Today is the 65th birthday of Mark Ruedrich, co-owner, and original brewer, of North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg. Mark was a marine biologist who discovered good beer while living in England. Looking for a spot to build a brewery in Northern California, he was drawn to the tidal pools around Fort Bragg, and built a mini-beer empire there beginning in 1988. His Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout was one of the first truly great world-class beers made by early American microbreweries and helped put the nascent industry on the map. Plus he’s great fun to share a pint with. Join me in wishing Mark a very happy birthday.
Today is the 64th birthday of Steve Grossman, the Beer Ambassador at Sierra Nevada, and co-founder Ken Grossman’s older brother. “Steve grew up in Southern California, where he and his younger brother Ken learned about the art of home brewing. Steve continued to homebrew throughout college, and when Ken founded Sierra Nevada in 1980, Steve’s passion for craft beer was immediately put to good use. In the early years of the brewery, he helped establish the Southern California distribution network, and was involved in direct sales. Today, Steve works with Sierra Nevada’s international export program, and serves as an ambassador and spokesperson for the brewery both domestically and abroad. Steve also serves as a director of the brewery’s wildly popular Beer Camp, which brings people to Sierra Nevada for a unique and intensive hands-on beer education.” Steve is a terrific ambassador not just for Sierra Nevada but for craft beer more generally. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.
Damn. Go big or go home, I guess. Tony Magee never does anything small … or halfway. Today Lagunitas Brewing announced a number of big changes and new ventures they’ve undertaken. Here’s the first part of the press release, laying out the general idea.
The Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma CA is excited to announce that we are expanding the way we participate in some of the great communities that have helped us learn and grow as brewers. We believe that beer is the original social media and we know that the best way to connect with beer lovers is face to face, over a beer.
Today we are announcing a set of intense local alliances with very special local brewers whose work we admire and are proud to partner with. They are four completely different partnering situations and in concert we will learn from one another and help build our breweries together culturally and geographically.
We don’t live in a world of either/or, our world is both/and. Drawing from the best of the best to find new possibilities is the most thrilling way forward.
The why and how differs from one cultural region to another but the intention remains the same: Connect with, learn from and support our communities. “We expect to be surprised by the things that we encounter as we grow these relationships. This will be a big learning experience for us” says Tony Magee, Founder of Lagunitas.
And here they are, though I’ve re-ordered them in order of importance to me personally. Not exactly scientific, but hey, this is a personal blog, so there you have it. By far, the most surprising, though exciting one, is a joint venture with Brian Hunt and his Moonlight Brewing Co.
Moonlight Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA)
We’re thrilled to be entering into a joint venture with Moonlight Brewing Company. We will work alongside Brian and his people to expand the reach of a genuine national treasure. Moonlight opened in 1992, (the year before Lagunitas) at a time when the term “craft” didn’t even exist. Over the years, we’ve long enjoyed a great friendship with brewer/owner Brian Hunt and have huge respect for is people, the beers he brews and the reputation he has created. We’re looking forward to learning together and having a blast doing it.
Independence Brewing Company (Austin, TX)
Lagunitas will combine resources with the great Independence Brewing of Austin TX to help them grow their brewing capacity and do more of what it is that they already do so well. Independence Brewing founders Amy and Rob Cartwright, along with their great people, will continue to lead their company and will help us deepen our own connection to Austin and the Lone Star State. We’re looking forward to learning from each other and sharing our local connections.
A Non-Profit Fund Raising Community Room #1 (NE Portland, OR)
On August 1st, Lagunitas will open the doors to our first Community Room, dedicated 100% to supporting non-profits with their fundraising efforts. The beer and the space will be completely donated to any bona fide Non-Profit organization so that they can focus on raising the funds they need to carry out their respective missions. A Lagunitas team and live music will be on-hand to ensure turnkey execution of the event and most importantly that all of their guests have a great time!
A 2nd Non-Profit Fund Raising Community Room (San Diego, CA)
Our 2nd Community Room will open January 2017. This space will also be made available exclusively to Non-Profit groups for fund raising.
A Lagunitas Taproom & Beer Sanctuary (Historic District Charleston, SC)
Lagunitas is under contract with the beautiful Southend Brewery and Smokehouse of Charleston, SC to convert the long time brewpub to a new Lagunitas Taproom and Beer Sanctuary in the heart of Old Charleston on famous East Bay Street. This turn-of-the-century landmark will be a cornerstone location for Lagunitas in the Southeast, offering small batch beers that are exclusive to the Charleston Taproom and brewed in the existing 10-barrel brewhouse. The Taproom also offers two different floors of event space which we will make available to local non-profits for their fundraising efforts. A Grand Opening party and more information to come in the near future.
Here, I’ll pick up with the remainder of the press release, giving more explanation.
This new thing for us represents our way forward into the brave new world of the brave new world of beer’s brave new world. I say brave thrice because it is exactly that; We don’t know exactly how this will unfold over time or what unforeseen paths forward it will reveal.
These new relationships will be learning experiences for all four of us. We all know that we love beer, we all know that we love brewing and the community that gathers around its fire. We all know that we all want to grow and make new connections. We know we all want to be productive and learn. We know we all want to earn a living and make a home for our employees who’ve put their chips down on the table alongside our own.
As we all learn and begin to grow together in this new paradigm I believe that we will find more partners in other parts of the country that we can also share with and cultivate regional relationships through. If we can get this first step right then it is just the beginning for all of us.
