by Brian Stechschulte... Jan 16, 2012

Last Friday members of the San Francisco Brewers Guild gathered for an early morning brew day at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. Every year they collaborate on a special beer that’s served around the city during SF Beer Week. They fine tune the recipe, contribute ingredients and lend a hand with brewing activities while talking shop. In 2011 they brewed an Imperial Common, a tasty high alcohol variation on San Francisco’s native beer style. This year they’ve decided to create an SF Strong Ale.

The brew day kicked off in the wee hours of the morning at 5:30am. That’s when the first mash-in took place. Speakeasy head brewer Kushal Hall didn’t expect much company. After all, it’s not a typical start time for him and apparently most of the other brewers, who started to stroll in around 7:30. Hall did get one very early surprise visit though. Anchor Brewing’s long time head brewer Mark Carpenter paid him a visit en route to work.

Anchor Brewing joined the Guild in 2011 and their participation in this collaborative brew day was highly anticipated. Earlier in the month, as the SF Strong Ale recipe was taking shape, Anchor offered the use of its ale yeast. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day. In fact, according to Anchor brewer Kevin West, he’s never seen yeast leave the brewery in his 18 years at the company. It’s safe to say that this was the first “official release” of the yeast and the gesture’s significance wasn’t lost on any of the attending brewers.

Anchor ale yeast

West brought over the ale yeast in two old-fashioned milk jugs that were acquired from the distillery. Once the first batch of beer was transferred from the kettle to the fermentor, the yeast was pitched onto the malt born sugars to feast. Hall had to hoist the jug to the top of the fermentor and dump it through the open hatch, which was a bit of a dicey move, but he safely returned to the ground.

Kushal Hall pouring the yeast with help from Kevin West

A second mash-in occurred around 11:00am, which should top off the total quantity of SF Strong Ale somewhere around 20 barrels. By now you’re probably curious about what went into the brew. The malt bill consisted of Maris Otter, Weyerman Organic Munich II, Weyerman Dark Wheat, Weyerman Carafa and Castle Biscuit. The Guild would like to thank Brewers Supply Group for donating the Maris Otter. As for the hops, Warrior was thrown into the kettle, while Cascade and Chinook will go into the dry hop session. Sound good?

Kevin West mashing out

The brew day started to wrap up around 1:00pm. Speakeasy’s Firkin Friday was taking place later that day and some of the brewers had their own work to do. The SF Strong Ale is now slowly and comfortably taking shape at a pleasant 80 degrees. You can get your first taste of it at the SF Beer Week Opening Celebration and then it will pop up at bars and breweries the rest of that week. Stay tuned for details and hints.

You should also know that we’ve decided to partner with Untappd on a SF Strong Ale badge that you can earn from February 10-19. All you’ll have to do is find it on tap, check-into it and you’ve earned the badge. More details will be available in the coming weeks.

Spent grain / All Photos © Brian Stechschulte