The Bay Area’s 1st Nanobrewing Festival

(Event Recap on BACB)

Nine homebrewing operations from across the Bay Area are converging during SF Beer Week to serve craft beer and launch small businesses during the Breweries of Tomorrow Nanobrewing Festival. It’s the first festival, co-sponsored by Social Kitchen & Brewery and BayAreaCraftBeer.com, designed to feature and support homebrewers with entrepreneurial aspirations. The event will take place on February 13, from 5-9pm at Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood (1326 9th Avenue).

Admission to the event is $15 at the door. Attendees will receive a commemorative glass, two tickets for beer produced by Social Kitchen & Brewery, and unlimited samples from 510 Brewing, Beltane Brewing, Bosworth Brewery, Elizabeth Street Brewery, Local Brewing Company, Orange & Black, Pacific Brewing Laboratories, Petaluma Hills Brewing Company and Van Houten Brewing. Food will be available for purchase from the Social Kitchen & Brewery menu.

Breweries of Tomorrow is a unique opportunity for beer lovers to sample the work created by the Bay Area’s next generation of professional craft brewers.” – Brian Stechschulte, editor of BayAreaCraftBeer.com

About the sponsors:

Social Kitchen & Brewery is located in the heart of San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood at 1326 9th Avenue. Rich Higgins is the brewmaster and certified master cicerone who believes that beer plays a role in the kitchen and deserves a place at the table. He brews accessible beers that are food-friendly and full of flavor.

BayAreaCraftBeer.com is a guide and news source created for Bay Area citizens and visitors that was launched at the dawn of 2011. The site features maps, an event calendar, news and info about the breweries and brewpubs who make beer, the bars, stores and restaurants who lovingly serve it, and the local beer bloggers who absorb and document the foamy landscape.

About the brewers:

510 Brewing was founded by three friends in Fremont, CA: Dean Hoffman, Sam Cisneros, and Travis Smith. 510 Brewing will be Fremont’s first production brewery and aims to have a production warehouse in southern Fremont’s industrial area. They have a tendency to create big beers and experiment with fruit beer, spiced beer, sour beer, and wood aged beer.  Their flagship beer will be an Imperial Red and a Porter that will be supplemented with seasonal selections throughout the year.

Beltane Brewing is based in Marin and was founded by Alan Atha, the current President of the Sonoma Beerocrats home brewing club. Beltane Brewing aims to bring old-world style into the new world via the art and science of brewing techniques learned from both. The current beer lineup: Rumplestiltskin Double IPA, Black Moria Double Black IPA, Luminesce Belgian Style Triple, Automne Eve Belgian Style Double and Ode to Oud Bruin

Bosworth Brewery is an Anglo-American craft brewery focusing on British style ales with a West Coast influence. Their beers are subtle yet complex session ales intended for the social drinking style of a traditional pub. Their team of 2 Brits and 2 Americans has been developing, learning and drinking their way towards opening a nanobrewery in the Bay Area. Antony has been a home brewer for nearly 20 years and for the last 5 has been developing and refining the recipes. In addition to lots of hands on practice they’ve all studied at the Siebel institute and Antony also completed the Brewing and Packaging course at UC Davis. They’ve been holding beer tasting &
pairing events for friends as well as collecting ribbons at state and
National homebrew competitions.

Elizabeth Street Brewery is the residence of Alyson and Richard Brewer-Hay located in the family-oriented San Francisco neighborhood of Noe Valley. The Elizabeth Street Brewery is a brewpub in planning that’s for the people and by the people. They continue to build out a business plan, determine locations and work on recipes. Their dream is to open a full-scale family brewpub/restaurant in the Noe Valley area in the near future.

Local Brewing Co. was founded by Regan and Sarah. They’ve been homebrewing for six years and are currently making the first step toward opening a small brewery and taproom in San Francisco. Local Brewing Co. specializes in session beers with character – the kind of brews you can enjoy more than one of, and won’t get bored with. Designed for drinkability, their beers are tailored to people who want something outside the norm, but not too extreme. Each recipe is an SF original, fine-tuned with feedback from SF locals. Their tanks might be small, but their passion for craft beer is huge.

