Some will call it a sacrilege. Others will call it a sign of our calorie-conscious times. But for the first time since its inception, SF Beer Week's opening gala will feature a handful of the beer industry's most controversial new competitor beverage, hard seltzer.
Tickets are still available for Friday's main event at Pier 35, which is the kickoff to the 10-day Bay Area-wide bonanza of SF Beer Week. And it's a big, warehouse-sized sampling party featuring nearly every brewery of note (125 in all) in all of Northern California. For those who are familiar with fests like Denver's Great American Beer Festival, the Friday opening gala is kind of like that, only all local. (There are occasionally visits from the world of Big Beer, but you won't find huge activations or fancy booths from the likes of Budweiser or Coors.)
It's a fun time because brewers tend to bring small batches of stuff they make to show off for each other, and the results are always interesting, and sometimes fantastic.
The almost-full list of beers being poured at tomorrow's event is here (click the Opening Gala box to sort for just those), and they include some already intriguing-sounding brews like the Popsicle Stand from Half Moon Bay Brewing (a blended sour ale with tangerine and lime); Strawberry Oblivion from SF's own Cellarmaker (a barrel-aged sour ale made with strawberries); Canyon Lakes Brewery's Thaitleist Experience (an IPA with Thai basil and grapefruit); Alpha Acid's Gummi Bear Juice (a juicy IPA made with gummy bears that made an appearance last year); and Ale Industries' Hopless Romantic (a gruit — beer bittered with tea instead of hops — barrel aged in white wine barrels with hibiscus and rose water).
Also, old-school lager brewery Trumer will, for the first time, be debuting its Doppelbock.
A rep for SF Beer Week says that festival-goers should expect, as always, to encounter a hundred or so IPAs, with hazy New England-syle IPAs (NEIPAs) now being must-haves on many breweries' lists. And craft lagers are continuing to make a big comeback, with many breweries playing around with the style.
And, as always, Russian River Brewing will be bringing its cult-beloved Pliny the Younger triple IPA, which will, as always, draw the longest lines for pours.
Who will dare to bring hard seltzer to this big beer geek affair? We shall have to wait and see.