Sonoma State Beer Appreciation Class Open For Fall

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Sonoma State University will again be offering my “Beer Appreciation” certificate course this fall. Classes start in just over two weeks, on September 9. The class is through SSU’s Extended Education school, and fueled by Lagunitas, which is where the 12-week, 36-hour course will be held.

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Classes are once a week, beginning September 9, on Wednesday nights from 6:30-9:30, and again classes won’t be in a stuffy classroom, but will be held in special lounge room at Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma. If you’re interested in learning more about the class, I set up a page with more about my Sonoma State University Beer Appreciation Course. Or if you’re ready to go, here’s the official SSU class page and there’s information online about registration, too.

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A scene from last semester’s class, with Dan Gordon talking about lagers, while Vinnie Cilurzo waits in the wings to present to the class about sour and barrel-aged beers.

The Next Session Looks At The Elephants In The Room

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For the 103rd Session, our host will be Natasha Godard, who writes MetaCookBook. For her topic, she’s asking us to look around and acknowledge the elephant or elephants in the room, whichever one you’ve finally noticed, or as she explains it in her announcement for the September Session, “The Hard Stuff:”

“Beer” is its own subculture at this point. There’s an expected “look” and expected desires. Beer festivals are everywhere. Beer blogs flourish; indeed at this point there’s reasonable sub categories for them. New breweries are popping up at record pace; the US alone has more than 3,000. Big breweries are getting bigger, some are being purchased, some are saying that’s bullshit.

But we’re still fairly monolithic as a group. And there are a number of problems related to that tendency toward sameness. Not all problems related are personal, for example trademark disputes are becoming more commonplace as we all have the same “clever thought”.

We have such a good time with our libation of choice that sometimes we fear bringing up the issues we see.

Well, stop that. Air your concerns, bring up those issues. Show us what we’re not talking about and should be, and tell us why.

Pour us a liberal amount of The Hard Stuff.

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So start noticing the things that are right in front of you, but aren’t acknowledged or talked about in polite beer society, and let us know what you think is the hard stuff that we should bring up and face. Maybe we’ve been looking in the other direction and just didn’t see it, or maybe it’s staring us in the face and we just chose to ignore it. Either way, to participate in the September Session, leave a comment to the original announcement, on or before Friday, September 4.

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Hefe Wheaties

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Just when you think things can’t get stranger, the makers of Wheaties — the Breakfast of Champions — General Mills have announced that they’re making a new beer, Hefe Wheaties. Expecting people to do a spit take when reading that, General Mills blog anticipated skepticism in their announcement of the new beer. “Well, you read it correctly. Wheaties has partnered with Fulton, a craft brewery in Minneapolis, to create a limited-edition Hefeweizen beer named HefeWheaties.

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Here’s how General Mills’ describes the collaboration beer on their blog.

Wheaties is not actually in the beer, but there is wheat. And that connection helped both brands try something interesting.

“We were intrigued from the get-go on this idea for many reasons, including that we’re both Minneapolis companies, and that the beer and the cereal both started from the same place in terms of raw ingredients and the same city,” says Ryan Petz, president and co-founder of Fulton.

So what about the name?

“We had been sampling a number of Hefeweizens, so we had been discussing with the Wheaties team what we liked,” says Petz. “Someone on the team said HefeWheaties, and it kind of sprung out from there.”

The Hefeweizen is a south German style of wheat beer, typically brewed with over 50 percent malted wheat, making it a natural fit for Wheaties.

The “Hefe” prefix means, “with yeast.” This German-style beer often has a cloudy appearance because of the high wheat content and has a little bit of hop bitterness.

Typically served in a traditional Weizen glass, HefeWheaties will be the first beer of this style brewed by Fulton. It’s brewed with water, malted wheat, malted barley, hops from Germany, the U.S. and Australia, and a yeast strain specifically developed for fermenting American-style wheat beers.

“This was a true partnership between Wheaties and Fulton,” says David Oehler, marketing manager, Wheaties. “Both teams were passionate about this project and got to work quickly. We enjoyed the chance to collaborate with Fulton throughout the entire process from idea generation to can design.”

The idea for HefeWheaties came up earlier this summer, thanks to some connections between Fulton’s team and employees at General Mills.

