Famous Floating Festival Returns

The annual Brews on the Bay beer festival at Fishermans’ Wharf in SF is unique in several of its features.  It’s all-City, completely local — now with nearly 30 SF breweries expected.  Who knew we’d get 30 breweries just within the City of SF itself?  But more astonishing, it’s on the Jeremiah O’Brien, a legendary Liberty Ship that still floats today thanks for volunteers who keep things shipshape.

Liberty Ships were built in the Bay Area to win WWII. You can get shown around during the fest if you dig history and engineering.  Or just hang on deck enjoying a band and tasting an amazing array of beers.  The Bay view from the deck is stunning. And this fest usually features excellent San Francisco Food trucks dockside. This Saturday the food tasting may be as good as the beer tasting.

All on Saturday Sept. 17!  Tix at the door, or grab them now:  See you there.

We’ve got some fond memories:


P.S. If you are like a lot of locals who avoid Fishermans’ Wharf, this is an excuse to take that historic streetcar line, the “F,” from the Ferry Building near Embarcadero BART, and rumble down to the Liberty Ship.  It’s also a pleasant walk.


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

Farewell to Barclays, Welcome to The Cooler

One of the first places we sought out to explore interesting beers was a little restaurant and beer bar below grade off College Avenue in Oakland’s Rockridge area.  Over the years, we dropped by, took pictures like the one below, hung out with friends and eventually tried dozens of beers. One visit to Barclays using BART gave us the idea to list craft beer destinations near BART stations, leading to the Beer By BART website, and many adventures including writing for The Celebrator and other publications.

There wasn’t anyplace quite like Barclay’s, though it seemed as if there should have been. The food was pretty much straight-ahead pub fare.  Many a plate of fish and chips or a burger satisfied kids and adults between dart games and perusal of the deep beer list.   Plaques and mugs hung on the walls to honor regulars past and present.  Now and then a special meal by nearby resident Bruce Paton raised the culinary game.

The last special dinner was last weekend. The establishment was a casualty of rising rents.  Tonight the word is that people will hang out together until the beer is gone.  And then, the community that found home there will evaporate into the night.


Barclay's 1
Barclay's 3a






Goodbye, Barclays.Barclay's 2a







A Cooler Way to Go

There are many new venues opening, and perhaps, if we are lucky, some of them may come to provide the kind of home Barclays created for regulars and visitors.  One new gathering place that deserves a visit is The Cooler, the new project in San Leandro’s downtown, on East 14th Street.  It’s an easy, flat walk from BART, under half a mile and under ten minutes for most on foot.  We wrote up a description of The Cooler here.

arne-coolerIndustry veteran Jeff Botz, Marin Brewing Company Brewmaster Arne Johnson, and their partner, Eric Keyes, have got The Cooler up and running as a comfortable destination with a fine array of beers you can see on their website.

In this picture, taken just before the opening, Arne is fitting out the draft systems at The Cooler with easy connectors he cleverly customized, so that changing kegs in their roomy cold box area will be simple and swift.

Here’s to new places, new ideas and to remembering the pioneers and the places we first encountered the craft beer community.



Winter Fest becomes Spring Brews Festival 2016

The Brewing Network, the podcasters who had the mojo to become publicans, were slapped with the same dilemma all of us in the SF Bay Area had with the Super Bowl in the winter months. It messed up our winter beer schedules, moving SF Beer Week back onto the new Rate Beer Best celebrations, and making the venerable BN’s January Winter festival simply too schedule-conflicted to make any sense.  The solution?

April of course, and a name change to the Spring Brews Festival 2016. And no foolish messing with the first, this festival comes to town on the second, Saturday 4/2. As always the list of brewers pouring is delightful, but just as important, the BN’s fest brings together old friends along with new faces in a delightful park, Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza, easy walking distance from BART in front of their popular pub, the Hop Grenade. This festival has been better run and more fun each year, and is especially appreciated for Tasty’s Tasting Room, one of the best ways to try top quality homebrewed beers from talented local DIY home brewmasters. From the start, brewing demos were part of the fun, along with seeing our beer community hanging out together.

