Where to Drink SF – Cellarmaker

Cellarmaker is making some of the best beer around right now, and all it takes is a visit to see how many people are there at any time to realize this.

The Cellarmaker space is an exposed brick, semi-industrial space in SOMA.  It comes across of more of a bar than a brewery, partly because it is always pretty packed and partly because they tend to have the music going pretty strong.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and if a bar-feel is more your thing, you will love Cellarmaker.

They are constantly changing their beers, and with a few exceptions, there are almost always predominately new beers on tap.  According to their website, they say there will be at least 3-5 hop forward beers on tap at any time.  This has been true whenever I have gone.

Their Pale Ales tend to come off as more of IPAs, which works great for me.  I have had a few good stouts as well.

cellar

The Tiny Dankster and the Quad Dobis (a beer week special beer) were some of the better beers I have had in the last year. That said, I have liked everyone of their beers I have had.

As of a couple months ago, they have been selling bomber bottles the first week of the month, however they sell out quick (ie one day), so if you want one, get on it.  Growler purchases are always an option.

Only bad thing I can say about this place is no dogs 😦

It will be very interesting to see if they try and grow or stay the size they are.  The quality is supreme right now, so one has to wonder what may happen if they try and expand…

http://www.cellarmakerbrewing.com/

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Where to Drink SF – Local Brewing

Local Brewing is located in SOMA, on Bluxome, between 4th and 5th.  I used to live a couple blocks away, but of course moved before this opened.  Local is on a developing street, joining Bluxome Street Winery which is a few blocks away (great place, dog friendly, awesome wine club, especially if you live close by and can take full advantage).

The brewery is in a brick warehousey space, and is a bit “nicer” than most breweries.  They have food and wine, and so although there is definitely a brewery feel and presence with the barrels, etc., it does still come across as a high end spot.

Local’s taps seem to be constantly updating with new beers.  As I look on the website now, I see several beers that were not there but a couple weeks ago.  When I went, I of course had a sampler.

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The beers were all very good.  Nothing overpowering or extreme, instead straightforward and well-executed beers.  I have been happy with every beer I have had.  None blew me away, but all were enjoyable, which is quite a feat.

I have not eaten here, but the food menu if somewhat limited. Mostly snacks or small plates.  The wife says the wine she has had is good, with  few different options.

I would imagine it gets pretty packed on game days or at happy hour, but I have gone on the weekends and it has been easy to grab a seat at the bar, and easy to drive to/park at if you have a DD or aren’t going full weekend mode…

Overall, a great addition to the SOMA brew scene, and certainly worth a stop by.

http://www.localbrewingco.com

 

Dog Friendly Brewery Series – San Francisco Part 2

 

Since posting the first in the SF Dog Friendly Brewery series, a few more dog friendly breweries have opened!  More work for California IPA, which is a good thing!

Harmonic Brewing

Harmonic opened up a few months ago less than a mile from us.  Hell yes.

Harmonic is deep in the Dogpatch, on 26th near Indiana. The space is industrial and open, with the brewing happening right in the open.  They do not have food, which in this instance, is a good thing, as that means the dogs are allowed!  Most times I have gone, a few other people have had dogs.

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There is a smaller bar top, and then a bunch of tables to sit at.

They allow outside food, so swinging by Long Bridge pizza beforehand is not a bad idea.

The beers are pretty good, and I am excited to see them grow and brew some more.  The cold-press stout was solid, IPA was good, and the wife has enjoyed a few of their sours.

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Generous pours on the flights, they oftentimes have live music and food trucks, and a TV with whatever game is on.  A great addition to the SF brew scene, especially since the pups can join.

http://harmonicbrewing.com/

Black Hammer

Black Hammer/Pac Labs beer has been around the City for a while, but I only recently was able to check the somewhat new brewery out.  Of course, I forgot my phone when I went, so no pics today.

Black Hammer is in SOMA, on Bryant near 3rd.  Very dog friendly and good atmosphere, especially on a quiet weekend day in SOMA.

Black Hammer brews some interesting and creative beers, with the Squid Ink IPA and Hibiscus Saison sticking out.  You can seemingly always find something unique and new here.

Like Harmonic, no food, so you can bring outside food in.  Simply another great spot to take the dog and have a few interesting beers.

http://blackhammerbrewing.com/

Fort Point at the Ferry Building

Fort Point recently opened up a “kiosk” tasting room outside of the Ferry Building.  The space is small, all outside, but a great addition.

