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. )

Celebrator Beer News covers SF doings

The Travel Issue of the Celebrator Beer News, (August and September 2015), is now available free at many brewpubs, breweries and home-brew shops.  Look for our stories and photos. On page 5, Steve tells of his trip to Victoria Beer Week, on page 3 find a Thirsty Bear photo, and on page 12, enjoy our regular San Francisco column, featuring the opening of Local Brewing Company and the expansion of Speakeasy.

Plus, you’ll find intriguing articles by our colleagues about interesting beer destinations around the world. The Celebrator can also be read online at http://www.fricke-parks.com/CBN_Aug_sept_15/

Some of our favorite photos that didn’t run this time:

photo Co-founder Regan Long and head brewer Patrick Murphy at Local Brewing Co.
Co-founder Regan Long and head brewer Patrick Murphy at Local Brewing Co., San Francisco, just before opening in early Summer.
Shaun O Sullivan shows off his wandering barrel, filled and then left to age at the new 21A Facilities in San Leandro during the entire construction.  A liquid time capsule
Shaun O Sullivan shows off his wandering barrel, filled and then left to age at the new 21A San Leandro during the entire construction.
San Leandro brewers
A San Leandro collaboration brew is plotted by Drakes, 21A, and Cleophus-Quealy

Kushel Hall
Brewmaster Bushel shows off the new controls in his upgraded brewhouse
Expansion at Speakeasy — these barrels are getting evicted — Brian Stechschulte, Forest Gray, and Kushel Hall.

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.

Happy Anniversary, Hog’s Apothecary

2013 was sure a banner year for new beer venues around the Bay Area, many of which were instant classics.  Among these worthy destinations is Hog’s Apothecary in Oakland, a special place for beers and for dishes made from pigs.

Surprisingly, HA is a year old today.  Like several of its “classmates” from last year, including CellarMaker, Faction and The Rare Barrel, it seems both newer and older than a year old.

The beer program at Hog’s is the work of the passionate beer program director Sayre Piotrkowski, whose earlier influence can still be felt at Monk’s Kettle and St. Vincent’s in San Francisco.  
Sayre seems to have embraced Hog’s and Oakland as much as he has embraced the select beers and brewers he brings into HA.  It’s gratifying to see that Sayre is celebrating with a collaboration beer made with Craftsman Brewing Company of Pasedena.   Late Sumac Summer Ale, a sour beer made with sumac spice, will be around for at least a little while.  Homebrew hop expert Nathan Smith did an innovative collaboration kolsch with Marin Brewing’s Arne Johnson to look out for, too.

This evening HA is closed for a private birthday party, but there will be plenty of time during the week to drop by and celebrate their milestone.  Hog’s is not a beer-hall with extensive snacks, but a restaurant built around great beers.

The sausages and meat dishes at Hog’s have many fans.  (It’s not an easy place for a vegetarian to find a full meal, but eating nearby and then dropping by for beer will usually work nicely, which is a good thing, because HA has become a must-visit Bay Area beer destination.)

Happy anniversary, Hog’s.


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.