Beer Birthday: Michael Demers

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Today is the 49th birthday of Michael Demers, brewmaster of Discretion Brewing in Soquel, which is near Santa Cruz. Michael’s been brewing most of his adult life, and originally started at some Colorado brewpubs before working at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins. More recently, he moved closer to home to brew at Boulder Creek Brewing, and in 2012 made it back to his home town of Soquel to help open Discretion. He’s making some great beers at Discretion, and winning awards for his efforts. Join me in wishing Michael a very happy birthday.

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Michael goofing around in the brewery.

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All dressed up with someplace to go, Michel and his wife Eileen on their way to sing at a concert performance at Mission Carmel last December.

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Showing off his medal at last year’s GABF in Denver.

Beer Birthday: Jeremy Cowan

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Today is Jeremy Cowan’s 46th birthday. Jeremy owns Shmaltz Brewing, makers of He’Brew. Jeremy is a good friend and we’ve known one another since he first pitched He’Brew to me at BevMo many years ago (which is detailed in Jeremy’s memoir Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah). Though Jeremy splits his time between San Francisco and New York, I still manage to see him at beer events pretty frequently, but less so now that he’s built a brick and mortar brewery in upstate New York. Join me in wishing Jeremy a very happy birthday.

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Jeremy, with City Beer Store owner Craig Wathen.

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A few years ago at the Toronado for a He’Brew release party. From left: Alec Moss, recently retired from Half Moon Bay Brewing, Pete Slosberg, Jeremy, and Rodger Davis, when he was still with Drake’s Brewing.

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Jeremy with Rich Norgrove, with Bear Republic, at GABF in 2006.

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Me and Jeremy at the Bistro Double IPA Fest in 2009.

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Jeremy shortly after he launched the Shmaltz beers, before all the grey hairs set in. (Thanks to the anonymous source that sent me this photo.)

Beer Birthday: Christian Kazakoff

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Today is Christian Kazakoff’s 44th birthday. Christian is the head brewer at Iron Springs Pub & Brewery in Fairfax, California. I’ve gotten to know Christian much better since we shared a room for a week in London several years ago to attend the Old Ale Festival at the White Horse on Parson’s Green. Besides being a terrific person, he is also a stellar brewer. Join me in wishing Christian a very happy birthday.

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Christian after a sleepless night setting up before the Bay Area Firkin Fest at Triple Rock several years ago.

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Christian at Fuller’s in London, along with Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment Brewery and our tour guide Derek Prentice, during a trip to London a few years back.

Mild-mannered Christian Kazakoff becoming Super Brewer
Flying the flag in 2010 at the Celebrator Party at the end of the 2nd SF Beer Week.

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In March, at the Fairfax Beerfest a few years ago.

Beer Birthday: Drew Beechum

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Today is the 41st birthday of Drew Beechum, who’s a past president of the Maltose Falcons homebrewing club and its current webmeister. He’s also the author of The Everything Homebrewing Book: All you need to brew the best beer at home! and writes a regular column for Beer Advocate magazine. Join me in wishing Drew a very happy birthday.

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Drew’s Facebook Profile picture.

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Drew at 21st Amendment.

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Drew in a Jayne hat — from Firefly — with his wife, Aymee. (NOTE: All photos purloined from Facebook.)

Beer Birthday: Brenden Dobel

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Today is the 45th birthday of Brenden Dobel, head brewer at Thirsty Bear in San Francisco. Brenden grew up in the Bay Area, but learned brewing in Bavaria, at Doemans. He also brewed at Reccow and Broken Drum, before coming to Thirsty Bear over ten years ago. Brenden’s a terrific guy to share a pint with and discuss arcane subjects like history or English literature. If he hadn’t found brewing, he most likely would have ended up a teacher, or perhaps a sailor. Please join me in wishing Brenden a very happy birthday.

Shaun O'Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, and Brendan Dobel, Thirsty Bear
With Shaun O’Sullivan at the SF Brewers Guild festival in 2010.

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Brenden at some old unknown event.

