Moonlighting At Moonlight: The Hop Harvest 2014

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For a number of years, the winding down of summer brings one of my favorite traditions: hop harvest. Brian Hunt, from nearby Moonlight Brewing — the best brewer you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re from the Bay Area — has a quarter-acre of hops planted on his brewery property, known as “The Abbey de St. Humulus,” which he uses each year to make his Fresh Hop Ale, Homegrown. As we do every year we’re able, the whole family, mother-in-law included, made our way to hop harvest, which Brian does 19th century-style. Which means that entire families get together for the day, and spend hours cutting down the bines, and hand-picking the hops and filling up buckets, which will be dumped into the beer without being kilned the same day, all the while eating, drinking and socializing. In a few weeks, Homegrown will be on draft at select bars around the Bay Area, along with plenty of other fresh hop beers as beerjolais nouveau season gets underway. Below is a little photo essay of our day picking hops.

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A row of hops, ready to be picked.

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My son Porter helping me with the first stages of harvesting, cutting the bines along the bottom.

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The next step will be cutting them at the top, so we can pull them down to pick the hop cones off of the bines.

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Brin Hunt working the long knife, bring down a bine for harvesting.

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A shady spot is made under multiple pop-up canopies with a tarp floor, where the hop bines are laid out for picking, then everybody sits around and carefully pulls off the hop flowers, discarding the leaves, stems, bines and other material so only the hops that flavor the beer are separated into buckets.

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Only the flowers go into the beer.

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My wife Sarah demonstrating how when one bucket is filled, you move on to the next empty one.

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While hops are not simply loaded into your beer glass, like bitter ice cubes, with some hoppy beers, it certainly seems that way.

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There’s nothing quite like being in a hop field at harvest time, the sights and smells are amazing, with the intense aromas of hops hanging thick in the air.

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My daughter Alice digging in an almost-full bucket of freshly picked hops, nearly ready to be added to the beer.

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A very fun day picking hops in the warm California sunshine. While it was great fun, we’re all exhausted and a little sore, with scratches all over our bodies. Thank goodness, tomorrow is Labor Day, and we can relax without doing much labor, apart from enjoying a few beers.

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In a few weeks time, keep an eye out for Moonlight Brewing’s Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale, along with many other fresh hop, or wet hop, beers. They’re only around for a very short time, and once they;re gone, that’s it until next year. These are beers with intense hop aromas and flavors, and the fresher they are, better they taste.

Sonoma State To Offer Beer Course

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So this is great news, and feels even a little bit overdue, though to be fair I may be a little biased, as you’ll soon see. With craft beer persuading people that good beer is every bit as complex and worthy of respect as wine or whiskey, Sonoma State University, in partnership with Lagunitas Brewing, will be offering a certificate course on beer during their spring semester next year. I can say it should be amazing — with my tongue firmly in my cheek — because they’ve hired the best teachers. My little joke there, is the class will be great because Sonoma State has hired me to develop it and be the lead instructor for the course, although I’ll be bringing in a great roster of guest speakers from the beer industry and related fields to teach students everything they want to know about beer, and then some. At least that’s the plan. And right now, we could use your help in figuring out what potential students are most interested in learning about when it comes to beer and brewing.

We’re developing the curriculum now, and the program is being fueled by Lagunitas Brewing, which is where the majority of classes will be held. On Wednesday evenings, beginning next spring, students will spend three hours in the loft at Lagunitas learning about beer and how it’s made, the business of making and selling beer, along with a better appreciation for it.

Officially, the course will be taught through a partnership between the School of Science & Technology and SSU’s continuing education program, the School of Extended & International Education, along with Lagunitas Brewing, and students will receive a transcripted Certificate of Completion in one semester.

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So what do we need your help with? Simple, we’re trying to figure out what potential students are most interested in learning about when it comes to beer. Do you want to know more about how its made, how to taste it analytically and appreciate it better? Or are you interested in possibly joining the beer industry and so are interested in learning more about the business and what opportunities there might be where you could find your dream job? To figure that out, we’ve created a short survey — just rate 22 possible topics, answer two multiple choice questions, then add any other suggestions you might have, that’s all.

