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.

Beer Birthday: Carlos Sanchez

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Today is the 56th birthday of Carlos Sanchez, brewmaster at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville, behind the Redwood Curtain. Carlos is a veteran brewer of over 20 years, having originally interned at Humboldt Brewing Co., becoming assistant brewer there in 1990. He’s also worked at Mad River Brewing and attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology. In 1996, the opportunity to start brewing at a local start-up tempted Sanchez to become Six Rivers’ first, and only, brewmaster. He’s been there seventeen years, and counting, brewing an impressive stable of beers, including many sound interpretations of classic styles and a few others that are utterly unique. Join me in wishing Carlos a very happy birthday.

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Carlos in his brewhouse.

Couch Trippin’ Contest

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Lagunitas Brewing, my local down the street, is having a fun contest to win a a party in your home. That is, they’ll bring the Lagunitas Couch Trippin’ party to your home. What could be simpler?

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So it is pretty simple, just do the following:

  1. Snap a photo of your couch & Lagunitas
  2. Tag it #couchtrippin on IInstagram and/or Twitter

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So what can you win? Here’s how Lagunitas explains it: “We’re gonna bring the Lagunitas CouchTrippin’ party to your house … A killer band, tasty munchies, and we’ll even bring our own couch… All for you and up to 30 of your friends (sorry, we can’t have the whole town showin’ up). Follow the super simple instructions above. Or see full legal fine freakin’ print.”

Here’s mine, on our new giant sofa. It’s supposed to be a sofa bed, but we just keep it open all the time and use it as a “snuggle sofa” that fits our family of four perfectly, making it great for watching movies, playing video games, or of course, snuggling.

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Let’s see yours. You have until the end of the month, specifically “August 31, 2014 at 11:59:59 PM PST” to post or upload your own Couch Trippin’ photo. But make sure you read the rules first to make sure you don’t disqualify yourself. For example, I’m not actually “drinking or consuming an alcohol product,” because that’s one of the restrictions. I’m just holding the beer, giving it a sniff.

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We’re looking for a house to bring our CouchTrippin’ party to — so show us a pic of your couch with Lagunitas and tag #couchtrippin on Instagram or Twitter.

Beer Birthday: Jeff Barkley

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Today is the 30th birthday of Jeff Barkley. Jeff has been brewing and helping out at Moonlight Brewing off and on for the last eight years, and also is the son of legendary brewer Don Barkley, who’s currently at Napa Smith Brewing. I love running into Jeff at various events, podcasts and the brewery, as he’s great fun to hang out with and share a pint. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.

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Jeff, just after he was promoted to VP of International Operations at the first Lagunitas Beer Circus in 2009.

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Brian Hunt and Jeff in front of Moonlight Brewery’s new foeders.

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Jeff and Brian Hunt at the Marin Breastfest when it was still held in Marin, in 2008.

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Brian Hunt, Aron Derosey from Beach Chalet, Jeff and Melissa Myers, when she was brewing at Drake’s.

Beer Birthday: Rod DeWitt

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Today is my friend Rod DeWitt’s 57th birthday. Rod is the Director of Plant Engineering & Process Control at Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Boonville. Rod also plays drums in the Rolling Boil Blues Band. Join me is wishing Rod a very happy birthday.

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Rod and me at the Boonville Beer Festival in 2006.

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At the Mammoth Lakes Bluesapalooza in 2007. From left: Marc Cohen, Rod, Tom Dalldorf, Bruce Joseph and Ken Hickmott.

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Rod DeWitt, on the roof showing me the view depicted on every bottle of Anderson Valley Brewing during a private tour in May of 2006.

Beer Birthday: Steve Donohue

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Today is the 43rd birthday of Steve Donohue, former brewmaster at Firehouse Grill & Brewery in Sunnyvale, California. Steve is an unsung brewer who deserves more accolades and fame. He’s currently still doing some work at Hermitage Brewing but spending most of his time on his own brewery, Santa Clara Valley Brewing. He’s been brewing his own beers and has a location where the new brewery will be built, so his journey is just beginning. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Steve at last year’s 22nd Celebrator anniversary party at the end of SF Beer Week.

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Steve with Peter Cogan from the Tied House, during the 2009 Celebrator party.

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Hermitage assistant brewer, Steve, Peter Licht and me during a visit to the Hermitage Brewery in San Jose a few weeks ago.

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Pete Slosberg with Steve.

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Steve Altimari, brewer at High Water Brewing, Steve and Steve Shapiro, from Beer by Bart.

Note: Last two photos purloined from Facebook, and I believe they were taken by Arie Litman.

Beer Birthday: Mark Ruedrich

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Today is the 63rd 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 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.

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Mark with North Coast co-owner Tom Allen at GABF in 2006.

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North Coast brewer Ken Kelley with Mark at the brewery last year.

Beer Birthday: Steve Grossman

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Today is the 62nd 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.

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Sierra Nevada head brewer Steve Dressler with Steve at GABF in 2006.

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Steve manning the Sierra Nevada bike bar at GABF in 2010.

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Steve checking out some hops at Beer Camp #93.

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Steve at an event at Four Point Sheraton in L.A. (purloined from Facebook)

Beer Birthday: Jamil Zainasheff

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Today is the 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 this year. (Photo by Nathan Smith, purloined from Facebook.)