Moonlighting At Moonlight: The Hop Harvest 2014

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For a number of years, the winding down of summer brings one of my favorite traditions: hop harvest. Brian Hunt, from nearby Moonlight Brewing — the best brewer you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re from the Bay Area — has a quarter-acre of hops planted on his brewery property, known as “The Abbey de St. Humulus,” which he uses each year to make his Fresh Hop Ale, Homegrown. As we do every year we’re able, the whole family, mother-in-law included, made our way to hop harvest, which Brian does 19th century-style. Which means that entire families get together for the day, and spend hours cutting down the bines, and hand-picking the hops and filling up buckets, which will be dumped into the beer without being kilned the same day, all the while eating, drinking and socializing. In a few weeks, Homegrown will be on draft at select bars around the Bay Area, along with plenty of other fresh hop beers as beerjolais nouveau season gets underway. Below is a little photo essay of our day picking hops.

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A row of hops, ready to be picked.

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My son Porter helping me with the first stages of harvesting, cutting the bines along the bottom.

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The next step will be cutting them at the top, so we can pull them down to pick the hop cones off of the bines.

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Brin Hunt working the long knife, bring down a bine for harvesting.

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A shady spot is made under multiple pop-up canopies with a tarp floor, where the hop bines are laid out for picking, then everybody sits around and carefully pulls off the hop flowers, discarding the leaves, stems, bines and other material so only the hops that flavor the beer are separated into buckets.

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Only the flowers go into the beer.

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My wife Sarah demonstrating how when one bucket is filled, you move on to the next empty one.

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While hops are not simply loaded into your beer glass, like bitter ice cubes, with some hoppy beers, it certainly seems that way.

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There’s nothing quite like being in a hop field at harvest time, the sights and smells are amazing, with the intense aromas of hops hanging thick in the air.

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My daughter Alice digging in an almost-full bucket of freshly picked hops, nearly ready to be added to the beer.

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A very fun day picking hops in the warm California sunshine. While it was great fun, we’re all exhausted and a little sore, with scratches all over our bodies. Thank goodness, tomorrow is Labor Day, and we can relax without doing much labor, apart from enjoying a few beers.

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In a few weeks time, keep an eye out for Moonlight Brewing’s Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale, along with many other fresh hop, or wet hop, beers. They’re only around for a very short time, and once they;re gone, that’s it until next year. These are beers with intense hop aromas and flavors, and the fresher they are, better they taste.

Beer Birthday: Jim Woods

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Today is the birthday of Jim Woods, founder of MateVeza, an organic brewer headquartered in San Francisco. I first met Jim when we were classmates at U.C. Davis for the brewing short course before he launched his unique business. All Jim’s beers are made with Yerba Mate, a South American herb that’s similar to tea. Technically, it’s part of the holly family, but contains caffeine and the leaves are used like tea. It works surprisingly well as a spice in beer. Last year, Jim opened the Cervecería de MateVeza, a small brewpub in San Francisco, right next to a corner of Dolores Park. Jim also puts on the Beerunch one morning (usually a Sunday) during SF Beer Week, the last few years at the Public House at the Giants’ stadium. Join me in wishing Jim a very happy birthday.

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Jim at the new Cervecería de MateVeza in San Francisco.

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Jim at his Beerunch during SF Beer Week in 2010.

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Jim and Matt Coelho at GABF 2008.

Beer Birthday: Mike “Tasty” McDole

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Today is also the birthday of living legend Mike “Tasty” McDole, homebrewer extraordinaire, and one time co-host of “The Jamil Show,” or “Can You Brew It?” and a regular still on the “Sunday Show” on The Brewing Network. Tasty would never refer to himself that way, and on Twitter he claims to be simply a “homebrewer and a craft beer enthusiast.” But most of us who know him would, as he also admits, “make [him] out to be much more.” And that is correct, I believe, as Tasty is one of the best. He’s a former Longshot winner, has given talks at the National Homebrew Convention and has won countless awards and has collaborated with numerous commercial breweries on beers. Join me in wishing Tasty a very happy birthday.

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With Justin Crossley at the Bistro Double IPA Festival in 2010.

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With Shaun O’Sullivan at 21st Amendment in 2009.

