Brew Valentine

An expert's guide to Beer Week

Toto, we're not in PBR country anymore.

San Francisco Beer Week's loose collection of more than 500 events, occuring Feburary 7 through 16, has become the Bay Area's largest food and drink festival.

It's overwhelming, frankly. So we asked Nicole Erny, an Oakland-based master cicerone (the beer equivalent of a master of wine), for her can't-miss agenda:

She's definitely going to The Double IPA Festival at The Bistro in Hayward on Saturday, February 8: "A who's who of the beer world," says Erny. The following day, February 9, Erny's heading to The Sour Sunday ($30) at Triple Rock and Jupiter in Berkeley to drink lambic-style ales.

Nicole Erny

You can spend the week trying special releases, like Griz's Lawnmower Ale, which honors the recently deceased owner of Brewcraft, but Erny recommends surveying the Bay Area's new breweries.

For instance, you have to search out the Ensorcelled from Berkeley's The Rare Barrel, a dark Belgian sour made with raspberries, Erny says: "Tell me that you don't like the flavor of ripe raspberries and I'll tell you you're not a mammal." (Here's where it's appearing.)

She's also big on the Winter IPA ("a piney, resinous character as well as brighter fruity notes") from Alameda's Faction Brewing, which will be featured at La Trappe on February 15, and the Batch #1 Porter ("with restrained alcohol but full-flavored") from SoMa's Cellarmaker, star of a dinner at St. Vincent on February 9.

It's a crash course in great drinks.