SF Beer Week 2011 & Tre Bicchieri Italian Wine Event

Anchor Steam’s glowing copper stills

This year’s SF Beer Week was the biggest yet. February 11th’s Opening Gala was mobbed even at VIP hour (big increase from last year), while tastes of new releases like Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, ran out in mere minutes. It’s hard to appreciate the over-crowding, but at least there’s a week full of events to spread things out. Maybe next year the Opening Gala entrance process will be better organized or held in a larger space?

Anchor Brewing Co. – At a private release party at Anchor Steam Brewery, their brand new Brekle’s Brown Ale flowed. An all-malt, single-hop brown ale named after Gottlieb Brekle, Anchor’s distiller from 1871-1888, this just released ale celebrates Anchor’s 140th anniversary. It is only available via draught currently and is one of the better brown ales I’ve tasted, malty-rich without being heavy.

Social Kitchen & Brewery – Since Social Kitchen opened last year, these two experimental brews poured at the Opening Gala are the best I’ve had from them thus far: White Thai Affair (9.5% ABV), an imperial Rapscallion, bright and earthy with galangal and lemongrass; and The Big Lebowski White Prussian (9.0% ABV), a fun film nod with surprisingly bold espresso punch (using Bicycle Coffee Roasters). Bonus points for Humphry Slocombe’s use of Social‘s Big Muddy Weizenbock in an ice cream flavor during Beer Week, redolent of banana and clove.

Speakeasy – Though I like the bold surprise of Social Kitchen‘s coffee beer (see above), Speakeasy pours a smoother, gently sweet coffee beer, Ritual Payback Porter, made with, of course, Ritual Coffee.

Brekle’s Brown Ale (photo source: Anchor website)

Devil’s Canyon Root Beer – Just like last year, Devil’s Canyon awesome Root Beer remains my favorite root beer ever. Small batch and organic, its touch of sweet comes from organic cane sugar, agave nectar and California honey. Rich, rooty, refreshing.
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Napa Smith Brewery BarleywineNapa Smith served a rare, event-only barleywine that surpassed other barleywines I sampled at the Opening Gala with complexity and a memorable finish.

15 ROMOLO, North Beach 15 Romolo‘s Jared Anderson created my favorite SF Beer Week cocktail – and it’s not easy for beer cocktails to keep up. His C.F.K. (initials of Mr. Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane himself) is a delicate glass of St. George’s single malt with Firestone’s Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout. Nuance comes with Averna and Art in the Age’s gingersnap liqueur, Snap. Rounded out with a bit of coconut cream and cacao nib tincture, it’s an unusual, dessert-like beauty that’s not too sweet.


Out on the Bay at Fort Mason, this massive, annual tasting of all wines Italian took place. Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri is only held in three US cities annually: SF, NY, Chicago. Consistent with my love of Italian wines, particularly from multiple trips to my favorite of countries, Italy, there were many highlights – here are a few:

1. 2008 Andriano Movado Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige – floral, with notes of lychee and bananas, full-bodied
2. 2006 Colli di Luni Niccolo V – peppery, dry (also like their wild flower-redolent ’09 Vermentino)
3. Pietracupa 2009 Greco di Tufo – earthy, dry
4. Capichera 2006 Mantenghja – full, complex, from Southern Sardinian grapes