Aftermath of the 3rd Annual SF Beer Week Beer Run

Over a hundred beer runners came together to go for a run and share a beer afterwards.

Approximately 55,000 calories were burned.

Many fine Social Kitchen brews were savored.

New friends were met.  Old acquaintances were reestablished.

Many lucky beer runners took home some great raffle prizes.

Over $200 was raised for Autism Speaks and Contra Costa Food Bank in memory of Bill Brand.

Life is good.

Numerous Raffle Prizes Await Beer Runners at the 3rd Annual SF Beer Week Beer Run

Photo used by permission of Bryan Kolesar of

As if going for a run in Golden Gate Park and then enjoying a great beer at a dollar discount from Social Kitchen and Brewery wasn’t enough, they’ll be plenty of prizes to win in the 3rd Annual SF Beer Week Beer Run post-run charity raffle to benefit  Autism Speaks and the Contra Costa Food Bank in honor of beer writer Bill Brand.   The run starts February 12th, 2012 at 11:00 am, beginning and ending at Social Kitchen and Brewery, 1326 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122. Click here for location.

The generous response from both the brewing and running community has been overwhelming, and we’re pleased to announce the following prizes they’ve made available to several lucky participants.

Social Kitchen and Brewery, which is hosting this official SF Beer Week event will provide a $50 gift certificate to a lucky winner.

On the Run Shoes, located just down the street from Social Kitchen, will provide a pair of Brooks running shoes.

Adventure Sports Journal will provide “Earn Your Beer” t-shirts and other swag.

Additional running gear prizes will be provided by Nike.

Beer run co-founders Bryan Kolesar and Brian Yeager were able to scare up prizes from breweries from their respective cities of Philadelphia and Portland, with the following breweries have denoted prizes in the form of glassware, clothing, trinkets, and yes, beer.

Participating East Coast Breweries
Harpoon (Boston)
Ommegang/Duvel (Upstate NY /  Belgium)
Philadelphia Brewing Co. (Philly)
Dock Street (Philly)
Sly Fox (Philly ‘burbs):
Troegs (Pa.)
Iron Hill (Pa. NJ, Del.)
Victory (Philly ‘burbs)
Participating Portland Area Breweries
Widmer Bros.

And Trumer Brauerei of Berkeley, CA will be throwing in some Frisbees.

Raffle ticket are a dollar each, five dollars will get you 6 tickets, and $20 will get you 25 tickets.

In the words of the late Bill Brand, “I’ll see you there.”

Nifty Session Beers and Rumbling Trains at Social Kitchen and Brewery

Brewmaster Rich Higgins of Social Kitchen and Brewery is probably thankful I’m finally paying him for his beer. I’ve sampled it at a recent beer festivals, at which he likely provided gratis. And while I’ve given him genuine compliments of it at those festivals which he likely appreciates, when it’s time for him to pay his employees or the loans on his brewing equipment, kind words uttered in his direction are not going to do him much good. Linda and I have been meaning to go to Social Kitchen for some time since it opened earlier this year, and we finally got a chance to visit on a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon.

Located just south of Golden Gate Park on 9th street, it’s at the former site of defunct Wunder Beer. I’ve heard talk that this slightly snake-bitten location is not a good one for a brewpub. But maybe because that’s because the area feels like an actual San Francisco neighborhood, rather than the contrived tourist attractions where many of San Francisco brewpubs are found. The periodic rumbling from the Muni trains rolling down 9th street gave the place an authentic urban feel, an acoustic connection to the surrounding city. Dark brown wooden panelling gives the place a somewhat sophisticated look, with the otherwise light and airy interior providing a welcoming feel.

As for the beer, you have salute a place where session beers figure prominently the beer line-up. Social Kitchen didn’t have an Imperial-anything on their tap list that day, and we didn’t miss them at all. One of my favorites is their L’Enfant Terrible, described as a Belgian table beer which has a nice mix of chocolate and roasted malt, with a little fig and a little spicy zip to it. I also enjoyed the Old Time Alt, a robust alt-style beer with a decent amount of rich, roasted malt with a woody character to it.

Of course, Social Kitchen does more than just drinkable session beers. Leave it to a California brewery to call an IPA with 65 IBU, their Easy IPA, which they describe “your friendly, neighborhood IPA”. There’s not much heft to the malt to balance of that floral hop goodness, but the lack of balance works in favor of this brew, which really has a intense, very flavorful floral vibe. Lots of California brewers try to make beers like this, but end up simply socking you in the taste buds with simple, non-descript hop bitterness.

As for the food, I am no food critic and will do my best and try not to pretend to be one here. Linda and I enjoyed the whimsical Brussels Sprout Chips appetizer. It sounds like a kids worst nightmare, but the lightly fried, salted thinly sliced Brussels sprouts was almost as addictive as popcorn. Almost. As for the menu, it’s a notch above simple brewpub fare, but otherwise is pretty accessible and straightforward. Linda and I found our food to be well executed, and really liked the warm neighborhood feel to the place. Call Social Kitchen and Brewery your friendly neighborhood gastro pub.

Finally, for “dessert”, we tried the Dapple Dandy Grand Cru. Made from their Raspcallion Belgian Ale, with a little red ale, and lots of Dapple Dandy pluots, I’m finding it elusive to describe. I appreciate the light touch with the fruit, as the fruit flavors blended with a light clove spiciness, a little sweetness, and a tannic-like bitter finish. I’m not sure this beer totally worked, but give them credit for something creative, complex, and interesting.

