Beer Birthday: Ben Spencer

magnolia-new
Today is Ben Spencer’s 40th birthday. Ben is the head brewer at Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery. Ben grew up in Virginia, and spent some time brewing in Colorado, and even worked for Greenpeace, before coming to the Bay Area in 2004. That’s when he left Boulder for San Francisco to make beer at Magnolia. Ben’s a terrific brewer and a great person, too. Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

jobrien08-08
Ben with Jesse Houck, when he was still brewing with 21st Amendment (he’s now at Golden Road) during Brews By the Bay 2008.

gabf08-53
A sextet from San Francisco at GABF in 2008. From left: Adrienne McMullem, with 21st Amendment, Ben, Sean Paxton, the homebrew chef, Ben’s wife Kelly, Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, and Dave.

olthunder-2
A satisfied Ben with Dave McClean after a vertical tasting of Old Thunderpussy in 2009.

Ben Spencer, Dave Hopwood & Dave McLean
Ben with Dave Hopwood (Stone) and Dave McClean (Magnolia) at the 22nd Celebrator Anniversary Party in 2010.

cheesebeerdin-09
After Bruce Paton’s cheese and beer dinner in 2008. From left, Arne Johnson (Marin Brewing), Aron Derosey (Beach Chalet), Bruce Paton, Sheana Davis, Ben, Ron from 21A, Brenden Dobbel (Thirsty Bear) and Rich Higgins (Gordon Biersch).

The Best Beers In California: 2014 California State Fair Winners

cal-state-fair
Last week, the judging took place for the 19th annual California State Fair Craft Beer Competition in West Sacramento. This year, there were 859 beers entered in 25 categories of beer plus one for hard cider were entered. I judged two of the four days for this year’s competition, but family obligations kept me from being there for the final two days of judging.

This year’s California State Fair will also include a Brewer’s Festival, which will take place on July 19 from 3-6 PM at the Miller Lite Grandstands at Cal Expo in Sacramento, where you’ll have an opportunity to try many of the winning beers. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 the day of the event. Check out the Cal State Expo website for details.

state-fair

Below are all of the award winners. 1 is a Gold medal, 2 is Silver, 3 is Bronze, and 4 is an Honorable Mention.

Category 1: Light Lager (16 entries)

  1. Blue Eyed Blonde, Solvang Brewing (1D: Munich Helles)
  2. Helles Lager, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery (1D: Munich Helles)
  3. Buxom Blonde Pilsner, Loomis Basin Brewing (1C: Premium American Lager)

Category 2: Pilsner (22 entries)

  1. Czech Pilsner, Rubicon Brewing (2B: Bohemian Pilsener)
  2. Northern Pilsner, Sudwerk Brewing (2A: German Pilsner (Pils))
  3. Elemental Pilsner, Lightning Brewery (2A: German Pilsner (Pils))

Category 3: European Amber Lager (5 entries)

  1. Zen Amber Lager, Sudwerk Brewing (3B: Oktoberfest/Marzen)
  2. Ballast Point Oktoberfest, Ballast Point Brewing (3B: Oktoberfest/Marzen)
  3. Una Mas, Left Coast Brewing (3A: Vienna Lager)

Category 4: Dark Lager (5 entries)

  1. Terminal Island Black Lager, San Pedro Brewing (4C: Schwarzbier)
  2. Black Lager, Ol’ Republic Brewery (4C: Schwarzbier)
  3. Dunkel Bock, Ol’ Republic Brewery (4B: Munich Dunkel)

Category 5: Bock (13 entries)

  1. Doppel Down Doppelbock, Feather Falls Casino Brewing (5C: Doppelbock)
  2. Wild Bill Winter Bock, Feather Falls Casino Brewing (5B: Traditional Bock)
  3. Ultimator Dopplebock, Sudwerk Brewing (5C: Doppelbock)

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beer (69 entries)

  1. Bruin Blonde, San Pedro Brewing (6B: Blonde Ale)
  2. Castle Beach Kolsch, Santa Cruz Ale Works (6C: Kolsch)
  3. American, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (6A: Cream Ale)

Category 7: Amber Hybrid Beer (10 entries)

  1. California Common, Ol’ Republic Brewery (7B: California Common Beer)
  2. Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Brewery (7B: California Common Beer)
  3. Sticke Alt, Dust Bowl Brewing (7C: Dusseldorf Altbier)

Category 8: English Pale Ale (19 entries)

  1. DBA, Firestone Walker Brewing (8A: Standard/Ordinary Bitter)
  2. E.S.B., Ol’ Republic Brewery (8C: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale))
  3. What The Fuggle ESB, Anacapa Brewing (8C: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale))

Category 9: Scottish/Irish Ale (22 entries)

