On Saturday, September 26, the winners of the 34th Great American Beer Festival were announced. A record 6,647 beers were judged in 92 categories by 242 judges, of which I was again privileged to be one. I was on hand at the awards ceremony and thought I’d share the results again, this time along with some of the photographs I took during the awards.
Today was Zwanze Day, an annual holiday deliciously made up by Jean Van Roy of Brasserie Cantillon. Cantillon made the first Zwanze beer in 2008, which that year was a rhubarb beer. In subsequent years they’ve made beers with elderflowers, pineau d’aunis (a red wine grape) and a sour witbier, made with the traditional coriander and orange peel, and last year they made Cuvée Florian, essentially Iris Grand Cru blended with cherries. This year, the beer was Wild Brussels Stout
Each year, the beer is tapped at the very same time at locations around the world, regardless of times zone. Once again, this year the Zwanze Day beer was available at 56 beer bars or breweries in seventeen countries. One of those was Russian River Brewing, one of my local breweries, so I again spent the morning there with owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo.
But before we get to the beer, here’s a little history of Zwanze Day. Belgium has essentially two separate regions, with the northern half known as Flanders. The language spoken there is a dialect of Dutch, known by the same name as the people of Flanders: Flemish. The word “zwanze” is unique to Flemish, has its origins in Yiddish, and essentially means a self-deprecating type of humor that’s typified by sharp-edged, playful jokes, usually good-natured. It’s said that this type of humor has become “a characteristic, defining trait” of the Flemish themselves, and for some a way of life. A “zwanze” is a joke, a “zwanzer” a joker. It was with that same playful spirit that Cantillon approached the concept of making a Zwanze beer. The goal was to create a fun beer; something a little unusual, using non-traditional ingredients.
And here’s Jean Van Roy explaining this year’s Zwanze beer:
With its Zwanze 2015, in its own way Cantillon wanted to perpetuate this typically Belgian surrealist mindset. In doing so, a few changes were made to the recipe for a traditional stout. Specifically, I fermented some raw wheat to improve mellowness and enhance storage characteristics and did not use roasted barley to avoid further accentuating the dry aspect, which was already present as a result of spontaneous fermentation.
The recipe is that of a stout, the colour is that of a stout, and spontaneous fermentation followed by 28 months of maturing in a cask has given birth to a “surreal” stout.
The dry and tart notes of a spontaneous fermentation beer combine with the roasted, slightly burnt and delicate chocolate flavours sometimes found in certain stouts.
For the 28 months of maturing we used three types of casks: 50% of the casks had already contained lambic, 25% had already been used for CoÌ‚tes du RhoÌ‚ne wine and 25% had already been used for Cognac. Beers that have matured in old Cognac casks take up the warmth of the alcohol while those from casks having contained red wine adopt winey and fruity characteristics.
This “wild” stout’s fruitiness and “cooked” side reveal rancio flavours that are characteristic of Madeira or Banyuls wines.
Having a little fun with one of Belgium’s best known artists, Rene Magritte, and one of his best known paintings, The treachery of images (a.k.a. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.)
People lined up to try the very limited release Zwanze, stretching about halfway down the block. So not as crazy as for Pliny the Younger, but a respectable number of people, and enough that not everyone in line could be guaranteed a sample by around an hour before opening time.
The doors to the brewpub opened at 11, an hour before the worldwide toast was to take place. Four other beers from Cantillon were available on draft — Gueuze, Iris, Kriek and Rose de Gambrinus — so people had something to enjoy while they waited. And Vinnie greeted people as he walked around while people were seated.
The first pour of this year’s Zwanze beer right at Noon.
Friday night, the 7th annual SF Beer Week kicked off. This year’s gala was held at Fort Mason, and although I had some trepidation about the site, it actually worked fairly well. The acoustics were as bad as ever, and I think the decision to forgo live music was a good one. That also allowed two additional breweries over last year. We would have preferred to allow everyone who wanted to pour that opportunity, but the new space was much more limited than the concourse had been so we were sadly unable to accommodate every brewery. The concourse is being torn down to be replaced by a mixed use space, so we couldn’t return there this year. It’s an unfortunate truth of San Francisco that their simply aren’t a lot of spaces available to suit the needs of the opening gala, at least not and keep the price of a ticket within the reach of the average beer lover. But Brian and the San Francisco Brewers Guild did a great job of making the space work. Below are a few photos I took at this year’s gala, and for a lot more check out Gamma Nine, who took the official photos for beer week.
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee also came to say a few words at the beginning of the gala. Before his remarks, we took him on a short tour of the hall, stopping by a couple of booths to sample a few beers. Here he’s sharing a laugh with SF Brewers Guild director Brian Stechschulte.