Looking forward to a verdant vernal version of the now-classic annual festival! It’s been a blast every year.


Grab your tickets and check out the list of brewers. We’ll see you there, if not on BART on the way out!

BARTing to SF Beer Week, an update

First, the Beer By BART update.  We added sixteen New beer destinations to the Beer By BART home page since last beer week.  Even though this is a personal, non-sponsored, non-commercial list, we are finding that after coming up with the fifty-odd super-obvious candidates for visiting and telling your out of town friends about, it is getting harder to decide which additional places to include or exclude from the long list. We now list about 90 destinations not far off BART (or off major MUNI lines in SF).  And there could be more, to be honest.  When we started this site nine years ago with about 20 entries, we were actively considering any place that included IPAs on tap and kept the beer serving lines clean.

We have loved doing this project.  It started us doing freelance writing for Celebrator Beer News, and other outlets.  We have met people, helped people with vacations and pub crawls, gotten into wonderful converations about the growth of the wonderful community, the creative industry and the growing market segment… and are they the same? Sometimes?  What an adventure the rebirth of good beer as turned out to be for California and especially for the people in the BART counties.  Thank you for subscribing (here or at FB or Twitter) and encouraging us! 

Next, about Beer Week.  OK, Gail here. I’m a football hater, so don’t listen to me about that, but it is seriously disruptive in a negative sense to have to move SFBW from February, as the beer goddesses and spirits intended, up into January.  Like, um, today!   But it had to be.  If you doubted, look at the traffic disruptions the Superbowl will cause starting tomorrow. Not after beer week, but on the first Saturday.

Here’s the official page for MUNI stop changes  They say it could get worse, “With set-up and take-down, transportation impacts may extend from January 23 – February 12, with these dates subject to change.” Some sites are saying to avoid Embaradero BART Station until February 12th.  I hope that’s ridiculous, but you may want to change from BART onto MUNI at Mongomery Station instead.

Looking backwards, in 2009 our blogging about the first SF Beer Week was mainly about getting a lovely seat at the Barleywine Fest, now part of craft beer history. Here’s to all the new, exciting traditions we’ll be looking to repeat next year.


The pleasure of tasting with friends endures. Happy SFBW 2016.  See you around the bay!



Faction is brewing up a strong community

Faction hosts the Ales for ALS Beerfest for 2015

Beer drinkers rejoiced over the selection of one-off brews made with an exclusive hop blend when Faction Brewing Co. presented the second invitational Ales for ALS Beerfest.  The fest was part of a broader charity initiative that provided the coveted hops to breweries that pledged $1 per pint from sales of the resulting beers to research amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. On a warm, breezy August Saturday in Alameda, Calif., the event lived up to its promise as a destination festival. The Ales for ALS Beerfest attracted more than 1,500 beer lovers who swarmed the brewery to enjoy live music, food trucks, a raffle and outstanding brews.

Ales for ALS is an annual project founded by hop growers Mike and Cheryl Smith, third-generation hop farmers in Yakima, WA. The couple knows the face of the debilitating failure of nerves and muscles brought by ALS all too well.

“My dad died of ALS, my 54 year-old brother has ALS now, as well as a cousin and an uncle,” explained Cheryl.  “Six out of eight kids in my father’s generation died of ALS.”

“When my brother was diagnosed, we just began thinking we had to get busy raising money to find some kind of treatment or cure.”

Get busy is just what they did. Their Loftus Ranches are best known for developing varieties such as Simcoe®, Citra®, Mosaic® and Equinox. To raise funds, Loftus partnered with Hopunion hop supply company to offer a proprietary blend of experimental and hard-to-get hops to participating breweries, to support the ALS Therapy Development Institute, a major research organization working on a cure.

Initially the Smiths selected the breweries, but now brewers come to them. Mike Smith said, “it’s really touching, because every volunteer brewery has a family member, friend or colleague who has ALS.”

Last year Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River Brewing Co.) selected the hops with Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) and John Mallett (Bell’s Brewery).

