Beer Birthday: Todd Ashman

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Today is also the birthday of Todd Ashman, who turns 56 Todd is originally from Santa Rosa, but spent a number of years brewing at Flossmoor Station near Chicago, and then short stints at Titletown Brewing in Green Bay, Wisconsin and with Brewers Supply Group. Several years ago, Todd moved back to California to take a position brewing with a then-new brewery in Truckee, Fifty Fifty Brewing, which he’s made into an amazing brewing powerhouse. Some health issues sidelined Todd for a time, and he’s moved back to Santa Rosa, but I did see him in Philly for World Beer Cup judging. He’s currently consulting remotely as the operations manager for FiftyFifty, and is hopeful he can be back in Truckee after too long. Join me in wishing Todd a very happy birthday.

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Peter Hoey, at left, from Sacramento Brewing, with Todd at the 2009 Northern California Homebrew Festival.

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Todd at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.

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Todd at Hair of the Dog during OBF in 2007.

Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival 2016

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On Saturday, the 5th annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival was held in Paso Robles, California. Although a relatively new festival, it has quickly become one of my favorite not-to-be-missed events of the season. The brewery describes it like this: “The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest is an epic yet intimate gathering of 50 leading brewers from around the nation and world, celebrating craft beer in our hometown Paso Robles.” What sets it apart is great organization, a well-curated selection of brewers (who are each asked to bring a sesssionable beer and something special), lots of food, music (and perhaps more importantly, lots of areas that are quieter should you prefer that), along with many, many small details, diversions and things to do. This was another great year, with plenty of wonderful sensations to eat and drink. Here is a photo essay of the day.

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Our weekend started by picking up the teardrop camper we rented the night before.

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Which we set up in the camp set aside for brewers and media at the Paso Robles Event Center, on the grounds of where the festival would take place the next day.

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Two shots of the festival grounds before it began Saturday morning. The calm before the storm.

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This year, a separate tent housed all of the breweries from outside the U.S.

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For example, Pete Gillespie from New Zealand’s Garage Project Brewery, was pouring a very interesting beer, with a great presentation. Essentially a deconstructed Imperial Porter, Cherry Bomb, first they pour the cherry-based beer, and then on top of that is added chocolate foam from another tap that was drawn into a metal cop. It stayed fairly well separated until you drank it, then it began to mix together.
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In fact, Garage Project had well-deserved long lines all day long.

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Travis Smith and Mike Sardina, both from Societe Brewing of San Diego, with David Walker, co-founder of Firestone Walker.

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Rodger Davis, from Faction Brewing, and Kyle Smith, from Kern River Brewing, behind their respective booths.

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My wife Sarah with the great Jeremy Danner, from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City.

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It was a fairly hot day, 100+ degrees, but we were prepared. I wore my Amish hat, and both Ken Weaver, from All About Beer, and I both brought spray bottle fans. When we posed with them, I sprayed Ken just as this photo, taken by Jon Page, was snapped.

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Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson with Logan Plant, from Beavertown Brewery in London.

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As usual, the food was great, and even one of the vendors was serving frites, specifically truffle fries with parmesan, which I shared with Vinnie Cilurzo.

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Jeremy Danner again, this time with Boulevard brewmaster Steven Pauwels.

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With Chuck Silva (middle), former brewmaster for Green Flash Brewing, who’s working on his own place, Silva Brewing, which he’s hoping will be open by fall of this year.

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Terence Sullivan, from Sierra Nevada Brewing, beating up a buddy from Chico at Firestone Walker’s photo booth. And this is our own series of photos from the photo booth.
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The Russian River Brewing booth was also busy all day, which kept their staff busy.

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At precisely 2:23 PM, Russian River Brewing opened three seven-year-old bottles of Supplication.

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Then both Vinnie and Natalie each poured samples from each of their 6L bottles to people in the crowd, and continued pouring until they were empty.
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At the end of the festival, the voting for people’s choice was announced, and this year was one by Side Project Brewing from St. Louis.

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Me, Matt Brynildson, Logan Plant and another Firestone Walker brewer.

Beer Birthday: Melissa Myers

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Today is my good friend Melissa Myers’ birthday. Though now several years ago, her most recent brewing gig was at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, California. She’s also brewed at Pyramid, Ross Brewing and Magnolia, among others, but now she owns and operates her own beer bar in Oakland, The Good Hop. Apparently there’s a stool there waiting for me with my name on it, but to my deep regret I have still not yet visited it, or Melissa yet, and I can’t wait to take it out for a spin. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.

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Arne Johnson, of Marin Brewing, and Melissa at the Boonville Beer Festival several years ago.

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Former roommates Jen Garris and Melissa at the Anchor Christmas Party a few years back.

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Melissa and former Drake’s brewer Rodger Davis at GABF several years ago.

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Melissa and me at GABF once upon a time.

