Beer Birthday: Dave Buhler

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Today is Dave Buhler’s 56th birthday. Ironically, like Dick Cantwell, whose birthday was yesterday, Dave is also a co-founder of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. Join me in wishing Dave a very happy birthday.

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Fal Allen and Dave Buhler at OBF.

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Dave and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf (at right). Neither Tom or I could identify the fellow in the middle, sorry about that. Can anybody help me out and tell me who that is?

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At the Celebrator’s best of the West Beer Festival in 2009.

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Dave with his business partner and Elyisian co-founder Dick Cantwell at GABF in 2006.

SF Beer Week Opening Gala 2015

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Friday night, the 7th annual SF Beer Week kicked off. This year’s gala was held at Fort Mason, and although I had some trepidation about the site, it actually worked fairly well. The acoustics were as bad as ever, and I think the decision to forgo live music was a good one. That also allowed two additional breweries over last year. We would have preferred to allow everyone who wanted to pour that opportunity, but the new space was much more limited than the concourse had been so we were sadly unable to accommodate every brewery. The concourse is being torn down to be replaced by a mixed use space, so we couldn’t return there this year. It’s an unfortunate truth of San Francisco that their simply aren’t a lot of spaces available to suit the needs of the opening gala, at least not and keep the price of a ticket within the reach of the average beer lover. But Brian and the San Francisco Brewers Guild did a great job of making the space work. Below are a few photos I took at this year’s gala, and for a lot more check out Gamma Nine, who took the official photos for beer week.

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The entrance at this year’s SF Beer Week opening Gala.

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Outside it was still raining, as the time to let everyone in approached.

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All of the glassware waiting for the arrival of everyone for the gala.

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Then the doors opened, and people streamed in.

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The hall filled up quickly, though it never really felt overcrowded.

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Ted Viviatson, from Eel River, and Daniel Del Grande, from Bison Brewing.

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J.J. from Petaluma Hills Brewing.

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John Martin and Kelsey Williams, sporting a six-pack hat, both from Drake’s and Triple Rock.

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San Francisco mayor Ed Lee also came to say a few words at the beginning of the gala. Before his remarks, we took him on a short tour of the hall, stopping by a couple of booths to sample a few beers. Here he’s sharing a laugh with SF Brewers Guild director Brian Stechschulte.

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Brian, mayor Lee and me at the front of the Gala. (Photo by Mike Condie.)

Time-Lapse Views Of The Double IPA Fest

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This is pretty cool. A friend of Bistro owner Vic Kralj, by the name of Graham Richards, is doing a documentary on the Bistro, and shot some time-lapse videos of the Double IPA Fest yesterday. Vic was kind enough to send me three of the short time-lapse films. The first shows the festival being set up hours before opening the doors to people so they can sample nearly 100 double and triple IPAs. The second shows people queuing in line to purchase a glass and sample tickets to the festival during one of the periods of time when it was raining fairly hard. Luckily, it only drizzled or was clear most of the day. The third shows the festival down at the other end of the block, toward the back of area of the street where the festival was held. Enjoy.

No. 1: Setup of the Fest in the morning.

No. 2: The festival opens while it’s started raining hard, but people .

No. 3: A little later in the morning, after the rain had subsided, and showing the back of the festival area.

Bistro Double IPA Winners 2015

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El Segundo‘s Hammerland DIPA was chosen best in show at the 15th annual Double IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. A total of 63 Double IPAs and 34 Triple IPAs were judged. The full winner’s list is below.

Double IPAs

Triple IPAs

Peoples Choice Awards

Congratulations to all the winners.

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The scene at today’s Double IPA Festival at The Bistro.

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Steve Sartori from Altamont Beer Works with The Bistro’s Vic Kralj accepting his 2nd place for his Triple IPA.

Wish You Were Beer: Strong Beer Month 2015

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It’s February, and that means it’s time for the 13th annual Strong Beer Month, once again with six new extreme beers each at 21st Amendment and Magnolia throughout the month. Try them all, and you get to keep the commemorative logo glass. Just collect all 12 punches in your Strong Beer Month ticket before the beer’s all gone. You can read all about it at the 21st Amendment website.

This year’s theme is the 1975 album “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. On the album from left to right are: Shaun O’Sullivan (21A co-owner) and Dave McLean (Magnolia owner).”