So if you’re not in the industry, simply a beer lover, what subjects would most interest you if you took a class about beer? If you are in the industry, what do you think are the most important things to cover?

Please fill out the survey by Sunday, September 7 to help us identify the key topics that you are most interested in. As a token of our gratitude, Lagunitas Brewing Company has graciously offered to give a special deck of playing cards to survey participants that can be picked up at the brewery in Petaluma. You will be notified by email when your cards are ready for pick-up at Lagunitas. Or you could just take the survey for the fun of it and to help out.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

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These are what the cards look like that you can pick up at Lagunitas brewery as a thank you for taking the survey.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Brookston & Porter

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So you’ve probably noticed that one of the latest internet memes is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The idea involves “dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.” Also, the “challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same.” I was challenged by my friend and colleague, Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News, who also tapped Stephen Beaumont and Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association. So here’s my video, with my son Porter, who decided he wanted to join me.

You can find out more about how to donate at the ALS Association or the MDA.

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I also challenged three friends:

  1. Fal Allen, brewmaster, Anderson Valley Brewing
  2. Justin Crossley, founder, The Brewing Network
  3. John Holl, Editor, All About Beer magazine

Now it’s their turn. No thanks necessary.

Roller Coaster Couch Trippin’ in San Diego

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I flew down to San Diego this afternoon, a quick trip to speak at the Beer Bloggers Conference tomorrow. Tonight, Lagunitas threw a party for the attendees after a dinner at Karl Strauss Brewing. One of the fun things they did for the brewhaha was a green screen couch ride for the Couch Trippin’ contest.


Here’s me, along with Emily Sauter, from Pints and Panels, and Fred Abercrombie, with Lagunitas (and he also blogs at Ünnecessary Ümlaut), riding a sofa roller coaster through the Lagunitas bottling line.
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Iowa Sinkhole May Be 150-Year Old Beer Cave

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Last month during a routine inspection, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa bridge inspector found a suspicious looking hole in the ground. At first, he thought it might be a “potentially hazardous sinkhole near an Interstate 380 access ramp,” but as he, and others looked closer, it may actually be a 150-year old beer cave, part of the Christian Magnus Eagle Brewery and Bottling Works. According to a local newspaper report in 1977, “excavators had unexpectedly pierced a beer cave during construction of this stretch of I-380 when they were digging to lay a culvert north of Eighth Street” so it’s seems that’s the likeliest explanation.

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Apparently, a archaeologist and an architectural historian,among others, are investigating, and are keeping an open mind that it could be any number of things. A local historian, on the hand, appears quite certain it’s the beer caves, and in the local newspaper, The Gazette, appears ready to go record with his belief that they’re beer caves:

Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter is a bit more certain of the findings.

“They are the Magnus beer caves. That’s exactly what they are,” Hunter said after hearing of the discovery. “This is very exciting as an historian.”

The brewery was constructed by Jacob Wetzel in 1859.

Wetzel hired an old world brewer from Germany named Christian Magnus as his brewmaster and foreman, according to The Gazette’s Time Machine. Beer caves were essential to Magnus’ vision for the beer cooling and aging process. The brewery was a five-story complex overlooking Cedar Lake, but the back ran into a hill where the caves were located.

The brewery had five cellars that could hold 2,000 barrels, two ice houses that held up to 2,300 tons of ice, and a capacity to produce 60 barrels of beer in 12 hours.

Magnus bought out Wetzel in 1868, and at the height of production, the Christian Magnus Eagle Brewery and Bottling Works put out 25,000 barrels of 4.5 percent beer in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Hunter said the brewery was possibly best known for Eagle Brewing, a popular beer with a logo of an eagle perched on a beer keg with its wings stretched wide and a man tapping the keg.

The brewery closed because of prohibition in 1915, although it operated for several more years producing soft drinks, among other items, before entirely shutting down in the 1920 and being demolished in 1937, Hunter said.

Hunter said in later years homeless people would use the caves, and they were later boarded up. However, children would break through the boards with “skull and cross bone — do not enter warning” to explore.

A neighborhood then was built on top of the beer caves, before being torn down for I-380, he said.

