When does an annual event become a tradition?
Co-founder & Brewmaster Shaun O’Sullivan looks back on 17 years of Strong Beer Month in San Francisco:
Strong Beer Month has been our annual February month-long festival with Magnolia Brewing since 2002. That’s 17 years of creating and brewing strong beers. This all started in 2002 when both Magnolia and the 21st Amendment were young breweries, just in their infancy. Back then my good friend and then owner of Magnolia Brewing, Dave Mclean and I sat down over beers and talked about how we could have fun together in February with our two places and help get more people in the doors, as that time of year is notoriously one of the slowest in the industry. Strong Beer Month spawned out of that conversation and would later be one of the events that would help lay the foundation for San Francisco Beer Week.
In case you haven’t been part of this before, Strong Beer Month starts February 1st and involves venturing to both Magnolia and the 21A, trying all 12 unique beers, six at each brewery with your “movie ticket” in hand. At the end of your quest, with your stamped card filled, you collect the special glass commemorating the month. And as always with both the beers and glass it’s “while supplies last.”
We’ve had fun over the years with the theme and design for the month. In the past, we’ve re-created classic rock album posters, where through staged photo shoots and clever Photoshop editing, the brewers at each brewery metamorphosed into the rock stars in their heads.
When Magnolia changed hands to a new owner to another good friend Dick Cantwell, we decided to mix things up. On a conference call brainstorming about a new direction, Dick blurted out “monster movies” as these beers with their significant strength are “monsters” in their own right. Boom! The idea was hatched. The 21A’s marketing team created the visual elements transforming Dick, Nico and Shaun into a three-headed monster on a campy 1960s poster where “terror,” “screams” and “suds-o-vision” set you up for what’s to come.
And with that here are this month’s featured attractions from the 21st Amendment—watch out for these monsters!
The Curse of Wheatwine – called such as it approaches the strength of wine at 11.3%. This style was first brewed by Phil Moeller at Rubican Brewery in Sacramento in the late 80s.
Giant Killer Milk Stout Robots – Imperial Milk Stout on Nitro named for the monster special effect company that once resided around the corner from the 21A on Brannan Street, It’s toffee, chocolate and silky flavors with a nitrogenized creamy head is deceptively drinkable. Boo.
Monk’s Blood with Raspberries & Cocoa Nibs. Our first specialty beer can (originally released in 2010) with dried Mission figs, vanilla beans, oak spirals and reinvented for 2019 with raspberries and cocoa nibs.
Cellared Baby Horse – a Belgian-style Quadrupel with a complex character, aged and brewed with a grain bill that is equal to the weight of a small baby horse. Scary…
Hop 9 from Outer Space – West Coast Triple IPA a big complex bright triple IPA hopped with Amarillo, Centennial, Nugget, and Simcoe lupulin powder, Chinook and El Dorado. Old school is new school again.
Smog Monster – Double Hazy Smoked IPA our collaboration brew with our good friends at Magnolia is an imperial hazy IPA brewed with North Carolina’s Copper Fox smoked malt and hopped with Centennial, Amarillo, Ella and Mosaic.