Beer Birthday: Dr. Bill

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Today is also the 54th birthday of William Sysak, better known to the beer community as Dr. Bill. Dr. Bill’s massive tastings are the stuff of legends, and he’s now transported them — albeit on a smaller scale — to working at Stone Brewing’s World Bistro & Gardens. He has impeccable taste, be it in beer, wine, whisky, cigars, what have you, and is one of the most fun people to taste with. Join me in wishing Bill a very happy birthday.

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Dr. Bill and me sharing a plate of frites before the final judging at the Hard Liver Barleywine Festival in 2008.

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Dr. Bill with Matt Bonney, from Brouwer’s/Bottleworks in Seattle at Slow Food Nation 2008 at Fort Mason.

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Dr. Bill at Falling Rock, hosting one of his legendary tastings, during GABF in 2006.

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Dr. Bill’s player’s card when he joined Stone Brewing.

Beer Birthday: Mark Ruedrich

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Today is the 65th birthday of Mark Ruedrich, co-owner, and original brewer, of North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg. Mark was a marine biologist who discovered good beer while living in England. Looking for a spot to build a brewery in Northern California, he was drawn to the tidal pools around Fort Bragg, and built a mini-beer empire there beginning in 1988. His Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout was one of the first truly great world-class beers made by early American microbreweries and helped put the nascent industry on the map. Plus he’s great fun to share a pint with. Join me in wishing Mark a very happy birthday.

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Mark with North Coast co-owner Tom Allen at GABF in 2006.

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North Coast brewer Ken Kelley with Mark at the brewery last year.

Beer Birthday: Vinnie Cilurzo

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Today is the 46th 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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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And again last month at the Firestone Walker Invitational, sharing some frites.

Beer Birthday: Travis Smith

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Today is also the 37th birthday of Travis Smith, who’s a co-founder of Societe Brewing Co. in San Diego. Before that, Travis brewed at Russian River Brewing for a number of years, before moving south, where he brewed at both The Bruery and the La Jolla Brewhouse. His brewery has quickly become one of the destination spots in San Diego, and his beers are especially tasty, standing out in the area surrounded by numerous great breweries. Join me in wishing Travis a very happy birthday.

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Travis “MacGyver” Smith showing off the cork gun he made with spare brewing parts lying around the Russian River brewpub. It shot a beer cork a pretty fair distance and would pierce cardboard at 100 feet.

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Travis with Patrick Rue, from The Bruery, at GABF in 2009.

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Agostino Arioli, from Birrificio Italiano in northern Italy, with Vinnie Cilurzo and Travis, at Russian River Brewing in 2008 working on a fun collaboration beer, La Fleuette.

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Travis behind the handmade redwood bar at Societe a few days before they opened.

Beer Birthday: Steve Grossman

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Today is the 64th birthday of Steve Grossman, the Beer Ambassador at Sierra Nevada, and co-founder Ken Grossman’s older brother. “Steve grew up in Southern California, where he and his younger brother Ken learned about the art of home brewing. Steve continued to homebrew throughout college, and when Ken founded Sierra Nevada in 1980, Steve’s passion for craft beer was immediately put to good use. In the early years of the brewery, he helped establish the Southern California distribution network, and was involved in direct sales. Today, Steve works with Sierra Nevada’s international export program, and serves as an ambassador and spokesperson for the brewery both domestically and abroad. Steve also serves as a director of the brewery’s wildly popular Beer Camp, which brings people to Sierra Nevada for a unique and intensive hands-on beer education.” Steve is a terrific ambassador not just for Sierra Nevada but for craft beer more generally. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Sierra Nevada head brewer Steve Dressler with Steve at GABF in 2006.

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Steve manning the Sierra Nevada bike bar at GABF in 2010.

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Steve checking out some hops at Beer Camp #93.

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Steve at an event at Four Point Sheraton in L.A. (purloined from Facebook)

Beer Birthday: Alec Moss

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Today is Alec Moss’ 72nd 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.

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

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Alec in the brewhouse at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

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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.

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Alec with Tom Dalldorf at the 2011 Anchor Christmas party.

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

Beer Birthday: Arne Johnson

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Today is my friend Arne Johnson’s 51st birthday. Arne is the head brewer at Marin Brewing in Larkspur, California. Arne makes some great beers and is a terrific person to boot. Join me in wishing Arne a very happy birthday.

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Arne and me earlier today at a birthday party for a mutual friend at the Toronado.

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Arne and me at the Brewer’s Dinner at GABF in 2006.

