Can you believe itís been 12 years since we started this month long festival with our good friends at Magnolia Brewery? It began way back when Jerry still adorned the walls up at Magnolia in the upper Haight, I was thinner and less gray, a different time, but the original idea has never strayed of course. In case youíve been living under a rock for the last decade, Strong Beer Month is a month long festival in February where the 21st Amendment and Magnolia Brewery each put six strong beers on tap at the start of the month, all over 8.5% ABV, for a total of 12. Folks that simple math will become harder as the month progresses. Once youíve enjoyed all 12 beers from both establishments you get to keep the commemorative glass, designed especially for the month.
The idea of Strong Beer Month started over a conversation that Dave McLean (owner and Brewmaster at Magnolia) and I had over a beer one day, I believe it was at the Toronado, when we were trying to figure out how to get more people into our pubs during February, which historically in the restaurant industry is one of the slowest months of the year. We thought, hey itís cold, we like to drink strong beers, people want to drink strong beers as they have been at other Bay Area events in February such as the Toronado Barleywine festival and the Bistroís Imperial IPA festival. And so we were off to the races and this month, the month of February has turned into one of the craziest months of the year. With San Francisco Beer Week starting next week, put on by the SF Brewers Guild, with over 400 events and the California legislature officially naming February Craft Beer Month, the month of February is now craft beer heaven.
For the last handful of years of Strong Beer Month we started a theme of reproducing a classic rock album cover with the brewers and owners from both breweries inserting ourselves into the album with a Strong Beer Month spin. Our good friend Eric (Schweick) Schweickert is the creative mojo behind this exercise in egotism and responsible for the art direction, design and layout of these masterpieces. His day job is working for ILM at the Presidio here in San Francisco and when he is not rendering that 10 second shot of Robert Downey Jr. in the Avengers or a Pirates of the Caribbean flick, he is also a craft beer freak and an avid hombrewer. We took his ILM skills to task this year as we recreated the album, ďThe Band.Ē We have a lot of fun with it and this time some of us got to wear beards. The players on the album from left to right: Zambo (21 Head Brewer): as Richard Manuel, Shaun OíSullivan (21A owner) Levon Helms, Ben Spencer (Magnolia Head Brewer) Rick Danko, Dave McLean (Magnolia owner) Garth Hudson, Nico Freccia (21A owner) Robbie Robertson. The day of the shoot is always a fun time, shot up in the Oakland Hills with beers flowing and the music cranked and a great opportunity for all of us to get together. And so it begins.