Beer Birthday: Justin Crossley

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Today is the 32nd birthday of Justin Crossley, the man behind the mic at The Brewing Network, one of the industry’s best voices. He’s an avid homebrewer and talker, a deadly combination, especially on radio. He also filmed Porter’s Porter Day last year and it will fun to see the result of that project. Of course, he’s been busy opening the Hop Grenade, the next piece of the growing Brewing Network empire. Join me in wishing Justin a very happy birthday.

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Justin and me showing off our injured fingers at the last Marin Breastfest held at Marin Brewing.

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Justin all thumbs at Stone Brewing during the CBC Reception in 2008.

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With Michael Ferguson, from BJ’s, at Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery during the AHA convention a couple of years ago.

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Okay, what’s with the thumbs? About to do a broadcast from GABF in 2007.

Beer Birthday: Don Barkley

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Today is the birthday of legendary brewer Don Barkley. Barkley’s first brewing job was as assistant brewer at New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, California, America’s first modern microbrewery back in the late 1970s. He went on to help found Mendocino Brewing, and created most of their iconic brands, like Red Tail Ale and Eye of the Hawk. In 2008, Don became the brewmaster for Napa Smith Brewery in — you guessed it — Napa, and he’s been making great beer there, too, ever since. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Don at the SF Beer Week Opening Gala in 2010.

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Don, me and Ed Davis each with a 1979 bottle of New Albion beer, that Ed was kind enough to donate, when we did a vintage tasting of beer that Don helped brew over thirty years ago.

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Albion Don at the Toronado during the launch of the first SF Beer Week in 2009.

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Don at the Celebrator Best of the West Fest in 2009, pouring the official beer of SF Beer Week, which he created for us using the original recipe for New Albion Pale Ale.

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Me and Don at the Breastfest at Fort Mason a couple of years ago (photo by Mario Rubio).

Beer Birthday: Paddy Giffen

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Today is Paddy Giffen’s 64th birthday. Paddy was the original brewer at Moylan’s Brewing, did some distilling and was briefly with Bear Republic. I ran into him a few years ago at the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, and these days, as far as I know, he’s brewing at Lagunitas. Join me in wishing Paddy a very happy birthday.


Paddy and Britt Antrim, himself formerly with Anderson Valley, Kona and Great Divide, at the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin, Texas.

Lagunitas Couch Trippin’ Winner Announced

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A few weeks ago Lagunitas Brewing, my local down the street, announced a contest to win a a party in your home, Couch Trippin’ party to your home. The Couch Trippin’ Contest ended on the last day of August, and they’ve just announced the winner in a new Lagunitas video showing some of the best entries and ending with the winner’s submission.

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Congratulations to Mel Gryllz (@Gryllzlee) for emerging victorious with this wonderful shot:

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Beer Birthday: Steve McDaniels

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Today is the 46th birthday of Steve McDaniels, a former brewer with 21st Amendment. These days McDaniels is hard at work building what will become the Oakland Brewing Co. on 22nd Avenue in Oakland, and brewing their beer at other locations until it’s finished, at least he was the last time I talked to him. Admittedly, it’s been a little while so hopefully it’s still in the works. He’s also working on the soon-to-be-opened Independent Brewing. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Steve with OBC partner Bruce Paton and Arne Johnson, brewmaster at Marin Brewing.

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Steve with Drake’s brewer Josh Miner.

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Steve and his lovely wife Justine.

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Claudia Davis, Steve, Justine Nguyen, Gabrielle Chan, Adrienne McMullen, Shaun O’Sullivan and Roger Davis.

Beer Birthday: Dan Gordon

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Today is the 54th birthday of Dan Gordon, co-founder of Gordon Biersch Brewing, which began in San Jose, California. Dan studied brewing in Germany and his brewpub chain was one of the first to really focus on lagers, and especially German-style beers. He’s also a terrific jazz trombonist! Join me in wishing Dan a very happy birthday.

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At the Celebrator tasting us his newest beer, an unfiltered Dunkelweizen.

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During a recent visit to the brewery.

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Dan at yet another private Dunelweizen tasting.

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I love this early promotional shot they use on Gordon Biersch’s website.

Beer Birthday: Porter

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Alright, you caught me again. It’s not the birthday of the beer style, Porter. Strictly speaking, this isn’t really a beer post but it’s my son’s 13th birthday today, but since his name is Porter I figured people wouldn’t feel too duped by the title. It is accurate, after all. In previous years, I’d written that “one day soon, we’ll brew a porter together.” Well that day finally came, and last year on his birthday weekend it was Porter’s Porter Day, when he made his first batch of homebrew, with a little help from our friends. Anyway, please join me in wishing Porter a very happy birthday!

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At Porter’s birthday party when he turned one, trying to get at a keg of Russian River. That’s my boy! NOTE: To those of you reaching for the phone to call child protective services, put down the receiver. He did NOT drink any beer. His mother got to him before he figured out how the tap worked.

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A beautiful memory at the Rogue Alehouse in San Francisco when Porter couldn’t have been more than two, if that. Much to my surprise, Porter utterly charmed Don Younger with his ability to swiftly climb a bar stool. Don was very impressed, as was I.

