Los Altos is now lucky enough to enjoy two different beer week celebrations per year. More than 600 events in 200-plus venues marked the sixth annual San Francisco Beer Week Feb. 7-16. The second Silicon Valley Beer Week is scheduled July 25 to Aug. 2.
Beer weeks comprise a wide variety of beer-centric events, including, but not limited to, opportunities to meet brewmasters, “tap takeovers” featuring dozens of beers from a single brewery, festivals focused on particular beer styles and beer-pairing dinners at both upscale and casual restaurants. For beer lovers, the choices can be overwhelming.
One of the most creative, interesting and successful 2014 San Francisco Beer Week events took place Feb. 12 at Smitten Ice Cream’s Los Altos location, which opened in the Whole Foods Market at 4800 El Camino Real. Because Smitten’s machines use liquid nitrogen to freeze ice cream to -321 F, below the freezing point of alcohol, ice cream made with beer retains both the alcohol and the flavor profiles of craft brews.
Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher talked with craft-brewing pioneers Pete Slosberg of Pete’s Wicked Ale fame and Dan Gordon, co-founder of Gordon Biersch, and the idea for a craft beer ice cream event was born. Smitten served six different beer ice creams at the February event, showcasing a variety of craft beers.
Banana Cream Pie Hef features a beer in which the yeast naturally produces banana esters – Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen – which melded with the banana pieces and cinnamon cookie crumbles in the smooth ice cream to replicate both the textures and the flavors of banana cream pie.
While the Banana Cream Pie Hef ice cream was subtle and delicate, the Simtra Meyer Lemon Gingersnap ice cream, which highlighted Simtra Triple IPA from Knee Deep Brewing, featured a number of bold, strong flavors, all working in harmony.
“The delicious Simcoe and Citra hops flavors were accentuated by the lemon, and were prominent over the wonderfully rich, smooth ice cream,” said Los Altos Hills homebrewer Nick Osborne. “Most definitely a ‘hophead’ winner.”
Other unique ice creams included Salted Caramel Stout, incorporating Strike Brewing Co. Stout, and Cardamom Tripel Karmeliet, with the world-famous Tripel from Belgium’s Brouwerij Bosteels.
The event included modern twists on both vanilla and chocolate ice creams. The Malted Vanilla Barleywine ice cream, featuring Onoskelis Barleywine from Palo Alto Brewing Co., tasted of old-fashioned malt, but the boozy barleywine’s caramel malt and citrus hop notes made it a distinctly adult milkshake.
The Almanac Beer Company Biere de Chocolat TCHO 60.5 Percent Mini Float with Almanac Beer Caramel was pure chocolate overload, with a rich, creamy, perfectly balanced flavor combination. The splash of Biere de Chocolat (which includes both cocoa beans and vanilla itself) served over the ice cream made this the perfect finish to an inspiring event.
Derek Wolfgram is chief communications officer for the Silicon Valley Sudzers Homebrew Club in Los Altos Hills.