Orange & Black currently brews in the Inner Richmond District of San Francisco.  James Davids is a wine maker and works at San Francisco Brewcraft and Kim Sturdavant is currently a brewer at Marin Brewing Company. Their goal is create California beer inspired by the beers of England and Belgium. They mix and match ingredients while keeping focus on traditional styles such as bitters, pale ales, porters, and Belgian singles. They see no reason to remain completely faithful to tradition, however… just to be inspired by it. They brew on a one-barrel set up and use open top fermentation.

Pacific Brewing Laboratories was founded by Bryan Hermannsson and Patrick Horn in 2010 on Clara St in San Francisco. They pursue their love of craft beer by brewing 10 gallon batches at a time, which allows for experimentation with unique and exciting ingredients, such as hibiscus flower, szechwan pepper corn, lemon grass, and chamomile. They’re currently working on plans to open a local SF brewpub.

Petaluma Hills Brewing Company was founded by JJ. He’s been homebrewing for almost 20 years, moving from extract to all-grain only 10 years ago. For the past several years he’s developed eight recipes for ales that are very drinkable, ranging from a mild Northern English Brown and ESB to a Porter and a Stout with a couple of Belgian styles thrown in. A few years ago, people started asking him when they could buy beer, so it seemed the sensible to start a brewery. When he’s not brewing he’s working on computer-animated films.

Van Houten Brewing (say “van-HOW-ten”) is a family owned and operated small artisan brewery Based in the town of San Anselmo that will soon be serving San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Founded by a husband and wife team, Johnny is the head brewer and Creek is the CEO. Johnny started home brewing with his dad in 2001. In the process of trying to recreate some of their favorite hard-to-find English ales using clone recipes – they discovered the joy of making their own beer and drinking it fresh from the cask.  It’s their Dutch and British blood that informs their philosophy of innovation on traditional styles
and original beers brewed by simple, honest means. Their current
selection includes British and Belgian Ales, German Lagers and a
California Common.

Strong Beer Month at Social Kitchen & Brewery

February is shaping up to be a very tipsy month for beer drinkers in San Francisco. Social Kitchen and Brewery has announced a month long celebration of five new high-octane beers that utilize traditional and non-traditional ingredients. The beer will range between 8.2% to 10.5% ABV and will replace their standard lineup, with the exception of the lighter Social Kolsch, until supplies last.

In the words of Brewmaster Rich Higgins, “February’s long nights and rainy cold are the perfect time to enjoy strong, warming beers. The Strong Beer Social follows in the footsteps of 21st Amendment Brewery’s and Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery’s Strong Beer Month, which is a fun and legendary celebration held every February.”

Here’s the complete menu:

• Big Muddy Weizenbock (8.2% ABV), a Bavarian-style strong wheat beer with notes of chocolate, banana, and clove

• White Thai Affair (9.5% ABV), a golden Belgian-style ale brewed with galangal and lemongrass – a spiced, imperial version of SKB’s popular Rapscallion

• Double Doozy IPA (9.2% ABV), a double IPA with organic hops from Hops-Meister Farm in Clearlake, CA

• The Giant S’more (10.5% ABV), a Belgian-style Imperial Stout with hints of graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow

• The Big Lebowski White Prussian (9.0% ABV), an Imperial Grätzer-style ale with espresso from SKB’s neighbors, Bicycle Coffee Roasters

A Conversation with Rich Higgins

Photos © Brian Stechschulte

At the dawn of 2011, the Bay Area beer community is poised to have another great year. SF Beer Week is right around the corner, the Craft Brewer’s Conference takes place in March, and several brewers are launching new ventures. I spent an afternoon with Brewmaster and San Francisco Brewer’s Guild President Rich Higgins, to talk about his recent Master Cicerone designation, how his beer’s evolving at Social Kitchen, and the upcoming events.

How long have you been head of the SF Brewer’s Guild and what are the goals of the organization?

I’ve been working with the brewer’s guild for 3 years. I was secretary for a year and I’ve been the president for the past two. Its fun but its a lot of work.

Our mission statement is to preserve and promote the heritage and quality of craft beer in San Francisco. Its kind of broad, but in general we make sure event organizers that want good beer can call upon us to get involved and ensure a spectrum of beer is represented. We eventually want to be the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for local beer. If there’s an event featuring the San Francisco Brewers Guild, people will know it’s an awesome festival, its unique and represents all the different neighborhoods. That’s the stuff were focusing on now, how to bring our beer to people in a context that they might not be expecting.

Why did you choose to become a Master Cicerone? Was it simply part of your evolving education or is it also about earning credibility?

