Beer Birthday: Lars Larson

Today is the 49th 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 several 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.

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

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

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

Beer Birthday: Steve McDaniels

oakland-brewing independent
Today is the 47th birthday of Steve McDaniels, a former brewer with 21st Amendment. These days McDaniels is hard at work building what will become the Oakland Brewing Co. on 22nd Avenue in Oakland, and brewing their beer at other locations until it’s finished, at least he was the last time I talked to him. Admittedly, it’s been a little while so hopefully it’s still in the works. He’s also working on the soon-to-be-opened, but already-kinda-opened Independent Brewing. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

Steve McDaniels, Bruce Paton and Arne Johnson
Steve with OBC partner Bruce Paton and Arne Johnson, brewmaster at Marin Brewing.

Steve with Drake’s brewer Josh Miner.

Steve and his lovely wife Justine.

Claudia Davis, Steve, Justine Nguyen, Gabrielle Chan, Adrienne McMullen, Shaun O’Sullivan and Roger Davis.

Beer Birthday: Geno Acevedo

Today is the 54th birthday of Geno Acevedo, head brewer and co-owner of El Toro Brewing in Morgan Hill, California. Geno makes one of my favorite Oatmeal Stouts, along with many other fine beers. Join me in wishing Geno a very happy birthday.

Geno Acevedo, with his wife Cindy, at the Boonville Beer Festival a couple of years ago.

Geno at the beginning of GABF’s Saturday evening session in 2007.

Geno and Cindy Acevedo at GABF in 2006.

Beer Birthday: Collin McDonnell

Today is the 30th birthday of Collin McDonnell, co-founder and brewmaster for HenHouse Brewing. Collin used to brew for Drake’s, and in 2011 began moonlighting with his own brewery, HenHouse, before cutting the cord and concentrating on only his own venture, along with partners Scott Goyne and Shane Goepel. After starting in part-time space they could only use on the weekends, they moved into an Alternating Proprietorship with Petaluma Hills Brewing, but more recently announced their own space, and have just “completed a deal to build [their] own brewery in southern Santa Rosa.” Collin, and HenHouse, makes terrific beer, and I love Collin’s opinionated twitter presence. Please join me in wishing Collin a very happy birthday.

Collin showing me around HenHouse’s original brewery in downtown Petaluma in early March 2013.

Collin with the HenHouse gang at the SF Beer Week opening gala in 2014.

Collin doing his “I’m the king of the world” impression. (Purloined from Facebook.)

The Henhouse Three, with Collin at the right, from a recent press photo.

Beer Birthday: Porter

Alright, you caught me again. It’s not the birthday of the beer style, Porter. Strictly speaking, this isn’t really a beer post but it’s my son’s 14th birthday today, but since his name is Porter I figured people wouldn’t feel too duped by the title. It is accurate, after all. In previous years, I’d written that “one day soon, we’ll brew a porter together.” Well that day finally came, and two years ago on his birthday weekend it was Porter’s Porter Day, when he made his first batch of homebrew, with a little help from our friends. Anyway, please join me in wishing Porter a very happy birthday!

At Porter’s birthday party when he turned one, trying to get at a keg of Russian River. That’s my boy! NOTE: To those of you reaching for the phone to call child protective services, put down the receiver. He did NOT drink any beer. His mother got to him before he figured out how the tap worked.

A beautiful memory at the Rogue Alehouse in San Francisco when Porter couldn’t have been more than two, if that. Much to my surprise, Porter utterly charmed Don Younger with his ability to swiftly climb a bar stool. Don was very impressed, as was I.

Eight years ago, showing off a 5th-birthday present from Grandpa, a Union Pacific Challenger steam engine.

Porter three years ago, when he came with me to visit Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco. He’s trying to emulate his hero Tim Lincecum, at least hair-wise, pitching-wise he’s more of a closer.

Me, Porter and Vinnie Cilurzo, after Porter’s Porter Day two years ago.

Also two years ago, Porter’s second batch, a version of Hair of the Dog’s Doggie Claws, made with the Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton, but mostly Alan Sprints, whose own birthday was just a few days ago.