A little over a week ago I was in San Diego to take part on a panel at the Beer Bloggers Conference. After my participation was over, I was keen to see the progress Jeff and Dande Bagby were making on their new brewery, Bagby Beer Co., so I drove out to Oceanside to see the new space for myself. As I drove down the main thoroughfare in Oceanside — Coast Highway — parallel to the coast, the new brewery is on your left, making it oceanside, too. The first thing you notice is that it’s massive. I knew the space had previously been used as a car dealership, but that still didn’t prepare me for the size of it. It’s on the corner of Minnesota, a block away from Wisconsin, and takes up a sizable portion of the long block. The exterior is mostly finished, and it looks amazing.
Inside, the brewery is finished, up and running, with six Bagby beers in the fermenters. It’s been 18 months since any Bagby-made beers have been available, and to my way of thinking, that’s far too long.
The entire restaurant side of the place will seat around 350, and there are wonderful nooks and crannies everywhere, including an upstairs open-air balcony and on the ground floor there’s this quiet sitting area for four with umbrellas tucked into a corner space.
Dandelian and Jeff Bagby in the upstairs loft dining area, with a separate small bar. The plaid back of the bench seating was inspired by Jeff’s winning plaid pants that he used to wear for GABF award ceremonies, as I detailed several years ago in Jeff “Lucky Pants” Bagby Wins Big.
So when will Bagby Beer Co. be open, with Bagby beer once flowing in the San Diego area? It should be any day now. Hell, for all I know, they might be open right now. Or maybe not. But it will be soon, and it will probably be done quietly. So if you find yourself in the area, drive by and see if the lights are on. You might get lucky, and get to be one of the first to drink some Bagby beer in a year and a half. At some point in the early fall, they’ll have a big grand opening, and that will be preceded by some pomp and ceremony. But until then, they’ll take the brewpub out for a test drive, working out the kinks, getting the food just right and pouring what I can only imagine will be some incredibly tasty beer. Frankly, I can’t wait until my next trip there.
When last we looked, the damaged Lagunitas brewing equipment was at the dock, at the Port of Stockton. Earlier today I stopped by the Lagunitas Brewery to pick up some samples for a tasting tomorrow for the Celebrator Beer News and, not surprisingly, the broken lauter tun was around the back of the brewery. Having traveled so far — the equipment, not me — I wanted to see it close up and snapped some photos, too.
If you saw my post from the Anchor Christmas Party a few days ago, my friend Mike Condie — who’s a much better photographer than I am — sent over some of the pictures he took at the party and I thought I’d share those, as well.
Thanks for sharing, Mike.
Last Sunday, the annual Toronado Belgian Beer Lunch took place, with the food again being done by Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. The Belgian lunch — or Blunch, as I’ve taken to calling it — began promptly at 11:30 a.m. and went until nearly 5:30 p.m. Now that’s slow food, but really with twelve courses the pacing was just right. I had the pleasure of being seated at a table with Toronado owner Dave Keene, the beer chef Bruce Paton, and my favorite ne’er do well, Dave Suurballe. Here’s a recap of the meal.
2011 Toronado Blunch
Paired with DuPont Avril
Charcuturie Platter: Duck rillettes braised in Russian River Consecration with a Supplication gelee, duck pistachio apricot infused with Sanctification terrine, pork/duck liver and Orval beer pâté, cornichons, heirloom radishes, house-made Goulden Carolus Noel mustard, currant & Consecration compote
Paired with De Dolle Arabier and Moinette Blond
Paired with Petrus Aged Pale
Seared Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce: Sonoma County duck breasts cooked sous vide with shallots, thyme, with a dried sour cherries Hannsen Oude Kriek sauce on a bed of black barley simmer in Delirium Noel and TCHO cocoa nibs
Paired with Bocker Cuvee De Jacobins and Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek
Paired with Echt Kriekenbier and Rochefort 10
Crepenette: Westmalle Dubbel infused Spring Sonoma lamb, mixed with creamed leeks, wrapped in caul fat topped with a sirop de Liége (pears, date simmered in a Chimay Red ale syrup) and Belgian endive salad
Paired with Rodenbach Grand Cru 2008 keg
Paired with Malheur Brut Reserve 2006
French Lentil Salad: Lentils simmered in Fantôme Saison, curry-scented green cauliflower, ‘wit’ candied cashews, mâche greens and toasted hemp seeds tossed in a Straus yogurt bergamot orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René dressing
Paired with Oud Beersal Oude Geueze Vieille
Assorted Belgian Cheeses: Grevenbroecker, Wavreumont, “St. Maure,” Charmoix, Meikaas, and Kriek Washed Fromage served with pomegranate Supplication honey, the Bejkr Biologlque bread, hazelnut fig crackers, dried fruit, honey blood orange peel candied pistachios
Paired with De Struise T’sjeeses
Okay, well that didn’t suck. Another spectacular meal. Thanks Sean and Dave.
