James Beard Semifinalists Announced

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The 2014 semifinalist nominations for the James Beard Awards were announced yesterday, and the good news is there are quite a few beer professionals among the nominees for “Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional.” If you’re not familiar with the prestigious food awards, here’s how the James Beard Foundation describe their annual awards. “Covering all aspects of the industry — from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more — the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America.” Until very recently, the awards were almost exclusively food and wine-centric, but more recently “beverage professionals” has slowly been expanding to include craft beer and spirits, too. It’s been nice to see the prejudice against beer in the food, cooking and restaurant world finally beginning to slide away. Too slowly, perhaps, but still … it’s about time and nice to see.

The list released yesterday is the semifinalists. On March 19, a smaller list of finalists will be announced from among the semifinalists and the award winners will be announced over two days in early May. In the category “Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional,” seven of the twenty semifinalists work in the beer world. Hopefully, they’ll all make the cut next month.

  • Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
  • Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, Vanberg & DeWulf, Cooperstown, NY
  • Mike Floyd, Nick Floyd, and Simon Floyd, Three Floyds Brewing, Munster, IN
  • Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
  • Tom Peters, Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia
  • Joey Redner, Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, FL
  • Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME

Congratulations to all the semifinalists. It’s a great list, all deserving, though I’m especially pleased to see Tom Peters, who I just traveled to Belgium with last week, along with Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, who I had dinner with in Ghent last week, make the list.

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Bistro Double IPA Winners 2014

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Kinetic‘s After Burner was chosen best in show at the 14th annual Double IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. A total of 46 Double IPAs and 26 Triple IPAs were judged. The full winner’s list is below.

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Triple IPAs

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Congratulations to all the winners.

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

Some Girls For Strong Beer Month

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It’s February, and that means it’s time for the 12th 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 both Magnolia and 21st Amendment websites.

This year’s theme is the 1978 album “Some Girls” by the Rolling Stones. “The players on the album from left to right on the album (green row) are: Ben Spencer (Magnolia Head Brewer), Shaun O’Sullivan (21A owner), Zambo (21 Head Brewer), Dave McLean (Magnolia owner) and Nico Freccia (21A owner). There is also an Easter egg in the album, see if you can find Motor Kiesling, a good friend of both the 21A and Magnolia.”

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Here’s the beer for this year:

Side One: Magnolia:

  1. Rye Rye Rocco Rye Brown Ale: 8.1% abv
  2. Let It Rauch German-influenced Smoked Beer: 8.1% abv
  3. Promised Land Imperial IPA: 11.2% abv
  4. Smokestack Lightning Imperial Stout: 9.7% abv
  5. Quadlibet For Tenderfeet Belgian Abbey-style Quadrupel: 8% abv
  6. Old Thunderpussy Barleywine: 10.6% abv

Side Two: 21st Amendment:

  1. Framboise Forte d’Or Belgian-style Raspberry Golden Ale: 10.2% abv
  2. Dub Step Imperial I.P.A.: 10.2% abv
  3. Beast of Burden American-Belgo Imperial IPA: 9.9% abv
  4. Red Titan Giant Red Ale: 12.8%
  5. Bike Lane Hopper Imperial Black IPA: 9.6% abv
  6. Hendrick’s Imperial Stout: 9.3% abv

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

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This year for the first time, they also created a third poster, this one showing the Strong Beer Month gang pal’ing around with all of their celebrity friends. Must be nice to be a brewer.

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Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 25

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The 5th annual Winter Brews Festival, produced by the Brewing Network, will be held this year on Saturday, January 25 from Noon to 4:00 p.m. It will be held again in Concord, at Todos Santos Plaza, just two blocks from the Concord BART station. This year’s festival looks to be their best ever, with over fifty breweries confirmed to attend, including a few that we don’t often see in the Bay Area, such as Societe Brewing from San Diego, Jester King, from Texas, and our own Faction Brewing showcasing their beer at one of the first fest’s they’ve attended. Come give Rodger Davis a hard time; you know you want to!

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Tickets are currently on sale, and can be purchased online through Eventbrite. Here’s all the details from the press release:

The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival returns to Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on Saturday January 25, 2014 from noon to 4pm to celebrate its fifth year as one of the best craft beer festivals in the Bay Area, and the only winter brews fest!

Nestled between the weekend of the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl, this event will showcase dozens of craft beer samples from more than 30 world class breweries; most of which call the Bay Area home. Attendees will enjoy unlimited tastings from breweries such as 21st Amendment, Faction, Firestone Walker, Jester King, Heretic, Ninkasi, Sierra Nevada, Societe, and Stone.

