Schooner’s To Open Production Brewery

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Antioch’s brewpub Schooner’s Grille & Brewery is currently looking for a space to build a production brewery and begin offering their award-winning beers in bottles. The restaurant and brewery was purchased by new owners last May, and they planned from the beginning to start packaging the beer. But recently they decided to close the restaurant as of February 1, 2015. So Schooner’s beer will likely be a little harder to find for a few months, while they transition from brewpub to production brewery.

I spoke to longtime brewer at Schooner’s, Craig Cauwels, and he tells me they hope to be brewing in a new space by mid-to-late summer. They may contract some beer during the downtime, but a final decision on that hasn’t been made yet, and will most likely be dependent upon how the search for a new building for the brewery is going. They expect to know more about potential sites for the brewery over the next month.

Cauwels also will be investing in the new brewery, and will become a partner in the venture, which is exciting, because Craig is an incredibly talented brewer and it will be great for him to have a stake in the company. Schooner’s was named “Brewery of the Year” at last year’s California State Fair Brewery Competition, and has won countless awards over the years. His Old Diablo Barley Wine is consistently one of the best barley wines you’ve never heard of (but should have) and hopefully will soon be available in bottles, along with many of Schooner’s other beers. Look for bottles of Schooner’s beer on store shelves soon, or at least by the end of the summer if all goes according to plan.

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Schooner’s brewmaster Craig Cauwels.

Beer Birthday: Chris Nelson

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Today is the 49th birthday of Chris Nelson, better known as The Beer Geek. Chris and his wife, Merideth Canham-Nelson, recently completed an around the world beer festival tour, but are still traveling the globe searching for great beer. A few years ago his wife also published Teachings From the Tap, her account of the year they spent circling the globe visiting beer destinations. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.

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The first “official meeting” of the Bay Area Beer Bloggers. From left: Merideth Canham-Nelson, me, Chris, JJ (the Thirsty Hopster), and Gail Ann Williams and Steve Shapiro, both from Beer by BART.

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In front of the Rocky statue in downtown Philadelphia during our trip to the first Philly Beer Week.

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At the OBF media tasting: Rick Sellers, from Pacific Brew News, Merideth and Chris Nelson, The Beer Geek, and Meagan Flynn (at right) with her assistant, Annalou, former publishers of Beer NW during the 2007 Oregon Brewers Festival.

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Chris, at right, with Shaun O’Sullivan, Merideth, and Jeff White in Pub Talk Radio in Monterey in September of last year.

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Chris and Merideth at Pangea in 2012 (photo “borrowed” from Facebook, by Virginia Vasquez)

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, discovering that in April of last year he 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: Grant Johnston

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Today is the 61st 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. Last year, 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.

Wine vs. Beer, Big vs. Small, More Trademark Woes

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Opened in 2012, the tiny Cambria Beer Co. is located in the equally small town of Cambria, described more as a “seaside village,” boasting about 6,000 residents. It’s located along Highway 1, in San Luis Obispo County, midway between San Francisco and L.A.

The brewery uses a small 3bbl brew sculpture system, and operates a small tap room on Cornwall Street. They offer a wide variety of beer styles, continually rotating. A recent list included five on, with two in the fermenters and three more scheduled right behind those. Beers sell out quickly, but they try to keep up. Owners Aaron and Jennifer Wharton decided that since they were the only brewery in town, that Cambria Beer Company was the right name for their decidedly local enterprise.

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Not everyone agreed. The Jackson Family Farms is best known for Kendall-Jackson wine, but that’s just one of the more than a dozen wineries that they own. Another one of their labels is Cambria Estate Winery. So you’re probably thinking that makes sense, probably located right down the street. Nope. To get to the Cambria Estate Winery from the brewery, you’ll need to head south on Highway 1, then pick up Interstate 101 at the junction in San Luis Obispo. Drive south to Santa Maria, turn left in downtown and drive west out of town to the winery. All told, it will take you about one hour and twenty minutes to get there, because it’s nearly 80 miles away outside the town of Santa Maria, which is even in a different county (Santa Barbara County), too.

