Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Worlds Crossing: Come check out what I've been up to!

Over at my design blog, I've posted our thoughts on the state of beer tracking and what might be done to fix the current system. Head on over and share your thoughts!

Beer Tracking: A Better Way

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Almanac Beer Co.

I have never been as excited for a beer release as I have been for Almanac Beer Co.'s Summer 2010 Vintage. Don't get me wrong, there are beers that I look forward to every year - Anchor's Our Special Ale holds a very unique place in my heart and I rush out to buy two magnums as soon as it's released. Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout is stunning. Abyss, Bourbon Barrel Quad, Parabola - look. I buy bottles, I drink one, I cellar another, I get all tingly a year or two later when I get to open it. I follow all my favorite beer vendors on Twitter so I know exactly when I'll be able to run over and greedily snatch up my share.

This, though? This is different. I'm (mostly) proud to call Jesse Friedman a friend. (Ego-checking Jesse throughout this post is about to become really important.) When I first moved to the city, his blog was one of my favorite sources to learn about new breweries in the area and hear about exciting beer events that I should attend. I've watched him go from beer lover to homebrewer to "guy who just might be opening a brewery" to "guy who opened a brewery" to "guy who might quit his job" to "holy shit, guy who just quit his job". I hope that transition is as dizzying to him as it is to me.

I've been anticipating this beer since the first time he poured me a barrel sample. And let's be clear: that barrel sample was poured out of a previously-emptied water bottle. It was flat and it wasn't ready. It was also magnificent, and made it very clear that we were going to be seeing an excellent product. He and Damian debuted a version at SF Beer Week this year, and I was privileged enough to try the spoils of one barrel at The Summit. The beer had a little while longer to go, though, through a little more aging, some serious blending (check out the differences in color from the different barrels at their blog), down to the bottle and the kegs that you see now. I've had this beer in five variations - original barrel, SFBW-friendly barrel, bottled, kegged, and sour kegged - and while it's different from version to version, I'd have a rough time choosing favorites.

Their bottle release event at City Beer Store was highly anticipated in a way I don't think any of us were really prepared for. My friend Jeff and I showed up early - early, early, as in "tapping the keg at 6, so we'll be there at 4:30" early - and got the last seats. We posted up against the front wall, grabbed ourselves a non-Almanac, and waited it out. The place became one in, one out before 5:30 even hit. Special tickets were being handed out to designate how many bottles you could buy as the line grew larger and larger outside. Most of my friends, like the angry little snowflake pictured below, had to stand outside and paw at the window while we tried to consume all the sour beer we could get our hands on.

It's an awful picture, but it makes me laugh so much that it gets included here.

It's a great beer. As much as I'd like to bust Jesse and Damian's balls and make some joke about how I'm disappointed after all that wait, I just don't have it in me. It's an incredible beer. They were also kind enough to make a super limited run sour version, made with Rodenbach's sour strain, which won't be bottled but is available in very limited kegs. And my god, it's good. It's a perfect example of how very different a beer can be when you make some very small changes. Just look at the difference in color between these two (the rosy one on the left is the sour):

And just look at how happy this beer makes people.

Bottles are available at the usual suspects - City Beer, Healthy Spirits, Whole Foods (Potrero) and Beer Revolution, just to name a few, but a full list is available on their website as well. They've thrown a couple of parties so far, but if you're looking for your last chance to try the sour version, you'll just have to show up to Shotwell's tomorrow night. We're throwing a great big party for them complete with treats from Wise Sons Deli, Kitchen Side Car, and Nosh This. They'll have both versions of this beer available for you to try, and there's a rumor that your favorite redheaded occasional bartender might end up behind the bar to ration out all of the goodness for you.

The fun kicks off tomorrow at 6, but if you can't make it, do yourself a favor and stop by one of the many locations around town to snatch up a bottle or five. I'm so proud of these dudes, I could just burst. But don't tell them that - I've got a quasi-surly reputation to try and uphold.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mission Cheese, Week 1

In addition to bicycles and beer, there's a pretty big list of things that are always on my mind. If I devoted half as much brain power to the energy crisis or climate control as I do to figuring out where in my apartment would be ideal to hang pancetta, I feel like I'd have that Nobel prize in my hands within a matter of weeks. It came as little surprise to me when four people emailed me within the same day reminding me that Mission Cheese was opening.

