Beer Birthday: Bill Brand

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Today would have been Bill Brand’s 77th birthday, if not for the tragic events of February 8, 2009. Bill, of course, was hit by a Muni Train that evening and passed away twelve days later, on February 20. He was a bastion of support for the local beer community for decades, and one of it’s most visible media faces. He did a staggering amount of good to help brewers throughout the Bay Area, and wrote about the beer he loved so much with an unmatched passion and zeal. His Bottoms Up blog was read by millions, the newest form of his What’s On Tap newsletter that stretched back into the early 1990s. It was my great honor to take over his column and try to continue his legacy of support for craft brewers in the Bay Area and beyond. Drink a toast to the memory and legacy of William “Bill” Brand today. Happy birthday Bill, you are most certainly missed.

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Dueling laptops; Bill and me at Magnolia on February 6 for the tapping of Napa Smith Original Albion Ale by Don Barkley. Photo by Shaun O’Sullivan.

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At the Falling Rock during GABF week in 2004. Clockwise from left, Bill, Lisa Morrison, me, Tom Dalldorf, Stephen Beaumont and my cousin Mike, who lived in Denver at the time.

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Bill toasting with a pitcher of Oakland’s new Linden Street Brewery, with Fraggle at the far right, whose birthday would also have been today. Photo by RRifkin.

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Bill taking notes at the Monk’s Blood Dinner at 21st Amendment, February 8, 2009. Photo by Jesse Friedman of Beer & Nosh.

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Drink a toast to Bill today, it’s how he would have wanted to be remembered.

Beer Bornday: Fraggle

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Today would have been the 48th birthday of Mark Martone, better known to the beer world as “Fraggle.” Fraggle always called them borndays, so I’ll continue that tradition for him. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke last year in late June and passed away a few days later, on July 5, 2014. Fraggle, along with Rebecca Boyles, founded the terrific Beer Revolution in Oakland, near Jack London Square on 3rd Street. I first met Fraggle when I featured him and Rebecca in an article I did for Beer Advocate magazine on beer geeks several years back. It’s been great to see them turn their passion into their livelihood, and go from civilian to pro over the last few years. Join me in wishing Fraggle a very happy bornday, and raise a toast to his memory today or tonight or all day long. He would have wanted it that way. And don’t forget to support Fragglefest, the festival in his honor, which will take place later this year on August 15, 2015.

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Fraggle and Jen Muehlbauer at the Celebrator 25th anniversary party in 2013.

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Jesse Friedman, Fraggle and Ron Silberstein at the Anchor Holiday Party in 2012.

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With Steve Donohue and me at the SF Beer Week opening gala in 2014.

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Rebecca and Fraggle at Santa Rosa’s Beerfest in 2007.

The Equinox: Day, Night & A Beer

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Today, of course, is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring for those of us on the northern side of the equator, and the beginning of Autumn for our southerly brethren. It’s also a day when we have roughly equal amounts of day and night.

People around the world have celebrated the equinox for millennia in an amazing array of ways. Back in the early days of Lagunitas Brewing, their celebration manifested itself, as you’d expect, in a beer they called Equinox. Launched originally in 1995, it quietly went away in the early 2000s, when they were working both day and night and it probably seemed like stopping to mark the middle of that made no sense. But this year, on the Equinox, they decided to bring back Lagunitas Equinox, though in a slightly altered package and recipe. It’s still a “pale oat ale,” but it’s a bit stronger now, at 8.4% abv (it was 6.4% before). It’s also again in 22 oz. bottles and kegs.

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Lagunitas describes the beer as “a creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptusy, cedary, sprucey, foresty blast.” And Tony’s label notes make for some challenging reading.

Qan you imagine a world without Beer? Everything ewe gnoe would be different. Phish might phly, aaugs might uze power touls. Pfriedae nights mite be spent building treez out of the day after tomorrow’s pstale sour greem and cheaze leavings. And then theirft bea the speling iszuues. Thingss wood bee just plane wierd, eye meene weird. Come two thing of Itt, Eye think aya cool stand begin a kid bit hapier write gnaw… (glug, glug, glug… gulp.) Mmm, aaht Once again all Is right with the world, the fish are in their ocean, the dog will not maim me, I’ll have a date for Friday night, and I know for sure that in fact God loves me. Beer. You only borrow it. Kawl us!

They also created a pretty trippy one-minute video showing a split-screen journey of the beer during both day and night simultaneously.

Beer Birthday: Jason Chavez

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Today is the 47th birthday of Jason Chavez, who’s the brewmaster at Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz. Chavez started homebrewing while still in high school on his family’s kitchen stove. He’s a graduate of the American Brewers Guild, and has been brewing at Seabright since 1999. I believe I first met Jason many years ago at the Rock Bottom in Denver during a GABF week, but I still run into him occasionally at events. Seabright celebrated their 25th anniversary two years ago, when I spent the day at the brewery to do a story on their silver anniversary. Join me in wishing Jason a very happy birthday.

