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How To Win SF Beer Week: Navigate This Year’s Local Brew Fest Like a Pro

Written by Christina CampodonicoPublished Feb. 07, 2023 • 3:32pm
Guests sample beer and play pinball at the "Pinball & Pints" event during SF Beer Week 2017. | Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images

This Friday marks the start of SF Beer Week. As usual, the 10-day event boasts a plethora of tastings and special-release parties throughout the Bay Area—and the risk of analysis paralysis is very real.

But never fear. Whether you’re a beer-tasting novice or the kind of fanatic who queues up hours in advance for a coveted pint of Pliny the Younger, this bounty of brew has something for you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, our Beer Week sources recommend warming up and establishing your bearings at one of five kick-off parties. We think Barebottle Brewing’s shindig at Salesforce Park looks particularly promising.

By the time Thursday rolls around you’ll be a pro. That’s also when Ballast Point Brewing Company “raises the mast” at its brand new Mission Bay outpost—the revered San Diego brewery’s first Northern California taproom.

If catching a buzz isn’t a priority, consider events that feature great food and other activities you might enjoy, like Fort Point’s dim sum brunch or the unlimited pinball event at the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda.

Still not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a flight of SFBW highlights to help you navigate the week ahead. Don’t forget to pace yourself!

Find Pliny the Younger & The Freshest Beer Out There

📍Various locations & times 

The sought-after Russian River triple IPA is not as hard to find as it used to be, but tracking it down during Beer Week can feel a bit like a treasure hunt. Not all bars and breweries advertise that they’ve got the coveted brew, but our sources at SF Beer Week tell us that you’ll probably have the best luck at Crafty Fox.

The craft beer establishment and small bites bar pours Pliny the Younger with guest brewer Trillium on Feb. 10. They’ll also be teaming up Russian Rivery Brewing Company and Sante Adairius Rustic Ales to offer the the triple IPA again, with a selection of others, on Feb. 16. Holy Water and Fog Horn Tavern will also have Pliny on tap on Feb. 11 and Feb. 13, respectively. Pro tip: also look out for triple IPA tastings on beer week’s schedule for potential surprise tastings of the rare IPA.

While you’re out and about, you may also want to snag a pint of HenHouse Brewing’s Big Chicken Zero-Day Double IPA, which just dropped on Monday. With this annual special release, the Santa Rosa-based brewery emphasizes freshness, by packaging and shipping Big Chicken on the very same day. Bay Area customers who act fast—now through Feb. 10—will be able to enjoy the beer on the very same day it was put in the can. In the North Bay, ultra-fresh allotments will be available at HenHouse’s Santa Rosa and Petaluma tasting rooms on Feb. 12. 

Impress Your Sweetheart With a Bubbly Beer Night 

📍Various locations & times

There are a number of SFBW-Valentine’s Day crossover events for local beer lovers in love with one another—or, you know, in a “mutually exclusive situationship.” Woods Outbound in the Outer Sunset turns the romance on high with a candle-lit tasting of its bubbly Pet Nat sparkling wines and freshly brewed Raspberry Smooch sour with fresh oysters. 

Pair your imbibing with handmade chocolates and stouts, including one inspired by mini-chocolate donuts, at HenHouse’s Santa Rosa location on Valentine’s Day. And if you’re in Sonoma County, or venturing out to wine country for the holiday, stop in at HenHouse’s Petaluma location for a custom cookie-making session with confectioner extraordinaire, Megan Núñez.  

But there’s also something for the bitter-hearted among us. The Mission’s Outer Orbit hosts a tap takeover by San Luis Obispo brewery There Does Not Exist. The event, aptly dubbed “Love Does Not Exist,” will feature “Fuck ’Em Flights,” screenings of break-up films and a $15 “Single’s Special” that includes a pint of beer, a slice of pizza and a cup of Häagen-Dazs.

You can sit in the corner and drown your romantic sorrows or pour your heart out for everyone in attendance. Participants in the Love Does Not Exist open mic are encouraged to share their best breakup story. Whoever delivers the most heart-rending (or hilarious) tale in two minutes or less has a chance to win prizes. Couples are allowed, but not encouraged. Kids are verboten at this 21-and-over event. 

Hazy vs. Clear Blind Tasting Challenge 

📍 Hop Grenade 
🗓️ Feb. 11, 3 p.m. 
🎟️ Pay as you go 

Can you really tell the difference between an old-school IPA and a new wave hazy? Now’s your chance to put your palate to the test. Blind taste-test four hazy and four clear IPAs, cast your vote for your favorite and see if your taste buds win or get bested. 

A lineup of beers is on display at the Fort Point Taproom on Valencia Street in San Francisco. | Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Fort Point’s Cioppino Dinner Party

📍 Fort Point Valencia 
🗓️ Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m. 
🎟️ $85

Fort Point pairs some of its signature brews with one of San Francisco’s signature dishes—cioppino. Need we say more? Tickets are sold out, but you can still try to snag a seat by getting on the waitlist. If fortune doesn’t shine on you, tickets are still currently available for the brewery’s dim sum brunch on Feb. 18, which will pair delicious dumplings with eight of Fort Point’s brews.  

Uptown Funk: Beer & Cheese Pairing 

📍 Drake’s Dealership 
🗓️ Feb. 15, 6 p.m.
🎟️ $60 

Who says wine has a monopoly on cheese pairings? Local cheese expert and It's Not You, It's Brie author Kirstin Jackson walks beer drinkers through the best blends of beer and cheese and how to pair the two at home. Sample from five buttery triple cremes, aged sheep’s milk cheese, goat cheeses, pungent blue cheese and more as you sip five different four-ounce pours. Tickets are limited, so grab some soon.  

The Church Key also hosts a beer and cheese tasting event on Feb. 15, featuring Marin Brew Company's sister brand, Moylan's Brewing Company, and a DJ spinning soul and R&B on wax 45s.

Barebottle Prom & Formal Night 

Bernal Heights
📍 Barebottle
🗓️ Feb. 17, 5 p.m.
🎟️ Pay as you go

Who says beer can’t be fancy? Have a ball and dress to the nines at this boozy celebration where drinking beer in prom dress is actually legal, celebrated and encouraged. 

Pinball & Pints

📍 Pacific Pinball Museum 
🗓️ Feb. 19, 2 p.m. 
🎟️ $50 

Enjoy pours from some of the best breweries in the East Bay and an afternoon of free plays on Pacific Pinball Museum’s vintage machines. A ticket gets you unlimited tastings and an the opportunity to test your pinball skills in a fun and casual tournament with plenty of giveaways. The event is a fundraiser for the Pacific Pinball Museum and tends to sell out quickly, so get your tickets in advance

Trumer Pils Personalized Glass Etching 

📍 Gott’s at the Ferry Building
🗓️ Feb. 15, 4:30 p.m.
🎟️ Pay as you go

You know what they say: You can’t take it with you, but you can take home your own commemorative beer stein from SF Beer Week at this event, which showcases Berkeley’s old-school German-style pilsner. A glass etcher will be on site to personalize your very own Trumer Pils glass. And don’t forget to try the fish and chips battered in Trumer’s brew. 

SF Beer Week

📍 Various Locations
🗓️ Feb. 10-19

Need More Practice? Find A Brewery Near You

Christina Campodonico can be reached at

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