The Mission has a handful of good cheese options already. The selection at Bi-Rite is top notch, and a shocking number of neighborhood markets carry great, local cheeses. The Mission Cheese motto is different - they're a cheese shop, sure, and you can absolutely walk in and grab half a pound of whatever suits your fancy to take home, but that's not really the point. When you walk in the door, there are smiling faces greeting you behind the bar, and barstools on the other side so you can sit and chat. This is a place where questions are far beyond okay, they're encouraged. I talk a lot about the intimidation factor of food, beer and wine - looking at a giant list of options you don't understand can be really hard to handle. Mission Cheese seeks to alleviate that, and it does so stunningly. Don't know what something is? They do. And at $4 per generous taste, you can afford to find a whole slew of new favorites.

I came with a group of five, and we assembled a collection of randomly chosen cheeses to try. We chose to make our own, but there are also themed boards pre-determined if you'd like to sample without going through the whole list on your own. Going with friends certainly encourages the sense of community (and enables you to steal their cheese), but I think it would be equally fun to sit at a barstool and pester all the lovely employees with way too many questions. Yes, I've got my next trip planned.

The cheese menu alone is reason to go, but I've heard that their sandwiches are top notch as well. News on the block today was that their beer and wine license finally came through, so you should expect to see me as a regular fixture there within a couple of weeks.

When I started writing today, I IMed a friend saying "I'm trying to write a blog post about Mission Cheese and it's real difficult to come up with words beyond CHEESE SIX BLOCKS FROM MY PLACE, Y'ALL." And that's pretty much what it comes down to for me - this is a great neighborhood spot. Grab something to go to take to the park, sit and enjoy a beer with a cheese board, sit on the patio with friends on a nice day. Whatever you do, just make sure you go there soon. Because if you don't, I promise you, I will do everything I can to eat all of the cheese before you arrive.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Summit/Beer & Nosh Tasting Dinner

You know how it goes, right? First there's SF Beer Week, when you do really well for seven days, but then you get The Plague or something and you're sick for a week. Then you go to Vegas. Then you're employed again for the first time in five weeks. Then your boyfriend's mom comes to visit, then your friend moves in with you while she finds an apartment, then your mom comes to stay with you for 11 days, then it's your birthday. Then it's April, nearly two months after you've had one of the best dinners of your life, and even though you call yourself a "beer blogger", you never had the common decency to talk about it.

No? Just me? Well, try to imagine.

I missed Jesse's SF Beer Week dinner the year before. God only knows why. After seeing the pictures, I vowed that I wouldn't miss whatever he was doing this year. Our budget restricted us to choosing one of the two instead of going to both (the other dinner was at Flour+Water). The Summit's dinner fell on Valentine's Day, solving the "How to be romantic AND participate in seven straight days of beer" issue - we were set.

Don't let the words "Tasting Menu" fool you; this was a lot of food. I'm pretty sure we were there for at least three hours. Beer dinners like this are my absolute favorite format - each of these beers had a representative there to talk about where the beer came from, how it was made, what it was inspired by. It's an opportunity to educate everyone about what they're drinking, whether someone is a seasoned beer consumer or just willing to try new things. I firmly believe that education can do nothing but help in the world of beer and food. My beer life changed dramatically when I shifted from just buying six packs and instead going to visit breweries, trying to meet people, and really committing to the idea of how a bunch of grains turn into something roasty, or hoppy, or floral.

I have to say, I was most excited about trying the Almanac Summer 2010 Blackberry Ale. I had a small barrel sample months and months ago out of a squeezy plastic bottle at City Beer Store when Jesse dropped by to share samples; even warm and flat it was clear that this was going to become an outstanding beer. I arrived too late to try it at the Gala, but was mildly comforted by knowing I'd have access to it at the dinner. This was the first beer of the night and while it's hard to choose favorites, it came in very high on my list.

Other standout beers for me were the always excellent Drake's Brett Butler and the SF Brewers Guild California Common - but I can't reinforce enough that I have no complaints about the beer list. The Firehouse Brewing Belgian IPA, inspired by Houblon Chouffe, is a lovely take on Belgian yeast with a California twist, and I've never had a variation of Speakeasy's Payback Porter that I didn't like.

