It was clear early on that the Slow Beer Festival, presented March 1 by Slow Food San Francisco and the San Francisco Brewers Guild, was more of an excuse to get drunk in a convention hall on a Saturday afternoon than to explore how beer could be sustainable. Twelve NorCal microbreweries lined the green-hued cement walls of the County Fair Building Marin Brewing, Speakeasy, Anderson Valley, Red Seal, and so on. An administrator at the front desk, though, couldn't tell me what the difference was between a Slow Beer and your everyday microbrew (though she did say it was "a good question"). The man at the nationally distributed Gordon Biersch stand said bluntly, "Yeah, we're a corporation."
Normally I'd say, "Fill up my glass and pass me another Gambone-mushroom-and-cheese skewer [drizzled in salsa verde]!" Here, though, I began to actually wonder how beer could be incorporated in the Slow Food ideology. As the manifesto says, "May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency."
The Slow Foodists seek not just to change the food we consume but to change how we consume it as well. So isn't a sterile room for beer tasting just stripping beer down to its flavor, and not about the way we experience it? At the festival, on one side of the gate there was a crowded room with a slender outdoor food garden and (by my estimate) 200 gallons of beer; on the other side, a park blanketed in sunshine. The latter setting might be better for bringing out the true sensual pleasures of beer. Next year, why not save money on the room deposit and hold the event in Michael Pollan's backyard?