Its a little about credibility. I’m not going to lie. Its fun to have some sort of diploma on the wall, but it really satisfies me. It speaks to what I care about when I think about beer. Beer is so many different things to me: it’s art and it’s science at the same time, it’s culture, it’s community, it’s agriculture and history, all of which the Cicerone program really emphasizes. There are many different representatives throughout the beer world who are very interested in the Cicerone program. There are brewers, retailers working in restaurants and bars, and distributors.

As for the program itself, it’s easy to describe it as a way to pair beer and food but it’s more than that. It’s making sure the styles of beer and the history of beer is represented in each glass and you’re able to convey that to someone who’s interested. Its also emphasizes knowing how to operate and trouble-shoot a draft system. How to clean beer lines and how to make sure that a beer isn’t too foamy or flat, or how to clean glassware correctly, there’s so many different angles. In one respect its basic, but knowing the proper ratio between nitrogen and carbon dioxide that you should be using to dispense a beer at a certain temperature, at this pressure, with this resistance and altitude, is pretty geeky, its pretty technical so it affects every basic thing about peoples experience of beer. There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into it.

The Cicerone program makes you accountable for the depth and the breadth of beer. It’s not just learning a lot about different styles, you have to know the specifics about each and how they fit with their neighboring style and the historical, technological and historical implications. It casts a big wide net that I really care about.

With eight months under your belt at Social Kitchen, how is the beer evolving and what do you have in store for 2011?

I would say that the beer is getting a little more consistent which I’m excited about. I’m learning the personality of my yeast and my equipment a little bit better. At this point I’m starting to bring the beers around to where I wanted them to be. I think they’ve always been drinkable and people have responded well to them, which I’m happy about, but they haven’t necessarily been exactly what I envisioned, but we had to open our doors with a full set of beers that I’d never brewed before in my life, on a system I never used in my life, with a crop of barley and hops I never used either. There were a lot question marks on the beer quality when we opened and I think at this point I’m starting to get a handle on exactly the way I want them, but you know its all subjective, its a moving target. Beer is very much an agricultural product and a lot of people don’t realize that or appreciate it, so it’s important to always keep an eye on what your barley and hops are like and how they’re interacting with your yeast and water quality.

For next year were going to be doing some fun stuff. We’ll be hosting a Strong Beer Social, a month long celebration of strong beer in February. We’ll have 5 different strong beers on tap along with our regular Social Kolsch. It will be a fun way to enjoy the heft and power of beer. Today were brewing White Thai Affair, which is an Imperial Rapscallion spiced with lemongrass and galangal. It will highlight the natural ginger and lemony flavors that this yeast imparts in this beer. Were also going to be hosting a lot of events during SF Beer week and will continue to do our monthly Brew Masters dinners along with some more educational events and tastings.

How is SF Beer Week shaping up?

Well were going to have a lot of cool events. In the past we’ve seen a lot of events come together that are beer dinner focused, and I think there’s still going to be a lot of those, but there seems to be a little bit of a maturation maybe, of the restaurants, bars and breweries that have hosted the beer dinners. They’re going to shake it up a bit and do some more interesting stuff with their beer dinners, which is fun because when there’s so many beer dinners on the calendar its nice to have something that makes them distinct. Last year we had over 225 events in a 10-day period.

Will there be more?

I don’t know yet until it all comes together. Were still working on getting a lot of the events submitted. Stay tuned to SFBeerWeek.org. Were going to have our big calendar release date on January 11. A whole bunch of events will be posted that day.

The Craft Brewer’s Conference in March is a great opportunity for Bay Area brewer’s to shine, is there an impression of the regions beer scene you would like visitors to leave with?

The craft beer industry is so stereotyped particularly along the west coast by really big, high alcohol hoppy beers and we certainly have that in San Francisco, but we have a nice breadth, a real wealth across the beer spectrum of different flavors and styles represented. I would like visitors to San Francisco, particularly industry folk, to realize that San Francisco has a variety of beers as well as different types of pubs, and not just the brewpubs where it’s brewed fresh, but also in the different bars. We have high-end bars like La Trappe and Monks Kettle, and divier places like Benders, Lucky 13, Zeitgeist, and Toronado. There’s also a bunch of great restaurants serving food from all over the world at different price points and at different levels of authenticity verses fusion that offer really fun beer lists. So it’s an awesome city to be drinking beer in and I want people to realize that.