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Melissa with her adopted Daddy, “Big Daddy” Dave Keene.

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Melissa in high school, believe it or not. At a Super Bowl party she threw, Melissa made the mistake of showing me this photo while I had my camera in my hand. I snapped a quick picture of it in the photo album, which is why is looks out of proportion and a little fuzzy. I had to seriously crop it and straighten it out and generally fix it up. But I think the effort was worth it, don’t you?

Beer Birthday: Tony Magee

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Today is the 56th birthday of Tony Magee. Tony is the founder and owner of Lagunitas Brewing. We first met in the mid-1990s when I visited the old brewery, before they moved to their present location, and have been good friends ever since. I recently wrote a profile of Tony for Beer Connoisseur magazine. With his beautifully twisted, iconoclastic vision, Tony’s built an amazing empire by never compromising his ideals. His unique beers, and especially their quirky label designs and text, are always a treat. And now that they’ve installed a new 250-barrel brewhouse in both Petaluma and Chicago, are talking about a third in the not-to-distant future, I’d say he’s poised to take over the world. Local newspaper articles keep referring to him as a “beer baron,” which cracks me up. Bwa, ha,ha,ha. Join me in wishing Tony a very happy birthday.

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Tony as Ringmaster of the Lagunitas Beer Circus in 2009, with Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing.

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Tony and me at the Bistro’s IPA Festival in 2006.

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Tony warming up for a set at the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol in 2008.


Performing the Big Bill Broonzy song, Key to the Highway, at the Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival in January of 2010.

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At the CCBA’s California Beer Summit last year.

Patent No. 5906151A: Apparatus And Method For Brewing An Alcoholic Beverage

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Today in 1999, US Patent 5906151 A was issued, an invention of Adam Firestone, Jeffers Richardson, Donald E. Othman, and Michel A. Blom, assigned to Firestone Walker, LLC, for their “Apparatus And Method For Brewing An Alcoholic Beverage and Beverage Brewed by Same.” Here’s the Abstract:

An apparatus for brewing an alcoholic beverage includes a plurality of wooden barrels including at least one first wooden barrel, at least one second wooden barrel, and at least one third wooden barrel; an enclosed trough; a plurality of first conduits providing flow communication between each of the plurality of wooden barrels and the enclosed trough; an enclosed catch pot in flow communication with the enclosed trough; a plurality of second conduits providing flow communication between the enclosed catch pot and each of the plurality of wooden barrels; and devices, such as valves, for controlling flow between each of the plurality of wooden barrels and the second conduit. The at least one first wooden barrel is a new barrel that has been filled with an alcoholic beverage up to 5 times, the at least one second wooden barrel is a middle aged barrel that has been filled with an alcoholic beverage from 6 to 12 times, and the at least one third wooden barrel is an old barrel that has been filled with an alcoholic beverage from 13 to 30 times.

This is essentially a patent for Firestone Walker’s modified Burton Union System that they pioneered when they first started, and then scaled-up when they bought the old SLO Brewery in Paso Robles and increased the size of their beer production. Jeffers, of course, is still there is the Barrelmeister, or Director of the Firestone Walker Barrelworks. That system is one of only two such brewing systems left in the world, the other being at Marston’s in Burton-on-Trent in England.
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Here’s a few photos of the system at the Paso Robles brewery in 2012.

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Beer Birthday: Judy Ashworth

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Today is Judy Ashworth’s birthday. She’s the Grand Dame of Publicans, having once owned the Lyons Brewery Depot in the East Bay, one of the earliest bars to really embrace, support and promote craft beer. Judy sold the pub in 1998 after some health troubles sidelined her, but she’s still a fixture in the Bay Area beer scene. I’ve judged with her many times and these days she’s very supportive of the homebrewing movement and she can be seen at most of the major beer events throughout the year. Join me in wishing Judy a very happy birthday.

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Judy with Shaun O’Sullivan (21st Amendment) and Chris Black at his Falling Rock Taphouse during GABF week in 2007.

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Out in front of The Bistro in Hayward at the Wood-Aged Beer Festival in August of 2008. From left: Jeremy Cowan, owner of He’Brew, Judy, Dave Heist, and Zak, also from He’Brew.

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At the Toronado Barleywine Festival in 2008, Judy Ashworth, Matt Salie (with Big Sky Brewing) and Judy’s daughter Laurel.

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Judy with Stephen Beaumont, me and Peter Hoey at the 2010 Pliny the Younger release.

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Dave Suurballe, Judy, Julie Nickels and Bruce Paton at Anchor Brewing for the book release party for Tom Acitelli’s “Audacity of Hops” a couple of years ago.

