Friday, August 10, 2007

Toronado: 20 Years Worth Celebrating

Click here to see pictures of the events

What would you expect the night to be like when one of the world's best brewers throws a party for one of the country's most celebrated publicans? You got it, a noteworthy celebration worth the long drive and late hours. This was the scene last night in Santa Rosa's Russian River Brewing Company, owned by head brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo, when they threw a party in David Keene's honor (owner of the Toronado). San Francisco's crown jewel of beer bars is celebrating 20 years in operation this week, and to kick off the official festivities, Russian River had an open house party for hundreds of Keene's closest friends.

There was, of course, great beer to be had, all made by Vinnie at his brewpub. The main attraction was the Toronado 20th Anniversary beer, a Flanders Red type of beer that was just too easy to enjoy for the power of it all - 9.9% ABV. In addition to the 20th Anniversary beer, revelers were able to enjoy the Lap Dance (Vinnie's Pale Ale), Bravo (their single-hopped IPA using the new hop by the same name), Sanctification (100% Brett beer), and a handful of other beers scrawled upon the infamous Russian River chalk board. As if this weren't enough, a few observant folks found themselves enjoying a nip of Supplication (a sour Belgian inspired beer aged in oak barrels on cherries) and Damnation (the top-selling Belgian type ale on the board) poured by Vinnie from large Magnum bottles.

It was a veritable night of "who's who" in the beer community, with brewers, beer brokers, importers, writers and hard-core enthusiasts rubbing elbows and exchanging stories... all while enjoying the quality beers found at the bar. Each person was here for one reason, to celebrate Toronado & David Keene, the bald, bouncer-looking man who has been at the helm of Toronado since since 1989 when he bought out the other owners and began making a name for himself and putting his mark in history. They were here, many of them anyway, to say thank you, as the Toronado has done so much to promote small batch brewers that produce beers of intense flavor and complexity. In addition, the bar has etched its way into the national beer conversation by continuing to put on beer festivals and events that attract people from all over - perhaps most notable is the Barley Wine Festival that occurs each February.

Yes, over the past twenty years the Toronado has done a lot in the Bay Area to define what a beer bar can and should be, a place that welcomes all who love the best beer has to offer. Don't believe me? Well, stop in sometime and just watch - it isn't uncommon to see professional brewers, beer writers and enthusiasts from around the world stop in for a pint or three. They won't fly a banner announcing their profession, so it may not be as obvious as their passion, but they're there just like anyone else, and for the same reason. The place simply has the best beer you'll ever find under one roof. Yes, there are bars around the country with more taps (Toronado has 46 taps), but none will have the consistent quality found on any given day in the dark and hallowed halls of Toronado, on Haight and Filmore in San Francisco.

Did you know?
David Keene has two beers named in his honor - Big Daddy by Speakeasy and Brother David by Anderson Valley.