The fourth annual Silicon Valley Beer Week, held July 22-30, included nearly 200 events throughout the South Bay and the Peninsula to celebrate the craft beer culture of the region.
While I enjoy a tap takeover by Firestone Walker or Ballast Point as much as the next beer lover, I especially appreciate Beer Week events that highlight up-and-coming local breweries that might not have the marketing muscle or distributor connections of the big craft breweries.
One such event this year was the third annual San Mateo County Brewery Festival, held in Redwood City as a benefit for the Code 30 Foundation, which supports the families of fallen peace officers from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The festival featured nine breweries and two cider producers, nearly all from San Mateo County. Windsor’s St. Florian’s Brewery and San Francisco’s Pine Street Brewery were the two exceptions, but both are small, independent and relatively local.
From Redwood City’s Freewheel Brewing Co. to South San Francisco’s Armstrong Brewing Co. and Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. on the coast, local breweries are thriving on the Peninsula.
Following are descriptions of three unique beers I enjoyed for the first time at the San Mateo County Brewery Festival.
Pine Street Brewery
Founded in 2010, Pine Street Brewery in San Francisco is still searching for a permanent home. Its Green Thumb pale ale is true to the “Pine” in the brewery name, with a dank, resiny aroma suggestive of pine needles.
While many hops provide a piney sensation – and Green Thumb does include Citra, Nelson, Amarillo and Columbus hops – the brewers also added rosemary, which contributes a fresh herbal note without overwhelming the underlying pale ale. The flavor is clean, fresh and piney, just like the aroma. The finish is pleasantly dry, with the herbal rosemary notes lasting a long time.
Hop Dogma Brewing Co.
Hop Dogma Brewing opened in El Granada in 2013, and as the brewery name suggests, co-founders and brewers Ethan Martini and Dan Littlefield enjoy IPAs and other hop-forward brews, though they also produce a variety of other German, Belgian and American styles.
Their Alpha-Dankopottamus IPA showcases experimental hop varietal 07270, which infuses the aroma with big, juicy, tropical aromas of passionfruit and pineapple, along with a resinous pine character, backed up with just a touch of malt sweetness. The beer has a moderate, soft bitterness and a juicy flavor that closely mirrors the aroma. The long-lasting finish provides a potent resiny hop flavor, gentle bitterness and a desire to get another pint.
Alpha Acid Brewing
Since Belmont’s Alpha Acid Brewing Co. launched in 2014, it has developed a well-deserved reputation for outstanding hoppy beers. Its Gourmet Hop Staudt hoppy lager, The Sheriff pale ale and Belmont Bully double IPA were all excellent choices at the San Mateo County Brewery Festival.
However, the standout brew for me was the Candyman Kettle Sour Ale, aged on vanilla beans, cocoa nibs and cherries. Aptly named, Candyman smells like semisweet chocolate-covered cherries, with a delicate tartness to balance the sweet components. The same pleasant combination of tart and sweet continued on the palate, from the initial impression all the way through the interesting, complex finish, with a strange combination of dryness, sweetness and tartness that somehow worked perfectly together.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.