SF Beer Week is a bit of a misnomer. The event runs 10 days, through Feb. 14, and includes events both free and otherwise from Healdsburg to Santa Cruz.
The event debuted last year, formally uniting a handful of smaller festivals and events at venues around the region, according to Beer Week director and brewer Rich Higgins.
"It's a bit young in format, but it's definitely tapping into a decades-old spirit," he said.
Beer Week events are sponsored by bars, restaurants, breweries and beer stores around the region. These range from $95 beer pairing dinners to free drop-in sessions where the beer-curious can meet brewmasters or sample unusual beers and learn how they pair with food like cheese and chocolate.
Every event is designed to educate, not just inebriate, according to Higgins.
Quirkier offerings include a beer scavenger hunt, an organic vegan beer dinner, and a special line of beer ice creams from renegade San Francisco ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe.
In 2009, the inaugural SF Beer Week included about 150 events. This year area venues have already formalized more than 200 events, with more being added in the coming days, Higgins said.
The entire list of events can be found at www.sfbeerweek.org. The site also offers an iPhone app to give users an up-to-the minute list, since organizers expect new events to be added into next week.
While the region is renowned for its wine production, San Francisco brewers say that the local tendency to embrace artisanal, locally produced food and spirits makes for a receptive and appreciative audience at the city's seven (and soon to be more) working breweries.
With wine, "you really connect to the terroir," Higgins said. "In brewing beer it's as much cooking as it is using an agricultural product."
This allows brewers to push boundaries and be creative, he said.
Appreciating the two beverages is not mutually exclusive, according to Dave McLean, owner and brewmaster at Magnolia Pub & Brewery in the Haight.
"One of the beautiful things about taste is people don't go backwards," he said.
In other parts of the country, McLean said he knows brewers at "even the best brewpubs, making the most interesting kind of beer" who keep a major-label beer (think Budweiser) on hand "for people who don't want anything else."
Not so in San Francisco and its environs, he said.
McLean is rounding out Magnolia's list of draught and cask beers with six more brewed specially for February, which it celebrates as Strong Beer Month, along with the 21st Amendment Brewery in the South of Market neighborhood.
"I'm pretty lucky to be able to brew here, where I can make what I like to drink and what I like to make, and at least know that some people are there with me," McLean said.
Organizers say San Francisco has deep roots in beer. The event bills San Francisco as "America's original craft beer-drinking city," dating back to the Gold Rush era of thirsty miners and immigrants from countries like Germany, Ireland and England who brought their beer culture with them.
San Francisco is also the birthplace of one of the few styles of beer developed in America, rather than borrowed from Europe. The method known as steam beer was developed to play off the city's temperate climate and is most widely associated with the Anchor Steam beer still brewed in San Francisco.
Prohibition wiped out most beer production, but today the Bay Area is home to nearly 70 working breweries, according to Beer Week organizers. California is country's top producer of craft beer and third-largest producer of beer in general, according to organizers.