February in the San Francisco Bay Area Brings SF Beer Week
Every February, as cool sunny days and intermittent showers turn the Bay Area’s hilly backdrop brilliant green, local brewers strut their finest stuff during an annual ritual known as SF Beer Week. Spanning ten days and encompassing two weekends (thus the misnomer), SF Beer Week celebrates craft beer and the industry’s penchant for creative expression, community and collaboration — in other words, the free-thinking, innovative and open spirit of the region itself.
If you plan to include some craft beer exploration in your itinerary while visiting, check out these SF Beer Week destinations. Except for the Opening Gala itself, the following locations will welcome guests to enjoy their regular tap lists — and community — at other times of the year, too.
EXPERIENCE THE WORLD CLASS SF BEER WEEK OPENING GALA
Sipping on a dock of the Bay — in February? The tapping of 300 plus high profile beers will tempt you to do just that at this internationally renown sampling event within one of San Francisco’s massive working piers on storied Embarcadero. Produced by the Bay Area Brewers Guild, over 100 member breweries come together at this singular occasion to represent the region’s rich craft beer community and showcase their best brews and special releases.
As you enter the pier, you can feel the history in this rare glimpse inside a structure where longshoremen wrangled cargo through decades past. But on February 7, 2020, precious new cargo will arrive in hundreds of shining kegs from the Bay’s creative, scrappy, independent craft breweries. There’s simply nothing like the SF Beer Week Opening Gala.
With so many deftly constructed and delicious brews on tap, you’ll see people maximizing the social spirit of the evening by asking brewers and fellow celebrants alike what to try next. Don’t miss sampling five creative collaboration brews made by groups of brewers from five corners of the greater Bay Area, as they raise a glass to cooperation along with a touch of friendly rivalry.
Food truck fanciers will appreciate excellent examples of the local cuisine on wheels, while games and fun activities — including seeing Sierra Nevada Brewing’s original brew system from 40 years go — round out an incomparable craft beer experience within an historic wharf structure.
Tip: The special occasion factor is high but the dress is comfy-casual, with easy walking shoes advised and home-strung pretzel necklaces optional.
FERRY TO ALAMEDA FOR AN IMMERSION IN BEER WISDOM AND DELIGHT
Eat, drink and delve into local brewing culture on a tour of the Bay’s Alameda Island. Start at the SF Ferry Building, an engaging destination in itself, where you can catch a commuter ferry for one of Rich Higgins’ Beer Immersions, this one exploring Alameda’s Malt, Beer & Barrels. You’ll pass under the Bay Bridge through the estuary, past massive shipping containers at the Port of Oakland and plenty of sweeping city skyline views.
Walking across the former Alameda Naval Air Station, you’ll encounter old military buildings, some lovingly repurposed in service to making exquisite beers. Almanac Beer Co., Faction Brewing Co. and Admiral Maltings, California’s first operating malster in over 40 years, each tell a different chapter in the story of the craft beer renaissance. At Admiral Maltings’ in-house tasting room and pub, The Rake, the fascinating process of transforming California-grown barley into malt for brewing is on display. Next door, at Almanac, ponder the mysteries of making barrel-aged sour beers and juicy modern IPAs as you sample the latest examples. And savor classic West Coast hop expressions on the deck at Faction while you take in one of the least known views of the SF skyline across an old Naval runway, now a dedicated bird sanctuary.
Tip: For serious beer lovers and urban walkers alike, Higgin’s insider tours take these excursions to another level, but you can enjoy the walk and stop for great beers at any time of the year.
ATTEND A FAMILY-FRIENDLY BOB FOSS PAINTING PARTY AT LAUGHING MONK
Off the beaten track, in the industrial southeast corner of San Francisco, you’ll find a small brewery with a playful spirit that takes the stage in their creative special events.The taproom at Laughing Monk Brewing Co. welcomes families during the early part of the evening, and for SF Beer Week, are inviting budding artists of any age to paint along with the legendary super-chill Bob Foss instructional TV show, while the adults in the house sip a newly developed beer to honor “Brother Bob.”
Create your own imaginary landscape during this Bob Foss Painting Party on Feb. 10. What will your painting look like? And what will a Bob Foss beer tribute taste like? The brewers offer no hint, though they do speak of painting “happy little trees.” Laughing Monk’s everyday taplist lineup shows a great deal of variety, so that won’t provide any clues.