  1. Marauder, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (9E: Strong Scotch Ale)
  2. Maltopia, Hermitage Brewing (9B: Scottish Heavy 70/-)
  3. Clan Ross Scotch Ale, Legacy Brewing (9E: Strong Scotch Ale)

Category 10: American Ale (101 entries)

  1. Woodenhead Amber Ale, River City Brewing (10B: American Amber Ale)
  2. Hoppy Palm Pale Ale, Track 7 Brewing (10A: American Pale Ale)
  3. 1500, Drake’s Brewery (10A: American Pale Ale)

Category 11: English Brown Ale (14 entries)

  1. Ironwood Dark, Tied House Brewing (11C: Northern English Brown Ale)
  2. Barrel Harbor Brown Ale, Barrel Harbor Brewing (11C: Northern English Brown Ale)
  3. Downtown Brown, Lost Coast Brewery (11C: Northern English Brown Ale)

Category 12: Porter (32 entries)

  1. Brown Bear Porter, Feather Falls Casino Brewing (12A: Brown Porter)
  2. Black Robusto Porter, Drake’s Brewery (12B: Robust Porter)
  3. Party Foul Porter, Lazy Daze Brewery at Mary’s Pizza Shack (12B: Robust Porter)

Category 13: Stout (58 entries)

  1. Ale Of The 2 Tun, Hermitage Brewing (13D: Foreign Extra Stout)
  2. Imperial Stout, Mendocino Brewing (13F: Imperial Stout)
  3. Big Bear Black Stout, Bear Republic Brewing (13E: American Stout)

Category 14: India Pale Ale (178 entries)

  1. Panic IPA, Track 7 Brewing (14B: American IPA)
  2. Evil Twin, Heretic Brewing (14D: Other IPA)
  3. Kermit The Hop, Bison Organic Beer (14B: American IPA)
  4. Honorable Mention: Hop Rod Rye, Bear Republic Brewing (14D: Other IPA)

Category 15: German Wheat/Rye Beer (27 entries)

  1. Hefeweizen, Faultline Brewing (15A: Weizen/Weissbier)
  2. Riverbend Hefeweizen, American River Brewing (15A: Weizen/Weissbier)
  3. Windansea Wheat, Karl Strauss Brewing (15A: Weizen/Weissbier)

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale (46 entries)

  1. Rhinoceros, Telegraph Brewing (16E: Belgian Specialty Ale)
  2. Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (16E: Belgian Specialty Ale)
  3. Silent Partner Saison, Telegraph Brewing (16C: Saison)

Category 17: Sour Ale (9 entries)

  1. Flander Red, Mraz Brewing (17B: Flanders Red Ale)
  2. Sour Farmhouse, Woodfour Brewing (17E: Gueuze)
  3. Cuvee, Boulder Creek Brewery (17B: Flanders Red Ale)

Category 18: Belgian Strong Ale (30 entries)

  1. Window Of Opportunity, Mraz Brewing (18C: Belgian Tripel)
  2. Axiom, Valiant Brewing (18E: Belgian Dark Strong Ale)
  3. Brother Thelonious, North Coast Brewing (18B: Belgian Dubbel)

Category 19: Strong Ale (30 entries)

  1. Old Diablo, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (19B: English Barleywine)
  2. Stentorian, Valiant Brewing (19B: English Barleywine)
  3. Old Stock, North Coast Brewing (19A: Old Ale)

Category 20: Fruit Beer (22 entries)

  1. Rosie”s Strawberry Wheat, Six Rivers Brewery (20A: Fruit Beer)
  2. Flatbed Blueberry Cream, Garage Brewing (20A: Fruit Beer)
  3. Tangerine Wheat, Lost Coast Brewery (20A: Fruit Beer)

Category 21: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer (16 entries)

  1. Gourdgeous, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery (21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)
  2. Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, Karl Strauss Brewing (21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)
  3. Mo’ Tcho Risin’, 21st Amendment Brewery (21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)

Category 22: Smoke-Flavored/Wood-Aged Beer (30 entries)

  1. Barrel Aged Great Impression, Dust Bowl Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)
  2. Barrel-Aged Good Faith, Discretion Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)
  3. Jacked Again, Loomis Basin Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)
  4. Honorable Mention: Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, Karl Strauss Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)

Category 23: Specialty Beer (30 entries)

  1. Campfire Stout, High Water Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)
  2. NightTime Ale, Lagunitas Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)
  3. 3 Best Friends, Sudwerk Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)
  4. Honorable Mention: Great Ape Nectar, Monkey Paw Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)

Category 27: Standard Cider and Perry (8 entries)

  1. None awarded
  2. Pacific Coast Ciders, Hard Apple Cider, Cider Brothers (27A: Common Cider)
  3. None awarded

Category 28: Specialty Cider and Perry (4 entries)

