Six thousand years ago, in the city of Babylon near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the ancient Sumerians mixed up a simple combination of water, barley, hops, and yeast -- and presto, the world's first microbrewery was born. These days just about every civilization in the world concocts some sort of brewski. And while there are Trappist monks who've used the same recipe for 400 years and modern Sudanese villagers who've inherited the method used by ancient Egyptians, other cultures are just catching on. The 20th annual San Francisco International Beer Festival is proof that the art of gourmet beer-making -- and -drinking -- in the United States has vastly improved from the days when Americans were known for chugging 12-packs of warm Olympia or Milwaukee's Best.With over 200 craft and microbrewed ales, Pilsners, and stouts on tap, the fest offers unlimited tastings -- wait, let's go over that again: unlimited tastings -- from home-grown shops like Lagunitas, Speakeasy, and 21st Amendment, as well as institutions from around the globe like Chimay and Guinness. The event also offers samples ranging from obscure, rarely imported Eastern European varieties to the unusual Fairfax-based Bagelbeer, and most everything in between. Lest you think you'd have to fill up on suds alone -- God forbid -- San Francisco's favorite restaurants serve up beer-friendly treats like brioche, corn dogs, and house-made salami (from Molinari's Delicatessen). If an evening of fine brews, gourmet nibbles, and live music courtesy of Big Lou's Polka Casserole is too much to enjoy with a clear conscience, take heart: All proceeds go to the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School in North Beach.
And remember, as Ben Franklin said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Public transportation is encouraged; ages 21 and over, obviously. The festival takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $40-50; call 820-3905 or visit www.sfbeerfest.com. -- David Lionetti
Kinky Friedman -- where to start? With his band, Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys? His friendship with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush? His vegetarianism? How about this: Richard "Kinky" Friedman, former Peace Corps volunteer and author of many wonderful songs (including "I'm Proud to Be an Asshole From El Paso") has written a new book. It's called Kill Two Birds & Get Stoned, but it's not what you think: It isn't a mystery, like most of his oeuvre, and it has no character named Kinky Friedman. Solve the puzzle at 7 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at Turk). Admission is free; call 441-6670 and by all means visit www.kinkyfriedman.com. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
A Stitch in Time
Now that knitting is a legitimate form of protest, there's never been a better time to get your weave on. Local artisans the Shizknits have taught crafty grandmas and hipster Missionites alike how to knit one, purl two. Founder Betsy McCall likens the craft to a fine art, and once you've seen her line of hand-detailed hats and scarves based on the works of Joan Miró and Henri Matisse, appropriately named Abstract Expressioknits, you'll agree. Whip up your own beer cozies -- or peace signs -- at the "Knitting Bee With the Shizknits," 7:30 p.m. at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia. Admission is $10; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com. -- Lisa Hom
At the 36th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, the organizers have prepared too many goodies for just one weekend. The first two days bring not only teen heartthrob singer Keisuke Maki from Japan, but also woodblock printing, origami, and poetry. Perhaps most exciting is Saturday's Cherry Blossom Queen Pageant. The second weekend has the U.S./Japan Taiko Festival, bonsai, tea ceremonies, and a 320-foot-long California Roll. Crowning the festival is the Grand Parade, with Kristi Yamaguchi as grand marshal. Come to Japantown (Post & Buchanan) on April 12, 13, 19, and 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free; call 563-2313. -- Hiya Swanhuyser