Brew Ha-Ha

dining_beerSan Francisco Beer Week hits Santa Cruz

With the holiday season behind us, and St. Patrick’s Day still weeks away, you may find that the prevalence of socially acceptable excuses to enjoy large quantities of beer fall flat this time of year. Never fear, for San Francisco Beer Week lets your cup runneth over with more than 300 Northern California events from Feb. 11–20. Locally, food and beer pairings, beer tastings, educational classes and opportunities to talk with brewers ensure it won’t be hard to find a great stout shindig, ale adventure or porter party.

“Being a part of the Bay Area craft-brew scene, we want to bring as much awareness as we can to local crafted beer and how many great styles, brews and events there are in the Bay Area,” says Emily Thomas, one of the owners and brewers of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. The popular venue plans to host four events during the third annual S.F. Beer Week, beginning with a Valentine’s Day Ice Cream Social, a joint effort with Penny Ice Creamery that features coffee porter beer floats and an ice cream made with the brewery’s chocolate chipotle stout. In addition, they pair their pours with sausages from El Salchichero, the farmers’ market charcuterie that opens their retail location on Feb. 11, for Der Weenie Wednesday (Feb. 16), and with a special India Joze menu (Feb. 20), which incorporates beers from around the world into their dishes. Thomas hopes that these events will bring beer off a barstool and into a more versatile light. However, she feels one obstacle in this endeavor is that beer can be intimidating to some women.

“It’s sort of a male-dominated culture,” she explains, “so we have this day where women can come and ask questions.”

The company’s two female brewers, Thomas and Nicole Beattie, lead Strong Women Brew Day on Feb. 19. “Nicole answers questions about home brewing and we have a beer tasting to encourage women to try different flavors and styles,” she adds.

One of the brews they’ll sample is a Belgian-style beer with St. Johnswort, lemon balm, coriander, oranges and hops. “Around the brewery, we call it the Feel Good Wit, because it’s a mood lifter with all that stuff in it,” she says. “Last year we called it Witches’ Wit, but we got in trouble with the Santa Cruz Mountain witches; we got a few troubling messages from them, so we’re looking for a new name.”

While S.F. Beer Week celebrates local breweries, it also places an importance on what the local community is doing with suds from Northern California and beyond. Every month, Ashley Lee and Juliette Pelligrini of burger, the Westside restaurant that boasts dozens of rotating taps, invite a brewery to show off their wares. During S.F. Beer Week, they’re highlighting two breweries, North Coast Brewing Company on Feb. 14 and Deschutes Brewery on Feb. 16. Under the title My Bloody Burger Valentine, sliders with Stilton, blue cheese and Brie meet North Coast Brewing Company’s Brother Thelonius and 12-year-old Old Rasputin, a Belgian-style dark ale and an imperial stout respectively. Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery bring their Mirror Pond pale ale and two selections from their Reserve Series—The Dissident, a sour brown ale, and a 12-year-old Black Butte Porter. Thin crust, wood-fired pizzas, such as the Penny-farthing (anchovy, caper and chili) and Bianchi (roasted asparagus, bell peppers and onions) accompany Deschutes’ offerings.

For those inspired by this bevy of new beverages to try their hand at home brewing, Seven Bridges Cooperative should be the first stop. The brew shop sells only organic ingredients and teaches home-brewing techniques, with two free classes covering brewing basics and bottling on Feb. 12; advanced registration required. For assistant manager Jason Hansen, participating in S.F. Beer Week is as natural as the products he sells. “It coincides with what we’re doing, and it’s a good time to get people interested in home brewing and local craft beer.”

To Emily Thomas, it’s even simpler than that.

“We love beer, and not just

our own.”

For anyone who shares Thomas’ outlook, S.F. Beer Week is not only a stepping stone for teetering between New Year’s Eve and a mug of green beer; it’s a holiday in and of itself. So, raise a glass and Hoppy Holidays to us all.

For more information on S.F. Beer Week call (415) 847-3241 or visit sfbeerweek.org. Experience more at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, 402 Ingalls St. # 27, Santa Cruz, 425-4900, santacruzmountainbrewing.com; Burger, 1520 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 425-5300, burgersantacruz.com; Seven Bridges Cooperative, 325 A River St., Santa Cruz,  454-9665, breworganic.com.

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