  1. Blood Orange Tangerine, Common Cider Co. (28B: Fruit Cider)
  2. None awarded
  3. Hibiscus Saison, Common Cider Co. (28D: Other Specialty Cider or Perry)

Category 32: Chili Beer (12 entries)

  1. French Mexican War, Highway 1 Brewing (32A: Chili Beer)
  2. Imperial Dragon Kiss, Stumblefoot Brewing (32A: Chili Beer)
  3. Where There’s Smoke, Twisted Manzanita Ales (32A: Chili Beer)

Category 33: Session Beer (31 entries)

  1. Mosaic Session Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (33A: Session Beer)
  2. MCA Stout, 21st Amendment Brewery (33A: Session Beer)
  3. Easy Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing (33A: Session Beer)

CraftBeerComp

A few statistics: Karl Strauss, Ol’ Republic Brewery and Sudwerk Brewing won the most medals, four apiece. Feather Falls Casino Brewing won three, and 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewery, Dust Bowl Brewing, Firestone Walker Brewing, Hangar 24 Brewing, Loomis Basin Brewing, Lost Coast Brewery, Mraz Brewing, San Pedro Brewing, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, Telegraph Brewing and Track 7 Brewing all won two medals apiece.

BEST OF SHOW

  1. Panic IPA, Track 7 Brewing (14B: American IPA)
  2. California Common, Ol’ Republic Brewery (7B: California Common Beer)
  3. Bruin Blonde, San Pedro Brewing (6B: Blonde Ale)

Each brewery chose 6 of their entered beers which they felt were their best. After all judging was completed, the brewery whose six beers scored best was awarded the title “Brewery of the Year.” This year, that honor went to the Antioch brewpub Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, and their brewmaster Craig Cauwels. In addition, a panel of media chose their favorite from among the “best of show” beers to receive the “Best of Show — Media Choice,” which was awarded to Ol’ Republic Brewery’s E.S.B.

Congratulations to all the winners.

CAstatefairribbons

Beer Birthday: Jamil Zainasheff

heretic
Today is the birthday of former homebrewer extraordinaire Jamil Zainasheff, who over the last ten plus years had become something of a rock star in the homebrewing community, and especially the Bay Area. He’s also the co-author two books on beer and homebrewing: “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” (with John Palmer) and “Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation” (with Chris White). In addition, he hosts the Jamil Show on The Brewing Network and has a website online entitled Mr. Malty. Jamil also turned pro a few years ago, starting his own commercial brewery, Heretic Brewing, which is now located in Fairfield, California. Join me in wishing Jamil a very happy birthday.

P1020688
Jamil and me judging the finals at the Toronado Barleywine festival in 2007.

P1010743
Jamil and me at Anchor Brewery a couple of years ago.

jamil-and-rodger
Jamil with Rodger Davis at Faction Brewing in May of this year. (Photo by Nathan Smith, purloined from Facebook.)

Beer Birthday: Andy French

southern-pacific
Today is the 46th birthday of Andy French, brewmaster at Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco, one of the new wave of breweries that opened in the city in recent years. I first met Andy when he brewed at Speakeasy, and after that would see him from time to time at Zeitgeist, though he first started brewing back East in the DC area. When his roommate Chris Lawrence, who also worked for Speakeasy once upon a time, decided to open his own brewery, he tapped Andy to work the mash paddles, and things have been going great since they opened a few years ago. Join me in wishing Andy a very happy birthday.

P1050466
Andy at his brewhouse in 2012.

Beer Birthday: Steve Harrison

sierra-nevada
Today would have been longtime Sierra Nevada employee Steve Harrison’s 63rd birthday. Unfortunately, Steve passed away in August of 2007. He was Sierra Nevada employee number one, and was responsible for a lot of their early success. I first got to know Steve in the mid-1990s when I was the chain beer buyer at BevMo. He was a terrific person and universally respected and beloved in the industry. Sierra Nevada had to hire two or three people to take over his responsibilities. Join me in raising a glass of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to Steve’s memory today. Here’s to you, Steve.

The last time I saw Steve was at a CSBA meeting in San Diego in 2007, though we talked on the phone a few more times after that because he’d asked me to do some freelance work for him shortly after that CSBA meeting. You can almost make him out in the photo below. He’s in the middle, toward the back, in a blue shirt. He’s in between Tom McCormick (in a green shirt) and a man in a black shirt raising his glass below the giant boulder in the background.

csba-sd

steve-harrison-and-mj
A very young Steve, at right, with Michael Jackson and Lou. (Photo by Tom Dalldorf, from the Celebrator Beer News.)