Beer Birthday: Mike “Tasty” McDole

Today is also the birthday of living legend Mike “Tasty” McDole, homebrewer extraordinaire, and one time co-host of “The Jamil Show,” or “Can You Brew It?” and a regular still on the “Sunday Show” on The Brewing Network. Tasty would never refer to himself that way, and on Twitter he claims to be simply a “homebrewer and a craft beer enthusiast.” But most of us who know him would, as he also admits, “make [him] out to be much more.” And that is correct, I believe, as Tasty is one of the best. He’s a former Longshot winner, has given talks at the National Homebrew Convention and has won countless awards and has collaborated with numerous commercial breweries on beers. Join me in wishing Tasty a very happy birthday.

Justin Crossley & Mike McDole
With Justin Crossley at the Bistro Double IPA Festival in 2010.

With Shaun O’Sullivan at 21st Amendment in 2009.

Vic Krajl, from The Bistro, Award-Winning Homebrewer Mike McDole & Shaun O'Sullivan, from 21st Amendment
Vic Krajl, from The Bistro, Mike & Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment at GABF in 2009.

Tasty at last year’s GABF in Denver.

Beer Birthday: Pete Slosberg

Today is my friend Pete Slosberg’s 65th birthday. Pete is, of course, best known for Pete’s Wicked Ales. After that he toyed with the idea of making barbecue but decided instead to make some incredible chocolates and had a small company, Cocoa Pete’s. A few years ago, I traveled to South America with Pete (where we took to calling him “El Pete“), where we both spoke and judged beer at a beer conference/competition in Argentina, the South Beer Cup, and then flew to Brazil to attend a pair of beer dinners Stephen Beaumont was hosting and for a while he was working on Mavericks, a newish line of canned session beers, along with Half Moon Bay Brewing, although his son Alex stayed on with Mavericks, Pete and his wife Amy are just doing a lot of traveling and looking for the next adventure … or sour beer. Join me wishing Pete a very happy birthday!

This was taken the first time I met Pete, over fifteen years ago at the KQED Beer and Food Festival in San Francisco, when I was more or less still a civilian. It was after I’d written a book on beer, but before I started working as the beer buyer for BevMo.

Pete & Amy Slosberg with Shaun O'Sullivan
Pete with his wife Amy and Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, at one of Sean Paxton’s beer dinners during SF Beer Week earlier this year.

Pete Slosberg, helping out for the day, shows off a finished bottle
Working the bottling line at Russian River Brewing, with a bottle of Consecration.

Matt Bonney, Stephen Beaumont, Sean Paxton, Pete Slosberg & Rick Sellers
Matt Bonney, from Brouwer’s, Stephen Beaumont, Sean Paxton, Pete and Rick Sellers, from Odonata at the Bistro Double IPA Festival.

Pete with his wife Amy and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf at one of Bruce Paton’s beer dinners at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in February 2006.

Martin Boan, who organized and ran the South Beer Cup, with Pete in Buenos Aires.

Pete, with Edu Passarelli (owner of Melograno), Stephen Beaumont and me after a beer dinner at Edu’s place in Sao Paulo.

Beer Birthday: Vinnie Cilurzo

Today is the 45th birthday of Vinnie Cilurzo, founder and brewmaster at Russian River Brewing. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Vinnie is one of the best brewers in America and is credited with having made the first Imperial IPA. Along with his partner Natalie, his Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa, California won unprecedented back-to-back best brewpub (and brewmaster) awards at the World Beer Cups in 2006 and 2008, and their flagship Pliny the Elder has been picked as the best beer in America by AHA members seven years in a row. And Vinnie is one of the nicest people in the industry you’ll ever meet. Join me in wishing Vinnie a happy birthday.

Vinnie and his wife Natalie from presented to Tom Dalldorf (middle), owner of the Celebrator, a Balthazar of their yummy Damnation Ale in honor of the magazine’s 17th anniversary. A Balthazar is 12 liters or contains about 16 normal bottles of beer.

Dave Keene, owner of the Toronado, Natalie Cilurzo, Dave’s girlfriend Jennifer and Vinnie at CBC in Seattle.

Garrett Oliver, brewer at Brooklyn Brewing Co., and Vinnie at the Brewer’s Dinner the night before GABF begins.

