Beer Birthday: Grant Johnston

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Today is the 62th 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. A couple of years back, 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 55th 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 60, the Big 6-0 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.

Bistro Double IPA Winners 2016

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Today the the 16th annual Double IPA Festival was held at the Bistro in Hayward, California. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year owing to my daughter having a vaulting competition today. But owner Vic Kralj was kind enough to send me a list of this year’s winners. The full list is below. Apparently in this year’s judging, it was very close, so they decided to announce 4th place for both double and triple IPA.

Double IPAs

Triple IPAs

Congratulations to all the winners.

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Steve Sartori from Altamont Beer Works with The Bistro’s Vic Kralj accepting his 2nd place for his Triple IPA last year, though they won again this year, a bronze for their double.

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 a couple of years ago, discovering that he’d 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: Daniel Del Grande

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Today is the 47th 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.

George Allen, Dan Del Grande & Mark Cabrera from Bison Brewing
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. Until earlier this year, Denise had started with a new brewery, Napa Point Brewing before it closed, but brewed for long stints at Moylan’s and Third Street Aleworks, among others. More recently she’s moved to Bamberg, Germany and is working with Weyermann. 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 32nd 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, and she’s got plans afoot. 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.

Nicole Erny & Matt Brynildson Toasting the End of GABF Week
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.)

Dean Biersch Buys The Twin Oaks

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This is more local news and will be of interest mainly to my neighbors in Sonoma County. There’s an iconic bar in Penngrove, a small town next to where I live, in Cotati. It’s even smaller than my town, but it does have a pretty cool bar called Twin Oaks, which has been there since 1924, though at least until 1933 it was simply a road house tavern and gas station. Well, maybe not simply. According to 98-year old Vivian Kehl, who worked there during prohibition when it was also a grocery store, Twin Oaks also
sold co-owner Frances Hoar’s “very good home-brewed beer that, despite Prohibition, was widely popular with local customers.” But since we moved up this way, it’s been a kick ass old bar.

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But in 2013, Twin Oaks got a new owner, Sheila Groves-Tracey, who’s been booking local bands in the North Bay for decades, and she’d transformed the bar in a concert venue, as well.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Dean Biersch bought the Twin Oak. Biersch was a co-founder of the Gordon Biersch brewpub chain but left when the restaurant side of the business was sold. More recently, he opened the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol, and has gone on to open two additional locations, one in Sonoma and the other in Novato.

In the Press Democrat, Biersch talked about his plans for the bar:

“In my mind the Twin Oaks is a ‘heritage’ hospitality site – one of the last roadhouse, tavern, honky-honks on the Old Redwood Highway,” said Biersch, reached by phone.

He plans to keep the name and ambiance that Twin Oaks Tavern (5745 Old Redwood Hwy, Penngrove) is known for while renovating and upgrading the space to include a new dance floor, expanded outdoor patio, and new kitchen. A licensing change will allow for families and children to enter the tavern to eat. Another major draw includes a lineup of 16 draft beers.

“It’s been running for 91-years continually, and that’s pretty cool. I’ve never considered (making it) another HopMonk,” he said. “Our biggest focus is to be a part of this great property, close to other craft breweries in Petaluma with a great beer, music and bar atmosphere,” Biersch added.

Twin Oaks will close briefly in January to do some minor renovations, with plans to open again in the spring, but Biersch cautions that’s he’d not planning on changing very much of the iconic old bar.

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Beer Birthday: Craig Cauwels

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Today is the 49th 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. For a time, he was also brewing at E.J. Phair brewing, and even went back to brewing at Schooner’s part-time, splitting his time between the two East Bay breweries. More recently, Schooner’s has a new owner, who shut down the brewpub, but moved the equipment to a production space in Tracy, and is rebranding the brewery as Morgan Territory, which Craig doing all of the brewing. They even brought home their first medal from GABF this year, for a beer Craig made at Schooner’s but under the Morgan Territory name since the BA allowed them to enter under the new name even though they haven’t opened yet, which is pretty cool. 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.