Fruit, sours and hazy IPAs expected to be big at San Francisco Beer Week

Reporters and photographers jostled each other for samples of beer from a couple dozen Bay area breweries, anxious to get a sneak peak at what’s in store for San Francisco beer week (February 10-19), the first of more than 7 beer weeks across California in 2017.

As I held out my glass again and again at the media preview at Thirsty Bear Brewing, I kept noticing the same theme: fruit.

Fruit beer increased in volume and revenue significantly in 2016, particularly within the categories of IPA and sour beers. From Anchor Steam’s new Blackberry Daze IPA to 21st Amendment’s Brew Free or Die Blood Orange IPA, to Laughing Monk’s Barrel Aged Peach Pulpit to Sierra Nevada’s plethora of new fruity beers, it seems fruit is here to stay.

Sierra Nevada poured a new pale ale at the event brewed with orange rind and gave me a taste of Tropical Torpedo, the Torpedo IPA’s little brother, which tastes fruity even though there is no fruit added at all.

“We’re using a lot of experimental hops,” said Alejandro Mercado, business developer for Sierra Nevada brewing. “The Tropical Torpedo has a lot of hops that give it fruit notes. We’re using mandarina hops, equinox hops, citra hops, they all give it a tropical component. No fruits were harmed in the making of this beer. It’s a total experiment.”

Sierra Nevada is one of 125 breweries participating in the SF Beer Week Opening Gala on February 10. Besides fruited beers, brewers are continuing to perfect sour beers and the “Hazy” IPAs – all styles that will make a strong appearance at the gala and throughout the hundreds of beer week events.

“The hazy IPA is a beer style that’s coming out of Vermont, also called the New England or Northeast style,” said Joanne Marino, executive director of the San Francisco Brewers Guild. “It’s basically a way to handle the hops so you get a lot of fruit flavor and aroma out of it without much bitterness. It has a lot to do with what yeast you use.”

IPAs aren’t losing any traction in the market either, with growth driven by continued diversity within the style. IPAs can be red, white, black, the styles range from American, West Coast, East Cost, Belgian or German, they can be hazy or clear and, of course, they come with fruit now too.

Shawn Sullivan, co-owner for 21st Amendment Brewery, decided to joke around a little bit with one of his newest beers, the Blah, Blah, Blah Double IPA.

“The name comes from the ubiquity of IPAs in the marketplace,” he said. “Some breweries have two, three, four, five six IPAs on tap. There are black IPAs, there are session IPAS, there are single IPAs, there are double IPAs, and there’s Blah, Blah, Blah IPA. This is a hop-forward beer, playing around with tropical hops like mosaic and citra, and one really nice new dank hop called Idaho 7.”

One of the highlight events for SF Beer Week is the 29th Anniversary Party for local beer publication, Celebrator Beer News, held at the Trumer Brewery in Berkeley as a fundraiser for the California Craft Brewers Association. The event draws brewers and representatives from the brewing industry across the state to celebrate the statewide association.

California’s beer weeks continue to celebrate the history of California – the birthplace of the American craft brewing movement – and the growth of the industry statewide. For more information on the history of California craft beer, please visit the CCBA website here.  Other beer weeks schedule for 2017 include:

  • Sacramento: March 2-12
  • Central Coast: March 24-April 2
  • Orange County: May 19-26
  • Los Angeles: June 17-25
  • Inland Empire: September TBD
  • San Diego: November 3-12

Visit this website for more information about SF Beer Week and this website for tickets to the CCBA/Celebrator Beer News Anniversary festival on February 18.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist, writer and beer lover who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Follow her on Twitter @KristinHanes