The Year in Beer With San Francisco's Scribe of the Suds

Categories: Local News, Media
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Brian Yaeger, the Richmond District's Bard of Beer
Much time -- and even more beer -- has passed (pun intended) since we last caught up with Brian Yaeger. The San Francisco writer is a hero of sorts to folks who enjoy drinking beer and hope to make a living off of this skill."It's amazing how many different publications there are that focus on nothing but beer," he notes. "And they pay!"

Yaeger turned an interstate beer run into a book, Red, White and Brew, then parlayed that nifty trick into a second interstate beer run to promote said book. He's now in the midst of a third cross-country beer odyssey to research a forthcoming book on homebrewing. By the way -- you won't walk away empty-handed at Yaeger's local readings. "I have discovered that if there's free beer available, people will come," he notes.

So when it comes to finding a person qualified to pontificate on The Year in Beer -- who would return our calls -- we looked no further:

Welcome 2009 trends that will continue:

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Luminaries...
Barrel Fever: According to Yaeger, "barrel-aging" of beers "ballooned" in 2009 and looks poised to give drinkers exciting new ways to slip into inebriation in the coming year. While creative brewers may have aged their beers in bourbon barrels in the past, Yaeger noticed scotch barrels, brandy barrels, rum barrels, and both red and white wine barrels being used last year. What's more, instead of just imperial stouts going into the barrels, brewers tried IPAs or even saisons.

Locavore Beers: "Brewers experimenting with local ingredients was one of my favorite things to see" in 2009, Yaeger notes. His favorites include a guava saison from a Tampa-area brewery and the jaw-dropping Rubidus Red from Santa Cruz' Uncommon Brewers -- featuring the Candy Cap Mushroom. "It's the only mushroom beer I know of," says Yaeger, "and it tastes like maple syrup."

Sour Patch Beers: Yaeger has noticed more and more brewers featuring "sour beers" -- which really are just what they sound like. We could get into the chemistry, but let it suffice to say that yeasts other than the traditional sort are used, giving the resulting brew a vinegar-like flavor. It ain't for everyone.

Let's put on a beer!: In 2009, certain beers were crafted by groups of two, three, or, in one case, 11 ostensibly competing breweries. "You would never see a running shoe produced by Nike and Adidas," notes Yaeger. But you will see beers brewed by Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.

Yaeger's predictions for 2010:

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Yes, 'grits beer'
Follow your nose: Brewers will continue coming up with counter-intuitive ingredients for their beers. Yaeger has heard of beers in the works featuring persimmons, grits, and even sweet potatoes (but not all three).

More breweries coming to San Francisco: "Ear to the tracks, I've heard of several breweries opening up in San Francisco and around the Bay Area." These would join the seven current city breweries: Anchor Steam, Speakeasy, 21st Amendment, Thirsty Bear, Gordon Biersch, Beach Chalet, and Magnolia.

"San Francisco is a very small city geographically, and I think there's room for more," he says. "I know there's room for more."

For more on the city's beer trends, check out this article on our sister publication, SFoodie.


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