Steve-Harrison-Memorial-Arch
The Steve Harrison Memorial Arch, which is at the northern entrance to the Steve Harrison Bike Path, which is located not very far from the brewery in Chico. (The photo was taken in 2010 by Jack Peters, and sent to me by Miles Jordan. Thank you, gentlemen.)

Beer Birthday: Brian Yaeger

yaeger-brian
Today is the birthday of fellow beer writer Brian Yaeger, author of Red, White & Brew. Brian also writes online at his Red, White & Brew Beer Odyssey blog. Until recently, Brian and his lovely bride Kimberly lived in Portland, Oregon (having moved from San Francisco), but they’ve moved to Amsterdam. Join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

Brian Yaeger, Brian Lenzo, owner of Blue Palms Brewhouse, and Meg Gill
Brian with Brian Lenzo, owner of Blue Palms Brewhouse, me and Meg Gill at the Speakeasy Brewery during SF Beer Week in 2010.

schooners-beerdin-7
Craig Cauwels with Brian, the Beer Chef Bruce Paton and me at a Schooner’s beer dinner at Cathedral Hotel in 2008.

Beer Birthday: Forest Gray

speakeasy
Today is the 47th birthday of Forest Gray, co-founder and president of Speakeasy Ales and Lagers in San Francisco. I first met Forest when Speakeasy first bottled their beer when I was the beer buyer at BevMo. For the last severnteen years, his brewery has made some terrific beers, especially their Big Daddy I.P.A. Join me in wishing Forest a very happy birthday.

Forest Gray, Brian Lenzo and Meg Gill
Forest with Brian Lenzo, from Blue Palms in L.A., and Meg Gill, now with Golden Road, at a Speakeasy Anniversary event several years ago.

speakeasy-crew
The Speakeasy crew at the start of SF Beer Week in 2013. That’s Forest with the glowing hat. [Photo purloined from Facebook.]

Beer Birthday: Colin Kaminski

downtown-joes
Today is the 49th birthday of Colin Kaminski, who for over a decade has been the brewmaster of Downtown Joe’s in Napa, California. He started brewing there around 1998, and after four years learning from Brian Hunt and others, he became the head brewer in 2003. He’s gone on to give many presentation on brewing and write technical articles on brewing and he’s also the co-author of Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers, along with John Palmer, which was published last year. Join me in wishing Colin a very happy birthday.

Kaminski-1
Colin behind the bar at Downtown Joe’s.

Kaminski-2
Colin, at right, with Kimbeerly Wood and the Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton at GABF in 2009.

Kaminski-3
Colin, front and center, with the Downtown Joe’s crew visiting Anchor Brewing.
[Note: first three photos purloined from Colin's Facebook page.]

water
Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers

Beer Birthday: Tom Dalldorf

celebrator-long
Today is Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf’s 72nd birthday. Since he’s famous for having his picture in the Celebrator and being at every beer event, I figured the Bulletin should be no different. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.

cbn18-01
Tom at the Celebrator anniversary party in 2007.

tdalldorf-02
Raising a toast with Full Sail brewer John Harris.

tdalldorf-03
Huddling up with the owner’s of Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, Fergie and Tom.

tdalldorf-04
Mine’s bigger. Russian River’s Vinne Cilurzo with Tom in D.C.

tdalldorf-07
Looking like a deer caught in the headlights at the roast I threw for Tom when he turned sixty. That’s Stephen Beaumont on the left and me on the right.

boontfest06-12
At Boonville, taking the Rubicon kegerator bike for a spin.

Beer Birthday: Ron Lindenbusch

lagunitas-circle
Today is the 53rd birthday of Ron Lindenbusch, who’s been with the Lagunitas Brewery since the very beginning. I first met Ron and founder Tony Magee when I visited the brewery in its original location in the mid-1990s. Ron has been a huge part of bringing the brewery along to where it is today, and is a terrific person and a good friend. Join me in wishing Ron a very happy birthday.

Tweetup organizer Ashley, a.k.a. The Beer Wench, with Ron Lindenbusch, from Lagunitas
The Beer Wench, Ashley Routson, with Ron at a Tweet-Up at Lagunitas a couple of years ago.

horizons-6
At a beer dinner at Horizons in Marin County, with Dean Biersch and Lynn, the chef at Hopmonk Tavern, Dean’s then-new venture in Sebastopol.

P1000119
Ron with Lagunitas owner Tony Magee’s sister Karen, who rep’s Lagunitas in the Chicago area, at SAVOR several years ago in Washington, D.C.

Ron Lindenbusch, Shaun O'Sullivan, Zambo, Rich Rosen, me, Sarah, Lloyd Knight, Dave Suurballe and James Renfrew
Ron, with Shaun O’Sullivan, Zambo, Rich Rosen, me, Sarah, Lloyd Knight, Dave Suurballe and James Renfrew at Anchor’s annual Christmas Party a few years ago.