The food options are limited (hot dogs, pretzels etc.), but you come here for the beer.  Fort Point is brewing solid, straightforward and well balanced beers.  Last visit, I had the Wanderer, a tropical and smooth DIPA, and the Park, a hoppy wheat.  I have enjoyed every one of their beers I have had.

Although it is small, they do growler fills (And have some really cool growlers at that).

The Ferry Building can obviously get crazy, so this is a spot I generally would only go to on a quieter day in the downtown area.

http://www.fortpointbeer.com/

Looking forward to the dog friendly brewery trend in SF to continue, as there appear to be at least 14 new breweries coming soon…

Where to Drink – Anchor Brewing Tour!

I am ashamed to say I have lived in the Bay Area for ten years, and San Francisco for over six (and within a mile of the brewery for all that time), and I only recently did the Anchor Brewing tour.  A big factor was that the tour used to only be on weekdays (but was free!).  However, it used to get booked up months in advance, and it was very hard to get a last minute reservation (one time I called every day for two weeks to try and get in for my birthday, and there were no cancellations).

Recently, Anchor opened the tour up on weekends, and although they now charge $15, having it on the weekend is clutch.  We were able to book about 4 weeks in advance, and had a group of 10.

Anchor is one of the pioneering craft breweries, and only remaining breweries to make steam beer.  Anchor Steam is always a solid option, and is pretty ubiquitous in the City.

The tour starts off in the very cool bar.  The bar is a relic from years past.  Walls are lined with beer trays from other breweries, and the bar is covered in wood.

Tour starts with a (small) pour of Anchor Steam.  There were a couple extras poured so you know I grabbed one of those as well.

You are then brought into the brewery for a tour of the facility.  The copper tuns are a sight.  We got to see the hop rooms, steam rooms, bottling area, barrel room and more.  The brewery has great views of downtown as well.

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During the tour you get a pretty good sense of the history of the brewery, dating back to the late 1800s, to when Maytag purchased and saved the brewery until the present.

After the tour ends, you return to the bar area for a tasting.  On tap for us was Anchor IPA, Liberty Ale, Winter Wheat, California Lager, Barrel Ale, and the 2015 Christmas Ale.

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Liberty and California Lager are my favorite of the Anchor beers at the tasting.  Liberty is a nice, simple but balanced IPA.  California Lager is a prime summer beer.

I was not blown away by the 2015 Christmas.  2013 is my favorite recent vintage.  However, the Christmas “Tree” was pretty cool!

FullSizeRender

I was somewhat surprised at the number of beers on tap.  The day before, I went to the Anchor tasting room at the Yard (www.the yardsf.com).  They have 16 beers on tap.  Apparently, the brewery itself only really gets the flagship or most popular beers.  I suppose it makes sense, considering that it is not open to the public, but I was a bit bummed that I had already had every beer they had at the brewery.

Ended the day buying a few things in the gift shop, which was small but sufficient.  It was a great tour, and even more fun with friends.  My wife thoroughly enjoyed herself, and she is not a big beer drinker.  However, non-beer drinkers will enjoy the history, and I think that makes people more willing to try beers they otherwise would not consider.

Overall, a must do when in SF in my humble, beer-loving opinion.  The reservation process is easy but I would plan on booking several weeks in advance for a weekend tour.

Cheers to beers!

http://www.anchorbrewing.com

SF Beer Week Recap – Part 3

The last post is kind of a beer week post, but mostly a Pliny the Younger post.  It is quite convenient that Beer Week and PTY time overlap, further adding to the craziness (PS. I am pretty surprised to still see PTY showing up and Toronado and City Beer Store this week).

PTY releases are announced, subtly or not, at some places, and others are unannounced.  Naturally, the unannounced ones are a zoo, and require significant free time to make happen.

The announced releases in SF had lines building up for hours, with hundred of people in queue.  I cannot say I am surprised.  This is San Francisco, and I am fairly certain 90% of people do not actually work.  Releases at Monks, Toronado etc. were never going to happen for me.  I was confident I would get it somewhere unannounced or not in the City.  My confidence began to dwindle, however, as the week went on.

First Attempt

Rose and Crown had IPA day Wednesday, and explicitly informed of the PTY release (on an aside, Wednesday was chock full of events, that and Thursday would have been the best days to take off, as Thursday would be a recuperation day).

I “snuck” away from work around 1050 am to get to there.  Stupidly, I figured there would not be that long of a line on a Wednesday morning in Palo Alto, as i assumed most Peninsula folk were working (that only happens in SF right? – WRONG). With only a 5 gallon keg, I figured I did not have much of a shot, but wanted to see anyway.  I was there and I was not going to give up that easily.