Tony Libera, who manages the social media accounts for Wheaties, chatted about the possibility of a beer partnership for the brand with a friend who was a sales representative for Fulton, and the plans were put in motion from there.

The Fulton team also has other close ties to General Mills. Petz worked for us for a few years after business school, as did Fulton’s director of operations. And the wife of another Fulton founder currently works at General Mills.

So where can you find HefeWheaties?

For a limited time, beginning August 26, it will be available in the Twin Cities market in a 16oz. tallboy can. 4-packs will be sold at limited retailers in the area, while quantities last. HefeWheaties will not be available for shipment or purchase outside of Minnesota.

Also, the Fulton taproom in Minneapolis will host several events featuring HefeWheaties, with the first being held on August 26.

“We’ll see how people react to it,” says Petz. “If it’s something everybody loves, we’ll obviously consider doing it again in a bigger and more widely distributed way in the future.”

Hmm. Breakfast beer, anybody?

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A Landscape View Of Beer For The Next Session

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For 102nd Session, our host will be Allen Huerta, who writes Active Brewer. For his topic, he’s asking us to look at the big picture, the entire landscape of beer; yesterday, today, and/or tomorrow, or as he more fully explains what he has in mind for the August Session in his announcement, “The Landscape of Beer:”

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The Landscape of Beer in America is changing. It has even begun influencing beer in countries all around the world. Everyone has their opinion on Local vs Global, Craft vs Macro, and Love vs Business. Those who were at the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Asheville this past weekend had a brief talk about how “Small and Independent Matters”. Something that quite a few people say matters to them, but where is the upper limit? Does a purchase of another brewery still allow a brewery to fall into the Small and Independent camp?

Our topic this month is, “The Landscape of Beer“. How do you see that landscape now? What about in 5, 10, or even 20 years? A current goal in the American Craft Beer Industry is 20% market share by the year 2020. How can we get there? Can we get there?

Whether your view is realistic or whimsical, what do you see in our future? Is it something you want or something that is happening? Let us know and maybe we can help paint the future together.

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So start painting your thoughts in broad strokes, and give us your take on the beer landscape. To participate in the July Session, leave a comment to the original announcement, on or before Friday, August 7.

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Breastfest Returns To Marin This Saturday

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This Saturday, the Breastfest moves back to Marin, and will be held this year at the Fairground Island at the Marin Civic center in San Rafael. The fest starts at Noon tomorrow, and tickets are $55 in advance and $65 at the door. Either way, it’s supporting a great cause. Over 60 breweries and 10 wineries coming together in hopes of raising money for a cancer clinic offering alternative treatments for low-income women with cancer. The new location is awesome When I first moved to Marin, we lived near the Civic Center and spent a lot of time there. It’s a great spot for a festival.

The Breastfest is a unique fundraiser in that it is organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of the proceeds goes directly to low-income women who are battling cancer right now. These women are our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends and they are truly grateful for your support. This cause is particularly personal to me, as I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was only 21 years old.

For its 15th year of fundraising, The Breastfest beer festival has a new location back in beautiful Marin County at the Marin Center on the Fairground Island. The fundraiser will feature endless eats and bottomless cups at no additional charge. Sip beers from 38 of the best California Breweries while listening to live music and supporting a great charitable cause.

All the Proceeds from the popular event will benefit Oakland’s Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, an award-winning non-profit women’s health provider. A pillar of low-income medical care in the Bay Area, Charlotte Maxwell has supported and saved thousands of lives by providing complementary integrative treatments for low-income women with cancer for 25 years. To date, the Breast Fest is the largest fundraiser for the clinic, which does not receive public funds.

A free-of-charge clinic that specializes in complete care for those who need it most, the clinic’s innovative comprehensive care model supports women medically and financially during treatment, giving a safety net that allows for full recovery.

The festival has also partnered with Lyft to get you to and from the Breastest safely. Get affordable rides within minutes after downloading the mobile app.If you’re new to Lyft, sign up with the promo code BREASTFEST for a free first ride up to $20. Once you download the app, create an account and enter the code in the ‘Payment’ section.Drink responsively and designate a drive or arrange a lift with LYFT!

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Duvel Invests In Firestone Walker

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Earlier today Firestone Walker Brewing — in a carefully worded press release — announced that Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker “will combine their two companies in the USA.”

