How to Survive & Get the Most out of the SFBW Opening Gala

22 Jan

Last year was my first San Francisco Beer Week, and my favorite event was the Opening Gala (and I took the week off of work, so I attended quite a few events!). No other event matched the amount of brewers and beers to try, as well as the excitement and enthusiasm of the attendees. Therefore, I thought I would provide some tips on how to survive and get the most out of the wonderful event for yourself.

  1. Pace Yourself! 

    The opening gala is a staggering 4 hour event! It is advisable not to go too crazy at the start and burn out only halfway through. Keep in mind that it would be impossible to try all of the beers at the event (with over 65 breweries pours, and each one likely bringing many beers! ). I would advise everyone to take their time and enjoy all of the beers they get to try. Even at a pace of 1 sample every 10 minutes, you will get to try almost 25 beers, which is not a trivial number for a single evening!

  2. Keep Your Stomach Full as Well

    Your focus will be on keeping your glass full, but too much beer on an empty stomach can make for an unpleasant evening (as I assume many of us have learned the hard way!). Try to grab something to eat before heading over to the gala so that you are not starting off the event hungry. Then sometime around the middle of the event, take a break and grab something to eat to help to keep yourself going strong!

  3. Water is Just as Important as Beer

    Keep in mind a you are at the event, that many of the beers are stronger than your average Pale Ale, and that will add up over the night. Make sure to mix in some water along the way to stay hydrated throughout the event. At the bare minimum, it will help you wake up strong the next morning to get a good start to the weekend festivities.

  4. Seek Out New Breweries

    Try to seek out some breweries that you have never heard of before or might not have the chance to try otherwise. For example, if you don’t plan to find yourself down in Santa Cruz anytime soon, try out Sante Adairius Rustic Ales at the event, and you will not be disappointed. The north bay is not often spoken of with such beer praise as San Francisco, but there are some guests including Belltane, 101 North, HenHouse, and Mill Valley that are doing their part to change that opinion. The other great thing about the newer breweries is that they will likely have shorter lines, meaning less waiting and more time to talk to the brewers. Just because you have never heard of a brewery, does not mean that they don’t brew your new favorite beer!

  5. Take a Moment to Take It All In

    At some point during the event, take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to be a part of the Bay Area beer scene. The event really shows off the number of breweries, as well as the variety of beers that are available in the area. From pale ales and IPAs, to German beers, to Barrel Aged and Sour beers, we pretty much have it all! Not many other regions can put on event quite like this one, so take a second to take that all in.

Beer Math #1 Ft. Evil Twin/Omnipollo Russian Roulette

16 Jan

I know beer and math are not topics that are discussed together often, but I thought it would be fun to start this offbeat series on trying to mend that gap a bit and bring in some neat concepts and ideas.

This first post will use a recent beer to launch into the topic. Evil Twin and Omnipollo collaborated on a beer they called Russian Roulette that had a twist. There were actually two different beers brewed, an IPA and a Black IPA, and idea is they were both bottled in the same bottle, with the same label. This meant that you did not know which one you had until you popped the cap. This made me think of a sort of probability problem, not dissimilar to the Martingale betting system.

In the Martingale system, a player first choses a bet that has a near 50-50 chance of success, such as red/black on a roulette table. The strategy begins by betting a small amount, and then with each successive loss doubling their bet so that an eventual win will recover all of their losses and net them a profit. However, as anyone who has ever tried this system will eventually find out, there are problems that occur. More specifically, an event that has a 50-50 chance, does not guarantee that a event is guaranteed to occur. If you need proof for yourself, see how many times you can flip a tails on a coin without a heads coming up. Now, think about having to double your bet for each of those tails. Unless you have an infinite wallet (in which case, can you take me out for some drinks?), you will eventually run yourself bankrupt.

Getting back to beer here, this idea tangentially came to mind when I was thinking about picking up some bottles of the Russian Roulette. More specifically, I was thinking “How many bottles would I have to buy to guarantee that I get to try both of these beers?” The answer to that question is of course an infinite number of bottles(and no, you cannot really tell which one it is by holding i up to the light…). However, you can use statistics to answer the similar question of “How many bottles would I have to by to give myself a 75% chance of getting to try both beers?” Here is where the math comes in. Skipping over some of the details, the buying of these beers (and the later drinking of them!) turns out to be what are called Bernoulli trials, and we can use that idea to answer that question. I will put some wikipedia links at the end to fill in the details, but the results turn out to:

To be 50% sure I will get both beers, I need to buy 2 bottles.
To be 75% sure I will get both beers, I need to buy 3 bottles.
To be 90% sure I will get both beers, I need to buy 5 bottles.