After waiting a little over an hour and a half I fell about 10 people short.  To be honest, i was surprised I was that close.  It turns out they were doing 6 oz. pours, but it still lasted longer than the line seemed to indicate.  Defeated, I instead got a Pliny the Elder (*note, I was shocked to see how many people left after they announced the PTY was out.  You just waited in line an hour plus, you have earned a beer, and there were plenty of great options on tap).

I have never historically fallen into the Pliny obsession.  I enjoy the beer, but do not fully embrace the craze of getting it (and I actually probably like Blind Pig better than Pliny, and there are a bunch of DIPAs out there that are just as good or better).  That being said, Russian River has done a masterful job of getting people hooked and the limited releases make the hunt almost more exciting than the beer.  After getting denied the Younger I was determined to get it.

However, something about being in line on a killer, sunny Wednesday morning and talking to strangers about beer, while waiting to get a beer, was a really fun experience.  Certainly not something you do too often, and probably only something you can do in a place like the Bay Area in February.  Even though I did not score the Younger that day, I learned about some new beers, an insider tip on where PTY would be the next day unadvertised (and I could not go down to Hayward to next day to get it, but the tip was right), and got to have a Pliny the Elder for lunch.  In the end, the hunt and wait, although deflating, was pretty damn fun.

So, the hunt continued.

 How Not to Get It

After several more days of trying to find Pliny in the new “high tech” way (Taplist, Twitter, Instagram…), and several near misses, a realization I have had in many facets of my life re-emerged.  Sometimes getting things the old fashioned way works best.

Just like connecting with old friends, getting new business, and apparently getting Pliny the Younger, apps and Twitter and the Internet are not the best solution. After missing out at Rose and Crown, I found myself frantically checking Twitter, Untapped, Taplist etc. trying to smell out the next Pliny pour. I messaged bars that I knew were going to get it and did not have much luck. Eventually the Marriot Marquis was nice enough to mention me in a tweet when they were tapping theirs, but I was 30 miles away. A lifetime in Pliny season.

After many near misses that are not worth chronicling, I realized I should just hit the pavement and ask a “friend” at the closest bar to us that regularly gets the Pliny. We frequent this particular spot fairly regularly, and thus are friendly with many of the people that work there and that is all it took.  While enjoying a different beer specially created for SF Beer Week, I asked and I received, PTY on tap the next morning.  With the scoop in hand, the next day I was enjoying several Plinys with little to no wait.

So, How Was It?

I was fearful, and assuming, the Younger would not live up to the hype. How could it? People waiting in line 8 hours at the brewery?!  People camping out in front of Toronado? Me obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed (ok, not that big of a commitment, but still, I was getting anxious thinking I would miss it).

To my pleasant surprise, it was pretty damn good. So good, my wife, who I do not think has ever liked an IPA I have given her, even liked it.

PTY pours a fairly translucent golden orange.  Minimal head, nice lacing.

pliny one

I got enough in my first order to tide me over for an hour or so…

pliny 2

I invited a couple friends, who made sure to get enough to last them as well.  The picture below shows the nice lacing.

MmmMmm

MmmMmm

Nice citrus and tropical fruit notes are present on the nose.  Some light floral tones as well.

Alcohol content is somewhere between 10 and 11.5%, but there is no boozyness in Mr. Younger.

The one thing that is unmistakable about this beer is its balance.  Less malty than the Elder, dare I say perfect bitterness and hops, and smooth as you could imagine.  Crisp and juicy citrus flavors.  Incredibly drinkable.  Does not feel like a Triple IPA as it is not a “hop bomb.”

My personal favorite part, perfectly clean finish with no aftertaste.

99/100 – my highest review ever.  I did not expect this to happen, but it was so damn smooth I had no choice.

Conclusion

Beer week was a hell of a time.  I cannot imagine any city putting on a better one, just because of the size of our city and the plethora of breweries close to home.  Next year mandates that I take a few days off to fully enjoy the entire event.  I definitely need to attend the Opening Gala, and probably the DIPA fest in Hayward.

I am already looking forward to next year, and must thank all the hard working people from the SF Brewer’s Guild for an incredible week.

SF Beer Week Recap – Part 2

The middle of the week saw a few more events for me and a few more great beers.  I found myself wishing I had taken a day or two off to really immerse myself in the fun, but as it worked out, I had a pretty busy work week and was somewhat limited in the events I could go to.

