Celebrator 25th Anniversary Party

The closing event for SF Beer Week was again hosted by the Celebrator Beer News, who held their 25th Anniversary Party at the Oakland Marriott Convention Center on Sunday. Over 600 people attended the festival, which had a Mardi Gras theme, and 50 breweries were pouring their beer.

The tap handle for the beer that a group of Celebrator writer’s collaborated on to celebrate our 25th anniversary at Sierra Nevada Brewing

Some festival attendees really got into the Mardi Gras spirit.

Though not everybody, as evidenced by the Beer Wench, Ashley Routson, and recent husband Angelo De lseo.

Steve Altimari, from High Water Brewing, also made a special blended beer for our 25th anniversary celebration.

The view from the Brewing Network corner.

Midway through the festival, all of the Celebrator writers in attendance got up on stage and we drank a toast to craft beer, the brewers and our industry, and I introduced publisher Tom Dalldorf.

Then Tom led us in a 25th anniversary toast.

Del Grande, Bison Brewing owner, dressed as a bison, giving high fours to anyone who would lend a paw.

Fraggle and a bemused Jen Muehlbauer.

Rich Norgrove, from Bear Republic and Brian Ford, from Auburn Alehouse, bookending a friend who’s name I can’t remember, another brain cell casualty of getting old.

Terence, from Sierra Nevada, with Natalie, from Russian River.

The long and the short of it, with Sean Paxton, Nicole Erny and some friends.

Don Gortemiller, from Pacific Coast, and Dave Heist, formerly of Hoptown, with a friend.

More buffalo hijinks toward the end of the evening.

Don Ericson and Tom Dalldorf raise a toast to our 25th anniversary. See you next year.

Toronado Barleywine Festival 2013

Yesterday was the 20th annual Toronado Barleywine Festival, the original SF Beer Week event, that predates our beer week by fifteen years. I arrived a little late, sad to say, because Porter had his little league tryouts in the morning, but for at least the fourth year in a row, my luck held. When I arrived, it was already in full swing.


Luckily, I found Sean Paxton holding down Matt Bonney‘s table near the front of the pub.


The table already had a full compliment of all forty barley wines. Since Sean was looking to go roaming himself, I graciously agreed to take over table babysitting duties, which allowed me the opportunity to try every one of this year’s barley wines.


There were some very good, even great, ones, of course, and a number of decent beers, and a few that weren’t as good as one might have hoped.


But over all, I think my favorite barley wine of the day was Mad River’s John Barleycorn, which in many ways has become the epitome of an American-style barley wine for me, and seems to get better every year. Other stand-outs included Heretic’s Dead Weight, Moylan’s Old Blarney, Drake’s Jolly Roger and Anderson Valley’s Horn of the Beer. I also enjoyed Bear Republic’s Old Scoutter’s 2010, Berryessa’s Cliff’s Fiscal and Widmer’s Old Embalmer.


The back room, which is normally only used for special events (and Washoe’s) was configured in a new way this year, which seemed to allow more people to taste, with one side having long picnic tables and the other a place to stand and try the beers with a long table running the length to hold multiple barley wines. This also made the middle wider and easier to traverse than in previous years.


All in all, another great beer festival, with some spectacular barley wines. But if you didn’t get a chance to go on Saturday, don’t dispair, the barley wines will be there at least until Monday, and some will probably be hanging around a little longer, until they run out.


Firestone Walker Invitational Tickets On Sale February 1

Tickets go on sale in a few minutes for the second annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, scheduled to take place June 1, 2013. Beginning February 1, you can buy tickets online for the festival, one of the highlights of last year’s festival season. Check out my write up from last year’s inaugural event. It was a really great event last year. If you didn’t make it, consider attending this year’s festival. I’ll see you there.

From the press release:

Top brewers from around the nation and world will once again turn wine country into beer country with the return of the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest in Paso Robles June 1, 2013—featuring 40+ craft breweries, rare beers, live music, local chefs, brewer Q&A sessions and more.

Tickets will go on sale on February 1, 2013 via www.firestonebeerfest.com. The event is hosted by Firestone Walker Brewing Company and held at the Paso Robles Event Center in partnership with the Paso Robles Pioneer Day Committee. Proceeds from the event benefit Pioneer Day, a local community celebration established in 1931.

“The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest was born from a dream of creating a world-class festival featuring not only the best brewers in the world, but brewers whom we feel are leaders in the craft beer revolution,” said Matt Brynildson, Brewmaster at Firestone Walker Brewing Company. “This is a day where we can all put down our sales and marketing pitches and simply commune and share our beers and stories with people who are truly interested in craft beer.”