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Here’s the lineup for the beer this year:

21st Amendment:

  1. Hendrick’s Imperial Stout: 9.1% abv
  2. Bike Lane Hopper Imperial Black IPA: 9.5% abv
  3. Beer Revolution Imperial Rye IPA: 9% abv
  4. Red Titan Uber Imperial Red Ale Aged on American Oak: 12%
  5. Dub Step Imperial I.P.A.: 10% abv
  6. POHW Imperial Blonde with Oats and Wildflower Honey: 9.5% abv

Magnolia:

  1. Madcap Imperial Botanical Beer: 10.6% abv
  2. Promised Land Imperial IPA: 10.2% abv
  3. Tweezer Tripel Belgian-Style Tripel: 10.8% abv
  4. Old Thunderpussy Barley Wine: 11.8% abv
  5. Pride of Branthill Imperial ESB: 9.1% abv
  6. Smokestack Lightning Imperial Stout: 9.8% abv

And here’s the back cover, too, with more details about each beer:

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The Next Session Goes To A Beer Festival

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For our 96th Session, our host is Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Birraire, which is also his nickname. He’s asking us all to attend a beer festival, either in person or virtually, and take a position one way or the other, or even somewhere in between, on this question, which, if you haven’t guessed, is the topic. “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?.”

The discussion at hand is “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?” I guess it is pretty much clear, but apart from exposing whether the answer is A, B or C (the latter being “it depends”) I expect participants to give us some insight into their local beer scene to better understand the importance or irrelevance of Festivals in each area. My guess is that it can be quite different depending on the popularity of beer in different countries and cultures.

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The Great American Beer Festival in 2002.

So get thee to a beer festival, or search your memory banks for your festival experiences. To participate in February’s Session, just wax on and/or off about your take on the humble beer fest. Then on February 6, post your thoughts in the comments section to Birraire’s announcement.

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At the Toronado Barleywine Festival in 2013.

Happy Burns Night

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Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:

Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.

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John Barleycorn

There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.

His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.

They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.

And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

Here’s an analysis of the poem, and below is a video of the Scottish St. Andrews Society of Greater St. Louis‘ Burns Night in 2011 and the recitation of John Barleycorn by an Allan Stewart.

And although it has little to do with Burns Night, I still love the version sung by the band Traffic, with frontman Steve Winwood, which appeared on their 1970 album John Barleycorn Must Die.

Beer Birthday: The Beer Can

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Today is “Beer Can Appreciation Day,” because on this day 80 years ago — January 24, 1935 — the humble beer can was sold for the very first time. So join me in wishing the beer can a happy birthday.

Below is an article I wrote about beer cans nine years ago telling the story of their history.

The beer can debuted in 1935, when an otherwise obscure brewery from New Jersey — Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. — test-marketed them in Virginia, as far from their home market as possible. Breweries may have been initially reluctant, but the public loved cans — they were an overnight sensation. By the end of that first year, Schlitz (then one of America’s biggest brewers) had their beer in cans and every other brewery quickly followed suit.

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The beer can was invented by American Can, who patented “Vinylite,” a plastic lining for cans marketed under the brand name “Keglined.” Over the years, the technology continued to improve, from tin to all-aluminum, from cone tops to flat tops, from clumsy openers to pull tops, yet one seemingly intractable problem remained: metal turbity. That’s the technical term for metal leeching into the beer, and consumers increasingly complained about the tainted metallic flavor in canned beer.

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But then craft beer became popular, and with it better beer evangelists preached that canned beer could never be good. And that remained conventional wisdom for decades, made virtually dogma. During that same time, however, research by the can companies solved the metal turbidity problem. Using an organic polymer — really a water-based epoxy acrylic — that was sprayed inside each can during manufacturing, it could now honestly be said that the beer never touched the metal.

Unfortunately, the only beer in cans was not the type that most beer geeks would willingly quaff. The other great hurdle to getting craft beer in a can was the cost. You could buy a cheap, used bottling line but canning lines were quite massive and very expensive. And the people who made cans were used to selling them to big breweries, and so the minimum run for a can was something on the order of a full railroad car, too many and too expensive for even the biggest microbreweries.

