Schooner’s To Open Production Brewery

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Antioch’s brewpub Schooner’s Grille & Brewery is currently looking for a space to build a production brewery and begin offering their award-winning beers in bottles. The restaurant and brewery was purchased by new owners last May, and they planned from the beginning to start packaging the beer. But recently they decided to close the restaurant as of February 1, 2015. So Schooner’s beer will likely be a little harder to find for a few months, while they transition from brewpub to production brewery.

I spoke to longtime brewer at Schooner’s, Craig Cauwels, and he tells me they hope to be brewing in a new space by mid-to-late summer. They may contract some beer during the downtime, but a final decision on that hasn’t been made yet, and will most likely be dependent upon how the search for a new building for the brewery is going. They expect to know more about potential sites for the brewery over the next month.

Cauwels also will be investing in the new brewery, and will become a partner in the venture, which is exciting, because Craig is an incredibly talented brewer and it will be great for him to have a stake in the company. Schooner’s was named “Brewery of the Year” at last year’s California State Fair Brewery Competition, and has won countless awards over the years. His Old Diablo Barley Wine is consistently one of the best barley wines you’ve never heard of (but should have) and hopefully will soon be available in bottles, along with many of Schooner’s other beers. Look for bottles of Schooner’s beer on store shelves soon, or at least by the end of the summer if all goes according to plan.

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Schooner’s brewmaster Craig Cauwels.

Beer Birthday: Scott Ungermann

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Today is the birthday of Scott Ungermann, who’s the Production Director at Anchor Brewing. When I first met Scott, he was the Brewmaster at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fairfield, a position he held for almost six years, plus brewing stints at other AB facilities for over thirteen years. When I was working on my latest book, he gave me and my son Porter a great tour of the facility and I discovered we had several mutual friends since he was a 1995 graduate of U.C. Davis. Scott’s a very passionate brewer, and I was thrilled to run into him at the annual Anchor Christmas party, discovering that in April of last year he joined the team at Anchor. Join me in wishing Scott a very happy birthday.

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Scott showing my son Porter the brewhouse in Fairfield.

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A promotional photo from Scott’s ABI days.


Scott being interviewed in 2010 for a segment on KCRA Channel 3 NBC television in Sacramento.

Beer Birthday: Grant Johnston

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Today is the 61st birthday of Grant Johnston. Grant was the original brewer at Marin Brewing when it opened in 1989, and spent a number of years at Black Diamond Brewing in Concord, California. Grant was very influential in the early days of Bay Area brewing, and he’s an incredibly talented brewer. A few years ago he moved to the midwest, and these days can be found working a few days a week at the Argus Brewery in Chicago. Last year, I was in Belgium at the Cantillon Brewery when in walked Grant, quite by chance, so you never know when you’re going to run into him. Join me in wishing Grant a very happy birthday.

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Grant and me at GABF in 2006.

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Grant (on the right) judging the 2006 Double IPA Festival in the cellar of The Bistro, with Tom Dalldorf, Vicky, our hard-working beer steward in the middle, and the Toronado’s Dave Keene in profile on the left.

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Brendan Moylan and Grant shortly before Marin Brewing opened in 1989.

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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Beer Birthday: Daniel Del Grande

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Today is the 46th birthday of Daniel Del Grande, brewer and co-owner of Bison Brewing. I’ve known Dan a lot of years, since shortly after he bought Berkeley’s Bison Brewery in 1997. He’s been leading the charge for organic beer and makes some of the best organic beers anywhere. Join me in wishing Dan a very happy birthday.

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Dan at the 99 Bottles of Beer Symposium at the Hearst Museum in 2009.

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Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, with Dan at Rodger Davis’ 40th birthday party.

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George Allen, Dan and Mark Cabrera at GABF 2009.

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Ralph Olson from HopUnion with Dan and Peter Hoey, when he was still with Bison Brewing, in 2006, the year Bison won a Gold medal for their Organic Farmhouse Ale.

Beer Birthday: Denise Jones

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Today is the birthday of Denise Jones, longtime brewer in the Bay Area. Denise last year started with a new brewery, Napa Point Brewing, but brewed for long stints at Moylan’s and Third Street Aleworks, among others. She’s a very talented brewer, and makes especially great stouts. Join me in wishing Denise a very happy birthday.

