It's that time of year again, when brewers from around the city, the Bay, and across Northern California come together to celebrate and sip all manner of hazy IPAs, sour beers, pastry stouts and everything in between.
SF Beer Week had grown into quite the extensive and popular, 10-day, region-spanning affair before the pandemic hit — with the last big and proper opening bash being in February 2020. The opening gala grew over the last decade, ultimately requiring the huge expanse of Pier 35 to accommodate all the breweries and beer fans in attendance, with over 100 breweries showcasing several beers apiece at the event.
The pandemic saw more of a virtual-style event with beer shipments and the like in 2021, and the Omicron surge in the early part of 2022 meant that no opening gala was planned that year, and there were just a series of smaller events. Even in 2023, the Friday opening festivities were split up between regions, and the tasting event was replaced by a smaller-scale, Saturday afternoon thing in Salesforce Park.
Now, though, on Friday (Feb. 9), the real deal is happening again at Pier 35, with 100+ breweries coming. They're selling premium tickets ($275) this year that get you in two hours before the general-admission crowd, at 4 pm. And VIP entry ($140) gets you in at 5 pm. Regular admission, at 6 pm, will run you $95.
"The absence of the Beer Week Opening Gala has left a real hole in Northern California’s beer calendar these last four years, so we’re thrilled to be bringing it back this year," says Joanne Marino, executive director of the Bay Area Brewers Guild. "The industry has gone through a number of changes since the gala last took place in 2020, but we’re excited to have the chance to gather together again and for our members to share their fantastic beers with more than 3,000 attendees."
The event, put on by the non-profit Bay Area Brewers Guild, is always a fascinating look at the state of craft beer through a California lens. While West Coast IPAs are the clearer, more bitter ones, you can be sure you'll see a ton of fruitier, hazy IPAs, which remain all the rage — the Chronicle has a piece today about how all that started. Also, because breweries like to show off for and share with each other, you can expect a lot of beer-geeky experiments, sours, and real oddities that may never make it out of their taprooms.
See the full list of participating breweries here (it's long), and know that familiar names will be mixed in with smaller upstarts and breweries from the far reaches of Santa Cruz County, Tahoe, and elsewhere. And the rest of SF Beer Week will also feature events "as far north as Cloverdale to as far south as Monterey," as organizers say.
Some highlights include Pinballs & Pints at Alameda's Pacific Pinball Museum, which will feature tastings from Mercurius Brewing, Faction Brewing, Copper Microbrewery, and others; the 10th Annual West Coast Craft Can Invitational, which will go down at Devil’s Canyon Brewing Co. in San Carlos; and Mixology Night at San Francisco's Barebottle Brewing Co., which will feature a unique flight of beer cocktails and slushies.
You can check out the roster of events and sort by city/region on the Beer Week website.
SF Beer Week runs from February 9 to February 18, and if you have a favorite local beer bar, chances are they are hosting an event there.
Top photo by Carly Hackbarth