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Jason with Dave Heist, from HopTown Brewing, and Gene and Cindy Acevedo, from El Toro Brewing, during the Brewer’s Reception at GABF in 2002.

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Jason at the helm of the brewery when I visited him in early 2013 to wrote about Seabright’s 25th anniversary.

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Here’s a great shot by Dan Coyro, from an article in Santa Cruz Sentinnel.

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Jason, in the center, surrounded by Seabright folks at the 10th annual Stumptown Russian River Revival and BBQ Cook-Off.

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Jason, again in the center, at GABF (Note: last two photos purloined from Seabright’s website).

Beer Birthday: Jen Muehlbauer

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Today is the 40th (I think) birthday of Jen Muehlbauer, who writes East Bay Beer and has also worked at several prominent local beer places — currently the Albany Taproom. She’s been writing about beer since 2002. Because she’s been in the trenches, I think her voice is more practical, realistically cynical and utterly invaluable. I always love to read her take on what’s being debated on the interwebs. Join me in wishing Jen a very happy birthday.

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With Fraggle at the Celebrator 25th anniversary party in 2013.

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Enjoying a large mug of beer.

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A visit from Krampus.

Note: the last two photos were purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday, Part 56: Jay Brooks

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Today is my 56th birthday, and even though it’s still early in the day, as in previous years I’ve again been overwhelmed by an embarrassment of friends and colleagues wishing me a happy day via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. My sincere thanks to one and all. Since it’s usually me posting embarrassing photos of friends and colleagues, for the sixth year in almost a row (I think I skipped a year), here’s some more priceless artifacts of me from over the years.

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Striking a pose for my two grandmothers in 1961.

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When I was five, my Mom remarried. The reason I look so happy in this photo, or so the story goes, is that she just told me I wouldn’t be accompanying them on the honeymoon, and apparently I was not thrilled at this news.

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Another birthday, this one a mere 45 years ago, when I turned 11.

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Visiting Cooperstown, in front of the display for Lou Gehrig, my favorite old-time player, and rocking my Orioles windbreaker (big fan of Brooks Robinson and the Birds as a kid) and some super spiffy stripey slacks.

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The playboy of the western world (at least in the mind of my 14-year old self).

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In my room circa 1976, with our dog Devie wearing my headphones. I’m not sure what she was listening to.

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Channeling Jay Gatsby.

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High school graduation day with my Mom.

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During our escape from the Bike Museum during a press trip to Belgium a couple of years ago. The photo was taken with my camera by Derek Buono from the Beer Magazine.

There’s many more where these came from, for a good laugh just check out the photos from the last five or so years at Beer Birthday Redux: Jay Brooks, Beer Birthday Again: Jay Brooks, Beer Birthday: Jay Brooks, Beer Birthday: J (Yes, Embarrasing Myself This Time) and Beer Birthday Overkill, from 2009, when I posted a bunch encompassing my first 50 years on planet beer. Oh, and thanks once again to everybody for the generous birthday wishes.

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.

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Grant and Arne Johnston brewing his Wild Rice Ale for Marin’s 25th Anniversary.

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Grant, bottom left, among the GABF judges for the 10th anniversary of the festival in 1992.

Beer Birthday: Brendan Moylan

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Today is Brendan Moylan’s 54th birthday. Brendan owns both his eponymous Moylan’s Brewing as well as Marin Brewing. He’s a very active part of both the local and beer community, and each year puts on the Breasfest to benefit breast cancer awareness. Join me in wishing Brendan a very happy birthday.

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Arne Johnson sporting his four gold medals won at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival with Brendan at a recent beer dinner.

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Shane Aldrich and Arne Johnson, from Marin Brewing, Brendan Moylan, who owns both, and Denise Jones and Jim Grbac, from Molyan’s Brewing after the award ceremonies at GABF three years ago.

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Brendan and in me in front of Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia during Philly Beer Week in 2010.

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Brendan and his wife at the Breastfest that Marin Brewing sponsors in 2010.

Beer Birthday: Bruce Joseph

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Bruce Joseph, who’s been at Anchor Brewery for many, many years turns 59 today. There’s a big picture of him when he was very young in the stairwell at the brewery that I see every time I’m there. He’s been doing the distilling for Anchor’s whiskey and gin for a long while now and plays bass with the Hysters (Anchor’s big band) along with the Rolling Boil Blues Band (the Celebrator beer band that’s all industry musicians). If there’s a nicer person in the beer industry, I’ve yet to meet him. Join me in wishing Bruce a very happy birthday.

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On stage at the Northern California Rhythm & Blues Festival several years ago.

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A self-portrait of Bruce and me at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2006.

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With Melissa Myers at the Falling Rock during GABF 2007.

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With Garrett Oliver at an industry event during GABF years ago.

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.)