It started out in 1984 with about five beers. Pabst, Molson and Labatt’s Blue ranked among the highlights. Let’s just say there wasn’t much competition. The food was chips and hot dogs. When those ran out, someone ran to Safeway.
But the whole thing was just crazy enough to work.
Almost 30 years later, more than 100 international and local craft brewers will showcase their handiwork alongside some of San Francisco’s most intriguing eats at the 29th Annual San Francisco International Beer Festival – a homegrown celebration of beer–and the food that tastes good with it.
All proceeds from the event at Fort Mason Center benefit the nonprofit Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School, the oldest co-op preschool in San Francisco.
Let’s face it, it can be tough raising kids in the city, and the festival keeps preschool affordable for families from across San Francisco who attend the school in North Beach. Beer Fest is the single biggest revenue source for the preschool education of about 24 kids, ages 2 to 5 years old, covering 80 percent of the school’s operating expenses.
The festival has grown from an event that drew 150 people the first year to become a staple on the regional beer festival scene. It attracts a diverse crowd reflective of the Bay Area – from dreadlocked revelers to silver-haired sophisticates – all with a common bond: a love of sharing a fine brew for a good cause. The 3,500 tickets bought last year sold out in 45 minutes, with revelers lining up as early as 8 a.m. for a 7 p.m. start time. All told, about 4,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival when factoring in volunteers, restaurant and brewery representatives.
The beers now range from Bay Area standards like Anchor and Lagunitas to international gems like the Czech Republic’s Krusovice. There’s everything from small-batch wonders to crisp ciders. The festival often features new, reserve or adventurous releases, like black IPAs or MateVeza’s organic, naturally caffeinated beer brewed with yerba mate.
“Beer heaven doesn’t describe the selection, nor do it justice,” wrote Sara J. of Danville on Yelp, “the amount of vendors here was AWESOME. so many beers I’d never heard of before, and found so many new fav’s at this event.”
And don’t forget the food. This is artisan fare that runs the gamut from natural to imaginative pairings. Among them: Pizza Orgasmica (the big-hearted masterminds behind the “Girl From Ipanema” pie), Jasper’s Corner Tap (home of the J Burger), Chubby Noodle (yeah, their fried chicken is that good), Rosamunde Sausage Grill (props for chicken cherry sausage), The Pub at Ghirardelli Square (sages of buffalo blue mac & cheese), and El Porteno (hands-down the best empanadas in the city). Scream Sorbet is there to sooth the tongue.
This is also about responsible fun across the board. Last year, the event’s resource recovery/landfill diversion rate was 92.6%. That’s right, out of 9,127 pounds of waste generated from the event, 8,452 pounds were recycled or composted. We think it’s pretty clear: the San Francisco International Beer Festival is one of those feel-good stories with a kick.
General information: www.sfbeerfest.com