Vinnie and Rich Norgrove from Bear Republic at the Summit Hop Festival a few years ago at Drake’s.

Vinnie & Natalie Cilurzo
Vinnie with his wife and Russian River co-owner Natalie at GABF in 2009.

Vinnie and me his 40th birthday party at the brewpub a few years ago.

Pyramid Closes Berkeley Brewery

North American Breweries announced today that effective immediately, they’ve closed the Pyramid Brewery that’s been located in Berkeley, California since 1997. That leaves just the Walnut Creek alehouse remaining in California, after they closed the Sacramento brewpub in 2013.


At Pyramid’s website, it offers only the following by way of explanation.

The Pyramid Berkeley Alehouse is now closed.

Thank you so much for your support and patronage over the years! We also want to thank our employees for their dedicated service. Our other locations remain open and available to provide great beers and a wonderful experience. We hope to see you there.

The East Bay Express has a bit more of the story, explaining “Berkeley’s Pyramid Alehouse (901 Gilman St.) is now permanently closed, according to a message on the restaurant and brewery’s answering machine.”


Of course, the story isn’t complete without acknowledging that they haven’t been brewing at that location since 2013, when the brewers voted to unionize and shortly thereafter the company suspended brewing claiming it was to “fix a quality issue.” Which was obvious nonsense, especially now that the closure has gone from temporary to permanent. The original “temporary” period to “fix” the brewery was supposed to be 6-9 months, which meant it should have reopened and brought back the laid-off brewers sometime between March and June of 2014, or a little over one year ago.

This is, at least in part, what happens when breweries become part of larger businesses like equity firms, who only care about profit and bottom lines, and not the businesses themselves. Pyramid is part of North American Breweries (NAB), and was created in 2009 when equity firm KPS Capital Partners (KPS) bought it along with Magic Hat, Portland Brewing, Labatt’s USA, Genesee and a couple of other brands. In 2012, KPS sold NAB to Cerveceria Costa Rica, a subsidiary of Florida Ice & Farm Co., for $388 million.

East Bay Express later added this update, apparently from a press release from NAB:

The company decided to close its Berkeley facility in order to prepare the building for sale — “after an extensive evaluation process. “We have made the decision to focus our West Coast production in our Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington locations,” said CEO Kris Sirchio.

Frankly, that’s about as believable as the celebrity or political figure embroiled in scandal who retires “to spend more time with his family.” I’m sorry to see the brewery go, but frankly NAB has become a difficult company with many layers to get through before finding an actual live person who can, or will, answer questions about the company’s brands. When Sacramento closed, I spent hours on websites and phones just trying to find someone who would comment or answer questions, and this time I’m not even going to try, given how awful it was last time. One commenter on the EBE piece said, “[w]ord on the street is that another brewery is looking to purchase the property,” so perhaps we’ll have good news about the location soon.

R.I.P. Pyramid Berkeley 1997-2015.

Beer Birthday: Alec Moss

Today is Alec Moss’ 71st birthday, which is quite frankly still hard to believe. Alec doesn’t look a day over 40! Must be the beer and motorcycles. I first got to know Alec when I worked with him on some private label contract beers I did for BevMo when he was head brewer at the now-defunct Golden Pacific Brewery in Berkeley. Alec then spent some time at Redbird Brewing before moving to the coast to be head brewer at the picturesque Half Moon Bay Brewing, but he retired a few years ago. Every time I see him now he seems to be enjoying his retirement enormously, especially now that he’s also been working part time for Anchor Brewing, building them a pilot system and working on it, too. Join me in wishing Alec a very happy birthday.

Alec and me yesterday at his 70th birthday party at the Tornado.

Alec in the brewhouse at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

At the Toronado for He’Brew’s release party. From left: Alec, Pete Slosberg, formerly of Pete’s Wicked Ales, Jeremy Cowan of Shmaltz Brewing and Rodger Davis, now with Triple Rock Brewing.

Alec with Tom Dalldorf at the 2011 Anchor Christmas party.

Last year at the Breastfest in San Francisco, from left: Alec, Jeff Botz, Arne Johnson, Betsey Hensley, Vinnie & Natalie Cilurzo and Abalone Rob Mika.