Last year’s inaugural fest sold out quickly and was widely praised as one of the nation’s can’t-miss craft beer events, with attendees embracing the casual open-air setting, access to rare beers and opportunity to hang out with leading brewers.

The lineup for the 2013 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest is still being finalized, but attendees can expect 40+ breweries, 20 restaurants and three bands. The event will run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Last year’s participating breweries included Three Floyds and Sun King from Indiana, Founders and Bells from Michigan, Mikkeller from Denmark, Yo-Ho from Japan, Dogfish Head from Delaware, Southern Tier from New York, and several California breweries, including Russian River, Stone, Lost Abbey, The Bruery and Golden Road.

Each participating brewery will pour one “sessionable” beer registering less than six percent alcohol by volume, as well as one rare specialty beer. Brewers will be on hand to talk to attendees about their beers.

The cost is $75 per person, and attendees must be 21 years or older. Admittance includes complimentary tastings of beer and food while supplies last, as well as a logo snifter glass. Ticket availability is limited.

“The brewers really go all out at this event,” Brynildson said. “You will recognize some of the beers, but you can also expect the unexpected.”

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Mammoth Festival Of Beers & Bluesapalooza 2012

This past weekend, in the middle of a road trip visiting breweries, I attended the 17th annual Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluesapalooza. It was my second time at the music and beer festival, and it’s a really great event. It’s sponsored, in part, by local brewery Mammoth Brewing. The downside is, of course, that Mammoth Lakes, California is a remote and hard place to get to, but the upside is that it’s worth it once you’re there. The best way to go is to make a weekend, or more, out of it (and take the family) because there’s a lot to do there. It’s close to Yosemite, Mono Lake, hot springs and the Devils Postpile, and a whole lot more.

For the Bluesapalooza music festival, they get some great blues musicians and the setting is wonderful — literally in a wooded grove. There’s music Friday night, and all day Saturday and Sunday (plus a jam session Thursday night, too). The beer festival portion of the event, which is Saturday only, has also grown considerably since the last time I went, possibly doubling or more. There were 70 breweries pouring their beer this year. If you’re used to seeing a lot of the same Northern California breweries at festivals, Mammoth gets a lot of central and southern California breweries, which makes it a special treat, too.

The beer festival is a major fund raiser for the California Craft Brewers Association, a very worthwhile organization that I support and volunteer with. This is me at the brewer’s reception the night before the festival with CCBA executive director Tom McCormick.

The Bluesapalooza stage Saturday morning.

Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment.

The beer festival was in the back, behind the stage area, among the trees, and spread the entire length of Sam’s Wood Site.

L.A.’s Golden Road brewer Jon Carpenter and social diva Cambria Griffith.

It was also great seeing Travis Smith from Societe Brewing and getting a second chance to try his wonderful beers.

As the festival beer sponsor, Mammoth Brewing had two booths, one with the tap trucks. Thanks to owner Sean Turner for putting on a great festival and being a gracious host.

Father’s Day Fest This Sunday

You know what you really want for Father’s Day: beer! And since it’s your day, how can your family say no? And now you really can get what you really want. Here’s how:

The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Fest has spawned off-spring, and what better time to celebrate that than a Father’s Day-themed Summer Fest! The city of Concord and the East Bay- based craft beer radio company have joined forces once again to throw beer lovers a family friendly day, complete with a chili cook off, live music, an antique fair, a corvette car show, and more!

Unlike its January counter-part, this inaugural Summer Fest is open to all ages, with those over 21 getting a chance to sample dozens of different brews from local breweries such as 21st Amendment, Bear Republic, Creek Monkey, Deschutes, Drake’s, Firestone Walker, Heretic, Lagunitas, Ommegang, Stone, Uncommon Brewers, and more.

The Brewing Network’s 2012 Summer Fest will be held at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord, CA, on Sunday, June 17, 2012 from noon to 4pm. Rain or (what’s more likely) shine, they’ve got you covered, all you have to do is bring your fathers, surrogate or other, and give them a Father’s Day to remember. And with Concord BART just two blocks away, this event is bound to entice beer lovers from around the Bay to enjoy a responsible day celebrating Dad!

Tickets are $40 pre-sale and $50 at the gate and include unlimited tastes of beer, while-supplies-last chili, and a commemorative glass for the first 4,000 guests. Proceeds from the event will go to the Kiwanis Club and Contra Costa County Fire Department charities. For more information on the event, and to buy tickets please visit BNsummerfest.eventbrite.com.

