Beer Birthday: Ben Spencer

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Today is Ben Spencer’s 42nd birthday. Ben was the head brewer at Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery, but due to their Chapte 11 bankruptcy is making ends meet as an independent contractor. 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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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).

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Ben in the basement brewery at the end of brewing a mild last year.

Beer Birthday: Jamil Zainasheff

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Today is the 55th 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.

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

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

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Jamil with Rodger Davis at Faction Brewing in May of last year. (Photo by Nathan Smith, purloined from Facebook.)

Beer Birthday: Andy French

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Today is the 48th 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.

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Andy at his brewhouse in 2012.

Historic Beer Birthday: Steve Harrison

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Today would have been longtime Sierra Nevada employee Steve Harrison’s 65th 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.

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

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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

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Today is the 42nd birthday of fellow beer writer Brian Yaeger, author of Red, White & Brew and Oregon Breweries. Brian also writes online at his Red, White & Brew Beer Odyssey blog. A couple of years ago Brian and his lovely bride Kimberly lived in Portland, Oregon (having moved from San Francisco), but then moved to Amsterdam, before more recently moving back to Portland. Join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

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

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

California Reaches 700 Brewery Milestone

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The California Craft Brewers Association announced today that the number of breweries in the state reached 700, more then at any time in California’s history. The number of breweries has more than doubled in just the last four years. There are more breweries in the Golden State, by a wide margin, then any other state. Eleven of the breweries on the list of the nation’s top fifty craft breweries, as defined by the Brewers Association, are from California.

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California has more breweries than many countries. So it only makes sense that we have our own world class, statewide events. This September, the CCBA will put on the second annual California Craft Beer Summit and Beer Festival in the state capitol of Sacramento.

The three-day Summit includes 24 educational sessions, 60,000 feet of interactive displays, 450 beers, 160 breweries and unlimited tastings. It’s an amazing event, especially the huge beer festival. I’ll be there again this year, and if you work in any part of the beer industry, or want to, you should be there, too. Here’s more information about it from the CCBA’s press release.

“California continues to lead the nation’s craft beer movement and the Summit showcases the wild success of a community united over a common passion: craft beer,” said Tom McCormick, executive director of the CCBA. “CCBA’s signature event is the ultimate opportunity for craft beer enthusiasts to join the tribe, learn from brewers and experts across the Golden State and taste the creativity and passion that serves as the foundation of the industry.”

Reigning as the largest California-brewed craft beer event of its kind, the 2016 Craft Beer Summit and Festival gives attendees a tasting tour through the state’s craft brewing landscape.

“At the Summit, beer lovers and brewers have the chance to experience wonderful techniques and ideas from the best of the industry,” said McCormick. “David Walker from Firestone Walker, Fritz Maytag, the founder of the American craft beer movement, the brewers and owners from AleSmith, 21st Amendment, Russian River Brewing Company, and many others will share their knowledge, history, expertise and passion with every person connected or passionate about the craft beer industry.”

Educational highlights at the Summit include:

  • How to start a career in craft beer from the hiring managers of Mikkeller Brewing San Diego, Russian River Brewing Co. and other growing breweries
  • Advanced homebrew lessons, including how to go “off recipe” and explore yeast management, hosted by the homebrewers now running successful commercial breweries
  • Mock judging at a “Taste Like a Judge” session teaching attendees how rate and taste beers
  • The rise of sour beer as a style, including how to differentiate between sour beers and what you can expect in a wild ale versus a spontaneously fermented sour
  • How to develop a beer list for taproom managers and beer buyers looking to advance their offerings in the craft beer sector

“The Summit has become, in a very short period of time, one of the largest and most significant craft beer events not only in California but across the nation,” said Natalie Cilurzo, co-owner of Russian River Brewing Company and president of the CCBA Board of Directors. “The unique part about the Summit is the bringing together of brewers, retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, and consumers all in one location, something I have not experienced to this level at any other event. I’m proud to be a part of this incredible state trade association as well as the second annual Summit.”

Early bird tickets, available online through June 30, 2016, include: 25 percent off the Summit Beer Festival ($45 at early bird, $60 regular price), single-day Summit entry ($99 early bird, $119 regular price) or full weekend packages ($219 early bird, $239 regular price).

Beer Birthday: Forest Gray

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Today is the 49th 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.

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Forest with Brian Lenzo, from Blue Palms in L.A., and Meg Gill, now “on the winning team” with Golden Road, at a Speakeasy Anniversary event several years ago.

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

Historic Beer Birthday: Alan Cranston

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Today is the birthday of Alan MacGregor Cranston (June 19, 1914–December 31, 2000). Cranston was a Democratic senator from California, born in Palo Alto, and served four terms.