Beer Birthday: Jeff Bagby

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Today is the 42nd birthday of Jeff Bagby, who until a few years ago was the head brewer extraordinaire at Pizza Port in Carlsbad. There, you used to be able to read the entire biography of Jeff “Extra Spicy” Bagby. I’m not sure when it was written, but it’s no longer there, but it ended with the following sentence. “Jeff has his sights set on winning a GABF Brewpub of the Year award and we most definitely believe it is in his future as well.” Six years ago at GABF, Jeff won an amazing seven medals and Pizza Port Carlsbad was awarded the Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year. That means his plaid pants got to go up on stage a record eight times! You can see a retrospective of Jeff’s plaid choices over the years, too, at Jeff “Lucky Pants” Babgy Wins Big. Once he started working on opening his own brewery, I suggested he should consider “Plaid Brewing” or some variation of that idea, like “Plaid Pants Brewing” or “Lucky Plaid Brewing.” Unfortunately, he went with a more sensible Bagby Beer Co., which opened two years ago. All, well some, kidding aside, Jeff is a terrific brewer and a hell of a washoes player, though I still think Dave Keene and I could beat him and Tomme again. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.

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Jeff with his then-girlfriend, now wife, Dande at GABF a few years ago. And yes, those are his lucky pants.

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Greg Koch and Jeff at the Falling Rock.

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Former Drake’s brewer Melissa Myers with Jeff at an event at Anchor celebrating the Toronado’s 20th anniversary.

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Sam Calagione, Bruce Paton and Jeff at the Lost Abbey for a beer dinner during CBC.

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Jeff at the Toronado for the annual Belgian Beer Dinner in 2012, with owner Dave Keene wearing his “Who the F@#k is Jeff Bagby?” T-shirt.

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Dandelian and Jeff Bagby in the upstairs loft dining area of their new brewery. The plaid back of the bench seating was inspired by Jeff’s winning plaid pants that he used to wear for GABF award ceremonies, as I detailed several years ago in Jeff “Lucky Pants” Bagby Wins Big.

Beer Birthday: Shaun O’Sullivan

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Today is 21st Amendment brewer and co-owner Shaun O’Sullivan’s 52nd birthday. Shaun is one my favorite people in the industry. He’s a tireless champion for craft beer and very supportive of other brewers, such as with his fun collaboration projects. He’s one of the founders and organizers of SF Beer Week and through his brewpub puts on many special and educational events all year, not to mention his extensive travel schedule. His new production brewery in San Leandro recently opened, and it appears to be going great. Plus, he’s one of the few people brave enough to read the rough draft of my book, Under the Table, and even claim to like it. Now that’s a friend. I just can’t say enough good things about Sully, so I’ll stop here. Join me in wishing Shaun a very Happy Birthday.

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Shaun O’Sullivan and business partner Nico Freccia in the front of their brewpub.

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Shaun and me outside the Bistro after judging the Double IPA Festival.

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Shaun O’Sullivan with Don Barkley of Napa Smith Brewing on the first day of SF Beer Week.

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Nico with Dave Keene and Shaun at a can party at the Toronado.

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Nico and Shaun in lederhosen during 21st Amendment’s Beer Bus School.

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But this by far my favorite, it’s hard to understand how he could have given up all that to start a brewery.

Beer Birthday: Brian Stechschulte

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Today is also the birthday of Brian Stechschulte, former executive director of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, who is now working for Speakeasy Ales & Lagers as their Public Relations & Media Director. I’m just guessing at Brian’s age, but by my reckoning he’s got to be about 38 this year. In addition to his paying work with the guild and SF Beer Week, he also writes online at All Over Beer and Bygone Beer. Brian’s a terrific ambassador for beer and a great addition to the industry now that’s a working stiff. I think of him as a kindred spirit. Please join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

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Brian’s profile picture, used without permission but begged for here in the hopes that in the spirit of its use will be granted magnanimously.

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Brian and me with San Francisco mayor Ed Lee at this year;s SF Beer Week opening gala.

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Bob Brewer, from Anchor Brewing, with Brian at GABF a couple of years ago.

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Brian after grad school graduation in 2003. Notice the can of beer he’s drinking.
[Note: The last two photos purloined from Brian’s Facebook friends, blame them.]

Beer Birthday: John Martin

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Today is the 56th birthday of John Martin, one of the founders of Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse in Berkeley. John, with his brother Reid, started on of the first five brewpubs in the U.S., and the only one that’s still owned by the same family that founded it. John also owns Drake’s Brewing and the Jupiter Taproom, too. He’s active in the local beer community and also with the CCBA, plus he’s a great guy with a very distinctive laugh. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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Christian Kazakoff, former brewer at Triple Rock (now at Iron Springs) with John during the 2008 Firkin Fest.

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John, with his brother Reid, and Triple Rock brewmaster Rodger Davs at the brewpub’s 25th anniversary.

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John, me and Peter Hoey at last year’s opening gala for SF Beer Week.

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John in the brewhouse with his brother 26 years ago, on opening day.