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.

Beer Birthday: Morgan Cox

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Today is the 37th birthday of Morgan Cox, founder and brewmaster of Ale Industries in Concord, California. Morgan started homebrewing at an early age, and washed kegs for Dave Heist at HopTown, before brewing at E.J. Phair. AFter eight years there, he left to open his own brewery, Ale Industries, where he’s been making inventive, tasty beers very since. Join me in wishing Morgan a very happy birthday.

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Morgan at the rainy Boonville Beer Festival in 2009.

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Morgan with Annie, or Annie N Crew, at the opening gala for SF Beer Week earlier this year.

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Morgan pouring at the Breastfest in 2012.

Note: the last two photos purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday: Don Gortemiller

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Today is the 62nd birthday of Don Gortemiller, former brewmaster for Pacific Coast Brewing in Oakland, California. Don was making beer there since the very beginning, back in 1988, helping to put Oakland and the Bay Area on the beer map, but left under an odd set of circumstances. I believe he’s currently on the lookout for a new opportunity. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Pacific Coast founder Steve Wolfe with Don at their 2009 annual Holiday Beer Tasting.

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Don toasting with his beer.

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Bruce Joseph with Don at Anchor Brewing.

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Don rockin’ out as a young man.

Note: the last three photos purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday: Jesse Friedman

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Today is also the birthday of Jesse Friedman, co-founder of Almanac Beer Co.. I first got to know Jesse when he was writing his beer and food blog, Beer & Nosh, but he’s since gone on to partner with Damian Fagan to create “Farm-to-Barrel” beers in 2010. They currently make three year-round beers and a plethora of individual seasonals under the “Farm to Barrel Series” umbrella, usually with local ingredients, often fruit or field. Join me in wishing jesse a very happy birthday.

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Jesse with Tim Clifford at the SF Beer Week Opening Gala earlier this year.

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Jesse, with Fraggle and Ron Silberstein, from Thirsty Bear, at the Anchor Holiday Party in 2012.

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Helping Sean Paxton with the Toronado Belgian Beer Lunch in 2009.

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Steve Altamari, Zak Davis, Jesse and Pete Slosberg at Jesse’s Pre-Wedding BBQ in 2010.
[Note: Pictures 1, 2, and 4 purloined from Facebook]

Beer Birthday: Alan Atha

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Today is the 64th birthday of Alan Atha, co-founder and brewmaster of Baeltane Brewing in my former hometown of Novato, California. I first met Alan when he was a nanobrewery in planning, and he’s taken the experimental spirit of homebrewing and transitioned beautifully to commercial brewing, while retaining the playful nature that makes so many of his beer’s interesting, and delicious, with names like The Frog That Ate the World Double IPA and Rumplestiltskin. Join me in wishing Alan a very happy birthday.

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Alan and his wife Cathy at the brewery.

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Joe Tucker, me and Alan at the Craft Beerd book release party in Petaluma.
[Note: photos purloined from Facebook]

Russian River Brewing To Get New Brewhouse

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Well this is great news for Russian River beer lovers. I got the news last night that the Santa Rosa brewery will be getting some key new brewing equipment, installing a new brewhouse to replace the current one. The last brewhouse was installed in 2008, when they built their production brewery, increasing annual production from 3,000 barrels to 14,000 barrels, a 466% increase. In February of next year, they’ll be swapping out the old one to install a 4 vessel 50-barrel brew house from AAA Metal Fabrication in Oregon. So how to make beer while the new kettles are being installed? Here’s how, from the press release:

Since this is an equipment swap, there will be no way to brew at their production brewery for about a month. This will not only affect beer sales at their pub, but wholesale distribution since all packaged beer is brewed at this facility (Pliny fans should be gasping right about now). Alas, have no fear! Vinnie and Natalie’s good friends at Firestone Walker Brewing Company have graciously offered to brew several batches of Pliny the Elder to keep the beer flowing during this downtime at Russian River! Firestone Walker will brew Pliny the Elder for draft distribution only, and bottled Pliny will continue to come from Russian River through existing inventory in their fermenters. Vinnie will be working closely with Brewmaster Matt Brynildson to dial in the Pliny recipe in an effort to maintain flavor consistency. If you are at all familiar with the Firestone beers, you know their brewing practices and quality are already first class!

Vinnie and Natalie are grateful to their friends at Firestone Walker for helping them out during installation of the new brew house in February. It’s not exactly like borrowing a bag of malt! The ability to have an uninterrupted supply of draft Pliny the Elder for their wholesale partners and, especially, consumers is invaluable to them and the brewery. This is a true testament to the continued collaborative spirit and friendly nature of the Craft Beer Industry.

No word on when the swap is expected to be completed but the new shiny brewhouse will allow them to keep making great beer.

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Here’s the Russian River crew in front of the old system, shortly after it was installed in 2008. As noted in the press release, Vinnie and Natalie bought it from Dogfish Head, but Sam Calagione in turn got it from Henry Ortlieb, a fourth generation brewer in the Ortlieb family, who as you can see, had it built in 1997 when he opened Poor Henry’s Brewery and Pub.

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Berkeley Bar Proposes Not Serving Alcohol

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Talk about your non-story. A new Kava bar set to open in Berkeley is planning on not serving alcohol and you’d think they had re-invented the light bulb. Between the bar’s own application claiming it “aims to be Berkeley’s first and only alcohol-alternative bar” and Alcohol Justice tweeting the news with their characteristic glee assuming it must be anti-alcohol, there’s not a lot to the actual story. Not to mention the way in which the Bay Area BizTalk author is spinning it so that she claims it to be “innovative,” saying that “while the common thread is serving booze, one business that plans to open in Berkeley could change that.” Puh-leeze!

