Things to do while counting down towards SF Beer Week

The beer holiday season is upon us!

There was a time when beer festivals were a fixture of the summer months, and a locus of mass-quantities guzzling.  Gatherings that come off like that do still exist, but in recent years several cool divergent trends have emerged:  Stronger, more esoteric, more adventurous and odder craft beers on the one hand, and culinary acceptance with a move to gastropubs and elite beer/food pairings on the other.  Not only does SF Beer Week, the glorious second week of February, offer multiple opportunities to begin or to continue enjoying these trends, but there are several excellent opportunities coming up before that time, while we count the hours.

First, on the indoor and sophisticated end of the spectrum, our favorite local beer educator and Certified Cicerone, Nicole Erny, has announced a guided Belgian beer dinner at the Lafayette Park Hotel on January 29th.  From their announcement:

The Duck Club Restaurant at the Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa invites you to celebrate some of the finest beers of Belgium at a special beer dinner on Friday, January 29th, 2010.  (For reservations call 925-283-7108).

The evening will be hosted by Nicole Erny from the Trappist Belgian & Specialty Beer Bar in Oakland, CA. Nicole is a certified “Cicerone” of beers, similar to a sommelier for wine, with expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers, and she will guide us through this menu and the world of Belgian beers. Executive Chef Chuck Courtney has created a unique menu to pair with an exceptional selection of Belgian beers to demonstrate why this small country has its tremendous beer tradition.

But is it BARTable? Almost… if you arrived in time for a 1.4 mile walk from Lafayette Station, and then returned to the station via taxi, you could probably make this transit option work. We’ll reluctantly sit this one out (as non-meat-eaters) but heartily recommend this Friday evening to the Belgian beer experienced and curious alike. Nicole has a way with describing key flavor characteristics in ways that make beer tasting twice as fun, and she knows the stories behind these legendary old world beers, too.

Next on the list is a new winter festival, the BN Winter Brews Festival, just in case you think SF Beer Week is not soon enough. (BN? Ever seen those stunning hop grenade tee shirts? Those guys.) The intrepid gang of homebrewing podcasters from The Brewing Network is producing an exciting event on the Saturday of the same weekend, January 30, at Linden Street Brewery in Oakland. They promise “winter warmers and unique innovations …and barrels from breweries such as Russian River, Firestone Walker, the 21st Amendment, Speakeasy, Linden St., Moonlight Brewing, Magnolia, and many more.”

This festival includes food and music, from 1pm to 8pm at Linden St. Brewery, 95 Linden Street in Oakland. Sounds wonderful! We like the walk from West Oakland BART to Linden Street by day, but in the evening, calling a cab to get back to BART is recommended. There is a rumor that there will be a shuttle bus operating at least for part of the festival. The area is somewhat desolate at night, though by day the industrial cityscape around Linden Street Brewery is pretty cool. Priced at a modest $25 considering the special beers promised, this should be a worthwhile afternoon.

Linden Street Brewery has been open for less than a year, and has already produced some delicious beers featured at terrific East Bay restaurants and pubs. Linden Street beers explore the West Coast brewing tradition of “common lager” revived by Anchor Steam beer, with hoppy and roasty twists. Founding brewmaster Adam Lamoreaux has hosted homebrewers during the national conference last summer, a cicerone exam study class taught by Nicole Erny, and other special events benefiting the community. So it all ties together, with a big beer holiday bow.

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

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