This post is part of our My SF series that profiles our best, brightest and most interesting local personalities.
Name: Jesse Friedman
Neighborhood: The Mission
Years in SF: Eight
Current Gig: An innovator in the “farm-to-bottle” beer movement, Friedman is the co-founder and Chief Beer Officer of Almanac Beer Co.
In 2010, Friedman and his business partner Damian Fagan set out to create a beer to complement San Francisco’s booming farm-to-table food scene. The result? A collection of home-brewed beers incorporating Northern California fruits such as blackberries, blood oranges and plums.
There is no such thing as “disliking beer” in Friedman’s world. Non-beer drinkers are simply converts waiting to happen. Whether it be a sour brew, an IPA or a light lager, Friedman says there’s a beer out there for everyone. He loves the challenge of helping San Franciscans discover their own.
Why did you decide to break into the San Francisco beer scene? I started writing a blog called “Beer & Nosh” here in San Francisco, so I'm a recovering beer blogger. While I was doing that, I was also very active in the local beer community. I went to beer dinners and I met Damian through a local home brew club. It was love at first home brewers’ sight.
So it was a bit of a beer bromance? That's exactly right.
Was there was a beer void you needed to fill? We both love the San Francisco restaurant scene; we’re both at the ferry building farmers market every single weekend. Out of that came the combined passion for local farm-to-table food and for brewing. We looked around and saw there was no one making beers specifically to serve the farm-to-table market. It is one of those ideas that once you have, it’s kind of appalling that it doesn't exist because it’s so obvious that it should.
Did you start brewing in your own apartment? Yeah, we both still home brew, too. We still develop all of our recipes in a little five-gallon home brew batches on our stoves in our kitchens.
Have you had any disasters? We’ve had many, many disasters. If you're not having brewing disasters at home, you're not trying hard enough. The biggest brew disaster I have ever had was when I was filling bottles of beer out of a small keg. I was using a bottle filler and you had to put pressure on the keg in order to push the beer out and fill up the bottle. The tip of the bottle filler came off, and it began just wildly shooting beer all over the walls of my kitchen, including the ceiling. My wife was very unhappy with me.
It's Beer Week in San Francisco! Besides your own events, what do you plan to check out? We're definitely going to go to the opening gala, which is a big opening celebration. Then we’re going to try to get out to some of the local tap takeovers. It’s really fun to see special beers that other brewers are showing off.
Let's talk about the San Francisco beer scene. The beer community is unique in that, inside the craft beer world, brewers don't really see each other as competitors. We're all trying to convert people into craft beer drinkers, not just Almanac drinkers or Speakeasy drinkers or Anchor drinkers.
Is the scene here different than that of other cities? San Francisco is such a small town trapped in a big city. Anytime you go into a good local beer spot, there’s a good chance that someone who works in the beer industry is sitting at the counter waiting to buy you a pint.
What’s your favorite place in town for a pint? Oh man. There are a lot of great places. I live in the Mission, so I tend to be unfairly biased towards the Mission. I really like Shotwell’s, Dark Horse Inn and Southern Pacific Brewing Company.
Tell me about some of the non-Almanac beers you love. Let’s stay local. I like what Anchor is doing with their experimental new Zymaster series. They just made the same beers over and over again, and now, all at once, they are really doing new things. I like the beers that Pacific Brewing Laboratories is making. And down in Santa Cruz there’s a new brewery called Sante Adairius that’s doing great stuff with sour beers and farmhouse style ales.
We're at the start of Strong Beer Month. What's Almanac doing in the strong beer department? We have a beer coming out right now that we're really excited about called Barrel Noir. It is a love letter to bourbon barrel-aged beers. It’s a blend of two different beers: a Belgian style dark ale that we age in bourbon barrels for about two months, and an American style imperial stout. The result is rich, inky and chocolatey and very, very bourbony on the nose as well.
This sounds like a macho man’s beer. You know, you would think that, but assigning gender roles is always a mistake. Beer has been working to get out of the boy’s club. It's a disservice to think of beer as kind of feminine or masculine because taste runs the gamut.
If you ordered vodka, would that be considered “cheating” on the beer scene? I don't love vodka but I love a good bourbon.
You'll cheat on beer for bourbon? It's not cheating. You can't live on beer alone. Although I’d be willing to try.
Catch the full list of Almanac Beer Co.'s Beer Week Events on their web site, and check out our editor's picks of San Francisco Beer Week highlights below: