Beer Birthday: Travis Smith

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Today is also the 38th 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 65th 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’ 73rd birthday, which is quite frankly still hard to believe. Alec doesn’t look a day over 50! 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 52nd birthday. Arne is the head brewer at Marin Brewing in Larkspur, California. Arne makes some great beers and is a terrific person to boot. And more recently, he and some friends opened The Cooler in San Leandro. 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: Bob Stoddard

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Today is the 62nd birthday of Bob Stoddard. Bob was an early beer pioneer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally a Miller distributor’s rep., Bob bought the original Palo Alo Brewing Co., which was started in 1983, from founder Ken Kolence two years later, in 1985. It was undercapitalized from the start, and there were some other issues, and it closed in 1987. It was also the first location to brew Pete’s Wicked Ale. A few years later, in 1993, he opened Stoddard’s Brewhouse & Eatery in Sunnyvale. By 2002, it was successful enough to open a second location in Campbell. Unfortunately, the new location was too large to be sustainable and today the original location is the FireHouse Grill & Brewery and the newer one is Campbell Brewing Company/Sonoma Chicken Coop. I attended the grand opening of the Campbel brewpub, but I can’t find my photos from the event. I think that’s the last time I’ve seen Bob, but somebody told me what he’s doing these days, only I can’t remember. I’m sure someone will happily fill me in. Until then, join me in wishing Bob a very happy birthday.

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Bob, from an eBay listing for the book”Home Brewer’s Gold,” published in 1997. Surely someone must have some better photos of Bob? If so, send ’em my way, please.

And here’s part of the write-up from the same book:

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Beer Birthday: Tim Clifford

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Today is the 45th 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 49th 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.]

Historic Beer Birthday: Jacob Paul Rettenmayer

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Today is the birthday of Jacob Paul Rettenmayer (June 29, 1881-February 24, 1927). He was born in Ellwanger, Württenberg, Germany, and came to the U.S. when he was 20, in 1901. He settled on the West Coast, and bounced back and forth between California and Washington, working at various breweries. He eventually settled in San Francisco, helping to start Acme Brewery, becoming its first brewmaster and president. His little brother Franz, or Frank, Rettenmayer became brewmaster a few years later, and JP opened a second Acme brewery in Los Angeles. Just before, and during, prohibition he diversified into several other businesses.

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This biography was written by Rettenmayer himself later in his life:

“Served apprenticeship as Brewer and Maltster at the plants of Minneapolis Brewing Company, Minneapolis Minnesota, under Mr. Armin L. Neubert who was then Master Brewer and superintendent of that company. Upon the completion of my apprenticeship I worked in that plant for six months as a journeyman, and then went to Los Angeles where I found employment with the Los Angeles Brewing Company. I worked in various departments of that plant for six months and then secured employment at the plant of Maier and Zobelein. I was employed by that firm from 1903 to 1905 when I left to attend Wahl-Henius Institute in Chicago. The course I took was the first six months duration and the first course given in the new Institute building. I was the honor graduate with a record of 99 in thirteen studies. Upon the completion of my course I returned to Maier and Zobelein in Los Angeles, remaining there until July 1, 1906.

Upon obtaining my citizen papers in Los Angeles I went to Tacoma, Washington where I was employed by the Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. for a period of six weeks. Mr. Peter G. Schmidt, now President of the Olympia Brewing Company, invited me to go to Salem and I was affiliated with Salem Brewery Association for a period of four months. In the meantime the late Leopold M. Schmidt returned from Europe and he asked me to go to San Francisco to become associated with him in the Acme Brewing Company. Upon the organization of that company I became vice-president and a year later was elected to the presidency. I served in that capacity, as well as Master Brewer, from 1907 to 1917, when the Acme Brewing Company merged with five other breweries under the name California Brewing Association. I was elected President and General Manager of the consolidated enterprise and served until the advent of prohibition. Before the formation of California Brewing Association I was instrumental in organizing the Cereal Products Refining Corporation and planned and developed the syrup and compressed yeast business to the manufacture of which a part of the plant of California Brewing Association was converted.

In the latter part of 1924 I turned in my resignation as president and General Manager of California Brewing Association and its affiliated enterprises to engage in other activities. In the Fall of 1934 Mr. Armin K. Neubert prevailed upon me to become associated with Salinas Brewing & Ice Company and on the first of December, 1934 I assumed the position of General Manager of the enterprise. In October of 1935, in cooperation with Armin K. Neubert, Mr. Wm. Voss, and others associated with us, we acquired the interests of Mr. Armin L. Neubert. Upon the consummation of the deal Mr. Armin L. Neubert resigned as president of Salinas Brewing and I succeeded him in that capacity.”

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At Brewery Gems, Gary Flynn has a fuller account of the life of Jacob Paul Rettenmayer, and it’s worth reading in its entirety.

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