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Here’s a biography from Find a Grave:

US Senator. A member of the Democratic party, he represented the state of California for four terms in the US Senate from January 1969 until January 1993, serving as the Democratic Whip from 1977 until 1991. Born Alan MacGregor Cranston in Palo Alto, California into a wealthy real estate family, he attended local public schools before attending Pomona College in Claremont, California and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico, and graduated in 1936 from Stanford University in Palo Alto with a degree in journalism. In 1937 he became a correspondent for the International News Service for two years preceding World War II, covering Europe and North Africa. When an abridged English-language translation of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” was released, sanitized to exclude some of Hitler’s anti-semitism and militancy, he published a different translation (with annotations) which he believed more accurately reflected the contents of the book. In 1939 Hitler’s publisher sued him for copyright violation in Connecticut and a judge ruled in Hitler’s favor and publication of the book was halted. From 1940 until 1944 he served as chief, foreign language division in the Office of War Information and in 1944 he enlisted in the US Army. In 1945 he wrote the book, “The Killing of the Peace,” a synopsis of the failed bid to get the US to join the League of Nations immediately following World War I. A world government supporter, he attended the 1945 conference that led to the Dublin Declaration, and became president of the World Federalist Association in 1948. In 1949 he successfully pushed for the California legislature to pass the World Federalist California Resolution, calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to allow US participation in a federal world government. From 1949 until 1952 he was the national president of the United World Federalists. In 1952 he co-founded the California Democratic Council and served as its chairman. In 1958 he was elected California’s State Controller as a Democrat and was re-elected in 1962. In 1968 he ran as the Democratic candidate for US Senate and was elected to the first of four six-year terms, defeating Republican challenger Max Rafferty, followed by Republican challenger H.L. “Bill” Richardson in 1974, Republican Paul Gann in 1980, and Republican Congressman Ed Zschau in 1986. During his time in the US Senate, he served on the Banking, Housing, Urban Affairs, Veterans (which he chaired), and Foreign Relations Committees and was strongly opposed to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, dropping out of the race after finishing poorly in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. In November 1991 he was reprimanded by the US Senate Select Committee on Ethics for “improper conduct” after Lincoln Savings head Charles Keating’s companies contributed $850,000 to voter registration groups closely affiliated with him. Because the Keating affair had damaged his political career, coupled with his diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, he decided against running for a 5th US Senate term. His final act as a Senator was to preside over the inauguration of Bill Clinton as President of the US on January 20, 1993. A fitness enthusiast, he was notable for practicing and participating in the sport of track and field as a sprinter in special senior races. An avid lifetime supporter of the global abolishment of nuclear weapons, in his retirement he became a part of the Nuclear Weapon Elimination Initiative of the State of the World Forum and founded the Global Security Institute in 1999, serving as its president. He died of natural causes in Los Altos, California at the age of 86.

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Of course, the one thing left out of Cranston’s biography in most accounts is the reason that he’s featured here. On January 4, 1977, Representative William A. Steiger (Republican from Wisconsin’s 6th District) introduced H.R.1337 a transportation bill with the title “A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 with respect to excise tax on certain trucks, buses, tractors, etcetera.”

To that bill, senator Cranston added a crucial amendment which had a profound effect on the landscape of beer today, and its final title was “An Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 with respect to excise tax on certain trucks, buses, tractors, et cetera, home production of beer and wine, refunds of the taxes on gasoline and special fuels to aerial applicators, and partial rollovers of lump sum distributions.”

Here’s the text of the beer portion of Amendment 3534, added by Senator Alan Cranston:

(e) BEER FOR PERSONAL OR FAMILY USE. — Subject to regulation prescribed by the Secretary, any adult may, without payment of tax, produce beer for personal or family use and not for sale. The aggregate amount of beer exempt from tax under this subsection with respect to any household shall not exceed —

(1) 200 gallons per calendar year if there are 2 or more adults in such household, or
(2) 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only 1 adult in such household.

For purposes of this subsection, the term ‘adult’ means an individual who has attained 18 years of age, or the minimum age (if any) established by law applicable in the locality in which the household is situated at which beer may be sold to individuals, whichever is greater.

As we all know, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337 into law on October 14, 1978, paving the way for the our modern brewing industry that includes over 700 breweries in California alone, and over 4,000 nationwide. Thanks Alan.

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In 1984, Cranston made a failed bid to run for president. I bet he would have gotten the homebrewing vote.

Beer Birthday: Colin Kaminski

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Today is the 51st 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 in 2014. Colin was also kind enough to give a talk about brewing water to my class last year. Join me in wishing Colin a very happy birthday.

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Colin behind the bar at Downtown Joe’s.

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Colin, at right, with Kimberly Wood and the Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton at GABF in 2009.

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

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Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers

Beer Birthday: Tom Dalldorf

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Today is Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf’s 74th 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.

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Tom at the Celebrator anniversary party in 2007.

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Raising a toast with Full Sail brewer John Harris.

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

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

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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.

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