Beer Birthday: Alex Puchner

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Today is the 55th birthday of Alex Puchner, who’s the Senior Vice President of Brewing Operations, and its first brewmaster, for the BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse chain. He started with the chain in 1996, a co-founder, when they built their first brewpub. Alex had been homebrewing for a decade before that first brewery. There now have 174 locations in 23 states, although they backed away from their brewpub model and contract most of their beer, but have added lost of guest taps and good bottled imports, including a great selection from Belgium. Alex has been very active over the years in the beer community and the CCBA, and has been great for beer in California, providing many people’s first introduction to craft beer with BJ’s. Join me in wishing Alex a very happy birthday.

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Alex with Greg Hall, formerly with Goose Island, during a visit to San Francisco a few years ago.

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Alex in the brewhouse (Note: purloined from Facebook).

Beer Birthday: Steve Wagner

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Today is Steve Wagner’s 58th birthday. Steve is a co-founder of Stone Brewing and the president of the California Craft Brewers Association. In the late 1980s, Steve was a member of the band “The Balancing Act,” who put out several albums on I.R.S. Records. Now he just presides over one of the most successful microbreweries in the U.S. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Mitch Steele, Stone Brewing’s brewmaster, with Steve, at CBC when it was in Austin, Texas.

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The Stone crew: Arlan Arnsten, Steve and Greg Koch at CBC in San Diego 2008.

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With Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch in a publicity shot (by John Schulz Photography).

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The day after we tried all of Stone’s Vertical Epic’s in San Diego; with Steve, me, Joe Tucker, Jason and Todd Alstrom and Greg Koch.

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Lee Chase with Steve on April 14, 1999 celebrating their first bottling run on their then new Maheen bottler. [Note: photos purloined from Stone Brewing’s website.]

Beer Birthday: Tom McCormick

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Today is the 59th birthday of Tom McCormick, Executive Director of the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA). Tom’s also owned and ran a distributorship and the Pro Brewer website, worked with Wolaver’s for a time, but has found his true calling promoting and defending small brewers in California. Tom is the most unflappable person I’ve ever met, and hands down one of my favorite people in the industry. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.

Tom McCormick, Nancy Johnson & Dave Buehler @ Wynkoop
Tom, with Nancy Johnson and Dave Buehler at Wynkoop for GABF last year.

Stan Hieronymus & Tom McCormick @ Great Divide
With Stan Hieronymus Great Divide’s annual media reception.

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Tom with Amy Dalton, from All About Beer magazine at the World Beer Cup dinner in San Diego.

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Tom and Nancy Johnson at a BA dinner.

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Tom and me at the 2012 Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluesapalooza.

Beer Birthday: Rich Higgins

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Today is the 38th birthday of Rich Higgins, who wears many hats in the San Francisco beer scene. He left his job as the brewmaster at San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery a few years ago, and was also the President of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and Director of SF Beer Week for a time. He’s currently focusing his attention on his consulting, Rich Higgins Consultant à la Bière, and most recently has been brewing at San Francisco’s Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar. Rich is also one of only six people to have earned the title “Master Cicerone.” I’ve gotten to know Rich working on SF Beer Week over the last few years, and he’s a great person, as well as a terrific brewer. Join me in wishing Rich a very happy birthday.

Rich Higgins at the Social Kitchen Brewery
Rich at the Social Kitchen Brewery.

Dave McLean & Rich Higgins at Magnolia
Dave McLean owner of Magnolia, and Rich, at the brewpub during SF Beer Week two years ago.

Rich Higgins, me and Hop-Meisters hop farmer Marty Kuchinski
Rich, me and Hop-Meisters hop farmer Marty Kuchinski.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
Rich, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with 4 bottles of dessert at the end of a Sierra Nevada beer dinner in Chico two Decembers back.

Beer Bornday: Fraggle

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Today would have been the 49th birthday of Mark Martone, better known to the beer world as “Fraggle.” Fraggle always called them borndays, so I’ll continue that tradition for him. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke two years ago in late June and passed away a few days later, on July 5, 2014. Fraggle, along with Rebecca Boyles, founded the terrific Beer Revolution in Oakland, near Jack London Square on 3rd Street. I first met Fraggle when I featured him and Rebecca in an article I did for Beer Advocate magazine on beer geeks several years ago. It’s been great to see them turn their passion into their livelihood, and go from civilian to pro over the last few years. Join me in wishing Fraggle a very happy bornday, and raise a toast to his memory today or tonight or all day long. He would have wanted it that way.

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Fraggle and Jen Muehlbauer at the Celebrator 25th anniversary party in 2013.

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Jesse Friedman, Fraggle and Ron Silberstein at the Anchor Holiday Party in 2012.

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With Steve Donohue and me at the SF Beer Week opening gala in 2014.

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Pouring beer for Linden Street at the Winter Brews Festival in 2010.

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Rebecca and Fraggle at Santa Rosa’s Beerfest in 2007.