Rose and Crown IPA Day

Wednesday saw me attend the Rose and Crown event, which was labeled as an IPA Day, but in reality was a battle for the Pliny the Younger.  I headed over to the Rose and Crown around 10:55 and ended up being in line until 12:30 and missed the PTY by about 10 people.  My last post in this series will deal solely with the Pliny hunt/craze/shitshow so I will save that for now.

In the end, I did enjoy a Pliny the Elder as my consolation prize. I have not yet written a review on the Pliny the Elder, so will do an abridged one now. Personally, I have never been as impressed by Pliny the Elder as most people.  It is a solid beer, but the true genius in it may just be the intentional or unintentional marketing and limited availability.  There is a sense of accomplishment when you get one on draft or have a “friend” at a store who will save some for you or let you know when they are coming in.  The beer itself is very good, but the hunt is where people seem to lose sight. Elder pours a deep golden orange.  Limited head that tends to stick to the glass. pliny Nose is strong citrus, pine and pineapple notes.  Flavor mimics the nose with some substantial hoppy bitterness.  Fairly crisp, and the fresher the better it seems.  One fallback for me is it is fairly dry. It is a great beer, but it does not distinguish itself for me as some people suggest.  I actually may even prefer Blind Pig. 94/100

Firestone Tap Takeover at Steep Brew Potrero (Whole Foods)

Thursday was a tough call for me, Firestone Tap Takeover or Ballast Point Tap Takeover at Public House.  I opted for Firestone’s event as I had had many of the Ballast Point beers already.  In a perfect world, or if I did not have to work early the next morning, I would have hit both (cue the boos).

I had the Double Jack and a Sucaba at the Firestone Event.  There was an option to do three samples and a cheese pairing, but I was only interested in one of the beers offered for the pairing.

I have had every iteration in the “Jack” Series (Union Jack, Easy Jack, Wookey Jack, Double Jack) and am thoroughly impressed with all of them.

Double Jack rings in at 9.5% ABV and 85 IBUs. Pour is a nice fairly clear orange with a decent frothy head. jack Nose fills of grapefruit and oranges with a ton of hops. The flavor is piney with full frontal hops, but still balanced and smooth.  Nice sticky mouthfeel with some minimal malty sweetness.

A really quality DIPA. 93/100

http://www.firestonebeer.com/beers/products/double-jack

I also tried the §ucaba, which is a monster Barleywine.  Heavy on the bourbon and boozyness, this is a sipper for sure.

Other Events, Stand Outs

I had intended to cheat on IPA and go to the Almanac and Friends Sourfest at Public House on Friday night, however at 3:30 the line was already 40 deep, and I was in a suit and did not want to wait in the sun for a non-IPA event.  When I went back at 5, there was still a significant line, so headed across the street to Lucky Strike for some Lagunitas.  In two hours at Lucky Strike, the line at Public House never really diminished, so I never made.

I was able to enjoy a few beers at StrEAT Food SOMA the next day, including the Bear Republic Hop Shovel.  Nice, floral beer, and was pretty solid on the hot day that Saturday was.  This event was just “OK”, especially considering a few of the beers sold out pretty quick.  I was hoping to try 101 North’s Heroine IPA but they were sold out by 12:45.

I also tried the Money Paw/Drake’s Special SF Beer Week collabo at Public House, which was decent.  It was very smooth, but also fairly run of the mill.  Nothing that particularly stood out about that one, but it is always cool to see breweries work together.

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A mentioned, to really embrace all Beer Week offers, you have to take a day or two off.  Wednesday in particular was chock-full of events, and would have loved to have Wednesday and Thursday off to enjoy and recover…next year.

I will have one more blog on SF Beer Week soon, with a focus on the unicorn of West Coast craft beer.

SF Beer Week Recap – Part 1

Sf Beer Week has lived up to all my expectations.  A ton of great events, and a realization that I may need to take some vacation time next year to get more in.  That being said, I garnered enough fodder for three fairly hearty posts.

Right off the bat, I must admit that i am pretty mad at myself for not making the Opening Gala.  Forgot to buy tickets before it was too late, then when I had an opportunity to get tickets, I could not get back to SF from Palo Alto in time to make it (that darn work thing and traffic).  Next year this will not happen again.  Luckily I had some good beers that night away from the Gala, including a Moylan’s Hop Craic IIIIPA.

