From the days of Gold Rush-era “steam beer” to the opening of the first craft breweries in America to the blossoming of some of the world’s best wine regions, the San Francisco Bay Area has had a long and passionate association with beer and wine. And the easiest way to explore the depth of that association is through the flurry of summertime festivals based on our favorite libations, from Ale to Zin, including some that benefit worthy local organizations. Here are our picks for the best Bay Area events this summer for sippers and quaffers of all levels.
Featured Photo: Beerfest — The Good One
Beerfest – The Good One
Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Rd, Santa Rosa
Variety is the focus, from extreme sour beers and barrel-aged brews to hard versions of ciders, teas and kombucha. More than 40 craft breweries and cideries will be pouring their products, including: Deschutes, Sonoma Springs Brewing, Lagunitas, East Brother Beer Co., Sierra Nevada, Russian River, Jiant Hard Tea, and Hoocha Hard Kombucha, among others. Local food vendors will be on hand with samples and meals to purchase. The event is dedicating net proceeds to Face to Face, an organization working to end HIV in Sonoma County while supporting those living with HIV/AIDS. General admission, $50; VIP, $65 (early entry and complimentary food for the first hour).
More info: beerfestthegoodone.f2f.org
6th Annual Black Food & Wine Experience
Where: San Francisco Ferry Building
The Black Food & Wine Experience will host its 6th Annual Grand Tasting in San Francisco at the iconic Ferry Building on June 17th, 2023. Founded by Chef Mimi, its mission is to provide a space where hospitality and Black excellence are cultivated, celebrated, and explored by all. The 2023 Experience will celebrate Juneteenth, a federal holiday that commemorates the end of chattel slavery in the U.S., as well as the reemergence of Black Wall Street with a focus on post-pandemic recovery for Black hospitality professionals.
More info: thechefmimi.com
North Coast Food & Wine Fest 2023
When: June 17
Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Rd, Santa Rosa
It seems unlikely you could taste everything available at an event with 30 of the top chefs from Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Solano, Lake and Mendocino counties, as well as 90 gold-medal-winning wines from the North Coast Wine Challenge, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying. The festival features music, interactive programs, and tasting stations for caviar, doughnuts and grilled cheese. Featured chefs include: Dominique Shelton of Wit & Wisdom, Dustin Valette of The Matheson and Valette, and Heather Ames of Sonoma Family Meal. General admission, $95; VIP admission, $135 (early entry at 12 pm, access to VIP lounge with sparkling wine and specialty tastings); “Designated driver” admission, $50.
More info: northcoastwineandfood.com
Taste of Sonoma
When: June 24
Where: Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate, 5007 Fulton Rd, Santa Rosa
The Taste of Sonoma festival really should be called the Giant Buffet of Sonoma, considering the event will offer access to more than 60 wine varietals from 18 specific growing areas in the region. Attendees can participate in walk-around wine tastings with vintners, learn about Sonoma County’s individual regions at the Grand Tasting AVA tents, explore the winery’s gardens and revel in the themed lounges, including the Kendall-Jackson Garden Bar and the Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge. There will also be wine seminars, food trucks and premium wine experiences. General admission, $195; VIP admission, $225.
More info: tasteofsonoma.com
San Francisco Fourth of July Pub Crawl
When: July 1
Where: Comet Club SF | San Francisco, CA
Two things that Benjamin Franklin loved most: Independence and beer (not necessarily in that order). Fortunately, you can celebrate both during San Francisco’s annual Fourth of July Pub Crawl, a celebration of some of the city’s coolest taverns, pubs, saloons and bars on a day when getting decked out in extravagant red-white-and-blue garb and gear is not just widely accepted, but heartily encouraged. Participating bars include Mayes, McTeague’s, Barley, R Bar, Lush Lounge and El Lopo, among others. Tickets grant attendees the official crawl map, a wristband for drink discounts, and admission to the CrawlSF Annual San Francisco Hot Dog Eating Contest. (Note: The sister event is on July 2, but doesn’t include the hot-dog-eating contest.) Tickets, $15-$35, depending on date of purchase.
More info: crawlsf.com
Pride + Purpose Beer Festival
When: July 3
Where: East Brother Beer Company, 1001 Canal Blvd., Richmond
Brand new festival that will showcase a shipload of suds from more than 25 Northern California breweries, as well shine a light on the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park located in Richmond. The fest’s lager-heavy menu will feature more than 50 different beers from around the state, along with live music, food trucks, local vendors and creators, and a “chance to meet some of our local Rosies,” the women who sent to work in Richmond’s massive shipyards during World War II. Proceeds from the Pride + Purpose Beer Festival will benefit the Rosie The Riveter Trust, the historical park’s official nonprofit partner. General admission, $60. Early access tickets, $75 (includes access to the panel discussion, exclusive beer tastings and small bites).
More info: eastbrotherbeer.com/beerfestival
Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival 2023
When: July 8 & 9
Where: Main and State Streets between First and Edith. Downtown Los Altos Village.
One of the oldest, most popular street festivals in the Bay Area, this downtown Los Altos event features tastings of select vintages from local wineries, live music and a broad range of food vendors, from Chinese to Mexican to Thai. The event also showcases works by artists and creators from around the country. The free festival will feature continuous live music on two stages, and offers family friendly entertainment in the Kidzone. The Megatones take the stage at 5pm to 7pm Saturday for the opening night concert.
More info: downtownlosaltos.org
Blues & Brews Festival
When: July 14 & 15
Where: Pleasant Hill Park, 147 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill
With access to enough brews, no one should have the blues. Unless you’re talking about the musical blues, in which case it’s a perfect pairing, especially at the annual Blues & Brews Festival in Pleasant Hill. The event focuses on the best in blues, including singer Tia Carroll, Beaufunk, and Santana tribute band Zebop, as well as big names among Northern California craft brewers, including Fort Point, Mare Island and Ghost Town breweries. Event is free to the public. Tickets for the Saturday craft beer tasting tent: General admission, $55; VIP, $70; designated driver, $10.
More info: bluesandbrewsfestival.com
Stumptown Brewery Beer Revival 2023
When: August 19
Where: 15045 River Road, Guerneville, CA, 95446
This fun and rowdy beer fest doubles as a barbecue cook-off, with some 15 chef teams turning meat into magic, all while 20 breweries offer unlimited beer tasting from 1-5 pm. Live music will be provided by Rowdy River Special and John E. Crash. The event benefits the Guerneville Seniors Center. General admission, $125 (includes beer, cider and barbecue tastings for the duration). Tickets not available at the door, but can be purchased in advance at Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville or online (see link). Parking is limited; carpooling is recommended.
More info: stumptown.com/revival
L'Chaim Napa Valley — The Jewish Food & Wine Festival
When: August 27
Where: 500 1st Street Napa, CA 94559
Organizers of this quirky, cutting-edge festival liken it to a crystal ball for the future of beer and brewing, a launching pad for new beers, styles and brewing techniques. Among the 150 beers from more than 50 brewers are plenty of pints made exclusively for the festival, debut brews not publicly available, and difficult-to-get brews typically sold only at the source. Among the brewers participating: Great Notion Brewing, Portland; Alvarado Street Brewery, Monterey; Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles; and Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa. The Extreme Beer Fest partners with Ales for ALS, a fundraising program raising money for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research. Two sessions: General admission per session, $75; early entry, $100.
More info: beeradvocate.com/extreme