Lagunitas is the lead in the relationship because we gained adequate scale to be able to borrow the money it will take to be the lead and to help, but scale is not insight and money is not creativity. Insight and creativity are everything. They are the cornerstones of small brewing. That is the space where our four teams of brewers and marketers and managers are all standing eye to eye, playing together to try to make magic happen, and I for one am very sure it will. What form it will take will be ours to find out.
One thing is for certain, the future will not be like the past! Furthur….
And, of course, Tony weighed in with his own take on the changes, though this was originally meant to preface the above information, but I wanted to lead with the news first.
Greetings Fellow Travelers,
Over the last 23 years of running-off the mash and filling the kettle we have come to understand that the new world of small brewing is less a ‘thing’ than it is a ‘journey’. A point on a curve. Jack Joyce, founder of Rogue Brewing in Newport, once said that we’re not in the beer business, we are in the ‘change business’. Ask any brewer older than 5 years and they will tell you that in 2010 small brewing was a whole other place. Ask one older than that and they will tell you the same about 2005, and 2000, and especially 1995. And so it is that 2020 will be unrecognizable to the brewers of 2016.
One thing that hasn’t changed though is the personal connection that beer lovers want with the people that make the beer they take into their bodies in the hope it will thrill their tastebuds as it enters their blood enroute to their brains to make it do tricks. This is pretty personal stuff and as brewers our job is to make that connection.
Last September we announced our own way of relating to the world outside of the United States through a joint venture with the last of the largest family-controlled (meet Charlene De Carvalho-Heineken..!) brewer in the world. Most U.S. beer lovers don’t know too much about the family and I really didn’t either until I began to meet them and understand them and their company and grew to love them as people and a company.
There is an old expression friends sometimes use when the go to lunch, ‘Let’s go Dutch’, meaning let’s split the bill. That expression, I’ve learned, comes from a place and a people. You haft’a wonder how it is that a small, mostly flooded, lowland country ever became a global colonial superpower? Most know that New York was once called New Amsterdam but most also don’t know that Brooklyn and Bronx and other local names are actually Dutch names too. The answer to the question is pretty straightforward: The went Dutch. The cooperated, collaborated, shared risk, partnered, co-invested and joint ventured. This is what we built with Heineken, we are pulling on the rope together.
I have seen that one way they achieved their own goals of growing Heineken was and is now to co-invest in local brewers around the globe, not to ‘consolidate’ or dominate or reduce competition, but to expand and nurture the opportunities to the benefit of themselves AND their partners. They do this with big brewers and with brewers far smaller than ourselves in all 24 time zones.
If one were to take a line drawing of a map of the borders of the 50 United States and lay that line drawing over the continent of, say, Europe, it would look a lot like, well, Europe. There’d be spaces the size of France and the UK inside of Nevada and Illinois and there’d be a Rhode Island like there is a Monaco and so on. In Europe nationalism matters and each country has historically meaningful brewers that are important to those individual countries. All over the world, beer is local. It’s gradually becoming more so here too. But Americans still like to think of us all as Americans and we have liked having 50-state nationally distributed brewers.
In the past, before and just after prohibition this wasn’t really so, but it became that way over time. Now it is going back the other way. Small brewing has played a role in re-igniting regional pride the way music and locally-sourced food is doing the same.
Having said all that, it’s no secret that the U.S. is a whole lot of places stitched together by a constitution, right? I mean, good people from Florida are very different from good people from South Dakota and Oregonians would never mistake themselves for Texans. Even Wisconsinites sometimes call Illinoisans ‘Flatlanders’ while some Minnesotans still think that grave-robbing is called date-night in North Dakota (it’s an old Johnny Carson joke….all apologies to North Dakota). There will always be nationally distributed brands and I sincerely hope that Lagunitas can continue to find a place in peoples hearts irrespective of geography by working to be something close to the bone, rooted to a fundamental human experience that actually does cross borders fluidly. But local matters, and will matter even more in the future.
This is very cool actually, because it means that if we can be genuinely local we can be part of the future. When we became genuinely local in Chicago we found lots and lots of new friends that we might not have by just shipping it in from the Left Coast. We’re already feeling the same vibe in Southern California even as we construct our new brewery there. It’s a great thing to be able to do. However we can’t do that everywhere. But….we can go Dutch everywhere, and that’s exactly what we are doing right here right now.
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.
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.
A very young Steve, at right, with Michael Jackson and Lou. (Photo by Tom Dalldorf, from the Celebrator Beer News.)
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.)
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.
Today is the 55th birthday of Ron Lindenbusch, who’s been with the Lagunitas Brewery since the very beginning. I first met Ron and founder Tony Magee when I visited the brewery in its original location in the mid-1990s. Ron has been a huge part of bringing the brewery along to where it is today, and is a terrific person and a good friend. Join me in wishing Ron a very happy birthday.
Today is the 64th birthday of Charlie Bamforth, who is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at U.C. Davis (and was my teacher when I took the brewing short course there). His two most recent books should be on your must read list: Beer Is Proof That God Loves Us and Grape vs. Grain. He’s a terrific advocate for beer and a great person. He was also kind enough to speak to beer appreciation class that I recently taught at Sonoma State University. Join me in wishing Charlie a very happy birthday.
Charlie with John Dannerbeck from Anchor Brewing, at a reception held there for the launch of Charlie’s new book.
Charlie being courted by both wine and beer on his publisher’s blog, Cambridge University Press.
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.
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.
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.
Two shots of the festival grounds before it began Saturday morning. The calm before the storm.
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.
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.
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.