Beer Birthday: Ken Kelley

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Today is the 54th birthday of Ken Kelley, brewer at North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg. Ken is the guy you see at the majority of beer festivals that North Coast participates in, as well as even some of the ones that they don’t. He’s a terrific ambassador for the brewery, and for craft beer more generally, as well as a great person to hang out with. Join me in wishing Ken a very happy birthday.

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Then-Triple Rock GM Rachaal with Ken at the Firkin Fest in 2008.

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Ken and a colleague, both sporting pink hair, at the Breastfest in 2007.

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Ken, who was responsible for the Old Rasputin X Imperial Stout, which was aged in old bourbon barrels for at least nine months, showing off a bottle along with Ruby and Tom Dalldorf at the Boonville Beer Festival 2007.

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Visiting the brewery a couple of years ago, Ken with North Coast founder Mark Ruedrich.

Beer Birthday: Justin Crossley

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Today is the 32nd birthday of Justin Crossley, the man behind the mic at The Brewing Network, one of the industry’s best voices. He’s an avid homebrewer and talker, a deadly combination, especially on radio. He also filmed Porter’s Porter Day last year and it will fun to see the result of that project. Of course, he’s been busy opening the Hop Grenade, the next piece of the growing Brewing Network empire. Join me in wishing Justin a very happy birthday.

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Justin and me showing off our injured fingers at the last Marin Breastfest held at Marin Brewing.

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Justin all thumbs at Stone Brewing during the CBC Reception in 2008.

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With Michael Ferguson, from BJ’s, at Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery during the AHA convention a couple of years ago.

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Okay, what’s with the thumbs? About to do a broadcast from GABF in 2007.

Beer Birthday: Don Barkley

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Today is the birthday of legendary brewer Don Barkley. Barkley’s first brewing job was as assistant brewer at New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, California, America’s first modern microbrewery back in the late 1970s. He went on to help found Mendocino Brewing, and created most of their iconic brands, like Red Tail Ale and Eye of the Hawk. In 2008, Don became the brewmaster for Napa Smith Brewery in — you guessed it — Napa, and he’s been making great beer there, too, ever since. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Don at the SF Beer Week Opening Gala in 2010.

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Don, me and Ed Davis each with a 1979 bottle of New Albion beer, that Ed was kind enough to donate, when we did a vintage tasting of beer that Don helped brew over thirty years ago.

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Albion Don at the Toronado during the launch of the first SF Beer Week in 2009.

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Don at the Celebrator Best of the West Fest in 2009, pouring the official beer of SF Beer Week, which he created for us using the original recipe for New Albion Pale Ale.

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Me and Don at the Breastfest at Fort Mason a couple of years ago (photo by Mario Rubio).

Beer Birthday: Paddy Giffen

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Today is Paddy Giffen’s 64th birthday. Paddy was the original brewer at Moylan’s Brewing, did some distilling and was briefly with Bear Republic. I ran into him a few years ago at the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, and these days, as far as I know, he’s brewing at Lagunitas. Join me in wishing Paddy a very happy birthday.


Paddy and Britt Antrim, himself formerly with Anderson Valley, Kona and Great Divide, at the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin, Texas.

Beer Birthday: Evan Rail

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Today is the 42nd birthday of Evan Rail, expat American writer living, and writing about beer, in Prague, Czech Republic. Evan was born and raised in Fresno, but discovered his love for beer while attending U.C. Davis as a French and German literature major. While there, he spent his time at the nearby Sudwerk Privatbrauerei brewpub, and counted among his friends several students in the Master Brewers program. That’s also where he began homebrewing in 1993. He also studied in New York and Paris, before making the Czech Republic his home in 2000. His move to Prague was meant to be for a single year, but he’s still there thirteen years later. Given that he met his wife there, and they’ve started a family, it’s likely he won’t be moving home any time soon. In addition to writing the Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic, Rail’s also penned Why Beer Matters, In Praise of Hangovers and Triplebock, all Kindle singles. While we haven’t yet shared a beer in person, I did interview him via Skype for a newspaper column and look forward to a trip to Prague at some point in the future. Join me in wishing Evan a very happy birthday.

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A Facebook cover photo of Evan (which is where I purloined it from, along with the next one, too).

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A screenshot from a video of Evan talking about Czech beer.

Berkeley Bar Proposes Not Serving Alcohol

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Talk about your non-story. A new Kava bar set to open in Berkeley is planning on not serving alcohol and you’d think they had re-invented the light bulb. Between the bar’s own application claiming it “aims to be Berkeley’s first and only alcohol-alternative bar” and Alcohol Justice tweeting the news with their characteristic glee assuming it must be anti-alcohol, there’s not a lot to the actual story. Not to mention the way in which the Bay Area BizTalk author is spinning it so that she claims it to be “innovative,” saying that “while the common thread is serving booze, one business that plans to open in Berkeley could change that.” Puh-leeze!

Okay, first let’s dispense with the innovation or that it’s Berkeley, or anywhere for that matter’s, “first and only alcohol-alternative bar.” Berkeley and the rest of the world has thousands, maybe millions of them. They’re called cafes, coffeehouse, tea bars, ice cream parlors, and on and on. Starbucks alone operates nearly 24,000 alcohol-alternative bars, not including the few that have been test-marketing alcohol sales in the evenings. As for Alcohol Justice’s churlish remark that “If this takes off, expect Bud Light Kava,” they’re displaying their usual cluelessness. Kava is a plant “used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of its evidence concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term social anxiety.”