This year, the Winter Brews Fest will be bigger than ever—with more food, more music, and more beer! There will even be non-beer options such as world class mead from Moonlight Meadery out of New Hampshire. Sponsors of the event include the 21st Amendment and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $35 pre-sale or $45 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass for the first 1,500 tickets sold. Designated Drivers get in free, however this is a 21 and over only event.

The event is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station so mark your calendars for a craft beer infused day for a wonderful cause.

If you haven’t been to this festival before, it’s one of the better Bay Area beer festivals. Here’s some photos from last year’s event to give you a flavor for it.

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Food will also be available for purchase.

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Did I mention there will be music? This year Forrest Day and Lucas Ohio & the Shamblers will be performing.

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See you there!

Hoppy Christmas

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From my IP address to yours. Have a very Malty Christmas and a Hoppy Holiday. Peace On Earth, Good Beer to Men (and Women).

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“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

             — Calvin Coolidge

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‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale; ’twas Christmas told the merriest tale; a Christmas gambol oft could cheer the poor man’s heart through half the year.

             — Sir Walter Scott

 
The original image, which I doctored, was the cover of a 1950 issue of Guinness Time, “a quarterly publication by the Guinness company [that] was distributed to all Guinness staff.” I found it at Bygone Bodiam, a very cool website covering old time Bodiam, a hop growing area in England. There are also a number of great nostalgic photographs of the local hops industry back in the day.

The Year In Beer On KQED Forum

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Earlier today I was on NPR for an hour-segment of KQED Forum, along with master cicerone Nicole Erny and 21st Amendment brewmaster and co-founder Shaun O’Sullivan. The host was Dave Iverson and although they titled the show The Year in Beer, we really covered a wide range of topics on beer more generally.

We talked for about an hour, and easily could have kept going all day long, especially if we’d had beer to drink. If you missed it live, you can hear the whole thing by pressing the gold triangle above. Enjoy.

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Me, Dave Iverson, Shaun and Nicole at the KQED studios after the show.

Four Score and Seven Beers Ago

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Today, of course, is the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, a.k.a. Repeal Day. Below is the original resolution from Congress, signed the following day.

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You may recall that earlier this year was also the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. So I was goofing around this morning and modified Lincoln’s famous speech as a toast to the end of prohibition, which I titled “Four Score and Seven Beers Ago.” A score, to save you from checking Dictionary.com is 20 years, which is how long ago the 21st Amendment was ratified. Enjoy.

Four score and seven beers ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, the end of prohibition, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are entitled to a beer.

Now we are engaged in a great social war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met in a great brewery of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of this kettle, as a final resting place for the malt who here gave its life that that beer might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should toast this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this beer. The brave malt, hops and yeast, who fermented here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add more hops or filter it. The world will little note, nor long remember what beer we drank here, but it can never forget what they brewed here. It is for us the drinkers, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished beer which they who brewed here have thus far made with noble hops. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task of drinking more beer — that from these honored beers we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of hops — that we here highly resolve that these bottles shall not have been emptied in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom to drink beer — and that this beer of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Don’t read too much into it, again I was just goofing around with the words. I suppose it could be used as a toast if you were at a brewery, but otherwise, it’s just a little spoof, nothing more.

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So join me in bridging time and drinking a toast to prohibition’s end, 80 years later, and, of course, stay wet, my friends. Happy Repeal Day.

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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Propaganda

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Here’s another great example of the circle jerk nature of prohibitionist groups. This is, I’m finding, the standard operating procedure for most, if not all, of them. They decide what they’re opposed to, in this case alcohol, and then they commission — that is pay for — research that they claim proves their point. Tobacco companies are the classic example, insofar as they funded lots of studies showing how safe smoking was despite independent research revealing just the opposite. How the “study” is framed is one of the many troubling aspects of how they do this. Assumptions are made that all alcohol is bad and that people who consume it will abuse it and be a burden on society, causing innumerable harms to themselves and others. That’s a persistent theme that permeates much of the so-called scientific literature, there’s hardly a whiff of impartiality if you look deeply enough into it.

A pointed example I recall, outside the alcohol world, is the Meese Commission Report which was directed by then-President Ronald Reagan to find a link between pornography and criminal or anti-social behavior. The important difference between this, and the earlier commission by Johnson/Nixon which resulted in the 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, is that from an impartial starting point that report found no such link. In fact, the 1970 commission “recommended against any restrictions for adults” and overall “the report found that obscenity and pornography were not important social problems, that there was no evidence that exposure to such material was harmful to individuals, and that current legal and policy initiatives were more likely to create problems than solve them.” Regardless of your feelings about pornography, what’s significant is that Reagan’s mandate to Meese was not to see if there was causation between pornography and violence, but was instead he was tasked with finding one. That was the goal of the report, to find a link to please Reagan’s base on the religious right who weren’t happy with the results of the 1970 report. And that’s how I feel about GAPA and the countless quasi-scientific prohibitionist organizations and their “studies.” They are, by design, looking for trouble, and so naturally they find it everywhere they look.