This year Mallett returned. Ken Grossman brought his son, Brian Grossman. Cilurzo nominated Rob Kent (Bear Republic Brewing Co.) and Julian Shrago (Beachwood BBQ Brewing) in his place. Although Equinox and Mosaic® have names now, these recent graduates of the breeding program were included this year. Five as yet unnamed, experimental hops also made the mix. (291, 260, 344, 438 and 522, for those keeping score at home.)

Kent poured Bear Republic’s Red Racer IPA for ALS at the fest. He said it was an honor to choose the hops. “The selection process involved the ‘rub,’ which is squeezing and rubbing hops between your hands to heat up the lupulin to release its aromatics,”  Kent explained. “At this point there was debate about which hops make the cut. There were many good varieties to choose from. They ranged from fruity to earthy.”  

Most breweries brought one-off IPAs and hoppy beers, but there were stylistic surprises, such as a dry-hopped sour from The Rare Barrel, and a Brettanomyces-fermented interpretation from Cellarmaker Brewing Co.

Night-shift brewer Molly O’Brien got to formulate her first professional recipe, a saison, for this year’s version at Drake’s Brewing Co. “When I logged on to the ALS site, everyone was kind of doing pale ales and IPAs. And I love IPAs, but I wanted to do something different,” she said.  

View of San Francisco from Faction Brewing on Alameda Island. Photo by Gail Ann Williams
View of San Francisco from Faction Brewing on Alameda Island. Photo by Gail Ann Williams

Faction’s founders and festival hosts Rodger Davis and Claudia Pamparana poured their elegant imperial pale ale interpretation of Ales for ALS.  “The ALS beer was the very first beer we brewed at Faction and released in September of 2013,” said Pamparana. By the time the second Ales for ALS hops blend shipped, Davis and Pamparana had volunteered Faction as the festival site.

According to the Smiths, last year, 68 breweries got hops, and donations more than doubled from the prior year to $325,000. This year, after the accounting is done, 89 breweries in 25 states expect to combine donations with proceeds from the festival to again more than double last year’s contribution. Faction’s donation totaled $44,000.

Davis, too, has personal connections to ALS.  He’s made friends with Corey Reich, a Piedmont High School tennis coach who was diagnosed several years ago and has beaten the odds so far. Davis invited Reich to the event at his brewery, where Reich enjoyed the festival in his wheelchair.

While there’s still no way to halt this usually fatal disease, as the ALS Therapy Development Institute website reminds us, “ALS is not an incurable disease. It is an underfunded one.”

How to visit Faction

Donate to Ales for ALS

(This story was originally written for Celebrator Beer News, which comes out every other month on paper, by Gail and Steve in collaboration. Mike Condie submitted cool photos as well. Publishing works in mysterious ways, however. So, here it is electronically at Beer By BART instead. )

Pink boots, pink beards, and extra pix

The most recent issue of the Celebrator Beer News, still on the stands now (by which we mean some copies may be still sitting in bales or in paper racks around select craft beer destinations for your classic tactile page-turning enjoyment), includes excerpts from an interview with local women in the beer industry, members of the Pink Boots Society, in our regular column about beer in the City of San Francisco.

At the most recent Bay Area Pink Boots meetup, I realized not everybody who’d been part of the interview had seen it. Here’s how: You can go straight to the second half of our SF Beer Scene column to find the story directly. Find out if you are or could become a “Pink Beard.” Learn more about an emerging annual international women’s brewing event. (Since the publication of the Celebrator story, Tiffany has joined Berkeley’s cool new Fieldwork Brewing Company, by the way.)

(The first half of that SF Beer Scene column is about Sunset Reservoir, the new brewpub way out in the Sunset District of FS launched by Hilary Cherniss, with beers by former Russian River brewer Aaron Weshnak. Flip though entire issues online at celebrator.com/issues.)

One of the frustrating things about writing for publication is that we often end up with more amazing material than can fit. So here are some extra photos from the lead up to writing about the Pink Boots brew day, and some unused quotes I loved from a wonderful conversation with with Tiffany McFarland, Cat Wiest and Summer Huff at Speakeasy at the release party. Cat led the collaboration brew day, as explained in the article. Her adventurous background as a commercial Alaskan fisherman and a pro roller derby competitor contribute to her enthusiastic approach to brewing, and she has many stories that should be told.