Its pairing was a Scallop and Citrus Ceviche. Those big orange pieces on the plate? That's ale carbonated citrus. How is it possible, if science allows such a thing, that all citrus doesn't come ale carbonated? Travesty. The carbonation lightens the texture and once you bite into it, it's sort of a gentler Pop Rocks for adults. I can come up with silly descriptions all night, folks, but just know that it was delightful.

My table highly enjoyed the "Edible Garden" of espresso mole and pancetta. The pancetta was divine, and while the dry mole was a little disorienting to me, I really enjoyed the flavor.

Despite an adventurous palate and a love for everything that's within a degree or two of "edible", there is no denying that I'm a midwestern girl from a meat town, and when I see braised ANYTHING on a menu, I get excited. The vadouvan braised shortrib course was a huge hit for me. The lentils and carrots had a nice balance of sweetness and earthiness, and paired with the falling-apart shortrib, this was probably the hit of the night for me.

It had stiff competition, of course, from a pastry filled with Tallegio cheese, paired with a Double IPA.

The foie torchon was a little too much for me. A very, very generous serving of foie gras, served on a round of brioche and drizzled with a duck egg sabayon. The flavor was divine, but a little rich for my tastes. Paired very smartly with the Belgian IPA, however, which had the right amount of hoppy and sweet to cut through the decadent fullness of the foie.

I didn't make it over to Humphrey Slocombe this year to try the beer ice creams, so it was a special treat to know I was going to be having a beer float made with one of my favorite beers. I also had the pleasure of having Jake and Emily, who were responsible for making the ice cream, as my dinner companions for the night. The espresso and the balsamic in the ice cream, combined with the TCHO-infused Speakeasy Porter, just knocked this dish out of the park for me. I could have eaten my serving and everyone else's at the table. I'm not ashamed to admit there was bowl-licking.

It is truly embarrassing that it took me so long to get this dinner written about, but it is a testament to the strength of the menu and the beer list that these memories are still so vivid for me so many weeks later. Jesse's SF Beer Week dinners are always a standout, and it was a particular treat to enjoy his beer at one of them. Cheers to the chef, the brewers, and the many volunteers that made this night possible - it was a perfect way to spend Valentine's Day.

Also see Jesse's very good writeup with far superior photos here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reflections on SF Beer Week

I attended 19 beer events over the course of seven days. That's 19 events all within a five mile radius of my house.

I skipped the last three days of SF Beer Week because I was so sick I could have infected all the thousands of you that kept on going right through the 20th. With 19 events, I think it's safe to estimate that I consumed roughly 97,000 beers within 168 hours time. This estimation is rough, of course, but I assume yours are similar.

Joking aside, let's talk for a moment about how lucky we all are to have a week like this to participate in. I've never been a part of a beer week in another city. I hear Denver is great, I hear Philly is great. Everyone I know that's been to Oregon during beer month tells me how much I'd love it. I'm sure I'll make it out to all those cities eventually, but for the moment, I'm happy to revel in what we've got right here.

I'd like to get a little personal and nostalgic for a moment. I moved to San Francisco on September 1st, 2008. I had no money, literally living off of a loan that in the pre-credit crisis era was able to be maxed out on things like rent and burritos that could be stretched to last three days. (Say what you will about Taqueria Cancun; when you've got a broken collar bone and you're living at 18th & Mission, you can make one last for breakfast, lunch and dinner and maybe even breakfast the next day.) I knew one person. He only knew me. The social situation was, let's say, sparse.

I made it a little worse for myself by insisting on being a freelancer. Being a freelancer performs two opposite tasks simultaneously: You meet a ton of people, and you become friends with absolutely none of them. I've racked up more professional contacts in this city than I could start to list, but friends took a little bit longer to find.