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With Ralph Woodall of HopUnion at GABF in 2006.

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Shane Aldrich and Arne Johnson, from Marin Brewing, Brendan Moylan, who owns both, and Denise, along with Jim Grbac, from Molyan’s Brewing after the award ceremonies at GABF in 2007.

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Denise with Brendan Moylan and Mark Worona, from Brewers Supply Group, at Tcho Chocolate in 2012 after a chocolate beer competition during CBC (which Denise won).

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With Alec Moss at the Triple Rock Firkin Fest in 2009.

Beer Birthday: Nicole Erny

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Today is the 31st birthday of Nicole Erny, a certified Master Cicerone and passionate beer lover, who used to work at The Trappist and as a “Beer Ambassador” at the CommonWealth Cafe & Public House, both in beautiful downtown Oakland. She also used to work with Ray Daniels’ Cicerone program, but recently left that position for her next adventure. Nicole and I almost worked together on a great-sounding beer project, but alas it fell apart. She’s a great advocate for better beer and has more energy than any three people I know. Join me in wishing Nicole a very happy birthday.

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Rodger Davis, Nicole and Claudia Davis at Triple Rock’s Sourfest during SF Beer Week in 2010.

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Dan Shelton and Nicole during GABF in 2009.

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Toasting the End of GABF Week with Matt Brynildson at the Falling Rock in 2009.

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A great shot for Nathan Smith and Nicole’s Beer School at The Trappist several years ago. (photo “borrowed” from Jon Weber’s Beer Obsessed, in the hopes he won’t mind.)

Did You Hear That? Only 2 Months Until SF Beer Week

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Remember hearing the music of the ice cream truck, and running outside to meet it so you didn’t miss out on getting a popsicle, or whatever your favorite frozen treat was? Well, it’s about two months until the kickoff of SF Beer Week, and they’ve created a hilarious teaser video, reimagining the ice cream truck, or in this case beer truck, as the clarion call for beer week. Enjoy.

Beer Birthday: Craig Cauwels

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Today is the 48th birthday of Craig Cauwels, who started brewing at Schooner’s in 2003, when his longtime friend Shawn Burns needed his help, and he continuing brewing there until after Burns sold the brewpub to a new owner. He’s currently brewing at E.J. Phair brewing, and recently went back to brewing at Schooner’s part-time, splitting his time between the two East Bay breweries. Originally a molecular biologist, Craig was running the core lab facility at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University when he gave it all up to become a professional brewer. And that’s certainly been good news for people who love great beer, because he’s a very talented brewer. Join me in wishing Craig a very happy birthday.

Craig Cauwels, from Schooner's, with Vic Krajl
Craig with Vic Krajl at the 2009 Bistro Barrel Aged Fest.

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Craig with Sam Calagione (from Dogfish Head) and Dave McLean (from Magnolia’s) at the Double IPA Festival at the Bistro a couple of years ago.

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Craig with Steve Altimari, from High Water Brewing at the Celebrator’s 18th anniversary party in 2007.

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Craig with Brian Yaeger, the Beer Chef Bruce Paton and me at a Schooner’s beer dinner at Cathedral Hotel in 2008.

Beer Birthday: John Tucci

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Today is also the 47th birthday of John Tucci, who until it closed not too long ago, was the brewmaster for the San Francisco Gordon Biersch brewpub. John’s one of Gordon Biersch’s best and most senior brewers, especially his one-offs that he brewed at that location. He’s also a great champion for beer in San Francisco and was very active with the local brewers guild and SF Beer Week. Since the San Francisco location’s closing, he’s been brewing at their Palo Alto brewpub, but after 16 years, recently left as he’s close to opening his own new brewery, 47 Hills Brewing, which will be located at 137 South Linden Avenue in South San Francisco. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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John behind the bar pouring some of his beer. (Note: this photo by Winnie Hsu and purloined from Facebook.)

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At the Slow Beer Festival 2008, Ian Marks (from Hog Island Oyster Co.), Taylor Boetticher (from the Fatted Calf), Dave, John and Shaun O’Sullivan (from 21st Amendment).

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John when I visited him last year at the Palo Alto Gordon Biersch.

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Taking delivery of new brewing equipment at 47 Hills.