And so on. As you can see, if you want to increase you chances of getting both beers, you need to buy quite a few bottles. And at around $13 a pop, even though I wanted to get both, the quick math I did above quickly justified just buying one and dealing with the results. And spoiler alert, mine was a Black IPA.

Links for those looking for some more information:

Best New Places to Enjoy Beer in 2012

29 Dec

With the new year rapidly approaching, it is hard to look back on the past year in beer and not agree that it was a fantastic year in beer for the Bay Area (and just about everywhere else as well!). One of the best parts of any year is getting to try out all of the new locations that open up throughout the year. For my first post on my new site, I thought it would be fun to write about my favorite new places that I enjoyed some beer at in 2012. I hope that you make it your new years resolution to try as many of these places as you can in 2013, and I hope that you enjoyed them as much as I did. (Note, these are in no particular order).

Hops & Hominy (@hopsandhominy)

1 Tillman Place, San Francisco, CA 94108

Probably the best example of a everyday restaurant on this list, Hops & Hominy has a great southern focused menu that pairs extremely well with their (mostly) California focused beer menu. Even with only eight taps at any given time, the beer list always covers the full spectrum of beer styles, with any small gaps left over filled in by their well curated bottle list. It is also pretty common to see at least one or two beers get kicked and replaced during your meal, guaranteeing that the beer coming out of the taps is about as fresh as can be. Watch out for these guys during SFBW in 2013, as they will have some great beer dinners to flesh out your schedule.

St. Vincent (@StVincentSF)

1270 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110

Known mainly as a wine lovers destination, Sayre Piotrkowski insures that the beer lover has just as much of a reason to check this place out. Like Hops & Hominy, this place also has eight taps focused on local craft beer with Linden Street, Dying Vines, Craftsman, Moonlight, and Ale Industries consistently on the list. In addition, for those looking to try some non-CA beer, the bottle list is a well curated selection of international beers covering many European styles. The food menu is also fantastic for those looking for a full meal, as well as a great selection of cheese and desserts for those looking for a smaller after-dinner affair (the Milk and Honey is a personal favorite of mine).

Cervecería de MateVeza (@CerveceriaSF)

3801 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

One of two breweries on this list, MateVeza really impressed me the one time I got to visit this year during a Meet the Brewers SFBG (San Francisco Brewers Guild) Event. The thing that impressed me most about the location is the small-batch experimental beers that I got to try while I was there. There were at least four beers that were as full of creativity as they were fantastic. From their experimentation with Yerba Mate and yeasts to their confidence in making great hoppy beers, I left there a very satisfied beer fan. Next time I make it over there, I look forward to another couple beers and a great empanada to match.

Dark Horse Inn (@DarkHorseSF)

942 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

Those familiar with this location will call me out on the fact that they did not open in 2012 (they had their 1st Anniversary party not too long ago), but I feel this location has gotten far less attention then they deserved, so I wanted to include them on this list. With nine taps constantly flowing, and a very reasonably priced bottle list, this is a great place to grab some beers that is also reasonable on the wallet. The food is great as well hitting that Pub-style food category just right (I cannot visit without getting the fried pickles). They rotate their taps very often, but it is easy to keep up with them on BeerMenus, and a quick glace shows that they know their beer. Kudos as well for getting some great Los Angles beer that you will not find anywhere else in the Bay Area.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (@santeadairius)

102 Kennedy Drive, Capitola, CA

For the second time on this list I will cheat a bit, but I guarantee this one is worth your while. Down a bit past Santa Cruz, of the the Greater Bay Area’s most interesting breweries opened this year. I visited them once last year, and to say I was impressed would be a severe understatement. They had six beers on tap, most of which were complex blends and barrel aged beers, all of which were just plain fantastic. I was shocked at the quality and breath of beers available to try on day one! And if my word is not good enough, they gained some good attention at The Bistro’s Barrel Aged Festival this year winning the People’s Choice Award. This brewery is well worth a trip down to Santa Cruz by itself, and I hope that some of their beer makes it up to San Francisco for SFBW 2013.


Belltane Brewing (@BeltaneBrewing)

401-B Bel Marin Keys Blvd, Novato, CA 94949

The latest brewery to open in the Bay Area, I am a bit embarrassesed to admit that I did not make it to brewery after their formal opening in December. However, based on the sneak peak I had of their beer earlier in the year, it is high on my list for places to visit in 2013, and I feel it should be on your list as well. The beers that I got to try covered a great deal of breath from DIPA to Sours, and hit darn good marks in all categories between. These guys were left out of SFBW 2012 due to the loss of the Nanobreweries of Tomorrow 2012 event, but look out for them in 2013, as I assume that they will be making up for lost time.


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