Get ready, beer-lovers! More than 100 San Francisco breweries and pubs are preparing for SF Beer Week (Feb. 6-15, 2009), which will celebrate the early roots of today's modern Renaissance in artisan beers.
According to the classic 1911 book by John P. Arnold, Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of Brewing Science and Technology, beer is the oldest and most widely-consumed alcoholic beverage in the world--and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea. The fact that the word beer comes from the Latin word bibere, to drink, is indication of its broad appeal.
Brewing in the United States peaked in the 1870s with 4,131 breweries throughout the nation. Traditionally, Bavaria, Germany, England and Belgium were at the forefront of the world's beer brewing. But since the U. S. craft beer movement began in the 1960s, America, and specifically California, has been the center of brewing innovation and quality.
In San Francisco, an American craft beer movement actually began as far back as the 19th Century; at one time the city--with about 50 breweries--was the brewing center of the west. When prohibition ended, though, little was left of the San Francisco movement. Then, in 1965, Fritz Maytag rescued Anchor Brewing, bringing the faltering industry to life. Today there are more than 1,400 small craft- or micro-breweries. Northern California alone has more breweries than most states and enjoys an unrivaled reputation for the quality and diversity of its craft beer.
Micro-breweries worked with a new strategy: rather than competing on the basis of price or advertising, they vied over inherent product characteristics. They emphasized the freshness of locally produced beer; they experimented with much stronger malt and hop flavors; they tried new and long-discarded brewing recipes, often reintroducing American beer styles from the past. For example, Maytag used West Coast hops instead of English hops...and West Coast IPA was born. Now British and Belgian brewers use West coast hops.
San Francisco's 10-day celebration will showcase Bay Area brewing heritage with up to 150 events. The week will be anchored by the Bistro Double IPA Festival and the Toronado Barleywine Festival, ending with a new, full-blown Bay Area Beer Festival. In between will be beer dinners, cheese/beer pairing and other gourmet food events, special releases, meet -the-brewer evenings, homebrewing demonstrations, music, films, and even a museum exhibition exploring Bay Area brewing history.
Many local breweries and pubs will contribute to the event, including Magnolia, the 21st Amendment, and Toronado. The Alembic will feature brewers who distill fine spirits and focus on beer cocktails. Gordon Biersch will host a Bavarian Beer Breakfast showcasing Hefeweizen, considered by some to be the most authentic style of German beer.
Events are listed on the SF Beer Week Web site. For accommodations, visit the San Francisco Convention & Visitor Bureau’s Web site.