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Local beer for a wedding?

I thought I posted this a couple days ago, but it doesn't seem to have shown up. Here's take 2; apologies if it's a dup.

My brother is getting married in SF in July, and he has asked me to help him select the beer for the reception. But my tastes tend to run to high-alcohol Belgians, which are probably not the kind of thing he wants to serve at a wedding half-full of macrobrew-drinkers. Furthermore, I'm in Los Angeles, so I don't really know of any good Bay-Area microbreweries. So I'm turning to my fellow hounds for help.

Can anybody recommend a local beer and/or brewery? I'd like to find two to three beers that are interesting and tasty, but won't totally put off drinkers who are accustomed to Corona and Heineken. Preferably something that's not marketed nationally. Maybe one beer that's light and summery, and two more with a bit more body. Also, if you recommend something hard to find, I'd appreciate the name of a bar in SF or Berkeley where he can taste the beers prior to making a decision.

Bonus points if the brewery is organic, or has made at least some effort towards sustainability. Thanks!

edit: Okay, I suppose *one* of the selections could be something that's totally inappropriate for macrobrew-drinkers. I mean, if you know of a fantastic locally-made trippel, I certainly don't want to discourage you from telling me about it.

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  1. I'm a fan of Devil's Canyon in Belmont. They open their doors to the public the last Friday of each month (it's quite a party, complete with food and musical entertainment), so your brother can come by and taste several flavors then. My personal favorite is their Hades Habanero beer - real spicy kick and aftertaste!


    2 Replies
    1. re: alina555

      Yeah, I'd say Devil's Canyon all the way. They have a fantastic variety of beers that will please the macros and the micros, and they do regularly source organic ingredients for some clients. They deliver to several restaurants in San Francisco, and are a really professional operation. They've been here for eight or so years and I, too, frequent their Beer Friday.

      1. re: orezscu


        Devils Canyon Brewing Co
        111 Industrial Way # 7, Belmont, CA

    2. Check out Half Moon Bay Brewery, Speakeasy or 21st Amendment.


      All delicious microbrews!!!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: jdinsf

        half moon bay brewery's beer is just terrible. absolutely terrible on every level. sorry..!

        1. re: johnrybak

          Hello johnrybak,
          What don't you like about it?

      2. Try City Beer and see what you like.

        City Beer Store
        1168 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1 Reply
        1. re: wolfe

          I would highly highly recommend City Beer for this project. The owner is immensely knowledgeable about beer, and consistently gets interesting and obscure beer from around the country. I know he's ordered kegs for clients before, and am convinced he could recommend and source something for the wedding.

        2. Bear Republic Brewery in Healdsburg makes some of the best beers in the Bay Area--there are a wide variety. Also, Moonlight make a half dozen different beers depending on the season. BR's Racer 5 is awesome and during the summer, Moonlight's Reality Czech is pretty light a flavorful. The Toronado on Haight has many of both breweries offerings as do Lucky 13 and Jupiter in the Berkel...

          3 Replies
          1. re: hankstramm

            I second Bear Republic and will add in Mendocino Brewing Company (Red Tail Ale, etc.). They're smoother than Anchor Steam, which was too bitter for me.

            Bear Republic Brewing Co
            345 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448

            Mendocino Brewing Co
            1601 Airport Rd, Ukiah, CA

            1. re: Caralien

              I saw mixed cases (an assortment of four different beers) from Mendocino Brewing Co. at Costco today.

            2. re: hankstramm

              I strongly third the vote for Bear Republic! Their Racer 5 is unbeatable, one of the best IPAs around. They also make 2 hefeweizens if OP wants something low alcohol. I ordered a keg of the Racer 5 for a party I gave last summer and people went crazy for it. Picked it up at New Star-Ell on Divisadero.

              New Star Liquor
              501 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA

            3. Anchor Steam is in SF proper, the first real microbrew beer in the US. I'm a fan of Sierra Nevada because it's widely available in NorCal but it's nothing special. If you go to the Toranado (pub) you'll be able to sample quite a few local beers on tap. .

