Like déjà vu, I walked in to find a lot of the same people, mostly the same beers, and certainly the same liveliness; it was my second year at Beerunch, the event with which I kicked off my 2011 SF Beer Week experience. For the .00001% of you who don’t get it, Beerunch is a brunch where small bites are paired with a variety of beers. This year the venue was bigger, the event better organized, and the beers a hit. Here’s a play-by-play:
These guys became my instant friends because they handed us beermosas as soon as we walked in. Made with Dogfish Head Festina Pêche – a slightly tart, sour peach-based beer that’s a twist on a German-style wheat beer- and a dash of Columbia Gorge Meyer Lemon Ginger Lemonade, it was a welcome repeat from last year and had me wishing that there wasn’t a one beer per course limit.
It went down at The Public House at AT&T Park and, in keeping with the theme of the venue, they replayed the last game of the 2010 World Series. You know, the one the San Francisco Giants won? Well, I’m not all that into baseball (and I grew up a Dodgers fan), so I focused in on the beer. All in all there were seven beers paired with six courses of food so it was clear we were going to be there a while.
Our first pairing was Magnoia Pub & Brewery‘s Saison de Lily matched up with goat cheese and scallion biscuits with Niman Ranch Jambon Dry-cured ham. Salty, floral, and savory all at once, it was a straightforward pairing that reinforced the food philosophy that simpler is usually better.
Take a closer look at the Saison de Lily because it’s a great beer by a great brewery. The yeast reigns supreme in this Belgian-style ale, but there’s a nice amount of fruitiness and maltiness that makes it a very drinkable (if just a tad sweet for me) take on a farmhouse-style ale.
The MateVeza IPA was next up and, before you think, “I hate IPAs,” know that this one is a bit of an anomaly; it’s brewed with yerba maté tea so it’s caffeinated and full of herbaceous flavors. Critics complain that it’s a mixed-up IPA, but I consider it a welcome beer adventure. Jim Woods of MateVeza explained that yerba maté allows them to use less hops so the final result is a brew that I find more drinkable than those brash American IPAs out there.
The IPA was served with tacos from Mijita which worked fabulously as the heat from the carnitas and the tartness of the tomatillo salsa complemented the maté and hops flavors in the beer.
Sadly, this was my least favorite dish and pairing of the whole event. I say sadly because I liked the concept of a walnut-blue cheese shortbread with endive and pears, but all those bitter and pungent flavors fought with the Bear Republic Racer X double IPA. To put it bluntly, I called it quits on this course and quickly moved on to the next.
The classic brunch standard of lox and bagels was served with Russian River Brewing Co’s Consecration beer, but I ignored it as I was resolute to get my hands on the beer. Consecration is a dark Belgian-style ale made with brettanomyces yeast that makes for a distinct sour flavor. It has a funkiness that turned off my fellow brunch goers, but I readily drank their share because it’s one of my favorite styles of beer. As I downed a few too many glasses, I reminded myself it’s loaded with probiotic lactobacillus and that I was getting my dose of digestive healthiness in a manner more fun than eating a vat of yogurt.
Turns out I was too slow on the uptake of this pairing and totally missed out on the Savory Mushroom and Gruyere Strata with Toast (Slightly Burnt) from Moonlight Brewing Company. I’ve made it my Sunday brunch resolution to cook up that pairing so I can recreate my missed experience.
It’s hard to say what my favorite beer of the day was because there were so many different styles, but it’s certain that things ended on a high note with Deschutes Brewery‘s The Abyss. A barrel-aged Imperial Stout and a great example of that style, The Abyss has toasty dark chocolate and coffee notes. Croissant and bourbon bread pudding was being served with the beer but it was too sweet for my tastes, so I passed. It made little difference though as I was contented to sip a few glasses of The Abyss while basking in an all-too-rare sunny day in San Francisco.
I’d be remiss to talk about Beerunch without giving some love to the guys who set it up. Bryant Goulding, Jim Woods, and Matt Coelho are friends who work together quite swimmingly and don’t take themselves too seriously. So, at the end of the day, even if Beerunch was a slight case of déjà vu, it was déjà vu that I’d be more than happy to revisit year after year.