Vic Krajl, from The Bistro, Award-Winning Homebrewer Mike McDole & Shaun O'Sullivan, from 21st Amendment
Vic Krajl, from The Bistro, Mike & Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment at GABF in 2009.

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Tasty at last year’s GABF in Denver.

Beer Birthday: Pete Slosberg

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Today is my friend Pete Slosberg’s 64th birthday. Pete is, of course, best known for Pete’s Wicked Ales. After that he toyed with the idea of making barbecue but decided instead to make some incredible chocolates and had a small company, Cocoa Pete’s. A few years ago, I traveled to South America with Pete (where we took to calling him “El Pete“), where we both spoke and judged beer at a beer conference/competition in Argentina, the South Beer Cup, and then flew to Brazil to attend a pair of beer dinners Stephen Beaumont was hosting. More recently, he’s doing a lot of traveling and was working on Mavericks, a new line of canned session beers, along with Half Moon Bay Brewing. While his son Alex is still working woth Mavericks, Pete;s just relaxing and looking for the next adventure. Join me wishing Pete a very happy birthday!

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This was taken the first time I met Pete, over fifteen years ago at the KQED Beer and Food Festival in San Francisco, when I was more or less still a civilian. It was after I’d written a book on beer, but before I started working as the beer buyer for BevMo.

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Pete with his wife Amy and Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, at one of Sean Paxton’s beer dinners during SF Beer Week earlier this year.

Pete Slosberg, helping out for the day, shows off a finished bottle
Working the bottling line at Russian River Brewing, with a bottle of Consecration.

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Matt Bonney, from Brouwer’s, Stephen Beaumont, Sean Paxton, Pete and Rick Sellers, from Odonata at the Bistro Double IPA Festival.

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Pete with his wife Amy and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf at one of Bruce Paton’s beer dinners at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in February 2006.

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Martin Boan, who organized and ran the South Beer Cup, with Pete in Buenos Aires.

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Pete, with Edu Passarelli (owner of Melograno), Stephen Beaumont and me after a beer dinner at Edu’s place in Sao Paulo.

Beer Birthday: Carlos Sanchez

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Today is the 56th birthday of Carlos Sanchez, brewmaster at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville, behind the Redwood Curtain. Carlos is a veteran brewer of over 20 years, having originally interned at Humboldt Brewing Co., becoming assistant brewer there in 1990. He’s also worked at Mad River Brewing and attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology. In 1996, the opportunity to start brewing at a local start-up tempted Sanchez to become Six Rivers’ first, and only, brewmaster. He’s been there seventeen years, and counting, brewing an impressive stable of beers, including many sound interpretations of classic styles and a few others that are utterly unique. Join me in wishing Carlos a very happy birthday.

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Carlos in his brewhouse.

Beer Birthday: Zambo

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Today is the birthday of David Zamborski, better known to the brewing world as simply “Zambo.” He used to brew for BJs in Southern California but a number of years ago moved to San Francisco to take over the brewpub operations at 21st Amendment. Zambo’s been a welcome addition to the Bay Area brewing scene, and he’s a terrific brewer. Join me wishing Zambo a very happy birthday.

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Luke Nicholas, from New Zealand’s Epic Beer, with Zambo during a visit to 21A.

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John Tucci (from Gordon Biersch), Aron Deorsey (from Beach Chalet) and Zambo at a release party for Anchor’s California Lager.

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Brendan Dobbel, Rich Higgins, Aron Deorsey and Zambo at a Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp a couple of years ago.

Zambo, Rich Rosen, Jen Garris, Sarah, Lloyd Knight, Dave Suurballe, James Renfrew and Shaun O'Sullivan
At the Anchor Christmas Party a few years ago: Zambo, Rich Rosen (Pi Bar, Chenery Park), Jen Garris (Pi Bar), my wife Sarah, Lloyd Knight (21A), Dave Suurballe (everywhere), James Renfrew (formerly with Potrero Hill Brewing) and Shaun O’Sullivan (21A).

Couch Trippin’ Contest

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Lagunitas Brewing, my local down the street, is having a fun contest to win a a party in your home. That is, they’ll bring the Lagunitas Couch Trippin’ party to your home. What could be simpler?