Before San Francisco, I made legitimate stabs at building a life in Kansas City, New York City and Cincinnati, three cities with excellent access to craft beer. I've lived with accessible Bell's, Brooklyn, Boulevard - if you can get it between Colorado and Maine, I've probably lived somewhere I could pick it up. When I moved to the west coast, I wasn't excited about moving to some crazy beer mecca. Cincinnati's beer scene was exploding just as I was about to leave with incredible bars and people that cared so much about showcasing their more-than-a-century-old brewing philosophy. Moving to San Francisco made me a little heartbroken, to be honest, for all the beer I'd be losing in my day to day life.

You don't have to go back to 2008 and slap me; I don't need it. You could gently tell me how much I was about to learn and how much my life was about to change, though.

Moving to a completely new area of the country prepped with a really solid knowledge base from somewhere else just turns you into a kid in a candy store. I wandered into Shotwell's, nee Inner Mission Beer Parlor, about two months into moving west. Within a few months I had tried everything on the menu. It wasn't enough. Corner stores, brewpubs, nerdy beer blogs - give it to me.

Somewhere along the line, I got "into" the beer world. I don't know how it happens. You make some friends on Twitter. You start to recognize people because you're always at the same events. You share information, you retweet. You write about beer every once in awhile. Someone sees you talking to people about beer often enough and they decide you know your stuff; soon enough you're being introduced to distributors and brewers. Somewhere along the line, nothing is enough. Never satisfied, never done learning.

It has been an absolute pleasure to party with all of you for the past week. Is it really nerdy that most of my real life friends directly or indirectly met me through the Internet? I don't care. My word, what a party this week was. I have learned to stop blushing when someone introduces me as "At JRizzo". I shared beers - in some cases, quite literally - with so many of you. I wasn't alone anywhere. I'm no longer faceless in this city, and I have beer to thank.

I get so much joy out of telling people stories about our beer scene. A non-beer-drinking friend (I've got them, yes) came by to see me at 21A on Imperial Jack night and wanted to know what the big event was. I told her the whole thing - the first brewing of Imperial Jack, who Richard is, why ESB is so special, what this beer is about, how it came to be entered into the World Beer Cup. Stories I've heard over sharing pints with the people who make the beer as well as the people who love it. Stories that make this city's beer scene more than good beer, more than creative beer, more than just a list of places to grab a pint. I take so much pride in knowing all of those things. I sat at the Beer and Nosh dinner at The Summit and someone opened a door for me to spend three minutes describing the science and use of Brettanomyces, and they cared. They listened. We learned together.

People are always asking how I know this person or that person, how I know what beer is where, how I know where the cool events are. Just saying "Twitter" sounds so silly, doesn't it? I'll figure out how exactly it works sometime, but for now, it's certainly not hurting anything.

Nineteen events. I'm still sorting through all of the photos, and god knows I'll never be able to list all the beer. If I tried less than 100 different beers this week, I'd be shocked. They were all real. Someone made every single one of them. They aren't competing; they're friends. Beer community, you're a card.

Thank you to everyone for the laughter, for the hugs, for the sips of your beer, for the glasses of water, for the immediate @ responses when one of you posted about a fascinating beer that made me rush across town to try it. Singling out my favorite event is impossible, but Breweries of Tomorrow, The Summit, MK/Heart Cask Night, Lost Coast at South End, Local at Shotwell's, Breckle's at Anchor, and Russian River at Pi all hold pretty dear places in my heart.

Over the next couple of weeks I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of great recaps roll in. I'm looking forward to your thoughts, to weeks worth of discussion, and to a whole year to anticipate doing this ride all over again. Cheers, y'all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Breweries of Tomorrow Recap

The Breweries of Tomorrow nanobrewing festival was one of my most anticipated events of SF Beer Week. Organized by Brian of All Over Beer and Bay Area Craft Beer and held at Social Kitchen & Brewery, the point of this event was to highlight my very favorite trend in craft beer: nanobrewing.

"Breweries of Tomorrow" was a particularly clever and spot-on name for the event. These are breweries led by homebrewers on speed. People like me roll into Brewcraft every few months and get a couple pounds of malt extract - people like them write business plans and design logos. These are homebrewers who are really, really good at it. Having nine of them showcased at an event is so exciting because it means within the next few years, we're going to have at least nine new full-scale production breweries to fawn over.