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Eight years ago, showing off a 5th-birthday present from Grandpa, a Union Pacific Challenger steam engine.

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Porter two years ago, when he came with me to visit Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco. He’s trying to emulate his hero Tim Lincecum, at least hair-wise, pitching-wise he’s more of a closer.

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Me, Porter and Vinnie Cilurzo, after Porter’s Porter Day last year.

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Also last year, Porter’s second batch, a version of Hair of the Dog’s Doggie Claws, made with the Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton, but mostly Alan Sprints, whose own birthday was just a few days ago.

Beer Birthday: Terence Sullivan

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Today is the 47th birthday of Terence Sullivan, the former Field Educator and assistant brewmaster at Sierra Nevada Brewing, though he recently had a new titled bestowed on him: Product Manager. He’s been with the brewery nearly forever, and in recent years has become one of their ambassadors, traveling the country representing the brewery at numerous events, as well as coordinating Beer Camp. He’s also a terrific person and a great guy to have a pint (or six) with. Join me in wishing Terence a very happy birthday.

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Brian Grossman, Tom Peters and Terence outside Monk’s Cafe during Philly Beer Week 2010.

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Terence and me at a Sierra Nevada beer dinner a few years ago.

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Giving a tour of the brewery during our SF Beer Week beer camp in December 2010.

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Pi Bar’s Rich Rosen with Terence Sullivan at Sierra Night at Pi Bar during SF Beer Week 2011 (photo purloined from Beer by BART’s Steve & Gail, from their Flickr Photostream).

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Me and Terence on stage at the Chico Beer Camps Across American festival earlier this year, raising a toast to Fraggle.

Beer Birthday: Ken Weaver

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Today is the birthday of fellow Bay Area beer writer Ken Weaver, who’s a neighbor in the next town over. If I’ve done my math correctly, today is his 31st birthday. Ken works for Rate Beer and wrote The Northern California Craft Beer Guide, with photographs by his lovely wife Anneliese Schmidt. Believe it or not, Ken has a degree in physics from Cornell but chucked it all to follow his heart and preference for writing and good beer. Physics’ loss is beer’s gain. Join me in wishing Ken a very happy birthday.

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At Fred Abercrombie’s Craft Beerd’s book launch party at Taps. Left to right; Fred Abercrombie, Ken Weaver, Anneliese Schmidt, Joe and Ron Lindenbusch, from Lagunitas.

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Ken and Sean Paxton at the Boonville Beer Festival in 2010 (purloined from Facebook).

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At a North American Guild of Beer Writers meet-up at Breckenridge Brewing during GABF 2012, with Ken and me, dead center.

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At Lagunitas for Tom Acitelli’s book release party earlier this year, with Joe Tucker, Jeremy Marshall, me, Tom and Ken.

Moonlighting At Moonlight: The Hop Harvest 2014

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For a number of years, the winding down of summer brings one of my favorite traditions: hop harvest. Brian Hunt, from nearby Moonlight Brewing — the best brewer you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re from the Bay Area — has a quarter-acre of hops planted on his brewery property, known as “The Abbey de St. Humulus,” which he uses each year to make his Fresh Hop Ale, Homegrown. As we do every year we’re able, the whole family, mother-in-law included, made our way to hop harvest, which Brian does 19th century-style. Which means that entire families get together for the day, and spend hours cutting down the bines, and hand-picking the hops and filling up buckets, which will be dumped into the beer without being kilned the same day, all the while eating, drinking and socializing. In a few weeks, Homegrown will be on draft at select bars around the Bay Area, along with plenty of other fresh hop beers as beerjolais nouveau season gets underway. Below is a little photo essay of our day picking hops.

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A row of hops, ready to be picked.

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My son Porter helping me with the first stages of harvesting, cutting the bines along the bottom.

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The next step will be cutting them at the top, so we can pull them down to pick the hop cones off of the bines.

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Brin Hunt working the long knife, bring down a bine for harvesting.

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A shady spot is made under multiple pop-up canopies with a tarp floor, where the hop bines are laid out for picking, then everybody sits around and carefully pulls off the hop flowers, discarding the leaves, stems, bines and other material so only the hops that flavor the beer are separated into buckets.

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Only the flowers go into the beer.

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My wife Sarah demonstrating how when one bucket is filled, you move on to the next empty one.

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While hops are not simply loaded into your beer glass, like bitter ice cubes, with some hoppy beers, it certainly seems that way.

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There’s nothing quite like being in a hop field at harvest time, the sights and smells are amazing, with the intense aromas of hops hanging thick in the air.

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My daughter Alice digging in an almost-full bucket of freshly picked hops, nearly ready to be added to the beer.

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A very fun day picking hops in the warm California sunshine. While it was great fun, we’re all exhausted and a little sore, with scratches all over our bodies. Thank goodness, tomorrow is Labor Day, and we can relax without doing much labor, apart from enjoying a few beers.

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In a few weeks time, keep an eye out for Moonlight Brewing’s Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale, along with many other fresh hop, or wet hop, beers. They’re only around for a very short time, and once they;re gone, that’s it until next year. These are beers with intense hop aromas and flavors, and the fresher they are, better they taste.