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.

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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.

Beer Birthday: John Martin

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Today is the 56th birthday of John Martin, one of the founders of Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse in Berkeley. John, with his brother Reid, started on of the first five brewpubs in the U.S., and the only one that’s still owned by the same family that founded it. John also owns Drake’s Brewing and the Jupiter Taproom, too. He’s active in the local beer community and also with the CCBA, plus he’s a great guy with a very distinctive laugh. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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Christian Kazakoff, former brewer at Triple Rock (now at Iron Springs) with John during the 2008 Firkin Fest.

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John, with his brother Reid, and Triple Rock brewmaster Rodger Davs at the brewpub’s 25th anniversary.

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John, me and Peter Hoey at last year’s opening gala for SF Beer Week.

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John in the brewhouse with his brother 26 years ago, on opening day.

Corks & Suds Benefit For Autism Friday Night In Novato

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Tomorrow night in Novato, at the Unity In Marin church, located at 600 Palm Drive, a benefit for Autism — a cause near and dear to me — will be held. Corks & Suds will take place from 7:00-10:00 PM, and will feature music by “The Decades” and special guest piano performance by young man with autism.

Lagunitas, Anchor Brewing, Iron Springs and many more special guest beers from San Francisco Brewing Collective, Food from Alta Cuisine and Sonoma wines plus much more will be there! An evening of fun for a great cause.

Tickets are available at both Eventbrite and Global Offerings and there’s more information at the event’s Facebook page. I’m not sure how long this coupon will work, but put in Coupon code “CAS-SPECIAL” and get your ticket for $45 instead of $70!

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Beer Birthday: Jack McAuliffe

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Today is the 71st birthday of Jack McAuliffe, the father of the modern microbrewery. Jack incorporated his New Albion Brewery in October of 1976, and began producing beer the following year from his tiny brewery in Sonoma, California. His 1-barrel system suggests he may also have been the first nanobrewery, as well. I finally got a chance to meet Jack when he was San Francisco for CBC several years ago, and was privileged to spend some time with him the week after CBC when Jack visited Russian River Brewery and then the next day he graciously showed us the original site of his New Albion Brewery. I’ve since been fortunate to spend time with Jack on several more occasions, and it’s always a treat. Join me in wishing Jack a very happy birthday.

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Me and Jack at Russian River Brewery earlier this year when they launched the new New Albion beer in bottles.

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Maureen Ogle, Jack and Julie Johnson, from All About Beer magazine, during the Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco last year.

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Vinnie Cilurzo, from Russian River Brewing, with Jack, showing us around the original site of the New Albion Brewery.

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Jack and Boston Beer’s Jim Koch at their annual media brunch during GABF week two years ago.

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Jack and me at Russian River Brewery.

Beer Birthday: Brian Hunt

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Today is iconoclastic brewer Brian Hunt’s 59th birthday. Brian owns and operates Moonlight Brewing in in Sonoma County, California, as almost a one-man show. If you’ve never had his “Death and Taxes,” “Twist of Fate Bitter,” “Bombay by Boat,” or his fresh hop ale, alternately called “Homegrown” or “Greenbud Ale,” then you’re really missing out on some of the most unique and wonderful beers around. Plus, Brian is one of the nicest curmudgeons you’ll ever meet, and one of my favorite people anywhere. Join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

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Hildegard van Ostaden, Urthel’s brewster, one of only a vert few female brewers working in Belgium, and Brian.

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Brian in his hopyard, with Russian River’s old assistant brewer Travis (who opened his own place, Societe Brewing), and Vinnie Cilurzo.

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Shaun O’Sullivan and Vinnie Cilurzo with Brian at the Bistro in Hayward, California.

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Brian at the Opening Gala for SF Beer Week a couple of years back.

Beer Birthday: Michael Demers

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Today is the 50th birthday of Michael Demers, the Big 5-0, 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.