Remember it’s your day. When they ask how you want to spend it, repeat after me. The Brewing Network’s Summer Fest on Father’s Day this Sunday.


The Firestone Walker Invitational

This weekend down in Paso Robles a new beer festival debuted. The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest took place at the Mid-State Fairgrounds. I drove down Friday with Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, who was scheduled to make cotton candy with sugar infused with Centennial hops. The festival was simply one of the best organized, best run, most enjoyable beer festivals I’ve been to in a long time, which was especially impressive given that it was a first time event. Here’s how Firestone Walker’s brewmaster Matt Brynildson described what he was going for with the FWIBF:

The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest was born from a dream of creating a world class festival featuring not only the best brewers in the world, but brewers whom we feel are leaders in the craft beer revolution. These are folks of like mind and spirit, some new friends some of many years, who share our same passion for making craft beer and sharing it with the world. This is a day where we can all put down our sales and marketing pitches and simply commune and share our beers and stories with people who are truly interested in craft beer. The ground rules are simple. Bring a session beer and a special beer accompanied by the artisan who created it. Brewers, their beers, good music and folks who care.

In order to insure everyone could have a good time, many aspects of the festival were limited. There were only 40 breweries pouring their beer, 21 restaurants making their food and a limited number of tickets sold. I never heard the final head count, though throughout the day I heard estimates that ranged from 2,500 to around 3,200 but whatever the finally tally it never felt overly crowded and there was plenty of room in the Frontier Town area of the fairgrounds to stretch your legs and move about.

Interviewed by the Brewing Network during the event, Brynildson added that he simply put together a wish list of breweries he would like to have at his event — several that didn’t even distribute in California — and was overwhelmed by how many quickly accepted his invitation. But that was awesome for anyone attending, as the likes of Bell’s, Boulevard, Revolution, Southern Tier, Three Floyds and others were there pouring beer.


The night before the festival, Firestone Walker Brewing hosted an event for the brewers and media at their new taproom adjacent to the brewery.

Mikkel and I trying to mimic the fighting lion and bear in Firestone Walker’s logo Friday evening. I guess I’m the lion.

The festival opened Saturday at 1:00 p.m. At least an hour before, all of the ticket holders were checked in, had their wristbands on, glasses in hand and a program to study while they waited. When the gate opened promptly at one, everybody could just walk in and begin sampling their first beer. It was the first of many well-executed and well-planned aspects of the festival. Others included water stations throughout the festival grounds, ample ice, plenty of shade, abundant nibbles, and more substantial food available for purchase.

There were two excellent bands — and perhaps best of all — the music was segregated from most of the beer and food booths, in a separate arena right next to them so that you could hear the music no matter where you were, but it was never so loud that you couldn’t carry on a conversation. If you wanted to dance or just listen to the music, all you had to do was wander inside the music area where there was stadium seating and a stage.

Also, with a 2 to 1 ratio of breweries to food vendors, there was something to nibble on every other booth, such as this amazing dish by Chef Dallas of the Tenth Street Basque Cafe (author of Never Cook Bacon Naked).

It was also great seeing Noah Regney, who used to brew for Pizza Port, but recently moved to Hollister Brewing, along with his fiance Sarah Huska, who used to live in Chicago where she worked with Ray Daniels on the Cicerone program. They seemed so happy, I always love seeing people in that state of bliss.

Bay far, Masafumi Morita, from Yo-Ho Brewing in Japan, travelled the farthest.

It was a gorgeous day on the central coast, perfect weather for a festival.

Pat McIlhenney, from Alpine Beer Co., with Tomme Arthur, from the Lost Abbey.

An unknown friend of Claudia and Rodger Davis, from Faction Brewing, along with Fraggle from beer Revolution.

Patrick Rue, from the Bruery, with some Black Tuesday. Another great feature of this fest was that each brewery brought something rare, along with a session beer.

Me, with Megan Flynn, from Beer West, our friend Marieke Gerritsen, and another friend.

Lincoln Anderson, from Three Floyds, who brought along Dark Lord, accepts the “People’s Choice” award, voted on by the crowd attending the fest.

Matt Brynildson toward the end of the day, enjoying the festival he conceived. The entire gang from Firestone Walker did an incredible job pulling off this festival and are to be congratulated. If you missed it this year, be sure to try and come next year. There’s no way this isn’t just going to get beter and better.

Hard Liver Barleywine Fest Winners 2012

Here are the results from the 2012 Hard Liver Barleywine Fest in held at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle, Washington:

Congratulations to all the winners. (And special thanks to Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, for sending me the results since I couldn’t be there this year.)