Beer Birthday: Jamil Zainasheff

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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.

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Jamil and me judging the finals at the Toronado Barleywine festival in 2007.

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Jamil and me at Anchor Brewery a couple of years ago.

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Jamil with Rodger Davis at Faction Brewing in May of last year. (Photo by Nathan Smith, purloined from Facebook.)

Historic Beer Birthday: Steve Harrison

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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.

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A very young Steve, at right, with Michael Jackson and Lou. (Photo by Tom Dalldorf, from the Celebrator Beer News.)

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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.)

Beer Birthday: Colin Kaminski

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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.

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Colin behind the bar at Downtown Joe’s.

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Colin, at right, with Kimberly Wood and the Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton at GABF in 2009.

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Colin, front and center, with the Downtown Joe’s crew visiting Anchor Brewing.
[Note: first three photos purloined from Colin’s Facebook page.]

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Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers

Beer Birthday: Ron Lindenbusch

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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.

Tweetup organizer Ashley, a.k.a. The Beer Wench, with Ron Lindenbusch, from Lagunitas
The Beer Wench, Ashley Routson, with Ron at a Tweet-Up at Lagunitas a couple of years ago.

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At a beer dinner at Horizons in Marin County, with Dean Biersch and Lynn, the chef at Hopmonk Tavern, Dean’s then-new venture in Sebastopol.

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Ron with Lagunitas owner Tony Magee’s sister Karen, who rep’s Lagunitas in the Chicago area, at SAVOR several years ago in Washington, D.C.

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Ron, with Shaun O’Sullivan, Zambo, Rich Rosen, me, Sarah, Lloyd Knight, Dave Suurballe and James Renfrew at Anchor’s annual Christmas Party a few years ago.

Beer Birthday: Charlie Bamforth

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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.

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Charlie with John Dannerbeck from Anchor Brewing, at a reception held there for the launch of Charlie’s new book.

Speakers at the Symposium: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie Bamforth
Charlie with fellow speakers at the Herbst Museum Symposium a few years ago, from left: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie.

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Charlie speaking at the first North American Guild of Beer Writers Symposium in Philadelphia in May.

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Charlie being courted by both wine and beer on his publisher’s blog, Cambridge University Press.

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: 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.

Stone Brewing To Open Taproom & Pilot Brewery In Napa

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Stone Brewing announced today that they were renovating the historic 10,000 square foot Borreo building in downtown Napa. Once completed, it will be a tap room and pilot brewery, which will do growler fills, as well as create exclusive beers for that location. The restaurant will use locally sourced food available “on premise or to take away picnic style.” The new Stone taproom is expected to open sometime next year.

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Here’s the press release from Stone Brewing:

Stone Brewing will begin renovations to a 10,000 square-foot iconic building in downtown Napa, bringing its bold and flavorful craft beer to the region well-known for its amazing wine. Stone’s newest outpost, located on 3rd Street and Soscol Avenue, will include a pilot brewing system, a dining experience, growler fills and Stone merchandise.

“The historic Borreo building is the perfect space for us to put down our roots in Napa,” said Greg Koch, Stone Brewing CEO & co-founder. “Not only is it literally made of stone, it’s one of downtown’s most iconic links to the 19th century and a landmark that’s been vacant for the past 15 years. We recognize the high quality of wine that comes from the region and the appreciation that Napa Valley locals and visitors have for fresh, well-crafted drink. We are elated to become a contributing part of such an artisanal town.”

The 10-barrel pilot brew system will enable brewers to produce Stone’s iconic bold and innovative beer using core recipes as well as indigenous ingredients from the local geography. The Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa will fill growlers and serve Stone’s year-round beers as well as special releases brewed onsite.

Stone’s food philosophy will carry over to its newest Tap Room with a dining experience that incorporates the local Napa flavors for enjoyment on premise or to take away picnic style. Stone proudly specializes in locally grown, small-farm ingredients and features an eclectic menu of world-inspired cuisine and a unique take on comfort food. As strong advocates for environmental responsibility and high-quality food, Stone will purchase local and small-farm organic produce from the Napa region. Making the most of outstanding weather is something the San Diego-based company is quite familiar with. Locals and tourists visiting Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa will enjoy an outdoor seating area complete with communal tables, fire pits and views overlooking downtown Napa.

The historic Borreo building, named for the family that formerly owned the historic stone structure, is an Italianate Renaissance design made from native-cut stone. It was completed in 1877 and has been vacant since 2001. While keeping historic elements in place, Stone plans to transform the building’s western wall, adding expansive doors to a stunning garden facing the Napa River.

“I’m a huge Napa fan,” said Koch. “I’ve been visiting for more than 20 years and I first toured through the Borreo Building nearly five years ago. We’ve tried a few times to make something happen there, and are thrilled to finally see it come to fruition!”

With an anticipated opening in 2017, Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa joins two expansion projects already underway for the growing company. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Berlin will open its doors in Germany this summer. Stone Brewing — Richmond will begin supplying fresh Stone beer from its 250-barrel brewhouse in July.

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.

Judy Ashworth, Stephen Beaumont, me & Peter Hoey at the Pliny the Younger release
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.