I’ll pay Social Kitchen and Brewery perhaps the highest possible compliment by saying I really wish it was in my neighborhood.

A few observations from Brews on the Bay

The Brews on the Bay beer festival, hosted by the San Francisco Brewers Guild is a pretty simple concept. Each member of the guide sets up a few taps along the deck of the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien, a World War II era supply ship permanently docked to a pier in San Francisco’s Fisherman Wharf. Before you climb the stairs to enter a ship, they give you a plastic cup. For four hours, you walk around to the various brewer stations on the ship’s deck, and ask the servers to fill your cup with one of their selections on tap. When you get tired of walking around the ship, drinking beer, and enjoying great views of San Francisco from the ship, you leave. Or, 5 pm rolls around, and they kick you the ship. Oh, and there was a Van Halen cover band this year, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

It’s a good opportunity to see what the many great San Francisco breweries are up to. And like any good beer festival, there’s a few brewers around, most of whom will gladly tell you about there beer, and are also good for picking up a home brewing tip here and there. A while plenty of breweries poured there tried and true brews, there were enough specials and seasonals pouring to make it interesting. Here’s a few random observations from that afternoon.

21st Amendment poured their new Imperial IPA, Hop Crisis. One would think the Bay Area needs another big Imperial IPA like most people need another hole in their head, but if you tasted this one, you’d likely disagree. It’s big and powerful, with a strong strong hop vibe, but makes it work is its sturdy malt character that provides a good balance and almost viscous mouth feel to this brew. 21st Amendment plans to release it in four-pack cans this coming spring. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be looking for it.

Social Kitchen & Brewery made their Brews on the Bay debut. I was rather fond of their Rapscallion, a pretty intense Belgian Ale with a zippy ginger-like aromatic spiciness and light apricot notes. Their Big Muddy Weizenbock has plenty of roasty malt, some banana-like esters, and a little clove like spicy vibe to it. I need actually go to their brew pub and actually purchase some of their beers.

-Also enjoyed Rum Runner from Thirsty Beer. It’s got a lot of molasses in it, as well a 120L Crystal Malt, and British Aromatic Malt. It’s lightly sweet, malty and molassessy. (Is “molassessy” a word?) If you ask me, molasses in beer is way under rated, and I’ve got to love a beer with “Runner” in the title.

Since I’m having some problem with my camera, I decided to use a picture for last year’s Brew’s on the Bay, just in case anyone would actually notice.

The Session #43: The craft brewing industry is indeed welcoming. How long will that last?

For this month’s Session, Carla Companion, The Beer Babe has asked us to write about welcoming the new kids, the new breweries, into the craft brewing community. Here’s what I have to say about that.

Social Kitchen & Brewery opened in San Francisco this year, and I finally got to sample some of their beer at last weekend’s Eat Real Festival in Oakland. Social Kitchen Brewmaster Rich Higgins is well known in the Bay Area, having organized this year’s SF Beer Week , and has received plenty of outward support from the close knit Bay Area brewing fraternity. One of the great things about beer festivals is you can actually talk to the brewers about their beer, and Rich Higgins poured some of his L’Enfant Terrible, which he describes as a table Belgian Ale. I found it to be a great mix of slightly chocolaty roasted malt, a little fig, and a clove-like finish. It checks in at only 4.5% abv, proving once again, there’s some really flavorful, complex, yet drinkable session beers out there.

How should the craft brewing community welcome Rich Higgins and his brewpub Social Kitchen? I’m afraid I do not have any particular deep insights into that, but a wild guess is that if members of the craft brewing community actually actually purchased Rich Higgins’s beer, he’d probably feel pretty welcome.

What strikes me about this month’s topic about the craft beer community welcoming new breweries is very much in the spirit of the extremely chummy craft beer industry. In virtually every other industry, new entrants are rarely welcomed, and often scorned. But when new craft breweries open, there’s often plenty of support from the regional craft brewing industry, who seemingly do not view this new entrant as a competitor.

There’s always room for new players with the craft beer pie growing robustly despite a deep recession and glacial economic recovery. And since the craft beer community seems unified against the global mega brewers, the enemy of my enemy is my friend seems to apply here. But how many new breweries can the industry sustain before the craft brewing fraternity no longer considers the new guy a fellow craft beer evangelist, but another guy trying to take their money?

The success of craft brewing has inevitably and unavoidably created larger and more corporate entities entering into the business, especially as the older brewing pioneers ride off into the sunset of retirement. And while many of these corporation organizations seem committed to continuing the legacy and quality of craft brewing, they do have investors to answer to, who are not as driven by concepts like “support your local brewer”, as they are on things like “return on investment”, and it’s hard not to conclude this warm fuzzy feeling of “we’re all in this craft brewing thing together” will invariably end.

When will all these feel good vibes within the craft brewing industry be lost? Who knows. The current levels of growth may be sustainable for a long time to allow new breweries plenty of elbow room. And maybe there is something about brewing great beer that minimizes a sense of cut throat competition. But craft brewing is a business. And there are plenty of brewers who are demonstrably true to their craft, while also being shrewd, ambitious, and in some cases, ego-driven businessmen working hard to grow their small empires, and delivering a few bruises as they fight for tap handles, shelf space, and mindshare comes with that territory. I’ve already heard of a few grumblings from smaller craft breweries about strong arm sales tactics of the larger craft beer players. Call me a pessimist, but my guess is that 5, 10, or 20 years from now, the craft brewing industry won’t be nearly as friendly as it is now.

The craft brewing industry is indeed a welcoming industry. Enjoy it while it lasts.