Beer Camp #93: Celebrator 25th Anniversary Double Pale Ale

In anticipation of the 25th Anniversary of the Celebrator Beer News magazine, which takes place this year, we decided to make a special beer to commemorate our silver anniversary. So in December of last year, the largest Sierra Nevada Beer Camp took place when eighteen writers for the brewspaper assembled in Chico, along with state Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro, who leads the beer caucus in Sacramento, got together at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to make a beer. Our intrepid chronicler, Mike Condie, put together this great little 15-minute video of our Beer Camp.

The beer we made will be available at locations around the country starting around now and through SF Beer Week. Each writer at Beer Camp got to find a home for his or her kegs in their hometown. For example, my kegs will be at Taps in Petaluma and as a guest tap at Russian River Brewing.

The beer we made is essentially a Double Pale Ale, based on the original Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. We then imperialized it and changed the hop bill, with an eye toward reflecting past, present and future symbolically with the hops. For past, we of course used Cascades, for the present we chose Citra and for the future an experimental hop with no name, only a number. The beer finished at 9.3% a.b.v. Look for it during SF Beer Week events. It will also be pouring at the Celebrator 25th Anniversary Party at the Oakland Marriott on Sunday, February 17, the final big event of the 2013 beer week. Perhaps I’ll see you there.


Anchor Zymaster Series #3 Is Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout

Anchor Brewing announced today the release of the third beer in their Zymaster Series, a stout to be called Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

From the press release:

Named after a San Francisco sailing legend from a time when stouts were first exported to the West Coast, Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be released in selected Anchor markets in January 2013.

Our Zymaster® Series No. 3 (7.4% ABV) is a dry, Irish-style export stout akin to those brewed in the 1800s for the long voyage to San Francisco. Black as night, this high-gravity, malty brew offers intense but well-balanced flavors and aroma, with hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee.

The arrival of a clipper ship in gold-rush San Francisco brought mail and news of “the States,” would-be miners and entrepreneurs, boots, shovels, pickaxes, butter from New York, cigars from Havana, and stout from as far away as London and Dublin.
The stouts that San Franciscans imbibed in those days were no ordinary ales. They were export stouts—dark, intense, high-gravity brews created especially to survive a long voyage like those around Cape Horn.

It took the average clipper three to four months to sail from New York to San Francisco. But not the Flying Cloud, which, in 1851, made the trip in 89 days and 21 hours anchor to anchor. With the exception of its own 89 day and 8 hour voyage three years later, its record remained unbroken until 1989. Thanks to this clipper’s “extreme” design and the savvy of its captain, Josiah Creesy, and his wife and navigator Eleanor, the Flying Cloud quickly became a San Francisco sailing legend. We celebrate it and a legendary brewing tradition with our Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

That sounds tasty, I can’t wait to give their new stout a try.


The beer will be in stores and select bars any minute now. Here’s where it will be available.

Zymaster® Series No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be available in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia and Florida.

Bud Going To The Dark Side?

Maybe it’s Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter or Guinness that’s making Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) come over to the dark side? But whatever the reason, ABI is apparently poised to release at least five, possibly six, new beers which, if not actually black, have significantly more color than your average ABI beer. And apparently they’re also more extreme beers — which for ABI means 6% a.b.v. (it’s all relative). The first of these, Bud Black Crown, is described as a “golden amber lager” so it would appear “Black Crown” is more of a ceremonial title than a beer descriptor. According to one label I saw, there’s apparently a website set up — — though so far there’s nothing set up there yet. The Black Crown came from the Budweiser Project 12, specifically the Los Angeles entry. According to AdAge, there will most likely be a big marketing push behind this release, which may include a Super Bowl ad, and — ooh boy — a specially designed bow-tie can. The Black Crown is expected to be launched in early February.


Next up is Michelob Black Lager, a “Special Dark Lager” and advertised as a “German-style Doppelbock.” There’s not much information I could find on this one, so it’s anybody’s guess what this will be like.


Then, from the Busch family comes Busch Black Light. So either they’re going after the old hippies with their black light posters or having a bit of oxymoronic fun like “jumbo shrimp” or “black gold.” This one’s also something of a head-scratcher. It, too, is 6% a.b.v. — high for a light — and also mentions being “ice-brewed.” It couldn’t be a “black light,” like a black IPA, could it? That seems way too far-fetched, doesn’t it? So what is it? I’m stumped.


And let’s not forget the Newark, New Jersey (née Latrobe, Pennsylvania) brand Rolling Rock. They’re coming out with Rolling Rock Black Rock, an “Extra Dark,” which presumably means it’s as “extra dark” as their regular beer is “extra pale ale.”


