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Mommy Long Legs: Social Kitchen & Brewery

Located in the Sunset District, Social Kitchen & Brewery is this year's only San Francisco brewery competing. Known for their intricate craft beer, Social Kitchen is also home to contemporary cuisine and complex cocktails. Existing in this universe has informed award-winning Brewmaster Kim Sturdavant's style, creating beers to pair with just about everything. He's bringing his A-game to the competition, without any ego. "I don't think we'll be the winning beer, honestly," Kim remarked. "I just hope everyone that has a glass of it says, 'Damn, that's solid!'"

The beer he's referring to? Mommy Long Legs IPA. Featuring a complex grain bill, with a full-flavored hop profile to balance it out, this IPA has a delicate amount of blood orange zest and juice. The subtle addition of citrus adds brightness to the aroma, coalescing the beer's flavors, rather than overpowering them. "This is our second batch of this beer and I've tweaked the recipe a bunch from the first one," Kim mused. "It's been really fun to make." With an attitude like that, it's like they've already won.

Next time you're in the city, be sure to stop at Social Kitchen for a meal, a brew and to say hello to this laid-back team! Join us, Kim and 20 other breweries this Saturday, November 19th, starting at 11:30am, for guaranteed tastes of 22 different beers brewed exclusively for Firkin Fest 2016!

 

Posted 11.15.16

 

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Smoothie Kings: Alvarado Street Brewery

We've headed south to bring you today's featured competitors! Located in an historically registered building in Old Monterey, Alvarado Street Brewery has been steadily building a name for themselves for the past two and a half years. Masters of brewing and serving beer along the central coast that challenge people's perceptions, Firkin Fest 2016 would not be the same without their cask!

Though still fairly fresh to the booming craft beer scene, Alvarado Street is dominating. Winning Gold at last year's Great American Beer Festival and taking home Silver this year, both in a distinction of the Pale Ale category, owner/brewmaster JC Hill and the full team are on a roll. Their scientific approach to uncommon flavor is truly apparent in their Firkin Fest competition brew: Fruit Cocktail Kettle Sour. Light in body, the base beer's pleasant tartness is complemented by a blend of Mirabelle plums, black currant and lime. When asked for his inspiration, JC cites "fruit smoothies. We added tayberries and lactose to create a creamy, smoothie-like texture. We wanted to showcase that even the most traditional way of serving beers can be adapted to the palates of today's beer consumers."

Self-proclaimed "beer nerds," the Alvarado crew isn't planning on slowing down any time soon. In addition to their Monterey beer garden, brewery and grill, they've opened a Salinas brewery and taproom in April of this year to supplement production and offer customers the opportunity to witness the brewing process firsthand. Next time you need to escape the bay, add Alvarado to your list! Until then, their beer is widely available right here, as well as exclusively at Firkin Fest 2016.

 

Posted 11.12.16

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Beauty In Darkness: Ghost Town Brewing

With an ominous cloud hanging over us all, we find it appropriate that today's featured competitors tend toward the dark side, with an air of mystery. Located in West Oakland, Ghost Town Brewing may be best known for their morbidly monikered, coffin-boxed brews. Call it spooky, call it cynical but it sure is fun to be ghoulish!

Co-founder Ryan Nosek, along with brew teammates Jason Gehman and Adam Hill, are bringing some serious spice with their competition firkin: Closed Casked Bourbon Rye. This brew features a German Roggenbier-inspired grain bill, yet maintains a medium body from the use of California yeast and a West Coast IPA hop profile. "We thought it'd be fun to add a little heat," Ryan explains. "Aside from the strange looks when purchasing some pantyhose, we went a little crazy with the dry hop. Had a hell of a time putting all these hops and bourbon chips into this little firkin." The resulting 6.9% concoction will have tropical fruit and toasted rye aromas, balanced by earthy spice, caramel and dried dark fruit.

This sinister tone informs every aspect of the brewery, including Halloween masks, a black brew cat and, potentially, wayward spirits. When asked about the competition, this crew is certain they'll win, since they "consulted a Ouija board." Can't argue with that! Though their facility is not open to the public, you can find their brews on tap and in bottles around the bay, and this particular beer only at Firkin Fest 2016!

 

Posted 11.09.16

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Put Good In & Good Will Come Out: Sierra Nevada

Unless you live under a sober rock, you've likely tasted a brew or two from today's featured competitors. A brewery known for innovation, clean and consistent energy creation and bold, unwavering respect for tradition, Sierra Nevada will be returning to Firkin Fest 2016!

This year, Cask Manager Zak Driscoll has prepared a cask-conditioned Celebration Ale, dry-hopped with the famous three Cs: Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. Zak's inspiration for this firkin is "to get the freshest and most drinkable beer out there." Celebration Ale has roots back to 1981, when Sierra crafted their first batch of this surprisingly fresh take on a holiday beer. Making use of fresh hops, typically within seven days of harvest, has allowed Celebration to shine as a truly well-balanced seasonal IPA.

This is not Zak's first time at the firkin rodeo; he took home the big prize* his first year entering. "By no means did I expect to win, nor did I enter a beer to win. I enter the beer to get the cask word out. It is a delicious and majestic way to drink beer. With low CO2, the beer is much smoother to drink," Zak muses. "This is what turned me onto cask-conditioned beer. Beers that were too hoppy to me are now very drinkable." A fine way to describe the style. We couldn't have said it better ourselves!

Make your way to Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Room in Berkeley for a taste of their firkin base beer and be sure to nab tickets to Firkin Fest 2016 to try this exclusive Celebration creation and many more!

 

* big prize: world's ugliest trophy

Posted 11.08.16

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A Hero's Journey: Novel Brewing Co.

Firkin Fest is less than two weeks away and we’re so excited (and a little intimidated) by this year’s competition! To get you all as pumped as we are, we’re offering a peek behind the curtain at what’s going down at some of our favorite local breweries. First up, Novel Brewing Co.

The brainchild of Brian Koloszyc and Teresa Tamburello, Novel Brewing is truly a love letter to beer. Having obtained their building permit less than a year ago, this chapter of the couple’s life has been on the horizon for nearly a decade. What started as a hobby in their garage has turned into a crowdfunded, locally-renowned taproom and brewery, with Penguin Books-inspired beer posters and literary batch names. Over the years, Brian has worn the hat of novelist, information technology manager, philosopher, artist and scientist before settling on Brewer Extraordinaire (our words, not his), as Teresa takes on Operations, while moonlighting as an environmental engineer.

What are they bringing to the competition next week? Subsidized Time American Barley Wine. Inspired by cold winter nights reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, Brian cites “entire years sponsored by large corporations” as his main influence for this brew. Coming in at 9.5% ABV, with a balanced combination of intense maltiness and hops, this deliciously huge beer has been conditioned for 3 weeks in the cask. Mouthwatering as it sounds, brewing this beer was more challenging than expected. Brian recounts the scene: “This particular brew day was interrupted by a pump seal failure, which is always a hoot 13 hours into a 12-hour brew day.”

Crafting such a big beer on their “little brewhouse than could” may seem daunting to some, but this ambitious couple pulls it off, all for the love of beer. Visit their cozy San Pablo library to check out the rest of their repertoire and be sure to purchase tickets to Firkin Fest to get a piece of this impressive Barley Wine! 

Posted 11.07.16