Wednesday, May 2, 2007

SF Beer Fest

Last weekend I attended the SF International Beer Festival at the Fort Mason Pavilion. I don't have my pictures downloaded from the event, but to give you an idea of how huge this event is, here's a picture I found from someone's Flickr site:

Beer Fest Pic

As you can see, this event is HUGE. Almost 200 breweries and probably thousands of people attend each year. Surprisingly, the crowd is almost 50% female.

Let me start by saying that this is the 4th or 5th year I've been to this event, and each time I go it's one of the highlights of the year. All-you-can-drink microbrews and good food - how can you go wrong? However, as I've developed a more discerning beer pallette, the event has definitely lost some of its luster. Also, although there are tons of breweries, it's getting to the point where there aren't many interesting beers I haven't tried at the event. I like to think of trying good beer as a subject in my academic life, and I dedicate time to it accordingly.

With that said, here are a few high and low points that stick out in my mind:

Mateveza Yerba Mate Ale - This beer unites yerba mate, the S. American tea, with hops, barley, and yeast to produce an organic and naturally caffeinated beer. The result? A beer with a decent initial flavor that is soon dominated by bitterness reminiscent of chewed aspirin. Definite bitter beer face. Some might actually like it, but the bitterness was way to sharp and unbalanced for me.

San Quentin Breakout Stout - A strong offering from Marin Brewing Co., this beer had everything I like in an American stout - a creamy head that lasts, light coffee and chocolate aromas and flavors, and a slightly thicker body. If you see this one around, be sure to give it a try.

Blue Frog Double IPA - As a giant fans of hoppiness done right, I had really high hopes for this one. The best double IPA's that I've have a harmonious blend of malt and hop flavors, and copious amounts of both. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant experience. There was a strange cloyingly sweet maltiness followed by some alcohol heat and some hop bitterness, but these factors seemed to clash rather than compliment. It was okay for a few taster, but would probably become tough to drink after more than that.

So to sum up:
  • Although I didn't talk about them, there were plenty of fantastic beers there. The problem is that I drink them all regularly so I avoided them at the festival. Regardless, it's very apparent that craft beer is growing stronger every year.
  • The uber-hoppiness trend continues to proliferate here on the west coast. However, it apparently takes a lot of skill to balance a real hop monster as a lot of the new hoppier beers I tried weren't so good.
  • I had a fantastic time and will be back again next year, hopefully with more beer club representation!
After the event, I headed to Zeitgeist where they always have quality beer on tap. But that will be a post for another day.

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