Opening Weekend

Drakes – I kicked off my SF Beer Week Saturday morning by doing a quick East Bay run to Drake’s and Faction.  Neither had a Beer Week event, but I had been wanting to try the Hopocalypse series so made the trek.

Hopocalypse Black Label was a IIIPA beast.

12.5% and 100+ IBUs.

Pours dark, almost amber.  Minimal head.

hop blackTropical fruits abound in the nose with some citrus.  Hops are fairly muted.

Taste is in line with the nose, juicy tropical fruits and some citrusy hints.  Hops are present but balanced by the tropical fruit as well as the lingering sweetness.  Almost a brown sugar sweetness.  Slightly oily and smooth.  Super drinkable, although I could not drink too many of them due to the sweet tones.

Fun beer and look forward to next year’s.

94/100

http://drinkdrakes.com/beer/hopocalypse-black-label/

Hopocalypse Green Label (also heard it called White Label) was a more traditional, west coast DIPA.

9.3% and 100+ IBUs.

Pours a copper/orange hue with some lingering head.

hop greenNose is grapefruity and hoppy and slightly floral, how an IPA should come off.

Good bitterness and hoppy taste from the get go.  Grapefruit comes through throughout.  Hint of sweetness but nothing compared to the Black Label.

Overall, a very enjoyable and drinkable DIPA.

96/100

http://drinkdrakes.com/beer/drakes-hopocalypse/

Drake’s is in a somewhat odd location, behind a Walmart in San Leandro, but worth the trek.  I enjoy all of their beers (wife really enjoyed the sour she had as well), there were snacks and some heavier food options, and most importantly, outdoor seating to bring the pup.  It was raining and we were able to sit in a covered area, but on a sunny day there are other outdoor tables, along with plenty inside seating.  Will be back for sure.

The Willows – IPAs v. Sours

Sunday evening included a visit to the Willows for their IPA v. Sours event.  Unsurprisingly, I went for some IPAs.  The bar was pretty packed but I was able to get a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, an Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail, and my favorite, Almanac “Don’t Call it Frisco” DIPA.

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Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail, Almanac Don’t Call it Frisco, Dogfish 120 Minute

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

18% (yes, 18%) and 120 IBUs.

How this beer is 18% is beyond me.  Nothing like a barleywine, but instead a sweet, malty, IPA.  Barely any boozy flavor or heat.  Some hops in the nose but piney sap, hops and tropical notes.  Pretty well balanced and thoroughly enjoyable.  I cannot imagine drinking more than one or two, but it was a great experience.

94/100

http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/occassional-rarities/120-minute-ipa.htm

Almanac Don’t Call it Frisco

This was my winner for the night.  This one was apparently brewed only for SF Beer Week, and (According to tweets from Almanac) was a one time deal.  That is a shame.

Poured a cloudy, golden/orange.  Piney and citrus nose.  Big citrus and hop flavors.  Bitterness is crisp but balanced. Very smooth, very drinkable, very fresh.  All in all a damn good DIPA. Hope to see it again one day.

98/100

Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail

Evil Twin’s was my least favorite of the night.  13%, unsure on IBUs.

Unfortunately, it was somewhat like 120 Minute’s little brother.  Similar flavor, however sweeter and more boozy.  Fun, but not as good as 120 Minute.  Maybe having alongside the 120 Minute was unfair.

85/100

http://eviltwin.dk/Molotov-Cocktail

One of the many benefits of SF Beer Week is trying placed you have been wanting to try but have found an excuse not too.  The Willows and this event was a perfect example.  I will for sure be going back to the Willows because of going for this event.

The first few days of Beer Week saw some other events and good beers, but these were the highlights.  However, the week was young and there was much fun to be had, and blogs to be posted in the near future.

 

21st Amendment Personality Crisis

Where – 21st Amendment Brewery

How – On Tap

21st Amendment is a couple blocks away, so we make it there often.  One of the good and bad things about 21st is they have a fairly frequently changing beer lineup.  The good is that you get to try a bunch of different stuff.  The bad, once you find one you like it may be gone by the next visit.

Personality Crisis falls into the latter category.  It is a Double IPA with and ABV of 7.5%, with 75 IBUs.

For a Double IPA it was not as hoppy or alcoholic as most IIPAs. Fairly piney and citrusy.  Carbonation was moderate to light, which made for a smooth finish.  Felt more like a traditional west coast IPA (rather than IIPA) based on the subdued hops.

The bad news, it is apparently already gone, and not sure if or when it will be back.

82/100

http://21st-amendment.com/