So once they’ve manufactured and/or exaggerated the problem, the next step is to get the research published in quasi-scientific journals, in some cases one owned or funded by the same organizations. Then they send out press releases claiming their position has been scientifically proven. They usually neglect to mention that they themselves created the “science” they’re touting because it’s more effective if it appears to be objective. Unfortunately, it rarely is, but such is the state of journalism today that press releases are more often reprinted verbatim without any fact-checking or even questioning the content. It’s apparently enough if it simply has a credible-sounding “scientific” journal name attached to it. Once you’ve got enough of these “studies” you can then hold a conference of like-minded individuals where you can present your findings.

So in October of this year, the “Global Alcohol Policy Conference” was held in South Korea. It was hosted by a group I wasn’t familiar with; the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA), but which appears to be more of a loose organization of national prohibitionist groups that was formed in 2000 to share information and hold annual conferences. Although I don’t know many of the international groups, the people from the U.S. make it clear who’s invited to the party. GAPA board members include George Hacker, who runs the notorious prohibitionist Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI); Thomas F. Babor, the author of Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity: Research and Public Policy (an anti-alcohol handbook) and David Jernigan, who’s the Director of the also notoriously anti-alcohol Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Jerigan was also the author of this travesty: Bud Blamed In Absurd E.R. Visit Study.

Here’s where the circle gets tighter and more insular. There are sixteen board members for GAPA. At the recent Global Alcohol Policy Conference, there were eight speakers on the program. Of those eight, six are also board members of GAPA. Similarly, GAPA is divided into regions. The North American region includes four member organizations: CSPI (Centre for Science in the Public Interest), The Marin Institute (now known as Alcohol Justice), The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, created by the collaboration of the AMA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. If you’re a regular reader here you’ll no doubt recognize those groups as being prohibitionist to their core.

Looking over the program for the conference, the topics all revolve around the negative aspects of alcohol, the harms, the addicts, the too-low taxation and regulation. Reading over the titles, it’s hard not to leave with the impression that it’s about how to bring down alcohol completely. I couldn’t find one positive word about drinking, which seems incongruous to my life experience and literally just about every person I know. Surely, they could find some balance to their efforts, but instead it feels punitive, divisive and almost mean-spirited. Some of the speeches given during the conference are available for download, while others — most, really — give you an error message when trying to download: “Applicants sponsored by alcohol manufacturers are not allowed.” How did they know? What don’t they want people in the alcohol industry to know about regarding what they’re saying or doing?

Another glimpse into prohibitionists worldwide comes from GAPA’s internal magazine, The Globe. In the latest issue, Issue 3 2013 they tackle such horrible behavior by alcohol companies as donating water to disaster relief with the overall theme of “Beware of the Alcohol Industry Bearing Gifts.”
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I recall the Marin Institute similarly whining when Anheuser-Busch canned water and sent it to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there, a story I detailed in Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished.

So how was the conference portrayed in the news online? Upstreaming Alcohol Policy reported that an “important theme running through the conference was the role of the global alcohol industry in maintaining and intensifying alcohol-related harm through its tactics and practices.” In other words, we’re all evil and wish your family harm, a persistent theme in all prohibitionist propaganda. Corporations & Health Watch agreed and went even further, reporting that “Dr. Thomas Babor of the University of Connecticut, for example, stressed reasons to doubt the sincerity of the global alcohol industry in its insistence to be part of the solution to alcohol problems.” Yes, we want everybody binge-drinking all the time, every day. There’s nothing better for the alcohol industry than drunk people killing themselves and others, especially when we all have families and want them in harm’s way, too. I’m so sick of this one, where alcohol is criticized for advertising or wanting to sell more products because that, they claim, is “clearly to increase overall consumption — a strategy which is inimical to public health and public safety.” Every alcohol corporation, at least under U.S. law, is like every corporation, beholden to shareholders and must do what they can to increase the share price, in other words increase the business. It’s the law. There’s plenty of corporate behavior I’m not wild about, but at least I understand it. If you want corporations to act differently, change their charters; change the law governing them. But stop making it sound like they’d kill their mothers for a dime. Stop painting them, and all of us in the alcohol industry, as evil. We’re just not.