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So it is pretty simple, just do the following:

  1. Snap a photo of your couch & Lagunitas
  2. Tag it #couchtrippin on IInstagram and/or Twitter

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So what can you win? Here’s how Lagunitas explains it: “We’re gonna bring the Lagunitas CouchTrippin’ party to your house … A killer band, tasty munchies, and we’ll even bring our own couch… All for you and up to 30 of your friends (sorry, we can’t have the whole town showin’ up). Follow the super simple instructions above. Or see full legal fine freakin’ print.”

Here’s mine, on our new giant sofa. It’s supposed to be a sofa bed, but we just keep it open all the time and use it as a “snuggle sofa” that fits our family of four perfectly, making it great for watching movies, playing video games, or of course, snuggling.

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Let’s see yours. You have until the end of the month, specifically “August 31, 2014 at 11:59:59 PM PST” to post or upload your own Couch Trippin’ photo. But make sure you read the rules first to make sure you don’t disqualify yourself. For example, I’m not actually “drinking or consuming an alcohol product,” because that’s one of the restrictions. I’m just holding the beer, giving it a sniff.

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We’re looking for a house to bring our CouchTrippin’ party to — so show us a pic of your couch with Lagunitas and tag #couchtrippin on Instagram or Twitter.

Beer Birthday: Jen Garris

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Originally a sculptor, Jen Garris, has been involved in San Francisco’s beer scene as long as anyone I know. She’s worked for Magnolia and New Belgium, as well as many others in the Bay Area. A few years ago she opened the Pi Bar in San Francisco, along with boyfriend Rich Rosen, who also co-owns Chenery Park. I absolutely love Pi’s white bacon pizza. Today is Jen’s 29th or so birthday. Join me in wishing her a very happy birthday.

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Jen and Matt Salie, from Big Sky Brewing, at the 18th Celebrator Anniversary Party.

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Looking lovely at the Anchor Christmas Party.

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Jen and Brian Hunt at the Urthel Beer Dinner.

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Jen illustrates again how easy it is to be featured on the Bulletin.

Beer Birthday: Mark Carpenter

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Today is Mark Carpenter’s 71st birthday. Mark has been the head brewer at Anchor since 1971 and is responsible for much of their success over the years. Recently, he celebrated his 40th anniversary at Anchor, and he’s also started stepping back from his day-to-day duties, not exactly retiring, but sort of, although still involved in the big brewing decisions and as official “brewmaster.” He’s a terrific person and one of the nicest people I know. Join me in wishing Mark a very happy birthday.

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Dave Suurballe with Mark at Anchor a few years ago.

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Matt Salie, with Big Sky Brewing, and Mark at a recent Anchor Christmas party.

With Mark Carpenter, Anchor's brewmaster
Me and Mark at the Anchor Christmas party a few years ago.

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Mark showing off their recent new release, Brekle’s Brown.

Beer Birthday: Dave Keene

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Today is the 59th birthday of Dave Keene. Dave, of course, owns the best beer bar in San Francisco, the Toronado, which this year has been around for 27 years. Dave is one of the great figures in the San Francisco beer scene and also one of my favorite Washoe partners, and we’ve had some monumental games and vanquished many fine players — you know who you are! Join me in wishing Dave a very happy birthday.

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Peter Bouchaert, brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing, with Dave at one of Beer Chef Bruce Paton’s beer dinners.

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Outside the Toronado for their 20th anniversary, Dave bookended by fellow publicans Don Younger (from the Horse Brass in Portland) and Chris Black (from the Falling Rock in Denver).

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At a beer release party for Brother Dave’s Triple. From left: Fal Allen, Mark Cabrera, Dave Gatlin (head brewer at AVBC) , Me and Dave.

Dave Keene & Tomme Arthur after a night of Washoes
Dave and Tomme Arthur, from the Lost Abbey, after a night of Washoes during SF Beer Week a few years ago.

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Dave Keene and me at the Summit Hop Festival held at Drake’s Brewing several years ago.

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Dave with Vinnie Cilurzo, from Russian River Brewing, last year at the “Toronado 25th Anniversary Dinner and Blending Session.”

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In the back room at the Toronado, Dave, Alec Moss and me, at Alec’s 70th birthday party earlier this year.