              Toronado Pub
              547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA

              1. I asked a similar question about local beers for an event I hosted a few years back -- here's the thread. The most popular beer at my event turned out to be Speakeasy Prohibition Ale.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Speakeasy is quite good. My friend was the head brewmaster that developed all the beers--he's no longer there, but their beer is still good. Their Big Daddy is pretty good too.

                2. For a good summer beer similar to a Belgian, try El Toro Brewing's(Morgan Hill) William Jones Wheat. It's a filtered wheat, light yet flavorful and it only comes in at 5% ABV. This from their website:
                  This beer is named after the Brewmaster’s father-in-law. It was formulated to make Bill’s “mainstream” pallet happy. Brewed with 50% wheat malt and lightly hopped William Jones Wheat Beer is smooth, light, crisp and refreshing. It is filtered for a clear honey colored pleasing appearance. Its carbonation level is moderately high for the “mainstream” appeal yet remains quite flavorful. Winner of the 1997 and 2006 Great American Beer Festival Gold and Silver Medals for American Wheat Beer.

                  Any local brewery can supply a nice IPA with nice body. I would suggest Firehouse's IPA (Sunnyvale).

                  I entertain in my backyard every summer and have had these beers at my parties and they are refreshing and flavorful.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bayareatiger

                    link 2

                    El Toro Brew Pub
                    17605 Monterey Rd, Morgan Hill, CA

                  2. Here's a decent thread on the same-ish topic from three quarters of a year ago:

                    There's a -huge- range of local beers, much of it quite good. It's hard to know what to
                    suggest without knowing the specifics of the wedding: time of day, theme, food, place,
                    etc. A nice thick porter, for example would be completely out of place at an outdoor,
                    early afternoon wedding, but at night after the fog rolls in it's a different story.

                    For a pretty safe, but tasty, threesome maybe consider:
                    1. Anchor. Steam or Liberty Ale. The Heineken drinkers will recognise this as something
                    they've seen before and not be frightened. Anchor is a bit bigger than microbrewery,
                    but they're local and very good.
                    2. Anderson Valley. Summer Solstice or Boont Amber. Solstice is exactly what everyone
                    is really hoping to find when they open a Corona. Malty, very lightly hopped, fizzy and
                    great ice cold. Unlike Corona, it tastes very good.
                    3. North Coast Brewing. Old Stock. This is the weird beer. Huge, heavy, syrupy, tons of hops.
                    A barleywine style about, oh 13% alcohol.

                    All are easily findable at any moderately-sized liquor store. But the Toronado suggestion
                    above is a good one. You or your brother could wander in there some slow weekday
                    afternoon and explain the situation to the bartender and stumble out to the street
                    several hours later and many beers wiser. Remember to take written notes because
                    next day your memory will be cloudy.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      At my sister's wedding we did one 5-gal keg for 100 people and it was about right. Medium-sunny coastal summer day, no fog. I probably threw away about a gallon of beer. This was overriding the wedding planner who said we needed twice as much. The choice of a light but very tasty belgian (hoegarden) was much approved (but not local). I think the belgian-white direction is a great choice - but as chuckles says, the time and place matter. I had some bottles of rarer and darker stuff in case the fog rolled in, but we never got that far.

                      I didn't go whole hog with getting the beer - I selected from Bev Mo's online list, ordered, showed up at my appointed time, picked it up chilled. Easy, but not as exotic as some of the beers we're talking about here, which might require a pilgrimage to the brewery. OTOH, you can get 5 gal kegs of speakeasy and anderson valley and some of the north coast (although not their nice Blue Star wheat) and Liberty Ale.

                      For local belgian whites, I don't think you can beat Russian River. They have a lot of russian river taps at Toranado, and closer to berkeley that have at least a couple at Lanesplitter on University. I'm a huge fan of Damnation, which is often at Lanesplitter, but Perdition and Redemption look cool. If you like 'em thick, you should keep an eye out for Pliny the Elder.

                      Russian River has a list of all the bars that serve their beer, including all the so-cal bars. Check out their web page.