Okay, first let’s dispense with the innovation or that it’s Berkeley, or anywhere for that matter’s, “first and only alcohol-alternative bar.” Berkeley and the rest of the world has thousands, maybe millions of them. They’re called cafes, coffeehouse, tea bars, ice cream parlors, and on and on. Starbucks alone operates nearly 24,000 alcohol-alternative bars, not including the few that have been test-marketing alcohol sales in the evenings. As for Alcohol Justice’s churlish remark that “If this takes off, expect Bud Light Kava,” they’re displaying their usual cluelessness. Kava is a plant “used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of its evidence concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term social anxiety.”

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The scientific name for the specific plant used to make the kava drink is known as “Piper methysticum,” which means “intoxicating pepper.” So essentially it’s a different, milder high, but is used in much the same way and for the same purposes as many people use alcohol and mood-altering drugs. You just missed celebrating the Feast of Papa-Lea, the God of Kava Drinking, on September 8. Still, it’s not exactly a health drink. “People taking certain kava-based drugs and dietary products have suffered liver damage or liver failure as a result of hepatotoxicity. Consequently, kava is regulated in a number of countries. In the EU it is strictly prohibited only in Poland.” So the bar may be not serving alcohol, but that’s because they’re focusing on another, somewhat similar product. If it were more popular in the U.S., and regulated like alcohol, you can bet Alcohol Justice would be against it, and singing a different tune.

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I want to be clear that I’m not against Kava. I’ve never had it but would try it in a heartbeat if offered a chance to sample it. But I do want to point out the incessant hypocrisy of prohibitionist groups like Alcohol Justice who are so against alcohol in our society that they’ll celebrate the fact that a bar is taking a different theme to reach a specialized clientele and choosing against serving alcohol in favor of a different mood-altering drink. One they’re against, and the other … well, they don’t really understand or care about so long as it’s not alcohol.

Personally, I hope the MeloMelo Kava Bar does open. It sounds interesting, and worth trying, but please let’s dispense with the notion that it’s going to start a wave of non-alcoholic places that will squash alcohol’s prominence as the beverage of choice at bars across the nation. And especially that they’ll be characterized as “alcohol-alternative bars.” According to the Bay Area BizTalk article, “Tea, yerba mate and kombucha will also be on the menu at MeloMelo, but the bar will not serve food or ‘coffee bean-related’ products.” And let’s not forget that MeloMelo is saving themselves thousands by not buying an expensive liquor license. So these are marketing decisions to differentiate themselves from coffeehouses, and their not serving alcohol is not exactly something that’s likely to “catch on” given that there are already thousands of places where alcohol is not served already. Hell, every time someone actually tries to sell alcohol in a place where it’s traditionally not sold — like Starbucks or Burger King — the hue and cry from the wingnut prohibitionists is deafening.

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But let’s review the real issue here, and the ridiculousness of the concept of being an alcohol-alternative establishment. I think I see a way out. When you’re at a bar, or restaurant or whatever and don’t want to order something alcoholic off of the menu; don’t. Now, was that so hard? There are all sorts of people in the world, and at any given time in any number of moods. Sometimes you want or need a drink, sometimes you don’t. I’m not a big fan of seafood, in fact hate most if it and could most likely live happily my remaining days if I never saw a fish on my plate again. But I’m not boycotting restaurants with seafood choices on the menu. I just don’t order any of them. But the prohibitionists would rather limit everybody’s choice and simply not have alcohol available for legal adults to enjoy because a minority of them might not be able to handle themselves, in effect punishing those of us who can. So how about we have alcohol-alternative people and give the rest of us the ability to choose for ourselves how we we want to live our lives?

Beer Birthday: Lars Larson

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Today is the 48th birthday of Lars Larson, brewmaster of Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, California. Larsen studied brewing in Germany and was the prefect person to recreate Trumer Pils in the United States, one of the best pilsners made in California, or indeed anywhere, foreign or domestic. I got to know Lars much better a few years ago, when we were both invited to judge a beer competition in Santiago, Chile, and he’s a very thoughtful brewer, and great fun to hang out with. Join me in wishing Lars a very happy birthday.

Lars Larson (Trumer), Homer Smith (Oak Barrel) & Shaun O'Sullivan (21st Amendment)
Lars, with Homer Smith of the Oak Barrel & Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment, at the Celebrator’s 22nd anniversary party in 2010.

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Lars in Chile with two of the brewers from Cerveceria Berlina in Argentina.

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Lars, again at the Celebrator’s 22nd anniversary party in 2010, with Brenden Dobel, from Thirsty Bear.

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Lars’ former brewing school classmate Asbjorn Gerlach, Matt Brynildson and Lars at Kross Cerveza Independiente in Chile, which Gerlach co-founded.

Lagunitas Couch Trippin’ Winner Announced

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A few weeks ago Lagunitas Brewing, my local down the street, announced a contest to win a a party in your home, Couch Trippin’ party to your home. The Couch Trippin’ Contest ended on the last day of August, and they’ve just announced the winner in a new Lagunitas video showing some of the best entries and ending with the winner’s submission.

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Congratulations to Mel Gryllz (@Gryllzlee) for emerging victorious with this wonderful shot:

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