There is also a sweet shot sent along by Denise Ratfield from San Diego, who we quoted in the Celebrator article about her role in helping female brewers in Mexico participate in the international event. Very cool.

So here we go. A little bit of the rest of the story.

The log for the Pink Boots brew day, in pink ink.
The log for the Pink Boots brew day, in pink ink.
Brewer Cat Wiest leads a tour and offers fermenter samples
Brewer Cat Wiest offers fermenter samples to her Pink Boots colleagues.

Cat Wiest on getting into the industry:

“During the deepest depression of one of my bouts of unemployed, Winter 2011-2012, I read an article about women brewers in Bitch Magazine, called ‘We’re Here, we’re beer, get used to it.’ I decided to make beer my job. I homebrewed like that was the only job I had, and then I actually got a job at a commercial brewery about six months later.”

PB event sign

Cat Wiest and Tiffany McFarland celebrate the brew
Cat Wiest and Tiffany McFarland celebrate the brew

Tiffany McFarland on spreading the word about the Pink Boots Society:

“Going to events out in public, people will ask what we are doing in pink Wellingtons. Then people are blown away when they hear about it.”

Cat Wiest and Summer Huff with the finished beer
Cat Wiest and Summer Huff with the finished beer

Summer Huff on experiencing a full professional brewday:

“Before, working here, I didn’t feel comfortable walking into the brewhouse. As confident as I am as a human and a woman! Brewing together was like a Rosetta Stone. Now I understand how to ask questions and I will talk to brewers. It’s opened up my mind so much.”

Denise Ratfield and Mexican brewer Laura Estela Garcia drinking Chicali Unite Red Ale  from  Cerveceria Tres B in Mexicali, Mexico.  (Photo by Diego Castillón. of La Cronica newspaper In Mexicali)
Denise Ratfield and Mexican brewer Laura Estela Garcia drinking Chicali – Unite red Ale from Cerveceria Tres B in Mexicali, Mexico.
(Photo by Diego Castillón. of La Cronica newspaper In Mexicali)

The international Pink Boots Society recently circulated word of debilitating brewing accident that struck Kerry Thomas, a brewer from Idaho who could use some help from the beer community in her recovery from massive burns. And on a completely different, beery and cheery note, they are offering a raffle fundraiser for a cool sounding trip to Germany. Check it out.

the beer itself

(Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Gail Ann Williams)

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

Sought-after 10% B.A.R.T. beer has BART (the transit agency) crying trademark “dilution”

Our local regional transit agency is trying to block a California brewery’s US trademark application for a respected and highly rated barrel-aged beer called “B.A.R.T.”

According to Eater, Bay Area Rapid Transit has protested FiftyFifty Brewing Company’s attempts to register B.A.R.T. as the name of this 7+ year old brand. This bourbon-barrel-aged blended whale of an ale is a variation on the acclaimed barrel-aged imperial stouts made by the brewery in Truckee, California. FiftyFifty has long been saying that the name stands for “Barrel Aged, Really Tasty,” and that it was an encoded tribute to a beloved dog, Bart, that had died recently back when the brew was first created.

image of fifty-fifty brewer/blender
Rockstar bourbon-barrel beer blender Todd Ashman and his dad, at a FiftyFifty event in 2013

FiftyFifty recently applied for a federal trademark on this beer in order to start selling B.A.R.T. out of state as well as here. No wineries or other beverages seem to pose confusion in branding, and so one might expect the trademark to be granted.

BART (the transit agency) has turned their legal representatives on the mountain brewery, filing a protest with the feds that says granting a federal trademark is “likely to cause and will cause dilution of the distinctive quality of [BART’s] Marks.” It’s easy to be cynical and attribute this to a legal staff that is looking for billable hours, but there could be other forces at play.