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The brewery from a lithograph done around 1875.

And here’s a photograph of the brewery, believed to be from 1870, from another piece in the Gazette about the Original Breweries.
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Cedar Rapids, city of. Historical Views. Little caption information available. Photo appears to show a view of the Magnus Brewery (center), looking southwest over Cedar Lake. The brewery was located near present day Quaker Oats plant. The original Eagle Brewery was established in 1859 by Christian Magnus at the corner of Ely and Van Buren, modern D Avenue (D Ave.) and Eighth Street (Eighth St) NE in Cedar Rapids. The brewery produced beer and ale in a structure made from Anamosa stone and was considered one of the best breweries in Iowa. An immigrant from Germany, Magnus originally started a brewery for Jacob Wetzel in Cedar Rapids in 1859. In 1868, Magnus bought out his former employer and continued the European tradition of aging his beer in cold cellars beneath the brewery. When prohibition threatened his local brewing empire, Magnus invested his earning in such ventures as the Magnus Hotel, a longtime downtown landmark which fell to urban renewal during the 1970s.

Couch Trippin’ Contest

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Lagunitas Brewing, my local down the street, is having a fun contest to win a a party in your home. That is, they’ll bring the Lagunitas Couch Trippin’ party to your home. What could be simpler?

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So it is pretty simple, just do the following:

  1. Snap a photo of your couch & Lagunitas
  2. Tag it #couchtrippin on IInstagram and/or Twitter

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So what can you win? Here’s how Lagunitas explains it: “We’re gonna bring the Lagunitas CouchTrippin’ party to your house … A killer band, tasty munchies, and we’ll even bring our own couch… All for you and up to 30 of your friends (sorry, we can’t have the whole town showin’ up). Follow the super simple instructions above. Or see full legal fine freakin’ print.”

Here’s mine, on our new giant sofa. It’s supposed to be a sofa bed, but we just keep it open all the time and use it as a “snuggle sofa” that fits our family of four perfectly, making it great for watching movies, playing video games, or of course, snuggling.

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Let’s see yours. You have until the end of the month, specifically “August 31, 2014 at 11:59:59 PM PST” to post or upload your own Couch Trippin’ photo. But make sure you read the rules first to make sure you don’t disqualify yourself. For example, I’m not actually “drinking or consuming an alcohol product,” because that’s one of the restrictions. I’m just holding the beer, giving it a sniff.

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We’re looking for a house to bring our CouchTrippin’ party to — so show us a pic of your couch with Lagunitas and tag #couchtrippin on Instagram or Twitter.

At GBBF

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I love the Great British Beer Festival, and it’s a crying shame I don’t get over the pond often enough to attend it. Happily, Mark Dredge, who in addition to Pencil & Spoon, has been doing some work for Pilsner Urquell, had a camera crew follow him around the hall at the Great British Beer Festival. He’s created a short video giving a flavor of what it’s like to be there. So if, like me, you missed it this year, here’s at least a glimpse at what being there be like. Enjoy.

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NFL Football: Pick The Winners At Brookston Fantasy Games 2014

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This is the eighth year for the Brookston Fantasy Football Games. We’ve had a lot of fun over the last seven, so if you love football and beer, consider joining us this year, whether you’ve played in past seasons or are a newcomer. The NFL season begins on Thursday September 4, so you’ve got about three weeks to sign up.

I’ve again set up two free Yahoo fantasy football games, one a simple pick ‘em game and the other a survival pool. Up to 50 people can play each game (that’s Yahoo’s limit, not mine), so if you’re a regular Bulletin reader feel free to sign up for one or even both. It’s free to play, all you need is a Yahoo ID, which is also free. Below is a description of each game and the details on how to join each league and play.


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Pro Football Pick’em

In this Pick’em game, just pick the winner for every game each week, with no spread, and let’s see who gets the most correct throughout the season. All that’s at stake is bragging rights, but it’s still great fun.

Also, like last year, we’ll be able to keep picking all through the playoffs, so the game will continue through to the Super Bowl, which is pretty cool.

