San Francisco Beer Fest
The long-awaited 7th annual San Francisco Beer Week has arrived! Beginning today through February 15th, breweries and bars from throughout the bay area will showcase some of the finest beers characterizing today’s vibrant American beer landscape. This year, we couldn’t be more delighted to introduce you to two seminal Bay Area breweries and flavor pioneers—The Rare Barrel and Cellarmaker Brewing Company. Comparable to our own craft practices, both breweries strive to produce small batches where quality, balance, and freshness of flavors and ingredients are paramount.
Sour aficionados, rejoice! The Rare Barrel, based out of Berkeley, is an all-sour beer company with an inimitable production facility and barrel house, producing some of the most extraordinary sours we’ve ever tasted.
Located just a ‘hop,’ skip and a jump away from our 7th Street locale, CellarMaker Brewing Company is another local gem. The talented makers at this truly inventive ten-barrel brewery and taproom surprise and delight the senses with a constantly rotating array of exceptional craft beers, often sourcing and integrating unique hop varieties from around the world.
Both breweries have worked closely with Adam, our tireless Director of Green Coffee Buying and off-duty beer enthusiast, to choose Sightglass beans to pair with a carefully crafted base beer. The outcome—not just beer, not just coffee, but sublime coffee-infused beer. Minds blown.
We spoke with the lovely folks at The Rare Barrel and CellarMaker Brewing Company who revealed some industry secrets—well, not quite—but did share some incredibly cool insights, inspirations and flavor profiles of their respective Sightglass-infused brews. Enjoy!
The Rare Barrel’s All Systems Go
Alex Wallash (Co-Founder / Director of Sales and Marketing, The Rare Barrel)
All Systems Go is our sour beer aged in oak barrels with Sightglass Coffee beans. All Systems Go originated when we were doing sensory analysis on one of our dark sours, and noticed that one particular beer displayed strong notes of coffee. We’d never made a coffee sour before, and never heard of anyone else making one, but decided to listen to the beer and enhance the coffee flavor and aromatics.
After consulting with Adam, testing multiple ways to add the beans/coffee to the beer, and testing five different roasts, we found that adding whole beans of Sightglass’ Finca Las Florestales directly to the barrel for 48 hours was the best way to extract the flavors and aromas from the beans, without extracting any of the bitterness. Each time we make this sour, we test out five different roasts from Sightglass on a small scale, so that we can pair the best roast with the base beer.
We love working with Sightglass on this beer because they geek out about coffee as much as we geek out about beer. Quality is everything, and they understand that.
CellarMaker’s Coffee & Cigarettes
Tim Sciascia (Proprietor, Head Brewer, CellarMaker Brewing Company)
When my business partners Connor and Kelly and I started Cellarmaker Brewing Company, we never imagined that a smoked coffee porter would become our most popular beer. Coffee and Cigarettes porter is our most asked about beer even in an age when India Pale Ale is king – a style we focus on and excel in. I attribute the popularity of Coffee and Cigarettes to three reasons: first, I think the name is hilarious and catches your attention. Secondly, the quality of all our dark beers is high. Third, take those two reasons and add world class Sightglass coffee and it’s a winning combination.
When I think about designing a beer, I have to imagine the canvas of flavors working together in a succinct manner.
I believe in linear connections from flavor to flavor creating a story line for your senses; too tangential and the experience is diminished while your mind tries to put the pieces together – the brewer should have already done that for you.
Cellarmaker chose Sightglass because of the lighter roast they employ. The base beer, a lightly smoked coffee porter already contains flavors and aromas of a darker roasted coffee. The highly roasted barley malts and caramel malts impart dark and milk chocolate, smoke, dark berry, and caramel flavors. I want to support those with coffee flavors of stone fruit, earth and spice, roasted nuts, maybe a woody coconut aroma. Some crossover is fine and may reinforce the malt flavors in a positive way, but I am building linear flavor, not stacking vertically.
The current batch of Coffee and Cigarettes is actually the “imperial” version, which simply means it has more malt, hops, coffee and alcohol than the normal one (10.4% alcohol by volume versus 7.8%). We used nearly 5 pounds of coffee per 31 gallons where we would normally use only 2 pounds. I went over to Sightglass and personally selected a custom blend of three different coffees. With the help of Adam, I picked a base of Kenyan Karii, and equal supporting parts of Honduran Finca Alaska and Ethiopian Borboya. I was really impressed with the degree of variance between all the coffees I tried and decided to go with these for their combined stone fruit and spice qualities, a little hazelnut from one, and coconut and a floral black tea note from another.
These fantastic flavors coupled with hyper locality to the brewery and what we’ve come to find out is a friendly and dedicated team, makes Sightglass an easy choice for a beer we care deeply about. Imperial Coffee and Cigarettes is available for a limited time but we will be brewing the original version sporadically throughout the year.
Wednesday, February 11th at 1pm, The Rare Barrel and Cellarmaker Brewing Co. will host a sipping session at neighborhood watering hole—City Beer Store. Stop by for a pint of Coffee & Cigarettes, All Systems Go, and a few other dry-hopped sour collabs or visit The Rare Barrel and Cellarmaker tasting rooms to get your coffee-infused brew fix:
City Beer: 1168 Folsom Street #101, San Francisco
The Rare Barrel: 940 Parker Street, Berkeley
CellarMaker Brewing Company: 1150 Howard Street, San Francisco