To be fair, let’s keep an open mind.
Perhaps this action explains the old mystery of why the transit system closes early, before bar time, “for maintenance purposes.” Perhaps BART (the transit agency) is planning to make strong, barrel aged beers of their own. Perhaps barrels are being aged in the tube, under the Bay. There are walkway corridors that are nearly never needed, and the temperature would stay quite cool. It explains why the trains don’t run all night, so that sampling and barrel-tending can go on. The maintenance is on the brews!

If this is so, then the objection that was filed could make sense. We hereby apologize for complaining about the train schedules, if we can attend the release party.
Do you have a better theory of what went wrong? Please do tell. Let’s get to the bottom of this!

—- yours truly, beerbybart ™

(There are admittedly some similarities between BART and a bottle of B.A.R.T. Neither have reliable elevators, for example. Neither is a light lager, either. You can’t pour yourself a glass of regional commuter bureaucracy, but racing to sign up for a limited release of FiftyFifty bottle futures online is a lot like that midnight race to get into the station before the last train arrives.)

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

Our Beer Week Event: Beer From The Other Side

This year, we are going back to our Beer By BART roots with an event that is about trying local beers, hanging out with interesting beer drinkers and planning local beer travel: Beer From The Other Side.

In San Francisco. For San Franciscans and SF visitors. Lovely pours from that other side of the Bay, that area you probably don’t get to all that often. Since we live in SF, we understand. We know it can sometimes be hard to venture out of the City. There’s delicious beer made right here in town, and fine beer shipped in, after all. But in our neighboring counties, we have an amazing chance for local beer tourism. We think that after you taste some of these beers, and learn a bit about the people who make them, you’ll be Bay-hopping to get out there and visit these places in the future.

Join us on Monday, February 9, from 5pm onward at The Beer Hall, #1 Polk St. at Market, SF. We’ll be there personally until about 9:00pm or so, and the beers will be poured until they’re gone.

We’ll be enjoying beers from The Rare Barrel, Faction, Triple Rock, Linden Street, Drake’s and WOODS Bar and Brewery. We asked these fine breweries to send us beers that will represent! (Two of the beers that will be on tap, Shadows Of Their Eyes from Rare Barrel and Puddy Porter from Faction, won Bronze Medals in the 2014 World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festivals respectively. They are two of the seldom-seen in SF beers that will be poured.)

The venue is the convivial Beer Hall, just off Market Street at the foot of Polk. That’s a couple of blocks from Civic Center BART, and close to the Van Ness MUNI stop, so cars are not required.

In past years, we’ve enjoyed co-creating beer week adventures from assisting with a BJCP tasting and judging class and convening a community toast to women in beer, to collaborating on special beers. (We made “My Funky Valentine” dark sour with Bison, and last year we got to create “Carob Calloway,” a dark carob ale at Cerveceria de Mataveza.)

This year, Drew Hall was gracious enough to allow us to collaborate in getting an array of select East Bay beers lined up for you at his bar, thereby giving us a transit-friendly place where we can hang out and see some of our friends who are in town. (The rest of the week we’ll be running around crazy, so please drop by to say hi if you can.)

Just sipping along at The Beer Hall
Last SFBW, at The Beer Hall
Last SFBW, at The Beer Hall

Tell your SF pals who seldom get outta town that we are here for them. Monday evening is all about kickstarting their beer adventure selves. Maybe you, too.

Or just hang out and sip beers you may never taste again. It’s Beer Week! What’s not to be excited about?


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

Picturing a beer community

Over the last several episodes of The Celebrator, we (Gail and Steve) have contributed our column and several articles which have seen printed, along with some photos.  However, not all of the photos we sent along could be used, and we’ve been meaning to put a few of those left behind up here instead.  Some great people in the beer world.

Yetta Vorobik WTF organizer
Yetta Vorobik, organizer of What The Funk at GABF 2014
Tim Lee opened Liquid Gold Bottle Shop and Tap Room a few months ago on lower Nob Hill.
Tim Lee opened Liquid Gold Bottle Shop and Tap Room a few months ago on lower Nob Hill.
Barrel Head.
Chef Tim Tatan, left, and BarrelHead Brewing Compnay Cofounder Ivan Hopkinson, right.
Tony Corder is congratulated by a volunteer pourer for the pair of Columbus Brewing Co. medals
Tony Corder is congratulated by a volunteer pourer for the pair of Columbus Brewing Co. medals

PS: The Celebrator makes the full print edition available in an electronic magazine layout, hosted by the print shop that produces the publication.  See the actual entire January / February edition at http://www.celebrator.com/issues/, or download just the pdf for our San Francisco Scene column using this link.