Lars Larson (Trumer) & Brendan Dobbel (Thirsty Bear)
With Trumer brewmaster Lars Larson at the Celebrator’s 22nd anniversary party in 2010.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden & Aron Deorsey with our 4 bottles of dessert at a Sierra Nevada beer dinner after beer camp a few years ago where we made a beer for SF Beer Week.

Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2015

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After missing this festival for the past few years, I finally made it back to judge this year’s Bistro IPA Festival. This year’s big winner was Solana Beach IPA, from Pizza Port Solana Beach, which was chosen best in show, out of 70 IPA offerings, at the 18th annual IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

The California Drought: Almonds, Water (And Beer)

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You probably noticed that California is living under severe drought conditions, especially since governor Jerry Brown recently imposed restrictions on our water use. One of the frequent industries to bear the brunt of blame is, of course, agriculture, which uses a lot of water to feed the country. But more specifically, a lot of blame has come down on almonds with stories in the Chronicle, the Guardian and even Slate declaring 10 Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming, among many others. I haven’t paid too much attention to that, mostly for the selfish reason that I’m not much of a fan of almonds, and couldn’t care less if they stopped growing them.

Gizmodo has an interesting article suggesting that all that stuff about almonds was hooey entitled Seriously, Stop Demonizing Almonds. In a persuasive piece, it’s revealed that “Almonds might take 10 percent of the state’s water, but as the same report notes, they’re generating about 15 percent of the state’s total farming value and almost 25 percent of the agricultural exports from the state.” Of course, I’m no expert on these things, but I encourage you to read it and decide for yourself.

But I actually bring this up for wholly non-almond related reasons. Something in the article caught my attention, which is the chart below. It’s an infographic which originally was published in the L.A. Times, which the Gizmodo author, Alissa Walker, characterizes as a “very misguided infographic of “water-hungry foods.” The title indicates it shows the relative amount of water used to make the finished product, “Gallons of water per ounce of food.”

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But look where beer is on the chart. Beverages are in blue. Soymilk looks like it uses the most, but apparently there was an error that’s now been corrected, and it’s actually pineapple juice that’s the biggest water hog, using 6.36 gallons per ounce of juice. Compared to all the drinks listed, beer looks to be the most efficient, and the interactive portions of the chart on the L.A. Times website indicates that beer uses 1.96 gallons to produce one ounce of beer. But even that seems high.

A bunch of years ago I wrote a feature article for All About Beer entitled It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green: The Greening of America’s Breweries, that examined the steps breweries were taking to lighten their burden on the planet, not just with water, but all sorts of things. One thing I learned was that brewing used roughly a 10-to-1 ratio of water, meaning they use 10 gallons for every gallon of beer. At that time, I also found. “Examining smart ways to conserve water, several breweries have reduced that ratio to four or five-to-one and Uinta Brewery from Utah has gotten it down to 3-to-1.” More recently, the Brewers Association’s Water and Wastewater: Treatment/Volume Reduction Manual claims that the average is now more like 7-to-1 gallons, with a few breweries actually below 3-to-1. Two years ago, Environmental Leader reported that MillerCoors managed to get their ratio of water use down to “3.82 barrels of water per barrel of beer.”

But even staying with a ratio of 10-to-1 for ease of math, this seems egregiously high. Converting the L.A. Times figure of 1.96 gallons to 1 ounce figure to ounces, it becomes 250.88 ounces of water per ounce of beer, or a 251-to-1 ratio, or 25 times reality, and undoubtedly more.

So where did this figure come from? All the Times reveals about its methodology is this. “Totals were converted to U.S. gallons per ounce (weight). Beverage values were additionally converted into fluid ounces using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.” But that doesn’t really tell us where they got the numbers they’re basing this on. It doesn’t really tell us anything. But one thing seems clear, breweries are relatively efficient in their water use, much more so than is being reported during the California drought. And that brings us back to a statement U.S. Davis professor Charlie Bamforth recently made, which seems even more relevant in light of this. “When in drought, drink more beer.”

Beer Birthday: Alex Puchner

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Today is the 54th 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 159 locations in 18 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 57th 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).

Beer Birthday: Tom McCormick

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Today is the 58th 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.