Sadly, the date chosen for Don Younger’s memorial last Sunday meant I could not attend. There were too many long-standing obligations with SF Beer Week. Happily the Bay Area was well-represented, with several friends in attendance, including Dave Keene and Jennifer Smith from the Toronado, Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing, and Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News. Tom took a lot of photos and was kind enough to write a guest post for me, giving his account of the day. He also has a great piece up on the Celebrator website entitled Don Remembered. Thanks Tom.
Don Younger Memorial, a Guest Post by Tom Dalldorf
A memorial for the late Don Younger, renowned publican and ultimate beer industry character, HAD to be held at his world famous Horse Brass Pub in Portland. The only question was how. Everyone even remotely connected to the beer industry knew him and respected his many contributions to brewing and beer culture and would want to be there.
Close family and HB staff decided to hold two gatherings on Sunday, February 13, to celebrate his life and times. One would be by invitation only and held inside the pub starting at 11 am and the other would be open to the public and start at 2 pm under tents erected in the parking lot behind the pub.
The usual Portland rain seemed to mercifully hold up while the set up and arrivals took place. Beer industry veterans and personal friends from as far away as England arrived to celebrate Don’s many accomplishments and tell outrageous Don stories late into the afternoon. The small but tightly knit PNC (Publican National Committee), of which Don was a founding member, gathered with Tom Peters, Monk’s Café in Philadelphia, having traveled furthest to be there. Others included Matt Bonny, Brouwer’s Café in Seattle; Chris Black, Falling Rock in Denver and David Keene, Toronado in San Francisco.
Around 1 pm a toast to his memory was offered in the pub with an amazing number of shots of his favorite Macallum 12 year old Scotch distributed to the guests. Yet another toast took place inside and in the tent set up in the parking lot packed with Younger fans. This toast was picked up at pubs and beer joints all across the Pacific Coast time zone promptly at 3 pm. Jay Brooks led the toast at the Sour Beer Fest at Triple Rock in Berkeley. Others toasted at 3 pm in their own time zones.
Brookston Beer Bulletin is offering up some space for selected photos from the gathering in Portland. The beer world has lost a champion but his inspiration and dedication to the beer culture we all love will live on.
— Tom Dalldorf
Below are a few more of Tom’s photos from the memorial. Thanks again, Tom.
Our last day at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp last Friday, we were invited to their last quarterly beer dinner at the Big Room at the Brewery. Executive Chef Micheal Iles created an impressive five-course dinner, which each course mimicking one meal of the day, so that in essence we ate a day’s worth in one meal. You can see a photo gallery of the beer dinner below.
And as cool as the dinner was, the real treat was a presentation given by Sierra Nevada co-founder Ken Grossman. Throughout the dinner, in between courses, he told the story of how Sierra Nevada Brewery began, complete with slides. By complete happenstance, I happened to be sitting on a riser directly in front of the presentation, so I set up my Flip camera and taped most of it. The talk is separated into 8 parts, since that’s how the presentation was given. It’s just over an hour, and part one is below.
To see the rest of Ken Grossman’s presentation, I set up a page with all 8 videos embedded, The Sierra Nevada Story. Enjoy.
Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner Photo Galley
Toronado owner Dave Keene and his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Smith tied the knot during the afternoon session at the Great American Beer Festival on Saturday, September 18. The impromptu ceremony took place in front of the Russian River Brewery booth, with Vinnie Cilurzo as best man and Natalie Cilurzo as Jennifer’s maid of honor. Brett Joyce, president of Rogue Ales, officiated the ceremony, Brett being a minister in the Universal Life Church.
The wedding came together organically and wasn’t planned. Apparently there had been another wedding at GABF and recently Marty and Lisa Jones renewed their vows in the hall, but as far as I know this is the first impromptu wedding at GABF. Once Dave and Jen made the decision, there was delay while we found where the best man and maid of honor were at. Eventually, Vinnie and Natalie were found behind the Brooklyn Brewery booth with Garrett Oliver. No one could hear in the hall, but inundated with people calling and texting, Natalie came over to find out what was going on. As soon as she realized what was happening, she sped back to grab Vinnie and Garrett so the ceremony could begin.
But the delay had a beneficial side, too. It allowed Gail Williams, from Beer by Bart, to run around the hall and find a suitable bouquet for the bride, a sprig of hops. It allowed Dave and a few of us to have a 5-minute bachelor party behind the booth. I had a Hopfather IPA. As people gathered to wait for the wedding to begin, it took on the look of something about to happen, and more and more people who knew the parties involved stopped to witness the event. Surrounded by dozens of people, perhaps as many as a hundred, Vinnie shut down his booth and the wedding ceremony began. I walked Jennifer down the aisle and gave her away, a great honor, and Brett began the vows.
The wedding party: Vinnie, Dave, Jennifer, Natalie, minister Brett Joyce and me. I think Garrett Oliver summed it up best, when he said. “I’ve been coming to GABF for nineteen years, and this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Below is a slideshow of Dave & Jennifer’s wedding. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.