Teetotaler seeks beer advice...
I'm planning a fairly casual party in a few weeks, but as a non-drinker (nothing moral, just generally don't like the taste) I'm completely clueless when it comes to interesting stuff to have on hand.
It's kind of a young, hipster crowd, so PBR is probably a given. Aside from that, I've only heard random bits about Hoegaarden being decent, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, and Badger Tangle Foot (?) as a sweet alternative. I'd love to get something tasty/interesting/drinkable for everyone in the beer spectrum, and cost really isn't an issue.
Any suggestions or bay-area microbreweries I should check out?
Head over to Rogue Alehouse in Northbeach and ask for a sampler. Also, there's a place in SOMA called, I believe, City Beer Store, which should be able to set you up nicely.
As Jeff mentioned, City Beer is a great resource for harder to find, exotic beer. That being said, Whole Foods has a pretty good selection, especially the one on 4th St and Harrison.
Personally, I find Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA to be really malty. If you want a good local IPA, try Lagunitas, Anderson Valley or Drake's. Lagunitas' Censored or Trumer Piis are some other good choices, if you want something less hoppy. Anchor Christmas and Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice are available now too, if you want some winter warmer beers.
You should still be able to get Anchor Steam Christmas Ale if you buy now. Christmas Ale is a special brew done each holiday season, sort of the mother of all one-off specialties from the mother of all microbreweries. That would be interesting. No one should offended.
The City Beer Store on Folsom is a great place for beer advice. They even have beers you can taste.
Assuming you are in the city, the 2 stores that you should go to are City Beer and Healthy Spirits. Both have a nice selection of beers.
The one beer you need to stock up on is Pliny the Elder by Russian River out of Santa Rosa. They bottle the beer in 16 oz. bottles and it is incredible. It is extremely hoppy and aromatic, but so well balanced that most people end up liking it. It blows away Dogfish Head 90 Minute in terms of freshness and taste and they even give the brewed on date on the bottle (I currently have a few in my fridge that were bottled on 12/30/08).
I also get good responses from people when I serve Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde and Duvel. Both are lighter colored beers that still pack some nice alcohol warmth.
Instead of doing PBR cans, I say buy any of the canned offerings made by Oskar Blues out of Colorado. They make a great pale ale named Dale's and they have an imperial stout named Ten Fidy.
If you want to do some trappist Belgian beers, try something different than Chimay and go with Westmalle's Triple and Rochefort's 8 and 10.
As for six packs, here are a few suggestions:
IPA: Green Flash West Coast IPA; Stone IPA; Ballast Point Big Eye IPA; Speakeasy Big Daddy.
Holiday Beers: Sierra Nevada Celebration (really an IPA); Anchor Christmas.
Stouts: North Coast Old Rasputin; Deschutes Obisidan Stout
Porter: Anchor Porter; Deschutes Black Butte Porter
City Beer Store
1168 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103
2299 15th St, San Francisco, CA 94114