Lastly, there’s ABI’s German brand, Beck’s, which is brewed here in the states. Beck’s will apparently be launching two brand extensions, presumably hoping to squeeze more shelf space out of Bud-friendly retailers. The first of these is Beck’s Black Jewel. It appears that it was also be 6% a.b.v. — which I’m starting to think is a magic number — and is brewed with Liberty hops, and could possibly be a single-hop beer. No world, however, on the beer’s color.


Lastly, this one’s more of a stretch, darkside-wise. Beck’s Sapphire looks like it will either be a single hop beer or at least feature the German hop Sapphire (a.k.a. Saphir). But it does have a dark green and black label, so who knows? It, too, will be 6% a.b.v. (so that’s four out of six). Also, I always thought sapphires were blue and my understanding is that if impurities like chromium get into the gem, then it’s called “red corundum,” or more commonly a “ruby.” So who knows what the deal is with the red sapphire?


So why is ABI suddenly going over to the dark side with beer color, labels and in their naming strategies? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s not as if dark beers have suddenly started taking off last week. Guinness has been around for a very long time, and most craft breweries have included a porter or stout in their portfolios for decades. Although we don’t even know if these will even be black in color. It seems doubtful, more likely they’ll just be darker in relation to Bud’s other offerings, in much the same way the original pale ales weren’t really pale, just paler than the popular dark beers at the time of their introduction. Again, it’s all relative. Plus, calling beers “black” this or that just sounds cooler, especially to the hipster millennials they’re obviously targeting with these beers. Some have speculated that it’s in response to the recent success that Yuengling has enjoyed with their (slightly) darker beers, but I don’t know. It certainly will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months.

Russian River Toronado 25th Anniversary Beer

Today Russian River Brewing‘s newest beer is being released, and it’s been some time in the making. It’s a blended beer made with six beers, only two of which are actual finished beers made before, with the other four being brewed just for blending purposes. Some of the beers had been aging for many months before finally being blended and bottled in April of this year, with additional yeast added to referment in the bottle. The beer, if you haven’t guessed, is the Toronado 25th Anniversary, made for the San Francisco pub’s silver anniversary which takes place next week, though the celebrating has already begun.

Tuesday night there was an intimate beer dinner in the back room of the Toronado, to introduce the new beer for their 25th anniversary, which was called the “Toronado 25th Anniversary Dinner and Blending Session.” Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton did the food but was told he could only use one plate. In typical crazy Paxton bizarro world, he did exactly as he was told, but found the biggest plate any one of us had ever seen. The ginormous plate of many foods was paired with all six of the base beers used to create the beer.

Known as “The Plate,” it included 547 Pate (Willie Bird turkey thighs, Liberty Duck — breasts, hearts, livers — and Sonoma County pork, marinated in Toronado 25th Anniversary, mixed with bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, thyme and pistachios), Haight Street Sausage (Sonoma County pork — shoulder, jowl and belly meat — cold smoked in Russian River Consecration barrel staves and mixed with currants soaked in Toronado 20th Anniversary, caramelized shallots and lemon thyme), Egg Head Customers (quail eggs pickled in malt vinegar infused with coriander, bay leaves, chilies and salt with red beets and sugar, garnished with a mushroom flaked sale), Fungi Dave (Petaluma chicken sous vide in Russian River Beatification, chopped and mixed with fennel, candied lemon peel and a Beatification aioli with paper thin mushroom slices, garnished with fennel pollen and truffle salt), Duck Duck Canapé (Liberty Duck confit in Toronado 25th Anniversary, made into rillettes infused with dried sour cherries topped with confit duck hearts on a hemp chia and sesame seed cracker), Riff Riff Salad (Mixed marble potatoes, green bean, yellow wax bean, apple smoked bacon and hydroponic watercress salad tossed with a Beatification funkigrette), Bejkr Bread, Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese, Beatification Jelly, Fatted Calf European-style Ham, and a slice of ripe melon.

The six base beers were:

  1. Sonambic
  2. Blonde Ale
  3. Strong Pale Ale
  4. Ale Aged with Currants
  5. Strong Dark Ale
  6. Baltic Porter

Around 60-70 people in the back room of the Toronado for the Toronado 25th Anniversary Dinner and Blending Session.

I was fortunate enough to be seated at the table with my friend (and Washoes partner), Toronado owner Dave Keene, along with ….

Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing.

Each table setting included a pipette and an empty tulip glass so that everyone could use the six base beers to blend their own beer.

Arne Johnson, from Marin Brewing, working on his own blend.

Jen Garris, from Pi Bar, Dave’s wife Jen Smith, and Natalie Cilurzo.

All six base beers with the finished product in the middle, the Toronado 25th Anniversary. If you look closely in the center, you can see the proportions for my two attempts at blending my own beers. Both of them turned out pretty well, with the second being more sour than the first (which was what I was going for).