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

Medal winner recap and field trip options

As the annual Great American Beer Festival fades in the memories of most attendees and competition entrants, a few happy brewery crews, owners and patrons continue to bask in the glow of a 2014 win brought home from this increasingly competitive arena. For anybody in the BART train footprint of the central Bay Area, the closest places to see new medals on display are the Rare Barrel (a bus ride or a long walk from one of the BART stations in Berkeley), and two delightful bay ferry destinations from SF, Faction Brewing Co. in Alameda, or Marin Brewing Co. across the roadway from the ferry stop at Larkspur Landing.

The Rare Barrel accepts gold for Cosmic Dust, an American style Sour beer
The Rare Barrel accepts gold for Cosmic Dust, an American style Sour beer
All gone before the end of the Saturday Afternoon session.
All gone before the end of the Saturday Afternoon session.

2014 was the first time at GABF for the upstart sour beer makers at The Rare Barrel. The combination of a Gold medal in the American-style Sours category and an outpouring of social media buzz made a lot of people happy — and left some thirsty. While The Rare Barrel brought more beer to Denver than the festival suggested, they still ran out before the last session.

Faction Brewing Company takes a Bronze for Puddy Porter, a Baltic-Style Porter
Faction Brewing Company takes a Bronze for Puddy Porter, a Baltic-Style Porter

Rodger Davis took his first medal for a beer made at his year-old Faction Brewing, after previous honors when he brewed at Triple Rock in Berkeley. The quiet island of Alameda is now on the beer seeker’s map, and can be reached by bus from Oakland or by Ferry from the Embarcadero in San Francisco for a gorgeous, working-port industry-scape excursion under the Bay Bridge.

Marin Brewing Co.'s Arne Johnson bringing in another GABF gold for San Quentin Breakout Stout
Marin Brewing Co.’s Arne Johnson bringing in a GABF Bronze for San Quentin Breakout Stout

San Quentin Breakout? This fine example of a stout has been honed over time by Brewmaster Arne Johnson. Before the medal ceremony, people dropping by Marin’s booth tended to go for the Three Flowers IPA, but as soon as the word was out, Breakout began to flow, too. Like Faction, Marin is a terrific ferry destination from the SF Ferry Building, with views of Alcatraz and of the still-active and disturbingly decrepit San Quentin prison while underway.

A field trip no longer: Sierra Nevada beer is brewed in Chico, hours north in the valley. (Or in their new facility in NC, but they are still entering GABF as a California brewery.)

Sierra Nevada Brewing has an outpost in Berkeley.  A medal for Narwhal R.I.S.
Sierra Nevada Brewing has an outpost in Berkeley. They won a Bronze for Narwhal R.I.S.
However, the Sierra Nevada taproom in Berkeley is a longish walk or a short bus ride from BART. No telling what will be on tap, but in general you can find things that are otherwise only poured in Chico. Their intense Russian Imperial Stout, Narwhal, brought members of their crew up to the stage for a moment of celebration and satisfaction.

After the four breweries just mentioned, the field trip from the central Bay Area BART communities gets a little more complicated.

You may see more winning beers or other fine products from this year’s champs poured at local beer bars, but there’s nothing like a visit to the source. Here are a few more places you could drive to on a day trip, or perhaps an overnight excursion.

Bear Republic Brewing Co., making beer in Healdsburg and Cloverdale, both up in Sonoma County, took home two honors. BRBC was honored with a bronze for their Bohemian Pilsner, Double-Aught, and took Gold for the best Pro-Am collaboration with a local homebrewer. We were lucky enough to be introduced to Kelly and his smooth 80 shilling scottish ale at a GABF preview party in Healdsburg a few weeks back, and to see him accept the medal on stage this last weekend.

