This may come as a shock to those of you who think every week is Beer Week, but some folks try to emphasize the wonderful world of craft beer just a little bit more during certain times of the year.
We’re already starting to hear chatter about Sacramento Beer Week in late February, but first things first. San Francisco Beer Week is Jan. 22-31 and is well worth checking out. You’ll find great Bay Area beer at dozens of events. The well-organized website, sfbeerweek.org, lists many of them, including beer dinners, pairings, meet the brewers and more. The big opening gala is $80, features 100-plus breweries and is expected to sell out.
More and more, you’re bound to encounter Sacramento-area craft breweries in the thick of things, telling their stories and getting their beers in the hands of new Bay Area consumers.
Among those will be Auburn Alehouse, which has been involved with San Francisco Beer Week the past four years. According to the brewery’s website, it has more than 100 accounts in the Bay Area. The brewery has been thriving and its reputation has been growing, thanks in part to its gold medal (and two bronze) at the Great American Beer Festival for Gold Country Pilsner.
Auburn Alehouse recently did a test run of the pilsner in cans and is about to do its first run in 22-ounce bottles. You can also find this terrific beer on tap at many spots around town.
Another Auburn brewery, Knee Deep, will also be participating in San Francisco Beer Week. It’s all part of growing the brand. Owner Jerry Moore tells me the brewery just started selling in Connecticut and will be in Texas in a month. That brings the tally to 16 states and two Canadian provinces.
Knee Deep has had its share of growing pains. Founder and brewmaster Jeremy Warren left the company last summer and is expected to launch Revision Brewing in the weeks ahead. I’ve already tasted the terrific pale ale collaboration he did with Bike Dog a few weeks back. According to Revision’s Facebook page, Warren will be at it again, collaborating with a soon-to-be-identified Bay Area brewery in time for S.F. Beer Week.
Knee Deep’s brewmaster these days is Dean Roberts, who has been with the company for three years and leads a team of four brewers. Knee Deep now has 31 employees. That number is sure to grow. Based on demand for West Coast-style IPAs, Knee Deep has just made its first shipment to Australia.
Asked if Knee Deep’s identity will change in Warren’s absence, Moore said the brewery will always be known for its hoppy, full-flavored IPAs, along with some experimental styles to balance out the tasting options.
It appears the highly anticipated Sactown Union Brewery is on the verge of brewing beer and should be ready for the grand opening of its tasting room just before Beer Week – Sacramento Beer Week, that is. The large mural in the tasting room by Sacramento artist Shaun Burner is finished and is sure to be a conversation piece once the brewery opens.
The first beers will be a Kolsch called Hashtag and an IPA dubbed Something Wicked, according to partner and CEO Quinn Gardner. We’re expecting big things, especially with this Kolsch. Brewmaster and partner Michael Barker has plenty of experience with this style, winning two gold medals at the World Beer Cup and a gold at the Great American Beer Festival. Watch for Argonaut Brewing and Big Sexy Brewing to open soon after Sactown Union.
I’ve had plenty of terrific beers lately. Among the standouts is an elegant barrel-aged lager from Mad Fritz Brewing in St. Helena. In addition to a frothy head that rose well above the rim of the glass, this beer had a complexity and smoothness that made it stand out.
I asked brewer and owner Nile Nacherle about the extra-lively foam, and he replied in an email, “We have been dialing back the CO2, as many folks are used to the standard pour versus the Belgian experience, which usually has a much higher (CO2) and a more technical or gentle pour approach. … Rather than educate many, it’s better to pull back the CO2 levels.” Mad Fritz is an appointment-only brewery and is well worth the trip to St. Helena for a personal tasting with Zacherle.
I also got to taste the Stone/Sierra Nevada collaboration I mentioned two weeks ago. Called NxS, it’s no surprise that it is a super-hoppy IPA and is well-crafted. It’s an intriguing blend of two barrel-aged IPAs and a fresh batch of IPA. My first sip did not reveal signs of barrel-aging on my palate. But subsequent tastes seemed to build a layering of flavors that made the piney and citrusy notes pop. Its bitterness was noteworthy, but I found it very drinkable and food-friendly.