A great aspect of SF Beer Week is how many events are centered around meeting brewers. There are people behind your beer, friends - smart people who love beer the way you do, they just get paid to make it. The new nanobrewing trend is exciting not just because they're going to upgrade to microbrewing soon enough, but because you get to watch that whole process happen. These breweries are evolving and changing ten gallons at a time. The beers showcased last night are results of trial-and-error, and by this point they're all nearly perfected.

When I ran into Brian at the gala on Friday, he expressed concern that there might be a really sizable crowd. He was right.

I arrived half an hour early and was about the twentieth person in line. By the time the doors opened at 5:00, the line had gotten completely out of control. I know a lot of people ended up coming by and weren't able to get in - when the place hit capacity, it became one in, one out. It was certainly crowded, but by no means unmanageable. The setup worked really well - three tables, three brewers at each table.

Pours were... let's say, "generous". My word, there was a lot of booze. As a result, though, people needed to visit tables far less frequently, so getting a beer was never a problem. There was a steady flow of people moving at all times from what I could tell, but I never waited more than a minute to get a beer. Step up, get a beer, find somewhere to post up for a bit while you drink your beer.

This was, by far, the best deal of Beer Week. $15 gets you a commemorative glass, two beer tickets for the Social brews, and access to all the nanobrew you want. With the generous pouring, $15 scored a really, really ridiculous amount of beer. I don't know a single person that walked away unhappy (or sober). Oh, and there were water kegs! Dear, sweet water kegs. Thank you for being there for me.

Reviewing all the beers seems a little silly, because what everyone should really do is look up times when these brewers open their doors and go visit to talk to them about what they're making and where they're going. I will say that standouts included Daddy's Chocolate Milk from Elizabeth Street Brewing, Pacific Brew Labs' Hibiscus Saison, Local Brewing Co's Sutro Tower Stout, the Belgian Strong from Beltane and the Bitter from Bosworth. Those being singled out, however, I didn't have a thing all night that I disliked.

I really hope this trend continues. I hope this event happens every year, and I hope we see new nanobrewers stepping up to join in. The nanobrewing trend has felt a little cultish up to this point - you're in the know or you aren't. Breweries of Tomorrow provided great publicity for the little guys and hopefully gave all nine brewers a push to get those distribution licenses even faster. Seriously, we love your beer. Let's see it on shelves.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thoughts on SF Beer Week Opening Gala

It's really hard to deal with the fact that so many people are getting into craft beer, isn't it? (Most of my problems are first world. I admit this out of the gate.) We worked so hard for so long to get people to love things that weren't Miller Lite. Countless "No, here, try this" attempts met with turned up noses, more piss-water comments than one person can possibly be required to handle from someone sucking down well vodka.

And THIS is our reward? The beer dinners we once held precious sell out faster than we can get to a computer. The beers we anticipate for months get snapped off the shelves before you can get off work. The thing we once looked at as "ours" and really wanted everyone to share with us now belongs to everyone. News stories circulate from time to time about how craft beer is outselling everything, beat the recession, and might as well be the only thing keeping the economy afloat, but it's how that trend trickles down that gets me.

And annoys me. Again - first world.

It's not that it should just be OURS, you know, but the system has not scaled itself up to meet demand. Just because there are ten times as many people drinking craft beer doesn't mean production has ramped itself up in the exact same amount. This was terribly clear last night.

Lots of good folks planned the SF Beer Week Opening Gala. Lots of good, smart people, who love beer. It was a largely thankless job for them and I can't imagine how much stress went into it. I'm thankful that they do things like this so I don't have to, but that being said, I'm about to get super critical. I'm sorry, guys, but I sincerely hope you all learn from these mistakes for last year. And, yes, they were absolutely mistakes.

I bought the $45 Early Bird regular ticket instead of the $65 VIP. That mistake gets to be on my part, and I won't be making it again next year. My reasons weren't really financially driven, more that I knew it was unwise for me to start drinking beer at 3:30 in the afternoon, stay through all of my regular ticket friends showing up from 5-9, then try to hit the Toronado after party. $20 for an hour and a half that will probably just lead to me being drunk and belligerent is not the way I wanted to start Beer Week, so I decided to go with the 5:00 option. Of course, had I waited instead of being responsible and buying my ticket early, the day regular ticket sales went on, I could have bought the VIP ticket for $56 via a Groupon knockoff. Brian has already covered that much better than I would over here at All Over Beer, so I'll save myself the breath needed for that one.