Homebrewer Michael Kelly  introduces the beer he made with Bear Republic.
Homebrewer Michael Kelly (R) is introduced in Healdsburg along with the beer he made with Bear Republic.
Bear Republic Crew with Pro-Am homebrewing champ Michael Kelly.
Bear Republic Crew basking in Gold medal glory with Pro-Am homebrewing champ Michael Kelly.

Nearby in Santa Rosa, Russian River Brewing Company also took two. Like Bear Republic, RR medalled with a Pilsner, in this case getting a Silver for STS Pils, in the German Pilsner tradition. In addition, the classic Pliny the Elder picked up another award, racking up a Bronze medal in the huge Imperial IPA category. (If you are not up for the drive, the Toronado in SF is usually a good bet for having Pliny on.)

Natalie and VInnie Cilurzo return to the stage, garnering two medals
Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo return to the stage, garnering two medals

Further north on the coast, and not a day trip by any stretch of the imagination, is Redwood Curtain Brewing Co., on the outskirts of Eureka. The medal was a silver, received for a German-Style Altbier. Happily, if you go up the coast for a weekend, there is plenty to see, do and taste.

Far up north, Redwood Curtain basks in a silver glow.
Far up north, Redwood Curtain basks in a Silver glow.

Closer to the BART footprint, but not easy to visit without driving, is Campbell Brewing Co., which took home a Silver for their Mastiff Barleywine. Headquartered in Campbell, California (South Bay, near San Jose), the brewery can be reached with a modest drive, or by Caltrain plus local light rail if you are on the peninsula.

Off the BART tracks in the other direction, but not hard to get to by car, is Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, in Antioch, out in the Sacramento Delta to the north of Mount Diablo. Brewmaster Craig Cauwels’ Marauder took Bronze in the Scotch ale category.

Brewmaster Craig Cauwels takes a medal for Marauder, a Scotch ale brewed at Schooner's Grille & Brewery
Brewmaster Craig Cauwels takes a Bronze medal for Schooner’s Grille & Brewery

What about driving down the coast to the Santa Cruz area for a day or an overnight? A Bronze medal was handed out to the creator of Good Faith, a beer entered in the Old Ale/Strong Ale category by Discretion Brewing, a brewpub in the town of Soquel.

Discretion Brewing scores one to take home to Soquel.
Discretion Brewing scores one to take home to Soquel.

Want to go to the mountains? Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., on the north side of the lake near Truckee, took a Silver in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer category. They seldom pour their sours at the lakeside brewpub, but there are other nice brews and killer lake views to enjoy nearby. Auburn Alehouse is your award-winning stop and delicious meal on the way up Hwy 80 to get to North Lake Tahoe. This year Auburn won Bronze with Gold Country Pilsner, one of their flagships. On your way back, stop at New Helvetia Brewing Co. in Sacramento and find out what their gold medal historical beer, Thurston, was all about.

Auburn Alehouse honored for Gold Country Pilsener.
Auburn Alehouse honored for Gold Country Pilsener.

If you were to go further south, down to the Central Coast of California, you could congratulate Firestone Walker for the Gold medal Pivo German-style pilsener, stopping in at their restaurant in Paso Robles. This beer, happily, is available regularly in the Bay Area, but there’s no point in ceding this brewery to Southern California. It’s worth claiming as in our regional orbit, or perhaps even sharing them with the southlands, and worth a weekend road trip to find out why.

Brewmaster Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker lets his grandfather wear the medal around the hall..
Brewmaster Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker lets his grandfather wear the medal around the hall..

What’s missing from this list for Northern California? Only a double medal winner with no fixed abode, not attending the festival to pick up the award. High Water Brewing took a Gold for the s’morsy Campfire Stout as a Specialty Beer, and a Bronze for Aphotic Imperial Porter in the “Other Strong Beer” category. These beers can be found now and then in specialty beer shops around the area. High Water is moving from gypsy brewing towards sharing facilities at EJ Phair under an alternating proprietorship, but has no tap room at this time.

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