Squid Ink IPA, by Pacific Brewing Laboratory

The Bay Brewed, San Francisco’s only indie rock beer festival, returns on December 7 at Public Works for a third year of great music and beer! Below, check out Part 1 of our two brewery previews, rounding up the 13 fantastic local breweries curated by the SF Brewers Guild. Get your tickets now!

  • Pacific Brewing Laboratory: I’ll admit that the first time I tried Pacific Brewing Laboratory’s Squid Ink Black IPA, it was out of sheer curiosity (it helps that I have an affinity for hoppy beers). I couldn’t resist trying an IPA that looked more like a stout coming out of the tap. It was a worthy experiment, as it’s a great IPA with some after-hints of a darker, toastier flavor. Looking at Pacific Brewing Laboratory’s other offerings (Hibiscus Saison, Chamomile Ale, Lemongrass IPA, Szechwan Peppercorn Red ale), it appears that the brewers enjoy mixing up the traditional flavor profiles of beers and coming up with truly unique combinations.
  • Pine Street Brewery: This brewery gets its name from the brewers’ humble beginnings – “small apartment kitchen on Pine St. in San Francisco on a stove that could hardly generate a boil.” The brewers are now looking elsewhere for their headquarters (after a brief stay in the Bourne Mansion in Pacific Heights), but their mantra has remained the same: make beer that they would want to drink, beer that can be appreciated across many different communities. I’m already extremely intrigued by “Atom Splitter” (a pale ale) and “Red Head” (a raspberry blonde), personally.
  • Headlands Brewing Co.: I don’t know much yet about Headlands, but damn, do their beers sound good. The list on their website seems small but mighty – anything referred to as “a sabotage of West Coast IPAs” is extremely intriguing. The focus appears to be on quality, something I’m very much looking forward to sampling on December 7th.
  • Beach Chalet: At last year’s Bay Brewed, I tried one of Beach Chalet’s offerings, which turned out to be one of the most unique beers I’ve ever tasted. I’m guessing it was the “Virtual Planetoid,” because it was incredibly smoky – so smoky that it reminded me of the smell of bacon cooking on the stove for Sunday morning brunch. So now, of course, I crave beer with brunch. That’s normal, right? Thankfully Beach Chalet will grace us with their presence again at this year’s Bay Brewed.
  • Almanac Beer Co.: I was at Rogue Brewery recently, and I spotted Almanac’s Pumpkin Barleywine on the menu. After ordering, I braced myself for any potential annoyance from the waiter for not ordering one of the many in-house Rogue beers – but he was absolutely delighted at my choice. He also noted that he was glad I wasn’t driving home afterwards. I wasn’t surprised by how delicious the heirloom barleywine was, because every beer I’ve tried from Almanac’s offerings has been delicious. Just looking at their list of beers makes me drool.
  • Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.: Thirsty Bear never disappoints, both with their great selection of beers and their FiDi-based restaurant. While all of their beers are worth trying (Kozlov Stout and Panda Bear Ale being two I remember enjoying most recently), I think my personal favorite might be the Meyer ESB: light and flavorful, with enough complexity to make it memorable without over-complicating your taste buds.