Bay Area boast great local brews

The Bay Area is slowly rising to become a prominent destination for beer enthusiasts. Although we don’t compare to heavy hitters like Denver or Portland, two cities highly regarded as the best beer destinations in the U.S. by connoisseurs. The Bay Area does offer some great local breweries that bring new flavors and passion for the craft.

The 34th annual San Francisco International Beer Festival hosted 104 breweries on Saturday, April 8 for attendees to sample different beers and a handful of them were local Bay Area breweries.

21st Amendment, one of the more established breweries in the Bay Area, was at the beer festival. The local brewpub, which is located in the heart of San Francisco, was founded in 2000 by Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan.

Sarah Swafford, 21st Amendent’s area sales manager, said that they love to have fun with beer. It definitely shows in all the different flavors that they serve year-round and seasonally.

“Year-round, we have a bunch [six types of beers] and for specialties, we have about 13 [types of beer],” Swafford said. “We have a wide variety ranging from IPAs, wheat ales, lagers and stouts.”

What also sets them apart from other breweries is that they strictly distribute in cans rather than bottles. However, the biggest selling point of 21st Amendment is that they add fruit flavors to their beers.

“I definitely recommend our Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, it’s our summer seasonal,” Swafford said. “We also have El Sully, it’s our Mexican style lager and we won gold with it at [the] Great American Beer Festival this past year.”

21st Amendment beers can be found in various bars and supermarkets all around the Bay Area. They also distribute to 24 states, which is pretty impressive for a local brewery that has only been around for 17 years.

While 21st Amendment has modernized the flavor of beer, Gordon Biersch, a local brewer based out of San Jose, has stuck to a traditional style of brewing. Mackenzie Kline, a representative of the company, spoke about how they stick to Reinheitsgebot, also known as the German Beer Purity Law.

“So Gordon Biersch actually sticks to the four German brewery rules [Beer Purity Law],” Kline said. “Whereas other breweries will add different things, we only add the four basic things.”

Kline is right. Many breweries have moved away from simple ingredients in favor of modernizing the flavors of beer, especially in the wake of the IPA trend. Although it’s great that breweries are modernizing their beers, it’s good to see that there are still companies who stick to tradition while still delivering new flavors, like Gordon Biersch.

New Bohemia Brewing Co. is a much newer brewer that opened up a little over two years ago in Santa Cruz. New Bohemia, like Gordon Biersch, are more focused in European-style beers and have not completely followed the IPA trend, although both companies have great IPAs.

“We specialize in European style lagers,” Donovan Lacy, manager of sales and distribution at New Bohemia said. “A lot of the brewers are doing IPAs, tons and tons of hops [and] we have our West Coast IPA but we really specialize in things that will differentiate ourselves.”

And it does differentiate New Bohemia from other brewers. The passion and work they put into their beers show. As a new brewery, New Bohemia has definitely shown they have what it takes to leave a mark in the ever growing craft beer scene.

“We do beer the way it’s supposed to be made,” Lacy said.

The craft beer scene has really exploded in the Bay Area. San Francisco alone has about 30 breweries and over 120 breweries in the collective Bay Area. Many of these breweries serve great award-winning beers. So if you’re a beer fan, make sure to check out what the Bay Area has to offer in taste and ingenuity.

As for people wanting to get into beers, Lacy of New Bohemia has some great advice for you.

“There’s a ton of beer out there, you should try it all,” Lacy said. “Not everyone is going to love IPAs… If you only try IPAs, you’ll never really know what you really like.”