We arrived late, which is a combination of my mistake and Muni being Muni. Delays I am incapable of understanding meant we got there around 6. I had been reading the updates on how bad the line was via Twitter, so I'm not sure what I thought would happen - maybe there was a huge bottleneck at 5 and things would be better an hour later? I couldn't have been more wrong. We waited in line for an hour.

Let's discuss crowd calming, shall we? When we were about 75 people back in line - after we had been waiting for 45 minutes already - someone was sent out to inform the angry, sober people holding $45 tickets on what was happening. He started out by saying that they weren't going to cut off the crowd - yet - and wanted to reassure us that they hadn't overbooked, there's just a fire code on how many people can be inside at once.

Allow me to take a moment to talk about how overbooking goes. I'll use an airplane as an example. An airplane has 200 seats. The airline sells 210 seats. This is traditionally referred to as "overbooking". It is particularly effective on morning flights, because people miss those flights. By overbooking, they can ensure that the 200 seats will be filled. In the event that all 210 people show up, they have to reschedule and offer people new incentives to bail on the flight - a $150 travel voucher for a new flight or something. The airline loses money on this, but since it usually works out, they keep overbooking. And, because airlines are smart enough, they don't get on the speaker and announce "We didn't overbook the plane, but 10 of you that bought tickets can't fit on it."

So let's apply that to something we're all also familiar with, say, a beer festival that opens one of the most popular beer weeks in the country. The building can hold, say, 1000 people. You have two options: you can sell 1000 tickets, or you can overbook. What you CANNOT do is pretend you're not overbooking, because that's ridiculous, and the last thing you should do is tell people who have been standing in line for 45 minutes that you didn't overbook, it's just "fire code". We were reassured, however, that once we got inside, it was going to be "awesome".

I should note that they were willing to refund people's tickets if they gave up, but I wasn't worried about the money. I was worried about the beer. And I was right.

So, of course, we get through the doors and they're out of glasses. Frustrating. Also expected, by this point. And before I can even get to the place where my disposable plastic cup is, Jesse of Almanac greets me with "We're out of beer." This would be a common theme in the next two hours of my life.

You will not be reading reviews here for Almanac, Lagunitas Fusion, Marin's 21 Year Old Ale, Speakeasy's Ritual Payback Porter, Moonlight's Two Weeks Notice, Pliny the Younger, Supplication, Vertical Jewbilation, or quite a few others that you might be interested in discussing. They were all gone.

The phrase of the night was "shit show". Why were there so many people there? (Furthermore, why did people on a damned Bloomspot mailing list get to walk right in while those of us who were responsible and gave our money to the event early had to stand there waiting for an hour? Poor form, guys.) Sell half as many tickets. Double the price. Sell a third and triple the price, for christ's sake.

It's completely unclear who this event was for. Was it for beer geeks? We're a good community, but we're a pretty small community. Usually I feel like things like this are thrown for us - weird one-off beers are kind of our bread and butter. I kind of doubt that Fusion is brewed for people who don't drink beer. Or, if I'm wrong, was the idea to expose people to beer? If that's the case, be a little more upfront about that. I had a similar criticism for the "Beer Fest" at the Giants stadium last year - too crowded, full of people that are just there because they want to get drunk, nothing geared toward beer folk. Be upfront about what kind of an event you're organizing. It really felt like we got tricked on this one.

And I want my glass. I'm very serious about that glass, guys.

I'm also serious about water. If there was any water to be found, I have no idea where it was. I had a giant bottle in my bag and I'm terribly glad that I did. There's got to be somewhere that you can rent little water systems and hire one person to run around all night and make sure they're staying full. It's just responsible.

Overall, I had a really good time. I did. But that wasn't due to the event at all, it was due to all the great folks in our beer community. The social aspect of events like this is great - you get to talk about new beers, you get to introduce everyone to everyone else. I feel like I know a pretty big number of people in our little community, but I got to put some additional faces to Twitter names, which is always a great (if startling) experience.

