Sippin’ brews on the Bay: The SF Brew Fest

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First and foremost – I really need to get a new camera. Or at least a new battery charger for my old camera.

I had the lovely opportunity to hit up the SF Brew Fest on Saturday at the Fort Mason Center. I love brew fests. This is my third festival and I still haven’t perfected the art of getting into the perfect beer-tasting condition before arriving. The first one, I was a little hung over. Lesson 1: Don’t drink the night before. The second one, I think I was pretty good for, but probably was a bit off depending on what I ate before hand. Lesson 2: Eat beforehand, but make sure its not too much. This one? I definitely didn’t listen to lesson 2. I ate a sandwich way too quickly before hand and wasn’t prepared.

Whatever.

It was a wonderful time. My friend who talked me into getting the Guilt City deal (A $45 ticket for only $20!) showed up an hour late but that Didn’t stop me from forging ahead and getting my tasting on.

I think first I’ll mention some of the brews I tried and then I’ll talk about the festival in a way that compares it to the Steel City Big Pour.

They had about 59ish breweries. Though I think you can lump Shiner Beers and Shiner Bock together. But that is just me. I definitely didn’t hit them all up. Actually I couldn’t really see most of them. I’ll get to that.

The beers that I tried:

Uncommon BrewersGolden State Ale, Siamese Twin (Traditional Belgian), and Baltic Porter. They had a Bacon Brown Ale there too, but I didn’t have a chance to taste it.

Tide House BreweryCascade Amber

Rogue AlesHazelnut Brown Nectar (I didn’t like this one as much as I hoped I would because I really love hazelnuts. You win some, you lose some)

LagunitasOld Gnarlywine (delicious BarleyWine)

St. Feuillien – I apparently didn’t write down what I had… and I can’t remember. Taste them all!

Knee Deep Tanilla Porter (Super sweet and super delicious)

Deschutes BreweryRed Chair NWPA (Meh, it was OK)

Moksha – Moksha Amber (I was a fan)
Moving on to the actual festival. I had a good time. Again, I really wish I was able to post pictures. Oh well, deal with it!

Also I will start off by saying that as many strikes as the SF Brew fest has against it compared to the Big Pour, I do know that the SF Brew Fest is only in it’s 3rd year. Big Pour will be going into its sixth this year.

Here is a cool video advertising the SF Brew Fest.

Here are photos from Big Pour 5

Venue

I’m not 100% sure if the building at Fort Mason Center that housed this brew fest was the same size or larger than Construction Junction where the Big Pour is held, but it was quite roomy. It may have been that there were less people there than there are usually at Construction Junction, but there was plenty of room to walk around. They even had a whole section of tables set up. I’m going to go with that it was larger. It was definitely brighter and cleaner. That doesn’t really matter though when you’re at a beer fest. Well it doesn’t matter to me.

The best part? The outside area which wrapped around the building and gave you an amazing view of the city. They had port-o-potties outside and two bathrooms inside with minimal lines – definitely something that is required when drinking that much beer.

Overall the venue wins out over the Big Pour.

Selection/Advertising 

Again there were about 59 breweries at this beer fest. You can find a list here. I would not have known this walking into the room. At first glance, I would see about 20? Walking around, add maybe another 25. The signs were all on the front of the tables. Of course, there were large masses of people milling around in front of the tables. I had no idea where things were and what was what except for thew few breweries who were smart enough to hang their sign on the wall above their table. This made it much harder for me to find things I wanted to try. They have things down at the Big Pour – all the breweries have signs above the stalls AND they have the beer types that they brought written above them so you can decide before getting to the pourers.

Strike one.

Big Pour also gives you a complete list by brewery of the beers they have there which you can use to mark off what you’ve tried. This would have been extremely convenient. I tried as best I could to write things down, but after a certain point and when you’re meeting new people, you just forget. Plus finding a flat surface close to where you are isn’t easy sometimes leading to very messy handwriting. I know it is a slight waste of paper and leads to garbage, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would have enjoyed this added resource.

The Swag (and ticket price)

You really get 0 amounts of swag. You can keep your little 4 oz. tasting cup, but it’s plastic. I kept mine because I’m awesome like that. What I will use it for, who knows. My ticket was $20, so I’m completely OK with everything that I got/the experience I had. I would not, however, have paid for the $50 VIP ticket or the $40 full priced ticket. VIP ticket got you one extra hour before the mad rush of people. I guess it was kind of nice that the festival was from 2-5, but I like my 5-8 time slot for the Big Pour – makes it less awkward to go out afterward as I was hungover around 7pm after the one in SF.

The tickets to Big Pour were $65 last year. This got you 3 hours of beer tasting with over 65 breweries, each with at least 2 different beers. Food. A sweet lanyard that can hold your tasting glass, the sampling glass was just that… glass, and you got a growler that could be filled at a large list of places as you exited the festival. Major swag.

Definitely worth the price. I’ll probably only go back to SF Brew Fest if I can get a sweet deal on ticket prices again.

And one more thing…

Some things that the SF Brew Fest should look into providing: Water stations/dumping stations. It is really annoying to pay $3 for a bottle of water from a food truck and then use it to rinse out your glass between beers… and you don’t really have anywhere to dump it either unless you’re outside near the water or near one of the few tables that do have tubs to dump the rinsing liquid into.

It was a good time.

That is all.

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