In order to join the group, just go to Pro Football Pick’em, click the “Sign Up” button (or “Create or Join Group” if you are a returning user). From there, follow the path to join an existing private group and when prompted, enter the following information…

Group ID#: 11809 (Brookston Football Picks)
Password: brookston


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Survival Football

If picking all sixteen football games every week seems like too much, then Survival Football is for you. In Survival Football, you only have to pick one game each week. The only catch is you can’t pick the same team to win more than once all season. And you better be sure about each game you pick because if you’re wrong, you’re out for the season. Actually two years ago they added a new feature and I changed the game so to be kicked out you have to be wrong twice. In that way more people stand a better chance of lasting longer into the season. So get one wrong, and you’re still okay, get a second wrong, now you’re gone for the season. Last man standing wins.

Again, like last year, we can keep picking all through the playoffs, assuming our luck holds. So the game could even continue through to the Super Bowl.

In order to join the group, just go to Survival Football, click the “Sign Up” button and choose to “Join an Existing Group”, then “Join a Private Group”. Then, when prompted, enter the following information…

Group ID#: 1485 (Brookston Survival League)
Password: brookston

With 50 players allowed in each game, there’s plenty of room, so don’t be shy. Sign up for one or both games. In past seasons, I’ve posted the standings on the home page, and hopefully I’ll do that again this season. Why not join us? Go head to head again me and my team, the Brookston Brew Jays.

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Reveal Your First Belgian In The Next Session

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For our 91st Session, our host is Breandán Kearney, who is the beery half of Belgian Smaak, along with budding chocolatier Elisa. For his topic, he’s chosen My First Belgian, meaning to participate in the September Session, he wants to know about yours.

Our blog is called ‘Belgian Smaak’. We love (and investigate, write about and drink) fantastic beers from other countries around the world, but the reason we started the blog was that we were blown away by the variety of flavours that Belgium offers in its beer and wanted to enjoy our own adventure in taste.

Although David Turley of Musing Over a Pint did host a great session on Belgian-style triples (A Tripel for Two) back in February 2009, we noticed with no small element of surprise that there has not yet been a Session dedicated to discussing beers from this country generally and so we feel that we are the hosts to bring Belgian beer to the tip of your tongues both literarily and libatiously.

This topic was inspired by my own experience in moving to Belgium last year. Having only Guinness and Macro-Pils as a reference (until recently the only choice available in Ireland), my attitude towards beer was completely re-aligned when I first encountered Belgian beer culture.

There’s no rules for participating in this Session. If you’ve never tried a beer brewed in Belgian, now your chance. Or write about your favorite Belgian type of beer. The sky’s the limit. Their “aim here is to explore, discuss and hopefully celebrate the ways (if any) in which this fascinating beer culture has personally impacted on each of you, the passionate beer blogging community.” But see his thoughtful, detailed announcement for the myriad ways you can participate in next month’s Session.

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So put on your Belgian cap and write your blog post — no Flemish necessary — on Friday 5 September 2014, and link to Belgian Smaak’s announcement in your post. Also, he’s asking that you leave a comment below his announcement with a link to your post on that same day to facilitate doing the roundup.

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Presidential Drinking

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It’s not exactly a beer birthday, but today is the 53rd birthday of President Barack Obama, who’s been known for a few good beery photo ops. Recently, he even played some pool with our only gubernatorial brewery owner — and the only governor I’ve ever shared a beer with — John Hickenlooper, from Colorado. Hickenlooper, of course, co-founded Wynkoop Brewing in Denver, revitalizing the entire LoDo area of town. After two apparently successful terms as the mayor of Denver, he was elected governor of the state in 2011.

Early last month, President Obama visted Denver, and Hickenlooper, and the trip was covered by ABC News in Obama “The Bear” Lets Loose in Denver. They met at Wynkoop, where they shared a pint of Rail Yard Ale.

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They also played a game of pool, which apparently Obama won. When this was first reported, I saw it mentioned that some people were upset that the president was photographed drinking beer, but I never saw those. Sound ridiculous enough to be true, though. If people see the president enjoying himself with a beer, it might give others the idea that it’s okay for an adult to drink a legally permissible alcoholic beverage, and prohibitionists don’t like that one bit.

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