Their conclusion was that “reducing the global burden of alcohol-related harm will require advocates to effectively counter that industry influence – through reliance on the best science, savvy media advocacy, and robust grassroots organization.” The black humor and irony in that is that the science they’re referring to is anything but the “best” — or evidence-based, as they often phrase it. “Savvy media advocacy” means propaganda which I find usually contains falsehoods and exaggerations, at best. And “robust grassroots organization” means, more often than not, groups funded by large, wealthy prohibitionist groups like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or others.

The overall impression I have from watching these groups for over twenty years is that they’re so shamelessly dishonest in their actions and their rhetoric that I can’t really understand how they can claim the high moral ground that’s so inherent in their position. They set up the argument as a David vs. Goliath situation which is laughably wrong. Does “big alcohol” have a lot of money. Sure, but so does the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and most of the others. They’ve been spending their money influencing politicians, spreading their message and trying to persuade others to their way of thinking. Does that sound like the same thing that they accuse alcohol manufacturers of doing? It should, because they’re doing exactly the same thing, and have been since at least 1933, when Prohibition ended. The only real difference is they claim to be doing it for righteous reasons and believe those of us who enjoy drinking a beer or even making or selling it, are the spawn of satan. The problem with that is that we’re not. We’re ordinary people, often with many of the same set of beliefs as the prohibitionists. Contrary to the propaganda, we beerists love our friends and families, have our own faith, are civic-minded and contribute to our community and society at large. We’re regular people who also enjoy drinking beer. Period. It’s only through the lens of prohibitionists that we appear any different. And until that cycle is broken and prohibitionists stop creating self-fulfilling propaganda, we’ll never solve any of the real problems that some individuals have with alcohol.

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All Hopped Up For The Cure 2013

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Yesterday I had lunch at Russian River Brewing, invited by co-owner Natalie Cilurzo as one of a small group of friends who had at least one thing in common: we’d each lost someone to breast cancer. For me, it was my mother when I was 22, and she was only 42. Each year, the Santa Rosa brewpub rolls out its biggest charity effort of the year to raise money for the local Sutter Breast Care Center. The entire month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the brewpub is festooned in pink and several great prizes are auctioned throughout the month.

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This is the eighth year they’ve made the All Hopped Up for the Cure charity effort, and last year they raised $76,000 for breast cancer. SO far, they’re on target to beat that total this year. Here’s Natalie Cilurzo writing on the brewery’s blog about this year’s charity drive:

So here we are and it’s already October, my favorite month of the year. Aside from it being beautiful in Sonoma County, we host our annual month-long fundraiser for the Sutter Women’s Health Care Center of Santa Rosa, which brings me great joy! All of the money we raise/donate goes directly to help uninsured or underinsured women AND men in our community receive life saving screening and treatment for Breast Cancer. Recently we have become acquainted with several recipients of our fundraising efforts. Some of their lives have been changed or even saved by the services offered by Sutter. Check out our special Breast Cancer Awareness Month page on our website during October for more info on raffle items, how to get this year’s cute shirt and other interesting things!

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This Saturday will be the final blowout of the month-long charity drive — a costume party — when the auction winners will be revealed. But there’s still time to help their efforts, both with donations and buying raffle tickets for the auction items. The big ticket item, a pink Genuine Buddy 50cc scooter, you can try to win for $10 a raffle ticker, or 3 for $25. The winner of the scooter will announced at 10 p.m. Saturday night.

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There are a few other terrific items being raffled, too. For instance, there’s a custom-made guitar by local luthier Tom Ribbecke of Ribbecke Guitars. To win the guitar, it’s also $10 a raffle ticker, or 3 for $25.

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There’s also a pink bicycle, an Electra Beach Cruiser, “graciously donated by The Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa.” Tickets for the bike are only $1 per raffle ticket, or 6 for $5.

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There’s also some cool t-shirts, designed by local artist Laurel Gregory.

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Gregory also created a pink painting of a Pliny the Elder bottle that will be auctioned Saturday.

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The scooter will be announced at 10 p.m., but the rest of the items will have the winners for them announced throughout the evening. So come and enjoy an evening at Russian River and help raise money for a very worthy cause. There will also be music, by Brothers Horse. In addition to Russian River’s regular beers, the special release Framboise for a Cure 2013 (bottles of which are sold out) will be tapped at 5:00 p.m. The beer uses Temptation as its base beer, to which 800 pounds of fresh raspberries are added (30 pounds per barrel), and then it’s aged for several months in Chardonnay barrels spiked with brett, lacto, and pedio. There are only two kegs of it left, and they’ll keep selling it until it runs out. This is your last chance to try this year’s version. There will also be 23 special growlers, screened in pink ink, and full of the Framboise beer available for a minimum donation of $100.

Come on down Saturday night and get All Hopped Up For the Cure!

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