There was also extra pate and the Toronado 25th Anniversary along with a taste of the Toronado 20th Anniversary beer, too.

Sean slipped in a second plate, with a dessert on it, a Toronado ‘Bar’ Cookie (a dark chocolate brownie topped with grafitti composed of oats, pistachios, dried cherries and ribbons of malt syrup).

Dave Keene showing off the special bread Sean Paxton made for him.

At the end of the evening, Vinnie revealed the actual blend percentages for the base beers used to create the Toronado 25th Anniversary, which were:

  1. Sonambic = 4%
  2. Blonde Ale = 16%
  3. Strong Pale Ale = 36%
  4. Ale Aged with Currants = 28%
  5. Strong Dark Ale = 12%
  6. Baltic Porter = 4%

Dave Keene and Vinnie Cilurzo at the end of a great evening, holding a bottle of the Toronado 25th Anniversary.

After which, the stogies came out and the evening began, with Matt Bonney, from Brouwers in Seattle, and Dave Keene getting things started. Thanks Dave, Jen, Sean, Vinnie and Natalie for spectacular evening. As of today, the new beer is available for sale. Pick up some as soon as you can, because when it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s more details on the Russian River Blog on how to get a bottle of your very own. Basically it’s $25 per bottle with a limit of two bottles per day, and it’s very limited. But stop by Russian River’s brewpub tonight for a taste of it on draft.

New Albion Beer Coming Back

Here’s some terrific news that I can finally talk about. I was there when discussions began during last year’s Great American Beer Festival. At the annual Samuel Adams media brunch — where the Longshot winners are announced — Jim Koch started talking with Jack McAuliffe, founder of the New Albion Brewery in 1977, America’s first modern microbrewery. A idea was hatched, and I was sworn to secrecy. But thanks to my friend John Holl, the cat is out of the bag. He’s got the full story at All About Beer, entitled The Return of New Albion: America’s First Craft Brewery Gets a Revival.

After talking and negotiating since last year, on July 3, Jack McAuliffe and Jim Koch mashed in the first New Albion beer Jack has made in many years. They’re making his pale ale, or at least as best Jack can recall it.

First, he had to hash out details with Koch and brewer Dean Gianocostas. The memories came mostly easy to McAuliffe who recalled temperatures, ingredients, and processes. While the brewers had sketched out a plan in advanced, but much was changed.
“We should do it Jack’s way,” said Koch with wide eyes as he listened to McAuliffe recall the recipe.

What they settled on was New Albion Ale, a pale ale “as faithfully” as McAuliffe could recall. Malt variations that replaced strains used in the 1970s were substituted, for example.

Jack McAuliffe and Jim Koch at the Boston brewery in Jamaica Plain.

The beer itself will debut at this year’s GABF. “Then, additional batches of New Albion Ale will be brewed at” one of the Sam Adams breweries and “distributed nationwide in 12-ounce 6-packs starting in January 2013. This is designed to be a one-shot deal so when it’s gone, it’s gone.” That will definitely be one to pick up.

It appears the new label will be very similar to the original.

Anchor Releases California Lager

Although SF Beer Week doesn’t officially launch until later tonight, there’s already been one event that took place at Anchor Brewing on Wednesday. Three weeks ago, they announced their new Zymaster Series and later revealed that the first beer in the series would be a pre-prohibition California Lager. Wednesday night, Anchor held an event to launch the new beer.

The new Anchor Zymaster Series No. 1: California Lager

Anchor co-owner Keith Gregor, Barb Condie, Steve Shapiro and me at Anchor Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Mike Condie.)

As I wrote before, Anchor based the beer on a lager from Boca Brewing, who is believed to have made the first one in the state, around 1875. The town of Boca was located in northeast California, roughy 6.5 miles from Truckee. In 1880 it had a population of around 200 people, though today it’s literally a ghost town. The brewery was founded in 1875 and closed in 1892, four years before the Anchor Brewery opened.

Me, Brenden Dobbel (from Thirsty Bear) and Shaun O’Sullivan (from 21st Amendment). (Photo courtesy of Mike Condie.)

An old ad featuring the Boca Lager, the inspiration for Anchor’s California Lager.

In addition to the California Lager, Anchor was also serving the latest batch of O.B.A. (Our Barrel Ale) which this time used a different blend and also the recent Brekle’s Brown.

There were plenty of other local brewers in attendance to try out the new beer. Here, from the left, is John Tucci (from the San Francisco Gordon Biersch), Aron Deorsey (from Beach Chalet) and Zambo (from 21st Amendment).

