The Breastfest Beer Festival for charity in San Francisco

On July 14, the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco was packed with beer lovers raising money for the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic. Photo: B.Kolesar/

SAN FRANCISCO, July 22, 2012 — It usually does not take much to gather beer lovers together in pursuit of their favorite beverage. Tie in a charity addressing a health issue that affects many people and it typically is a recipe for a successful event.

Dating to 2000 and originally held at the Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur, the annual Breastfest charity beer festival, has been one of the most eagerly-anticipated and best beer festivals in California. Moving the festival in 2010 from Marin County to the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco afforded festival-goers much more space — not to mention incredibly scenic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alacatraz, and the city — to enjoy the festival.

The festival has grown from sixteen attending breweries and several hundred attendees to over sixty breweries, a dozen other wine and food purveyors, and roughly 2,000 attendees. This year’s installment was held on July 14 with a beautiful weather forecast in downtown San Francisco.

Nearly 2,000 beer loving attendees filled the cavernous Fort Mason Festival Pavilion on July 14, 2012 in San Francisco for the annual Breastfest charity beer festival.

The list of beer companies read like a who’s-who of northern California plus a few from southern California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine for good measure. Industry stalwarts like Sierra Nevada and noteworthy players in the world of craft beer like 21st Amendment, Anderson Valley, Bear Republic, Firestone Walker, Lagunitas, North Coast, Russian River, and Stone were amongst the more recognizable names pouring beers at the event.

The festival space, though, was large enough to accommodate some of the newest and smallest breweries popping up around California from Cloverdale (Ruth McGowan’s Brew Pub) to Fremont (Jack’s Brewing Co.) to Madera (Riley’s Brewing Co.) to Goleta (Hollister Brewing Co.) and Carpinteria (Island Brewing Co.) and everywhere in between.

Some crowd (and personal) favorites amongst the nearly 200 beers pouring at the festival included:

Anxious crowds await the timed opening of Russian River’s famed Consecration.

Calicraft Cali Cölsch, Walnut Creek, Calif. – One of the youngest breweries at the festival, barely three-month-old Calicraft has just a few beers currently in production and being brewed at Hermitage Brewery in San Jose. This, like the Ginger Wheat (see below), is another beer perfect for warmer weather drinking. At 5.2% ABV, this light-bodied and easy-drinking beer exhibits refreshingly mild fruit flavors like peach.

El Toro Chocolate Stout, Morgan Hill, Calif. – This twenty-year-old award-winning brewery (five-year-old brew pub) brought a special chocolate stout that impressed with its rich chocolate flavor that was certainly noticeable, but not overpowering.

High Water Campfire Stout and Berliner “Reisse” – Popular and respected brewer Steve Altimari, formerly of Valley Brewing, has surfaced at his own High Water Brewing Company. These two beers could not be more different, nor more tasty. The Campfire Stout tastes a whole lot like a s’more by the campfire and, incredibly, somehow Altimari has made it taste like you want another sip, followed by another, and… Whereas, his Berliner Reisse is a tart and refreshing summertime beer which, at 4.0% ABV, you can have many and enjoy them too.

Napa Smith Ginger Wheat, Napa, Calif. – Don Barkley (seen in this article’s lead picture) brought his reputable and iconic brewing legacy to NapaSmith where he heads up the brewing team that created this refreshingly drinkable beer ideal for hot summer weather. The beer comes in at only 4.6% ABV and carries a pleasantly subtle dose of fresh ginger root flavor in each sip.

Sierra Nevada Hips Helles, Chico, Calif. – In a craft beer world dominated with ales, funky flavors, and barrel-aging, the timeless Sierra Nevada reminds with this beer that it can still be hip to enjoy a well-made Helles Lager, this smooth one at 4.7% and on-draft only – at least for the time being.

Russian River Row 2 Hill 56, Santa Rosa, Calif. – From the home brew pub to bars around the Bay Area to online forums, the beer geek set is abuzz with justified excitement for this 100% Simcoe-hopped pale ale that sources its Simcoe hops from the family-run hop yards in Yakima, Wash. This 5.8% ABV beer delights with its noticeable hop bitterness and citrusy flavors. Numerous comments carried a similar sentiment wishing for this to become a regular player in the popular brewery’s lineup.

Beer was not the only reward for paying attendees. Throughout the five-hour festival, beer drinkers, at least those old enough to remember the 1980s, reminisced as they danced and sang along to the hair/metal cover band Metal Shop who paid homage to the headbanging sounds from the 1980s covering bands like Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Billy Squier, Def Leppard, and many more.

1980s cover band, Metal Shop, played vintage heavy metal to the delight of the crowd at Breastfest charity beer festival on July 14, 2012 in San Francisco.

In addition to the beer and the music, food was plentiful as well. Ribs, salads, pasta, brownies, and more were easily accessible, substantial enough, and included in the admission price. It was seen as quite the responsible move on the part of the festival organizers.

Funds were raised from the price of admission and raffles also took place throughout the afternoon.

Marin Bikes gave away two bicycles, premier sponsors Moylan’s Brewery and Marin Brewing Company chipped in gift certificates, wineries donated wine-related prizes, and various other retail merchandise from the participating establishments contributed to the profits that were donated to Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic.

Since 1992, the state licensed non-profit clinic has become well-regarded for its work’s mission “to provide supportive CAM (complementary alternative medical) to underserved women with cancer.”

Alcatraz served as the backdrop for one of the most scenic locations for a beer festival in the U.S. during Breastfest on July 14, 2012 at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco.

And if the beer, music, food, fun, and games got to be too much, a pleasant walk around the pier was what many chose to do to take in the incredible views from the city to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and across to the North Bay on the nearly picture-perfect day of sunshine and breezy 60-degree weather.

The date for 2013 has already been announced. Mark the date — July 13, 2013 — for the next opportunity to experience one of California’s best beer festivals.

For a larger picture gallery, please visit The Brew Lounge via this link.

For more information about the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic, please click here.

And, for more information about the annual Breastfest beer festival, follow this link.

Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at Washington Times.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar


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