Oh, and next year, I'm not even going to try to go to Toronado. That one's not worth discussing; we all knew that was going to be impossible. Cheers to those of you smart enough to leave the gala early and get tables.

Next year: Jumping on the VIP ticket, assuming I'm going to take a half day off of work and be there before 3:30. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Locavore, Bernal Heights

I love beer bars. Love them. I love brewpubs, too. But what I'm really drawn to are local neighborhood spots that really care about the beer that they serve, even if they don't have thirty taps. If you have thirty taps, I'm probably a fan - but I can only drink a few beers in a night, you know? Variety is perfect, but sometimes I just want to walk into the place on my corner and find some really great beers.

I happen to live in an area of San Francisco that has just blown up with places like this. It's not really my style to write about restaurants, but I think it's worth highlighting places that are really making an effort. South End Grill & Bar, at the corner of 26th & Valencia, is one of my newest regular hangouts. Seven taps of good, local beer, affordable food, and a Warriors game on the television. I live on the same block as Pi Bar and have considered it my regular spot for over a year. Front Porch is my favorite restaurant on this end of town, and last night they had Double Daddy on cask. I'm really, really lucky - and even though these places (with the exception of Pi, perhaps) aren't "beer bars", they're worthy of very serious discussion.

The newest kid on the block for me is Locavore. Locavore (3215 Mission St., Bernal Heights) has been there for a few months now, but somehow its opening just passed me by. It's right at the corner of Mission and Valencia, next to the southern instance of Taqueria Cancun. True to its name, the idea behind Locavore is locally sourced products. They're a little behind the curve on this one: who isn't turning to local farms these days? It's pretty elitist to say, and for every local, sustainable restaurant there are probably twenty more that aren't - but local ingredients are nothing new, and it's a little surprising to me to see yet another restaurant opening whose entire selling point is based off of regionalism.

Criticism of mission aside, I think Locavore is a very good neighborhood spot, and I know I'll be back. I ordered a burger (medium rare) with cheese (I was told it was a "white American cheese") and a side of sauteed rapini. The rapini was a very good choice - sauteed with a whole garlic clove in what appeared to be a little olive oil and red pepper flakes. Not terribly inventive or challenging but very, very solid, and a hearty portion for the $3 side cost. The burger was cooked to my specifications, came on a fresh roll and was quite tasty. Very simple, so if you prefer a loaded-up burger, make sure you're adding extras.

This isn't a restaurant blog, though, is it? It isn't. It's a beer blog, and their beer list is a fairly extensive one. Four taps currently include Trumer Pils, Lagunitas Lil' Sumpin', Anchor Liberty, Bison Organic Gingerbread (incorrectly listed as "Bison Organic Ginger Beer" on the menu) and 20+ bottles give you quite a few options. True to the name of the place, everything is local. Sudwerk, Blue Frog, Moylan's, Black Diamond and Anchor are all included here.

Even with such a list, I have a few complaints - while the selection is good, it really feels like it's just meant to be a combination of local beers without much thought put into it. There are so many breweries within a 100 mile radius of this restaurant, and it's clear that they limited their choices to certain distributors and missed out on some really great opportunities. Speakeasy is two miles from Locavore. Russian River would have filled a couple of key holes on the menu. Four Blue Frog beers, three Sudwerk beers, five Moylan's/Marin beers - this is not to say that any of these are bad, just that the list looks really scattered and feels like it was whatever the distributor told them to buy instead of a carefully curated list.

It also doesn't feel like we're seeing much of a seasonal focus, which is too bad considering the theme of the restaurant. I know it's nearing the end of winter and this is sort of a transitional time on seasonal beers, but it's also the week before SF Beer Week and it would have been really nice to see a place that boasts 26 beer selections get more involved.

I am terribly grateful for the opportunity to be this choosy, however. To have so many options and get to say "why not them?" instead of whining that they aren't focusing locally at all is pretty great, but since we HAVE those opportunities, I just wish a little more attention was being paid to things. Kudos to the nod to Bison Brewing, whose products are quite in line with the idea of Locavore. I'm hopeful that this restaurant ages well and comes into their own, and I'm also hopeful that bottle list rotates and includes some more truly local options as they figure out their place in the community.