I first saw this on Grub Street, but the local newspaper, The Cambrian, naturally has the most complete account in When is Cambria not in Cambria? Apparently, the Whartons have been trying to negotiate to keep their name since they received the C&D letter from KJ’s lawyers on New Year’s Eve.

Unfortunately, as I understand it, when it comes to trademark law, alcohol is alcohol; they’re in the same class of goods as far as trademark is concerned. This is hardly the first time this has happened. Another small brewery in the Bay Area had to add a letter to their name because a spirits company was using the original spelling. A San Francisco brewery not long ago had to change the name of one of its beers, because there was a rum of the same name.

So there is some precedent here, it’s not totally out of left field. The Cambrian author wonders if every business in Cambria using Cambria in their name should be worried, rightly concluding no. But the fact that the winery is so far from the town and they serve largely a different demographic makes it not so cut and dry. A commenter on Reddit who claimed to be close to the parties involved mentioned that the brewery’s attorneys believed they had a strong case, but the $50,000 (minimum) price tag to fight it was too much for them, as it would be for almost any small company. So the brewery did what most people would in this situation, and decided to change their name. Last week, they posted that decision on their Facebook page, asking fans and customers to help them come up with a new name by leaving a comment. They’ve had a lot of suggestions so far, including several funny ones.

I’m starting to think that trademark law may need some modification. Clearly, alcohol is not alcohol anymore. Maybe there was a time when that made sense, but I think most of us can agree that we can tell the difference between beer and wine. And it seems to me geographic truth should trump whatever reason this winery is using a name that has nothing to do with where it’s located. I seem to recall another trademark case where the Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) sued Boston Beer Works and lost, the court ruling that “Boston” was too generic a term, ditto “beer.” Komlossy Law has a nice overview of the case, if you’re interested in learning more. And those were both beer companies, so it does seem like Cambria Beer might have had a decent shot at keeping their name. Still, you have to understand not wanting to spend a fortune going to court on an uncertain result. As we learned in “War Games,” sometimes “the only winning move is not to play.” If nothing else, I hope we can all support whatever new name they decide on and stop by and spend our money there the next time we drive by on our way to or from Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Success is always the best revenge.

North Coast Doubles Their Square Footage

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The local paper near Fort Bragg along the North Coast, the Ukiah Daily Journal is reporting that “North Coast Brewing Company expands,” adding a “[n]ew location will house brewery overflow.” North Coast Brewing apparently has leased a new warehouse, effectively doubling the size of their footprint, which “will increase North Coast Brewing’s storage by 10,000 feet, which is about equal to the brewery itself.” According to the Daily Journal:

18661 Old Coast Highway, in Fort Bragg, the former location of Mendocino Sports Club and Circus MECCA, will be a temporary storage facility for finished beer before being trucked to a their larger distribution point in Petaluma, according to Doug Moody, Senior Vice President at North Coast Brewing Company. The brewing company signed a 10-year lease for the property.

The move gives them greater flexibility in managing their product flow, much of which is immediately trucked to a storage facility in Petaluma because they’ve run out of room in Fort Bragg. The brewery, now in its 27th year — part of the class of ’88 — is, like many well-established breweries, growing by leaps and bounds and is hoping to remain in Fort Bragg. They’ve been trying to buy a part of an old mill site formerly owned by logging giant Georgia Pacific, but they haven’t yet been able to come to terms. If they do, you can plan on seeing a bigger single space that would “include a 200-seat performing arts center, restaurant and [North Coast] reestablishing brewery tours.” Even if it was approved tomorrow, it would likely take another three years to open the doors of a new brewery, but I for one would love to be there for the grand opening.

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The current brewery in Fort Bragg.

Beer Birthday: Rich Norgrove

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Today is the 46th birthday of Rich Norgrove, the owner and brewer at Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Healdsburg, California. Rich won big several years ago at GABF, winning the award for Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year, amounting to validation that he’s been making some great beer for many years. Red Rocket and Racer 5 were some of my first favorite hoppy beers back in the 1990s, when few brewers were making the big, hoppy beers that are nearly ubiquitous nowadays. Did I mention that Rich is also one of the coolest, nicest people in the beer business? Join me in wishing Rich a very happy birthday.

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At an unknown beer festival with his daughter several years ago.