So how’d the beer taste? Consensus was that it was pretty good, an interesting beer. Having had several other pre-prohibition lagers, it tasted better than most of the others. In fact, I can’t think of one I enjoyed more. A lot of the others used corn, which was common then, but I believe Anchor’s is all-malt, and the taste seems to reflect that. It’s only slightly sweet, but smooth, and the Cluster hops are fairly muted and restrained. They never overpower the flavor of the beer, they’re just there for balance. The overall flavors are similarly mild, making the beer very sessionable.

Anchor Zymaster #1 To Be A California Lager

Yesterday Anchor Brewing announced their new line of beers under the “Zymaster Series,” with the first to debut during SF Beer Week in February.

This morning I spoke to the Zymaster himself — Mark Carpenter — who told me a bit more about the beer. It sounds like it will be a pretty interesting beer, and one I’m definitely looking forward to trying.

Carpenter told me they wanted to do something distinctly Californian, and they searched brewing logs and records that they could find from early California brewers. Reasoning that as soon as brewers had the technological ability to brew lagers, that’s what they did, so they turned their attention to lagers. In California, Boca Brewing is believed to have made the first lager in the state, around 1875 (according to American Breweries II). The town of Boca was located in northeast California, roughy 6.5 miles from Truckee. In 1880 it had a population of around 200 people, though today it’s literally a ghost town. The brewery was founded in 1875 and closed in 1892, four years before the Anchor Brewery opened.

So Anchor set about to recreate the first lager brewed in California. They used California-grown malt and California cluster hops. Clusters were the first hop variety grown in the United States. Though their origin is unknown, it has been “suggested that they arose from hybridization of varieties, imported by Dutch and English settlers and indigenous male hops.” They weren’t able to find enough cluster hops actually grown commercially in the state, but they did find cluster hops growing in Washington using the same bines that used to grow in California, before the hop-growing family took their rhizomes with them when they moved north from California to Washington.

So the first Zymaster Series beer from Anchor is also the first true lager they’ve made (with Steam beer being essentially a hybrid) and was brewed to try as best they could to replicate the first lagers brewed in California. It’s 5% a.b.v. and is a single-hop beer, using only Cluster hops. Because of quality issues in the late 19th century, lagers here tended to be more highly hopped then they are today, and Anchor’s new beer will also reflect that, though they have not yet calculated the IBUs, so no one can yet how hoppy the lager will be. Only one thing is certain, I can’t wait to see what it tastes like.


Anchor Announces New Zymaster Series

As promised on Friday, Anchor Brewing announced today a new series of beers they’ll be debuting during SF Beer Week. The new beers will be under the series designation “Zymaster,” which Anchor describes like this:

Zymaster n [Gk zyme leaven + master – more at ZYMURGY]
1: a new word coined by Anchor Brewing to describe a brewmaster with hands-on experience throughout the a-to-z process of creating a new beer, from the research and selection of the raw materials and development of a recipe to brewing, fermentation, cellaring, and finishing
2: a unique series of beers from Anchor Brewing, rooted in its exceptional respect for the ancient art and noble traditions of brewing and featuring extraordinary ingredients, innovative techniques, and unusual flavors


The first Zymaster Series beer will be released at select events during SF Beer Week, which this year is February 10-19. The initial offering will be “available on draught only in 13.2 gallon and 5.16 gallon kegs,” and “[i]nitial distribution will be focused in California.”

No word yet on what the first beer will taste like, whether it will hew closely to any recognizable style, what ingredients were used to brew it, or how often we can expect subsequent offerings in the Zymaster series. Updates as they emerge.

Anchor Teases About New Beer Series

Anchor Brewery is teasing us. Earlier today they tweeted this enigmatic photo that vaguely hints at a new series of beers from the oldest craft brewery in America. All the tweet says is that we have to wait until Monday. “We’re brewing up a special announcement for Monday, January 23. Here’s a little taste…” Can’t wait.


High Alcohol, Low Calories: Bud Light Platinum

This is a bit of a head scratcher. Though it’s been rumored for a while now, apparently it is coming, as AdAge is reporting that the TTB has given label approval for Bud Light Platinum. Though thought to be somewhere between 6% and 8% a.b.v., AdAge indicated the new low-calorie beer will weigh in at 6% and have 137 calories. Regular Bud Light is 4.2% a.b.v. and has 110 calories. And as regular Budweiser is 5% and 145 calories, it’s hard to see the point. Apparently, the idea is “to tap into the rising popularity of craft beers, which tend to be fuller bodied with more alcohol.” Sure, just throw in some alcohol, that should fool people. Apparently they’re missing the point that craft beer drinkers want flavor, not just higher octane. But given how successful the big brewers have been at convincing people to drink low-calorie light beers, I have little doubt this couldn’t work, too, however illogical I find the very notion of light beer.

ABI has also apparently registered the domain name, but it’s not yet an active website. There’s not even a placeholder there so it may be some time before we see the actual beer. ABI has also not yet made an official announcement or sent out a press release.