available along with a host of other food options.

Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing.

A Russian River Brewing magnum on ice.

Left to right: Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Pete Slosberg (formerly Pete’s Wicked Ales), Mark Carpenter (Anchor Brewing), Brian Hunt (Moonlight Brewing), Matt Brynildson (Firestone Walker), Shaun O’Sullivan (21st Amendment), Terrence Sullivan (Sierra Nevada)

Shaun O’Sullivan of 21st Amendment snapping photos of the action on stage next to Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker.

Fan favorite Brian Hunt from Moonlight Brewing.

A new brew on the horizon (bottles were empty).

Tom Dalldorf (left) publisher of Celebrator Magazine with the Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton.

Two generations of brewers, Pete Slosberg with Patrick Horn and Bryan Hermannson of Pacific Brewing Laboratories.

Lead singer of The Brothers Comatose.

Brekle’s Brown, Anchor Brewing’s New Beer

The venerable beer sage Jay Brooks brings word of Anchor Brewing’s latest beer, Brekle’s Brown. Go to Brookston Beer Bulletin for the full details along with a history lesson about the beer’s namesake.

The new beer will be unveiled during SF Beer Week at Anchor Brewing’s 140th Anniversary Party taking place on February 16 at the brewery. It’s an invite only event, but you can try to win tickets over at 7×7. They have five pairs of tickets to giveaway. Just join their mailing list and cross your fingers.

If you’re not a lucky winner, here’s a list of San Francisco locations where you can sip on the limited release while supplies last:

February 17

Anchor & Hope, City Beer Store, Comstock Saloon, Public House, Shotwell’s, & Toronado.

February 18

Jack’s Cannery BarTope Lounge.

February 19

Fat Angel, Monk’s Kettle, Pi Bar & Zeitgeist.

In the East Bay the following locations will also have Brekle’s Brown, but specific days have not been listed. Call the venues for more information.

The Bear’s Lair Brew Pub, Beer Revolution, Ben & Nick’s, Bobby G’s Pizzeria, Café Biere, Jupiter, Kingfish Pub & Café, Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto & The Trappist.

Win Tickets to Breweries of Tomorrow

SF Beer Week is a hell of a time, but can put a dent in your wallet. So we decided to give one lucky winner a pair of free passes to the Breweries of Tomorrow Nanobrewery Festival via Twitter. Contest entry does require some effort, but its beer folks. You’ll enjoy it!

How to enter?

Go to Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco by Friday, February 11, and take a picture of yourself drinking one of their Strong Beers. Once you’ve taken a photo, Tweet a message mentioning @BeerbytheBay and include the hashtag #SFNanoBeerFest. This will ensure we see your entry.

All the Tweets (your photo, message and Twitter name) will be posted here on the Bay Area Craft Beer website. Caution, any entries that appear to be spam, are malicious or rude in any manner will be denied entry. Keep it clean beer lovers.

Who’s eligible?

Entrants must be 21 years of age. Duh.

What are the prizes?

One lucky winner will receive two free passes to the festival, which each include a keepsake glass, two Social Kitchen Strong Beers and unlimited samples from the Nanobrewers. That’s a $30 value.

What’s the deadline for the contest?

All entries must be tweeted by Friday, February 11, at midnight (PST).

How will winners be selected?

The winner will be selected at random and announced on Saturday, February 12 via Twitter and here on the site.

Update (2/13/11) The competition is now CLOSED. Congratulation to @TheeMadCutter and thanks to everyone else who participated.