                      Of course, while planning the wedding you might want/need to go sampling - if you like Belgians, you should plan some liver-killing at The Trappist downtown. Which also serves Russian River.

                      21st Amendment, Devil's Canyon, Pyramid are not in the same league as Speakeasy, Bear Republic, Anderson Valley, North Coast. Anchor's an interesting case - it has some sentimental favorite action going; hard to seperate the truth from the memories.

                    2. Marin Brewing in Larkspur has a popular restaurant and a range of beers brewed on site.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: hew

                        Don't forget Trumer as well--local, light, and would appeal to a wide range of tastes.

                        Of course if multiple kegs are needed, then you could have two or three choices. And many breweries could supply 5 gallon kegs too, so you could go with multiple choices too.

                        1. re: Bryan Gros

                          I love the picks for Moonlight's Reality Czech and anything Russian River, but both breweries do not do kegs as of now. Russian River has a new production facility and may do some in a little while. If you could source kegs from them I would do Aud Blonde or Happy Hops for those that like a lighter beer, Blind Pig or Pliny the Elder for the hop fans, and Damnation for those that like a strong golden Belgian style ale.

                          Assuming you can't get anything from Russian River, I would do Trumer Pils for those that like a lighter beer, Bear Republic's Racer 5 for hop fans, and Bear Repubulic's Crazy Ivan (made from the wort of Racer 5 and Hop Rod Rye infused with Belgian yeast) for those that want something different.

                          Iron Springs in Fairfax also has a good Pilsener and Kolsch, as well as a good IPA and Double IPA. Their Stouts and Porters are also tasty.

                      2. Lagunitas is another consideration

                        1. Thank you, everybody, for all your replies. You've been very helpful. We're going to have to go on a tasting (ow, my arm, my arm!!!) to decide, but I'll report back on what we decide and how it went.

                          1. I wouldn't worry too much about getting a keg; we didn't have one at our wedding and whatever was left over (wine included) was passed out with the (cotton) gift bags.

                            If it's an outdoor reception and it happens to be hot outside, or not, glass bottles are perfectly fine and completely recyclable, no need for plastic or glass cups.

                            1. "fantastic" is the way I would describe the beers from Russian River Brewing, you can taste many of them at Toronado or you can do to their brewery/restaurant in Santa Rosa to try them all -- which I highly recommned.

                              Russian River Brewing Co.
                              725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: larochelle

                                Hell yeah! Russian River, all the way. Check out Magnolia, too. Great brews and the nicest people you'll ever hope to meet.

                                1. re: larochelle

                                  Adding link to Magnolia
                                  and link to Speakeasy, which i believe was mentioned earlier in this thread. They have open houses on fridays at the brewery, which is in Bayview.

                                  Magnolia Pub & Brewery
                                  1398 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                  Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
                                  1195 Evans Ave, A San Francisco, CA

                                2. ThirstyBear Brewing Co sells kegs (although not bottles). They are organic and most of the varieties I've had have been really tasty. The ESB and brown are both great and pair really well with lots of different types of food. The IPA is good too but maybe too hoppy if you have a lot of macrobrew drinkers. www.thirstybear.com

                                  1. The wedding is come and gone, and I wanted to give a final thank-you to everybody who posted here with suggestions. Wedding preparations being what they are, ease-of-delivery won out over fine-tuned considerations of taste and locality. He ended up getting a keg of New Belgium Blue Paddle, and one of Anderson Valley Boont Amber. Both were quite good for what they were, and not too scary to the Corona crowd.

                                    And there was a LOT of beer left over. Fortunately, the day after the wedding was July 4, and one of the guests was having a big party the next day, so I'm going to pretend like I know that it all got consumed. (The thought of wasting beer fills me with sadness.)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Bjartmarr

                                      Glad you had some decent beer.

                                      Out of curiosity, what were the size of the kegs and how many guests, what percentage would you estimate was consumed?

                                      I continue to be astonished about the amount of alcohol the wedding planners told us to buy.