But then the bottom fell out of microbrewing, and by the late-1990s equipment suppliers were also feeling the pinch. Hoping to survive the economic downturn, Canada’s Cask Brewing Systems created an affordable solution. They designed a small manual canning line that was cheaper than the average bottling line and persuaded Ball Corporation (a leading can manufacturer) to significantly reduce their minimum orders. All they had to do was convince someone to try canning their beer.

And so Cask started appearing at trade shows and repeatedly sending literature to breweries. When Dale Katechis, of Oskar Blues, in Lyons, Colorado, first read the pitch, he “just laughed and laughed,” thinking there’s “no way this can be done.” But the more he looked into it, the less he laughed. A few months later — in 2002 — Dale’s Pale Ale was released, the first craft beer to be hand-canned. By 2005, Oskar Blues was the biggest brewpub in the U.S. and Dale’s was declared by the New York Times to be the best pale ale in America.

The Oskar Blues team became evangelists for canned beer with the slogan “the canned-beer apocalypse.” Other small breweries noticed Dale’s success and he was only too happy to show them the light. Today, there are nearly forty [in 2006] craft brewers hand-canning their beer.

There are almost as many kinds of beer in cans as there are styles these days, too, from extreme, strong offerings like Surly’s Furious (a 100-IBU Imperial IPA) and Old Chubb (a Scotch Ale) to more unusual beers like Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut Porter and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon to lighter lagers like Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils and Steamwoks Steam Engine Lager. And now that New Belgium Brewing, one of the largest American craft brewers, is canning their popular Fat Tire Amber Ale, expect to see many more beers in cans in the future.

The biggest challenge is unmaking the dogmatic perception of beer in cans as an evil. It’s a persistent prejudice, but is slowly beginning to change as the advantages to canned beer become more widely known. They keep out all UV light, avoiding the skunky taste of clear and green glass. Cans have lower oxygen levels, meaning longer shelf life. They won’t break; they chill faster and can be taken more places, especially where glass is prohibited. And they’re more environmentally friendly, using less packaging plus more of the can is recyclable, with more used in manufacturing recycled cans. Cans are also lighter, resulting in lower transportation costs and fewer fossil fuels needed.

But in the end, the only thing that matters is how the beer tastes. Side-by-side can vs. draft taste tests reveal that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference. That, coupled with the real advantages of the packaging, means that craft beer in cans is where the future of craft beer is heading.

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Shaun O’Sullivan, co-owner of 21st Amendment, showing off one of his early can designs. 21A was the third brewery in California to can their beer.

When I originally wrote that article, around two dozen small breweries were canning their beer, and when I first posted this in 2011 that number had quadrupled, with over 100 small brewers canning their beer. In 2015, the Canned Beer Database lists 480 breweries offering their beer in cans. It’s great to see good beer in cans become more and more common, and we should continue to see more canned beer from craft brewers in the future. Why not pick up some today and see for yourself how good it now is from a can, especially as we celebrate “Beer Can Appreciation Day.”

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Alaska Barleywine Festival 2015 Winners

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Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. St. Elias Brewing’s Moose Juice, Soldotna, Alaska
  2. Midnight Sun Brewing’s Termination Dust Belgian-Style Barley Wine, Anchorage, Alaska
  3. Lagunitas Brewing’s Olde Gnarlywine Barley Wine, Petaluma, California

And the Best Winter Beer:

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks again to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.

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Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 24

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On Saturday, January 24, from Noon to 4 PM, the Brewing Network‘s 6th annual Winter Brews Festival will take place at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. The beer festival will feature over 50 breweries and proceeds will benefit the Coral Reef Alliance. Sandwiched in between the weekends of the final NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl — so you won’t miss a game — the annual event will showcase dozens of award-winning craft breweries, including local favorites, 21st Amendment, Drake’s, Heretic, and Lagunitas, as well as some great new breweries like Calicraft and The Rare Barrel.
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Live music from Ralph Woodson and Purple Haze will set the mood for an afternoon of great beer and a worthy cause. Sponsors of the event include The Hop Grenade Taproom & Bottle Shop, the 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewing Company, Hop Tech Homebrew and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $40 pre-sale or $50 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass. Designated Drivers pay only $5, however this is a 21 and over only event. The event, which will, for the first time, take over the entire Todos Santos Plaza, is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station, making it easy to get to and from the festival safely. For more information on the event, and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.BNbrewfest.com.

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