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The scientific name for the specific plant used to make the kava drink is known as “Piper methysticum,” which means “intoxicating pepper.” So essentially it’s a different, milder high, but is used in much the same way and for the same purposes as many people use alcohol and mood-altering drugs. You just missed celebrating the Feast of Papa-Lea, the God of Kava Drinking, on September 8. Still, it’s not exactly a health drink. “People taking certain kava-based drugs and dietary products have suffered liver damage or liver failure as a result of hepatotoxicity. Consequently, kava is regulated in a number of countries. In the EU it is strictly prohibited only in Poland.” So the bar may be not serving alcohol, but that’s because they’re focusing on another, somewhat similar product. If it were more popular in the U.S., and regulated like alcohol, you can bet Alcohol Justice would be against it, and singing a different tune.

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I want to be clear that I’m not against Kava. I’ve never had it but would try it in a heartbeat if offered a chance to sample it. But I do want to point out the incessant hypocrisy of prohibitionist groups like Alcohol Justice who are so against alcohol in our society that they’ll celebrate the fact that a bar is taking a different theme to reach a specialized clientele and choosing against serving alcohol in favor of a different mood-altering drink. One they’re against, and the other … well, they don’t really understand or care about so long as it’s not alcohol.

Personally, I hope the MeloMelo Kava Bar does open. It sounds interesting, and worth trying, but please let’s dispense with the notion that it’s going to start a wave of non-alcoholic places that will squash alcohol’s prominence as the beverage of choice at bars across the nation. And especially that they’ll be characterized as “alcohol-alternative bars.” According to the Bay Area BizTalk article, “Tea, yerba mate and kombucha will also be on the menu at MeloMelo, but the bar will not serve food or ‘coffee bean-related’ products.” And let’s not forget that MeloMelo is saving themselves thousands by not buying an expensive liquor license. So these are marketing decisions to differentiate themselves from coffeehouses, and their not serving alcohol is not exactly something that’s likely to “catch on” given that there are already thousands of places where alcohol is not served already. Hell, every time someone actually tries to sell alcohol in a place where it’s traditionally not sold — like Starbucks or Burger King — the hue and cry from the wingnut prohibitionists is deafening.

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But let’s review the real issue here, and the ridiculousness of the concept of being an alcohol-alternative establishment. I think I see a way out. When you’re at a bar, or restaurant or whatever and don’t want to order something alcoholic off of the menu; don’t. Now, was that so hard? There are all sorts of people in the world, and at any given time in any number of moods. Sometimes you want or need a drink, sometimes you don’t. I’m not a big fan of seafood, in fact hate most if it and could most likely live happily my remaining days if I never saw a fish on my plate again. But I’m not boycotting restaurants with seafood choices on the menu. I just don’t order any of them. But the prohibitionists would rather limit everybody’s choice and simply not have alcohol available for legal adults to enjoy because a minority of them might not be able to handle themselves, in effect punishing those of us who can. So how about we have alcohol-alternative people and give the rest of us the ability to choose for ourselves how we we want to live our lives?

Beer Birthday: Lars Larson

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Today is the 48th birthday of Lars Larson, brewmaster of Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, California. Larsen studied brewing in Germany and was the prefect person to recreate Trumer Pils in the United States, one of the best pilsners made in California, or indeed anywhere, foreign or domestic. I got to know Lars much better a few years ago, when we were both invited to judge a beer competition in Santiago, Chile, and he’s a very thoughtful brewer, and great fun to hang out with. Join me in wishing Lars a very happy birthday.

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Lars, with Homer Smith of the Oak Barrel & Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment, at the Celebrator’s 22nd anniversary party in 2010.

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Lars in Chile with two of the brewers from Cerveceria Berlina in Argentina.

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Lars, again at the Celebrator’s 22nd anniversary party in 2010, with Brenden Dobel, from Thirsty Bear.

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Lars’ former brewing school classmate Asbjorn Gerlach, Matt Brynildson and Lars at Kross Cerveza Independiente in Chile, which Gerlach co-founded.

Lagunitas Couch Trippin’ Winner Announced

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A few weeks ago Lagunitas Brewing, my local down the street, announced a contest to win a a party in your home, Couch Trippin’ party to your home. The Couch Trippin’ Contest ended on the last day of August, and they’ve just announced the winner in a new Lagunitas video showing some of the best entries and ending with the winner’s submission.

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Congratulations to Mel Gryllz (@Gryllzlee) for emerging victorious with this wonderful shot:

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Beer Birthday: Steve McDaniels

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Today is the 46th birthday of Steve McDaniels, a former brewer with 21st Amendment. These days McDaniels is hard at work building what will become the Oakland Brewing Co. on 22nd Avenue in Oakland, and brewing their beer at other locations until it’s finished, at least he was the last time I talked to him. Admittedly, it’s been a little while so hopefully it’s still in the works. He’s also working on the soon-to-be-opened Independent Brewing. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Steve with OBC partner Bruce Paton and Arne Johnson, brewmaster at Marin Brewing.

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Steve with Drake’s brewer Josh Miner.

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Steve and his lovely wife Justine.

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Claudia Davis, Steve, Justine Nguyen, Gabrielle Chan, Adrienne McMullen, Shaun O’Sullivan and Roger Davis.

Beer Birthday: Dan Gordon

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Today is the 54th birthday of Dan Gordon, co-founder of Gordon Biersch Brewing, which began in San Jose, California. Dan studied brewing in Germany and his brewpub chain was one of the first to really focus on lagers, and especially German-style beers. He’s also a terrific jazz trombonist! Join me in wishing Dan a very happy birthday.

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At the Celebrator tasting us his newest beer, an unfiltered Dunkelweizen.

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During a recent visit to the brewery.

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Dan at yet another private Dunelweizen tasting.

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I love this early promotional shot they use on Gordon Biersch’s website.