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Arne relaxing with a few barleywines at the Toronado Barleywine Festival.

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Rodger Davis of Triple Rock and Arne enjoy a beer out front in the warm sunshine at the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival.

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Arne Johnson and Melissa Myers, formerly with Drake’s Brewing, at the Boonville Beer Festival.

Beer Birthday: Tim Clifford

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Today is the 44th birthday of Tim Clifford, brewmaster and owner of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, in Capitola, California, which is near Santa Cruz. Tim’s a longtime homebrewer and worked for Williams Brewing and also 7 Bridges for many years, and continue to be on the board of the Santa Cruz co-op. Although originally a history major, Tim’s passion went off in a different direction, happily, and he opened Sante Adairius in 2011, making some incredible and unique beers. Join me in wishing Tim a very happy birthday.

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Jessie Friedman and Tim at the SF Beer Week opening gala in 2014.

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Me and Tim enjoying some hop tea, while picking hops at Moonlight Brewing’s hopyard in 2007.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joe Owades

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Today is the birthday of Joe Owades, born today in 1919. He’s best known as the father of light beer. Owades was trained as a biochemist but ended up working in the beer industry, first for Rheingold Breweries in Brooklyn, eventually becoming their vice president and technical director.

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Joe passed away in 2005, and in his obituary it tells the story of light beer:

It was at Rheingold where Mr. Owades finally applied his college training to his profession, developing a process to remove the starch from beer, making it lower in carbohydrates and calories and, thus, cholesterol. The new beer was called Gablinger’s, which became a product of Meister Brau, all of which was eventually purchased by the Miller Brewing Co. Miller Lite was made famous by the company’s “tastes great, less filling” advertising campaign, but it was exactly the same product that Mr. Owades had invented in his laboratory years before.

After stints at Anheuser-Busch, Carling and others, in 1975 he began consulting, and a few years later moved to the Bay Area. Owades also worked on formulas for such brands as Samuel Adams, Tuborg, New Amsterdam Beer, and Pete’s Wicked Ale. He taught a short course at Anchor Brewing he called the “Art and Science of Brewing” and also consulted with the wine industry as well. He had 25 patents, including Prequel, a pill that supposedly if you take before you start drinking, will reduce the effects of alcohol.

I first met Joe when his neighbor, who was an early marketing director at BevMo, asked him to meet with me when we first started developing private label beers at Beverages & more. I’ve never been a fan of low-calorie light beer but its influence on the industry is undeniable and that, along with Joe’s contributions to several of the craft beer pioneers, makes his legacy equally as undeniable. Join me in raising a toast to Joe’s memory.

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Here’s a more tongue-in-cheek obituary featured on Morning Remembrance, which bills itself as “a collection of sarcastic obituaries ripped from the deadlines.”

Joseph L. Owades, the biochemist whose recipe for light beer achieved the impossible feat of making crappy beer even crappier, is now more stale than a Herman Cain pick-up line.

Fresh out of college, Owades got his first job researching for Fleischmann’s Yeast. Then he found out Fleischmann was one of his mom’s canasta friends and “Yeast” was another thing entirely.

In the 1950s he created the first “diet” beer by discovering an enzyme that destroys fat starches, and in the process, any reason for wanting to drink beer in the first place.

When Miller Brewing Co. bought his process they marketed the new beer with the familiar “tastes great, less filling” jingle, replacing the less successful “Hey! You gotta chug twice as much of this crap to get a buzz!” jingle.

Over the years Owades wrote over 40 research papers on beer, all of them supporting the same thesis that he’s okay to drive and nobody understands him.

Owades requested his body be brewed into a tasteless yellow liquid and poured directly into the toilet to save time.

Beer Birthday: Chris White

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Today is the 48th birthday of Chris White. Chris founded the yeast company White Labs in 1995 and he’s also on the faculty of the Siebel Institute. He’s also a fixture at virtually every brewing industry and homebrewing conference, and was kind enough to talk to my SSU beer appreciation class about yeast. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.

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Chris and his brother Mike bookending Chuck, from Green Fash Brewing, Natalie Cilurzo, from Russian River Brewing, John Harris, from Full Sail Brewing, and Vinnie Cilurzo, also from Russian River, at CBC in Austin, Texas in 2007.

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Chris at the new White Labs taproom during the Craft Brewers Conference a couple of years ago in San Diego.

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Surly brewer Todd Haug with Chris.

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Chris with Technical Sales and Marketing Coordinator Ashley Paulsworth at the NHC.

[Note: last two photos purloined from Facebook.]