Tip: While not known as a walking neighborhood, in daylight, some of the colorful painted warehouses on this block provide unusual selfie backdrops your friends probably have never seen.
FUTURISTIC BREWING: BEERS GONE CRAZY AT BAREBOTTLE
Tucked away on the edge of the Bernal Heights neighborhood is Barebottle Brew Co. During Barebottle Experimental Beer Night, on Monday, Feb. 10, these beer magicians will play with putting a tart fruit beer on a nitro tap (picture those creamy cascading bubbles you’ve seen in Irish stout), engineering a refreshing beer to (safely) glow in the dark, combining crazy culinary herbs in hazy IPAs, and more. The point of this madness is to expand your beer horizons and learn more about how your eyes and taste buds work together. If you prefer to stay in familiar waters, the brewery is known for soft juicy IPAs and crispy lagers that are always available to go or to enjoy on site.
Tip: The top of Bernal Heights hill features glorious sweeping views of the city across the Mission District. Get dropped off at the hilltop park with sturdy footwear in the afternoon, then walk down the steep streets to Barebottle to enjoy audacious brews and a popular food truck.
BEER MY VALENTINE IN THE EAST BAY
Valentine’s Day falls during SF Beer Week, inspiring delectable pairings of flavorful craft beers with artisan chocolates, and you’ll find these events as you peruse the events calendar. But one event that goes over the top — and doesn’t even care if you bring a date — is A Very Viking Valentines at Armistice Brewing in Richmond. Styled as a viking wedding feast, on Saturday, Feb. 15, this ticketed beer dinner provides a complementary plastic viking helmet, a commemorative glass, and a five-course meal paired with specific beers. They also promise “Viking activities including — but not limited to — war cries, boasts, and costume contests.” Don your “pillage-casual attire” and enjoy a unique night out at this otherwise neighborly brewery taproom and beer garden.
Tip: Consider a pre-evening detour to the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park and museum for a glimpse into the women who built warships here during WWII while their male family members went to war.
TAKE A SOUR TURN IN BERKELEY
The Sour Sunday is a festival featuring the most ancient and alluring of beer styles — and the crazy American Wild beers they have inspired! This two-venue Downtown Berkeley festival has presented a world-class exhibition of deliberately tart, sour and barrel-aged “funky” beers for over a decade. The two stops, Jupiter and Triple Rock Brewery, the latter one of the country’s oldest brewpubs, are comfortable food-and-craft-beer destinations with tasty, popular beers the rest of the year. But for The Sour Sunday, they jump into the world of extraordinary and unique beers — some natural and “spontaneous” in their fermentations — for just one day. The event goes on rain or shine, but if the sky is clear, Jupiter’s beer garden setting is a highlight.
Tip: The two brewery bars are only a few blocks apart. Once you get your wristband you can take a break and get a little fresh air by wandering between the venues at any time.
WHERE THE FIRST DOUBLE IPA BEERS TOOK OFF
The most popular craft beer style is the IPA, in its many forms. Each year at The Bistro in Hayward, top IPA producers gather to show off the bigger, burlier versions of this hop-forward style. The Bistro’s Double IPA Festival, the first of its kind anywhere, has been delighting hopheads for two decades. It also served as the coming out party where the famed first Triple IPA, Pliny the Younger, had its debut to the rest of the brewing world. Now this festival features scores of both double and triple IPAs, which you can taste and compare while a professional competition is being judged. Stick around and you’ll see the proud brewers crowned while patrons rush to grab a taste of the winning beers.
Tip: The Bistro is easily walkable from the Hayward BART station. During the rest of the year this cosy bar is known for IPAs and live local bands for a Bay native perspective.
THE MICROBREW REVOLUTION BEGAN HERE
When you visit the San Francisco Bay Area, you are stepping into beer history as well as vibrant, ongoing beer innovation. While SF Beer Week serves to remind us all of that legacy each February, you can explore the scene all year round with the assistance of the Bay Area Brewers Guild’s Drink Bay Beer website.
EXTEND YOUR WEEKEND
Book your stay with Hilton to enjoy more time in the city. Stay with Hilton and enjoy up to 50% off Sunday nights (40% off for non-Hilton Honors members). Take the extra day to explore and do a cruise around the Bay or take in the sights on the classic San Francisco cable cars.