Here’s they said it on their website, at Firestone Walker news:

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And this was the press release sent out:

July 16, 2015 – Kansas City, Mo., & Paso Robles, Ca. – In an agreement signed earlier this week, Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Duvel Moortgat will combine their two companies in the USA. The California brewery will continue to operate independently in Paso Robles under its current leadership of David Walker and Adam Firestone.

David Walker and Adam Firestone, joint founders of Firestone Walker said: “The Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat families have combined forces to broaden their capacity and scope as brewers. Long admirers of each other’s beers, culture and breweries, the two teams saw the perfect fit for an alliance. The partnership will allow Firestone Walker to develop our capacity across the US in a conservative and thoughtful way by consummating a life long tie with this family-owned international craft brewer, who continue their commitment to participating in the American Craft Revolution.”

“The relationship I have built with David and Adam made Firestone Walker the perfect fit for future growth,” said Michel Moortgat, CEO of Duvel Moortgat. “We share the same values; have a great mutual respect for each other’s achievements and a deeply-held belief in exceptional quality as a platform for long-term success. Bringing Firestone Walker together with Boulevard, Ommegang, Duvel and the other craft breweries in our family creates a stronger platform in the USA for us both and allows us to collaborate on brewing in different locations across the USA”

“The most important thing that we can do for Firestone Walker is to help David and Adam manage the exponential growth that their team and their brewery is experiencing right now by providing financial and production capacity to support them,” said Simon Thorpe, President of Duvel Moortgat USA. “We are not integrating our organizations. Both Boulevard and Ommegang are also enjoying tremendous success and we still have much to do in realizing our dream for both these breweries.”

The transaction between Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker is expected to close later this year. It is an agreement between two private, family-owned companies, so no financial or contractual details will be disclosed.

It will be interesting to see how this is the same or different from the deal Duvel did with Boulevard Brewing almost two years ago, from which Boulevard seems to have emerged unscathed and doing well, both in terms of quality and public perception. At this point, it appears it may be similar, with very little changing in terms of day to day operations of the brewery and with all the key people remaining in place.

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Jeremy Warren Leaving Knee Deep

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Knee Deep Brewing Co. founder Jeremy Warren announced earlier today via Facebook that effective August 3 he’ll be leaving the brewery he started five years ago. Here’s what he’s saying so far:

The past 5 years has been a great ride with Knee Deep Brewing. From my half bbl home brew in my garage to 11,000 bbl in an 18,000 sq. ft. warehouse! I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and encouragement.

Your constant kind words and criticism keeps us Brewers on our toes in making the best beer possible.

With that said, it is with a bittersweet feeling that I’m announcing my separation from Knee Deep Brewing effective August 3rd.

Don’t freak out! I will be announcing my new project soon!

I will not disappoint!!

So it sounds like he’s already cooked another project and will leave Knee Deep intact, which is great. Join me in wishing him well on his next adventure.

UPDATE: The Sacramento Beer published a follow-up yesterday about Jeremy’s resignation that includes speculation that he’ll be opening his own brewery, which naturally is what we’re all thinking. But co-founder Jerry Moore, who’s also apparently the majority owner of Knee Deep, states “he was not surprised by Warren’s decision and he insisted that Knee Deep will not skip a beat.” He then adds this:

“Knee Deep owns those recipes and I own Knee Deep,” said Moore, noting that Warren has been a minority owner. “Knee Deep will continue to make all of the beers we’ve been making. We have four full-time brewers who have been making these beers.”

I don’t want to read too much into that statement, especially since I don’t know Jerry Moore, but it’s hard not to see it as inferring an issue or issues that led to Warren’s departure.

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Jeremy Warren from a recent article in Sacramento Magazine.

Lagunitas Announces Third Brewery

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I’ve been traveling most of this week, so I missed the announcement Wednesday by owner Tony Magee when he unveiled plans for a third brewery on Twitter. When I interviewed him for a profile piece in in Beer Connoisseur magazine in 2012, he was already thinking about a third location after Chicago was up and running, but at that time was leaning toward New Orleans. But it turns out the new brewery will be in Southern California in the town of Azusa, which is in the San Gabriel Valley and is part of Los Angeles County, about 25 miles east of the city of L.A. This third brewery is a whopping 178,000-square feet and will reportedly have “an initial capacity of 420,000 barrels” which can be raised to one million barrels over time. By contrast, Chicago, when completely finished, will be able to brew 1.2 million barrels a year, and when an expansion in Petaluma is done, they’ll go from a capacity of 450,000-bbl to 750,000-bbl.

