By Alyssa Pereira and Nicolas Christensen

For the last 30+ years, the San Francisco International Beer Festival has been raising funds for the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School in the city through the best possible vehicle: by inviting everyone to do some serious beer tasting right on the waterfront.

This year’s event saw hundreds of different brews from every corner of the world, from Thailand to the U.K. to right here in San Francisco, and brought a wealth of some of the finest commercially sold beers to our backyard.

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We tasted many of the fest’s best offerings (including some truly incredible barbecue by City Smoke House), debated on the best beers, and listed out our favorites right here.

Keep an eye out for these next time you hit the beer aisle!

High Sierra Brewing Co.: Sparks, NV

A blend of American hops and a malty finish that denotes chocolate flavor, this IPA is appropriately named given its complex yet subtle auburn color. Enjoy this toasted delight at the base or the summit, and at every stop along the trail. -NC

Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean
Stone: San Diego, CA

Stone’s Smoked Porter had existed for nearly twenty years before 2006, when the brewery thought to add Madagascar vanilla into the mix. Even then, it was only available for special events. Finally in 2012, the brewery released it for a single bottle run, so that fans of rich brews could at last get a taste of the beer’s heavenly semi-sweet chocolate notes and deep vanilla tones. -AP

Vendetta IPA
Speakeasy: San Francisco, CA

This self-proclaimed “cutthroat convergence of Citra and Amarillo hops” is a blistering adaptation of the West Coast IPA comprised of Washington hops and California soul. Bold and unrelenting, Vendetta delivers a crisp citrus aroma with residual hop flavor, essential to your next summer adventure. -NC

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Venus Reigns Hard Pear Cider
Crispin: Colfax, CA

It doesn’t get much closer to ambrosia than this. Crispin crafted its exquisite pear cider by aging golden pear wine in carefully chosen wooden red wine casks, and then candied it with a slight drop of honey. It likens to a late harvest dessert wine without cloying density, instead made light by the cider’s light carbonation. -AP

Stone: San Diego, CA

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No stranger to hop-forward thinking (ahem, Stone IPA), the Cali-Belgique forges its own path. The beer builds on the malty, hoppy flavor of their IPA, so drinkers should prepare for an exemplary blend of Belgian yeasts which still ends with the slightly bitterness you’ve come to know and love from Stone. You’ll never drink the same way. -NC

Ommegang: Cooperstown, NY

While tasting a seasonal winter brew at beer festival in May might have been a bit out of the norm, the warmly-spiced, dark roasted Belgian winter beer is a welcomed sip any time of year. Featuring “coriander, orange peel, mace, cardamom and grains of paradise,” Adoration is a go-to for a chilly night, no matter what month it is. -AP

In-tents India Pale Lager
Base Camp: Portland, OR

At first sight, this golden brown lager elicits intrigue; at first sip, validation. Refreshingly hopped, this novel contribution to hop-mania is a welcome change. Aged in-house on a “toasted blend of white and red oaks,” throw these in your pack, kayak, or toast it around a fire after a long day on the hard. -NC


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Honey Mead
Chaucer’s: Soquel, CA

Who says everything at a beer fest has to be made with hops? Chaucer uses 100% honey (read: no artificial flavoring here) to create a light blend of alfalfa, orange, and sage notes in this dessert-style wine. It also comes with a blend of mulling spices, so you can enjoy it warm or cold, any time of year. -AP

Down To Earth
21st Amendment: San Francisco, CA

An abundance of hops will grab you on first taste, leaving a smooth, mellow respite, which showcases a successfully crafted session IPA that tastes like an actual IPA, but won’t leave you slurring when you pair it with lunch, or sip it as you bask poolside on a steamy summer day. That’s a lotta cajones in a can. -NC

Cream Stout
St. Peter’s: Bungay, Suffolk, United Kingdom

This robust dark chocolate cream stout is dangerously easy drinking. It might be on the burlier side, made from a blend of five local malts and Fuggles and Challenger hops, but the creamy texture and delicate, sweet flavor makes it an easy choice, especially for an after dinner treat.  -AP

Steel Town
Crispin: Colfax, CA

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Finally a cider that can hang with the debaucherous heathens in the night. Aged in Sherry, Port, Shiraz, Rye, and finally bourbon barrels, this harmoniously infused apple cider will keep the music going long after last call; a dangerously easy drinking homage to Crispin’s 5th anniversary which will surprise even the most stalwart beer enthusiast or bourbon connoisseur. -NC