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Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River and Rich at Drake’s Summit Hop Festival several summers ago.

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Jeremy Cowan (He’Brew) and Rich at Falling Rock in Denver.

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Rich and the Team from Healdsburg, California won four awards and the big award for Small Brewery Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year in 2006.

Rich Norgrove, from Bear Republic, and Vic Krajl, co-owner of the Bistro
Rich and Vic Krajl at the Bistro IPA Festival in 2010.

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At a Giants game a few years back, Porter and I joined Rich and his son for a game, where we ran into Steve and Gail, from Beer By Bart, before the game began.

Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 24

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On Saturday, January 24, from Noon to 4 PM, the Brewing Network‘s 6th annual Winter Brews Festival will take place at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. The beer festival will feature over 50 breweries and proceeds will benefit the Coral Reef Alliance. Sandwiched in between the weekends of the final NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl — so you won’t miss a game — the annual event will showcase dozens of award-winning craft breweries, including local favorites, 21st Amendment, Drake’s, Heretic, and Lagunitas, as well as some great new breweries like Calicraft and The Rare Barrel.
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Live music from Ralph Woodson and Purple Haze will set the mood for an afternoon of great beer and a worthy cause. Sponsors of the event include The Hop Grenade Taproom & Bottle Shop, the 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewing Company, Hop Tech Homebrew and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $40 pre-sale or $50 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass. Designated Drivers pay only $5, however this is a 21 and over only event. The event, which will, for the first time, take over the entire Todos Santos Plaza, is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station, making it easy to get to and from the festival safely. For more information on the event, and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.BNbrewfest.com.

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Beer Birthday: Rodger Davis

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Today is Rodger Davis’ 45th birthday, who’s the former head brewer at Triple Rock in Berkeley, California, and recently opened his own brewery in Alameda, Faction Brewing, along with his wife Claudia. Rodger is a terrific brewer and has been very active in the local beer community and it’s great to see him at the helm of his own place. He’s one of those people always giving the craft beer world a good name, helping colleagues, organizing festivals and being a good friend to all. Join me in wishing Rodger a very happy birthday.

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Rodger at a Berkeley Museum event a few years ago, pouring Triple Rock beer.

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Rodger with his wife Claudia at a Beer Chef beer dinner.

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Up in the balcony at Triple Rock at the Sour Beer Festival.

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Rodger and Claudia at their new brewery, with Rodger doing his best not to make a goofy face.

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Rodger & me at his surprise birthday party at The Trappist five years ago for his 40th. (photo by Mike Condie.)

Beer Birthday: Mitch Steele

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Today is the 53rd birthday of Mitch Steele, production manager/head brewer at Stone Brewing. Mitch started out at the tiny San Andreas Brewery in Hollister, California but spent a number of years at one of the much larger Budweiser breweries when he brewed for Anheuser-Busch, before finding a home at Stone. He’s obviously a terrific brewer but is also a great person and close friend, too. He was also my roomie for GABF judging three years ago and is also the author of IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. He’s a big advocate for craft beer and always willing to help out a fellow brewer or homebrewer. Join me in wishing Mitch a very happy birthday.

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Mitch with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner at the Craft Brewers Conference in 2007.

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Mitch picking up his 3rd Place award on the floor of GABF 2009 for Stone’s Levitation Ale on cask at a special judging at the Great British Beer Festival in 2009 (and which I had the pleasure to judge).

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Betsy Hensley, Judy Ashworth, Mitch, Brendan Moylan & Bruce Paton at the Celebrator’s 22nd Anniversary Party.

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Mitch and 21st Amendment brewer Shaun O’Sullivan practicing their pointing during a collaboration brew in 2008 in San Francisco.

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Outside the Bistro IPA Festival in 2007 with Publican Judy Ashworth, Former San Andreas Brewing owner Bill Millar, Mitch and Bistro owner Vic Krajl.

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And no birthday post is complete without a blast from the past. Here’s Mitch’s high school prom photo in all it’s living color glory. It’s from Northgate High School Class of 1980 in Walnut Creek, CA (special thanks to Mitch for updating the old black & white photo with the glorious color one!). Love the powder blue tux.