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Tony teased out the new space on Twitter with this blueprint.

It’s location is also “spittin’ distance” from the Miller facility in Irwindale. Construction has apparently already begun and is expected to open by early 2017. The decision was prompted by nearing capacity in Petaluma, which is expected to be at 85% in about 18 months. Magee said the L.A. space will be “similar in scale and operation to their Chicago brewery,” so that’s pretty promising. If it’s anything like the Chicago brewery, which I just visited Monday, it will be spectacular.

UPDATE: Lagunitas posted some photos of the ongoing construction which has already begun in Azusa.

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Odds & Ends For The Next Session

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For 101st Session, our host will be Jack Perdue, who writes Deep Beer. For his topic, he’s asking us to look beyond what’s in the bottle, and to the bottle itself, along with the crown, the label, the carrier, the mother carton and all of the odds and ends, or detritus, that go into the beer’s packaging, or as he explains what he has in mind for the July Session, the “Bottles, Caps and Other Beer Detritus,” which he describes below.

There are many great creative people involved in the beer industry: the brewers designing and creating the stuff of our attention, marketers bringing the product to market, graphic artists making the products attractive and informative and writers who tell the story of beer. The list goes on. And thus, many great products, that may or may not get your attention. The focus is on the liquid inside the bottle, can or keg, and rightly so. What about all the other products necessary to bring that beer to you? What about the things that are necessary but are easily overlooked and discarded. This months theme is, “Bottles, Caps and Other Beer Detritus”.

Detritus, according to one definition in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends”. While the number and quality of our beer choices has certainly improved over the recent decade, have you paid any attention to the rest of the package. Those things we normally glance over and throw away when we have poured and finished our beer. These are sometimes works of art in themselves. Bottle caps, labels, six-pack holders, even the curvature of the bottle. For this month’s The Session theme, I’m asking contributors to share their thoughts on these things, the tangential items to our obsession. Do you have any special fetish with bottle caps, know of someone that is doing creative things with packaging, have a beer bottle or coaster collection.

So drink the beer, but then think about what’s left over when it’s gone.

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Let us know about the bits and pieces from your point of view. To participate in the July Session, leave a comment to the original announcement, with , on or before Friday, July 3.

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Brussels Beer Challenge To Be Held In Antwerp

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2015 will mark the fourth year for the Brussels Beer Challenge. In its inaugural year it was held in Brussels, in the second year it was in Liege, and last year we were in Leuven. This year’s competition will be in Antwerp, described as a “city on the Scheldt, city of Rubens, of diamonds, of fashion, a port city… The sum of all these different aspects is what makes Antwerp into a real city: a vibrant, welcoming metropolis, which is also great fun and heart-warming, with green areas where you can relax and peaceful corners. Antwerp is a veritable cultural capital, which prides itself on its impressive architecture and splendid art. Moreover, Antwerp is a fashionista’s dream destination thanks to the stores of its world-renowned designers. The cafes only serve the best beers and foodies can enjoy the most delicious traditional and multicultural cuisine in the city’s restaurants. Antwerp: a pocket-sized metropolis which is sure to conquer anyone’s heart in no time at all.” And Antwerp also boasts two of the best frites shops anywhere.

From the press release:

During two days a tasting panel of 60 international renowned beer connoisseurs will taste 850 beers from all over the world. The participating beers are divided into categories based on origin, typicity and style and then evaluated. At the end of the two tasting days, the best beers, in each category, were awarded a gold, silver or bronze award.

This professional beer competition is a unique opportunity for all beer producers to compete with the best international and Belgian brewers.

Why organize this beer competition in Belgium?

Belgium is without a doubt the most unique beer country. Our country has a great expertise and an international reputation. It is only fitting that Belgium has his own professional beer contest. The mixed presence of both national and international specialists ensures that the awarded beers at the Brussels Beer Challenge can count on a huge media interest and international recognition. The Brussels Beer Challenge will take place from November 5-8, 2015.

I’m looking forward to going over and judging again this fall in Antwerp. Should be another great time.

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The 2014 Brussels Beer Challenge judges in Leuven.