Best of the Bay 2013: BEST BARLEYWINE BLAST

Although it’s been absorbed to an extent by SF Beer Week, Toronado’s annual Barleywine Festival has been around much longer (20 years as of last February), and it eschews the exuberant trappings of most of its festival kin to focus strictly on what’s most essential — the booze. As strong as wine but brewed as a beer, barleywines fall beyond stouts, doppelbocks, and tripels on the strong beer spectrum, and are best savored slowly and with a degree of reverence, which Toronado facilitates with generous, inexpensive sample pours of over 50 varieties from around the world. And, dear hearts, the festival always falls on the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day, making it the perfect destination (or distraction) for the lovers and loners alike.

547 Haight, SF, (415) 863-2276, www.toronado.com