Beer Birthday: James Costa

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Today is the 43rd birthday of James Costa. James is a brewer and co-founder of Oakland Brewing, and is also currently brewing at Half Moon Bay Brewing. But James has certainly made the rounds, and has also brewed for Moylan’s, Santa Cruz Aleworks, E.J. Phair and others. James is justly famous for his big, hoppy beers like the wonderful Sticky Zipper. Join me in wishing James a very happy birthday.

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James with Vic at the Bistro Double IPA Festival in 2009.

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James with Shaun O’Sullivan (left) and Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River) at the 2nd annual Single Hop Festival & Washoe Tournament in 2007.

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James with his wife Caroline (left), with Iron Springs brewer Christian Kazakoff and his then-girlfriend, Jodi, at the Toronado 20th Anniversary Party in 2007.

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At the Beer Chef’s “Tion” beer dinner at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in September of 2006, James with Arne Johnson (Marin Brewing) and Vinnie Cilurzo.

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At another Beer Chef dinner, this one with Allagash, James offers some “Shrimp flavored Chips” to his wife Caroline, who wisely declined.

Beer Birthday: Melissa Myers

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Today is my good friend Melissa Myers’ birthday. Her most recent brewing gig was at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, California. She’s also brewed at Pyramid and Magnolia, among others, but now she owns and operates her own beer bar in Oakland, The Good Hop. Apparently there’s a stool there waiting for me with my name on it, but to deep regret I have not yet visited it, or Melissa yet, and I can’t wait to take it out for a spin. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.

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Arne Johnson, of Marin Brewing, and Melissa at the Boonville Beer Festival several years ago.

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Former roommates Jen Garris and Melissa at the Anchor Christmas Party a few years back.

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Melissa and former Drake’s brewer Rodger Davis at GABF several years ago.

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Melissa and me at GABF once upon a time.

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Melissa with her adopted Daddy, “Big Daddy” Dave Keene.

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Melissa in high school, believe it or not. At a Super Bowl party she threw, Melissa made the mistake of showing me this photo while I had my camera in my hand. I snapped a quick picture of it in the photo album, which is why is looks out of proportion and a little fuzzy. I had to seriously crop it and straighten it out and generally fix it up. But I think the effort was worth it, don’t you?

Beer Birthday: John Martin

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Today is the 55th birthday of John Martin, one of the founders of Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse in Berkeley. John, with his brother Reid, started on of the first five brewpubs in the U.S., and the only one that’s still owned by the same family that founded it. John also owns Drake’s Brewing and the Jupiter Taproom, too. He’s active in the local beer community and also with the CCBA, plus he’s a great guy with a very distinctive laugh. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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Christian Kazakoff, former brewer at Triple Rock (now at Iron Springs) with John during the 2008 Firkin Fest.

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John, with his brother Reid, and Triple Rock brewmaster Rodger Davs at the brewpub’s 25th anniversary.

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John, me and Peter Hoey at last year’s opening gala for SF Beer Week.

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John in the brewhouse with his brother 26 years ago, on opening day.

Beer Birthday: Brian Hunt

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Today is iconoclastic brewer Brian Hunt’s 58th birthday. Brian owns and operates Moonlight Brewing in in Sonoma County, California, as almost a one-man show. If you’ve never had his “Death and Taxes,” “Twist of Fate Bitter,” “Bombay by Boat,” or his fresh hop ale, alternately called “Homegrown” or “Greenbud Ale,” then you’re really missing out on some of the most unique and wonderful beers around. Plus, Brian is one of the nicest curmudgeons you’ll ever meet, and one of my favorite people anywhere. Join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

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Hildegard van Ostaden, Urthel’s brewster, one of only a vert few female brewers working in Belgium, and Brian.

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Brian in his hopyard, with Russian River’s old assistant brewer Travis (who opened his own place, Societe Brewing), and Vinnie Cilurzo.

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Shaun O’Sullivan and Vinnie Cilurzo with Brian at the Bistro in Hayward, California.

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Brian at the Opening Gala for SF Beer Week a couple of years back.

Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2015

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After missing this festival for the past few years, I finally made it back to judge this year’s Bistro IPA Festival. This year’s big winner was Solana Beach IPA, from Pizza Port Solana Beach, which was chosen best in show, out of 70 IPA offerings, at the 18th annual IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

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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Pouring beer for Linden Street at the Winter Brews Festival in 2010.

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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.