Beer Birthday: Bill Brand

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Today would have been Bill Brand’s 78th birthday, if not for the tragic events of February 8, 2009. Bill, of course, was hit by a Muni Train that evening and passed away twelve days later, on February 20. He was a bastion of support for the local beer community for decades, and one of it’s most visible media faces. He did a staggering amount of good to help brewers throughout the Bay Area, and wrote about the beer he loved so much with an unmatched passion and zeal. His Bottoms Up blog was read by millions, the newest form of his What’s On Tap newsletter that stretched back into the early 1990s. It was my great honor to take over his column and try to continue his legacy of support for craft brewers in the Bay Area and beyond. Drink a toast to the memory and legacy of William “Bill” Brand today. Happy birthday Bill, you are most certainly missed.

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Dueling laptops; Bill and me at Magnolia on February 6 for the tapping of Napa Smith Original Albion Ale by Don Barkley. Photo by Shaun O’Sullivan.

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At the Falling Rock during GABF week in 2004. Clockwise from left, Bill, Lisa Morrison, me, Tom Dalldorf, Stephen Beaumont and my cousin Mike, who lived in Denver at the time.

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Bill toasting with a pitcher of Oakland’s new Linden Street Brewery, with Fraggle at the far right, whose birthday would also have been today. Photo by RRifkin.

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Bill taking notes at the Monk’s Blood Dinner at 21st Amendment, February 8, 2009. Photo by Jesse Friedman of Beer & Nosh.

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Drink a toast to Bill today, it’s how he would have wanted to be remembered.

Beer Birthday: Anat Baron

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Today is the birthday of filmmaker Anat Baron, whose Beer Wars movie started people writing and talking about the beer business, from all sorts of angles, five years ago, and while it’s slowed down, the discussion has yet to have completely gone away. Or as Alan from A Good Beer Blog puts it, “joined to the long standing discussion about the beer business and added an interesting interpretation.” Love it or loathe it, it has certainly managed to capture people’s attention, and if that’s all it’s done, that’s still a huge positive to my way of thinking. But it’s also opened quite a few minds to what those of us who’ve been embedded in the beer business have known forever, which is how the business operates, where it’s fair and unfair, and what you can do as a consumer to support the beers and breweries you love. Join me in wishing Anat a very happy birthday.

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Anat behind the bar.

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Publicity photo for Beer Wars.

Beer Birthday: Lee Chase

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Today is the 43rd birthday of Lee Chase, co-owner of Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego, and brewer at Automatic Brewing, located in the Blind Lady’s back room, and brewery consultant to the stars. Chase was also the head brewer at Stone Brewing for nearly a decade and oversaw the building and installation of the new brewery in Escondido. Lee’s a terrific brewer and a great beer ambassador, and also great fun to hang out with a share a pint, which I was able to do a few Decembers ago at the Stone Vertical Epic Tasting. Please join me in wishing Lee a very happy birthday.

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Lee at Beer School for CitySearch San Diego in 2008.

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Lee, with Meg Gill, Garrett Marrero and Matthew Brynildson at CBC in San Diego a few years ago.

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Greg Koch and Lee at the Stone 5th Anniversary Open House Celebration, which later became the “Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.”

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Lee with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner on April 14, 1999 celebrating their first bottling run on their then new Maheen bottler. [Note: photos purloined from Facebook & Stone Brewing.]

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Lee, and several other Stone employees, along with some other beer people, around 1996.

Beer Birthday: Alexandra Nowell

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Today is also the birthday of Alexandra Nowell, brewmaster of the recently opened Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, southwest of L.A. She’s brewed previously at a variety of Bay Area breweries, including Moylan’s and Drakes, before moving south to Kinetic Brewing a few years ago. More recently, she joined Three Weavers, located in Inglewood. Join me in wishing Alexandra a very happy birthday.

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The Drake’s/Stone Quarter Century of Issues Celebrator 25th Anniversary Pale Ale brew crew (from left to right): Drake’s owner John Martin, Stone Northern California regional brewery rep. Dave Hopwood, Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele, Stone San Francisco regional brewery rep Michael “Zippo” Parzick and, obviously the only one doing any real work, then-Drake’s brewmaster Alexandra (on the brew deck).

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Alexandra scooping out spent grain at Drake’s.

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With Jesse Houck, who also worked at Drake’s, and for a time brewed at Golden Road. in L.A., but more recently moved to Hawaii to brew on Maui with Maui Brewing.

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Alexandra with Mike “Tasty” McDole (purloined, er … borrowed from the Weekly Pint)

Beer Birthday: Jason Chavez

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Today is the 48th birthday of Jason Chavez, who’s the brewmaster at Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz. Chavez started homebrewing while still in high school on his family’s kitchen stove. He’s a graduate of the American Brewers Guild, and has been brewing at Seabright since 1999. I believe I first met Jason many years ago at the Rock Bottom in Denver during a GABF week, but I still run into him occasionally at events. Seabright celebrated their 25th anniversary two years ago, when I spent the day at the brewery to do a story on their silver anniversary. Join me in wishing Jason a very happy birthday.

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Jason with Dave Heist, from HopTown Brewing, and Gene and Cindy Acevedo, from El Toro Brewing, during the Brewer’s Reception at GABF in 2002.

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Jason at the helm of the brewery when I visited him in early 2013 to wrote about Seabright’s 25th anniversary.

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Here’s a great shot by Dan Coyro, from an article in Santa Cruz Sentinnel.

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Jason, in the center, surrounded by Seabright folks at the 10th annual Stumptown Russian River Revival and BBQ Cook-Off.

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Jason, again in the center, at GABF (Note: last two photos purloined from Seabright’s website).