Marshall Serlin (from left), Tyler Fox, David, and Josh Noddle drink beer and socialize at The Mad Dog in the Fog in San Francisco, Saturday, Feb. 8th. Serlin and his friends made a visit to Mad Dog in the Fog to celebrate San Francisco’s Beer Week. Photo by Gavin McIntyre / Xpres
As rain fell from the sky, beer poured from the kegs Friday night, marking the beginning of SF Beer Week.
Started in 2009 by Jay Brooks and a few local brewers, the celebration has since grown to one of the biggest beer festivals in the country. Entering its sixth year, SF Beer Week will celebrate craft beer, Bay Area brewers and beer culture from Feb. 7 through Feb. 16.
Now sponsored by the San Francisco Brewers Guild, the festival will feature more than 500 beer-themed events around the Bay Area crammed into the 10-day schedule. This year’s Beer Week events include opportunities to meet the brewers and tap takeovers, in which a bar will offer only a certain brewer’s beers for a night.
Restaurants and breweries also offer exclusive beer and food pairing menus, workshops and talks to learn the art of brewing. Some brewers will release special or rare craft beers exclusive to SF Beer Week.
The event is a big deal for self-declared “beer snobs” like SF State senior and history major Carlos Chavez.
“You’ll never catch me drinking a Bud Light,” he said.
Chavez said he attended his first Beer Week event last year going to the Barleywine Festival at Toronado in the Lower Haight district, one of the more popular events in SF Beer Week drawing in a very large crowd each year.
This year Chavez will attend another popular SF Beer Week event, titled the Double IPA Festival hosted by The Bistro in Hayward Saturday and 540 Club, where they will release rare and limited batches from Ballast Point, Deschutes and Anchor Steam breweries. In order to spread the word and good beer, Chavez said that he is bringing a couple friends to experience Beer Week.
For senior Ryan Rumney, a marketing major, the Double IPA Festival will be his first Beer Week event.
“I don’t know what to expect since it’s my first time, I’m excited for my first brew experience with my friends,” he said.
Rumney’s experience is very similar to a lot of SF Beer Week newbies. Many event goers hear about the festival through word-of-mouth or by friends who invite them along to the celebration’s events.
Another SF Beer Week first timer, Bill Graf, 28, was introduced to Beer Week through friends’ invitations to SF Beer Week events around the city. Graf attended a tap takeover at Zeitgeist and Mad Dog in the Fog’s “Hops and Scoops” event on Saturday and said he is enjoying the festival so far.
“I’ll do it again next year. Everybody is friendly, I’m trying new beers and having a good time,” he said.
Every year, the young festival’s popularity continues to grow, and this year 80 breweries and more than 2,500 people attended the Friday night opening gala, held in the East Hall of the Concourse Exhibition Center. Tickets for the gala sold out weeks before the event began.
SF Beer Week in 2012 held only 300 scheduled events and the opening gala featured only 68 brewers, but also sold out tickets. Two years later, these numbers have near doubled.
The popularity of SF Beer Week is also a testament of San Francisco’s growing reputation as a top beer city, and GQ and CNN Travel both listed San Francisco on their lists of top beer cities in America.
SF Beer Week has a full schedule on its website and there is an app available for iPhone and Android phones that lets festival attendants track out their week itinerary. The website just added an option to post your itinerary on Facebook and compare among friends.