Beer Birthday: Rich Higgins

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Today is the 36th birthday of Rich Higgins, who wears many hats in the San Francisco beer scene. He left his job as the brewmaster at San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery acouple of years ago, and was also the President of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and Director of SF Beer Week for a time. He’s currently focusing his attention on his consulting, Rich Higgins Consultant à la Bière, and Rich is one of only four people to have earned the title “Master Cicerone.” I’ve gotten to know Rich working on SF Beer Week over the last few years, and he’s a great person, as well as a terrific brewer. Join me in wishing Rich a very happy birthday.

Rich Higgins at the Social Kitchen Brewery
Rich at the Social Kitchen Brewery.

Dave McLean & Rich Higgins at Magnolia
Dave McLean owner of Magnolia, and Rich, at the brewpub during SF Beer Week two years ago.

Rich Higgins, me and Hop-Meisters hop farmer Marty Kuchinski
Rich, me and Hop-Meisters hop farmer Marty Kuchinski.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
Rich, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with 4 bottles of dessert at the end of a Sierra Nevada beer dinner in Chico two Decembers back.

Anchor Announces New Spring Saison

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Anchor Brewing just released a teaser video announcing a new spring seasonal: Anchor Saison. Here’s what the press release has to say:

Anchor Saison™ Spring Ale (7.2% ABV) is a traditional Belgian-style saison with a California twist. The distinctiveness of roasted Belgian wheat malt is enhanced by the peppery, clove-like flavors of a locally cultured saison-style yeast. And, for this release, Anchor chose three California ingredients — lemongrass, lemon peel, and ginger — whose synergy adds a tangy crispness and herbal spiciness to this sharply refreshing, uniquely Californian saison.

Brewmaster Mark Carpenter suggests pairing the Saison Spring Ale with sushi or Vietnamese cuisine, which perfectly compliments the tangy, citrus notes of the beer.

Released in California this March thru May, Anchor Saison™ Spring Ale will be available in 6-packs and draught at select retailers and at the Anchor Brewing Taproom in San Francisco.

The fourth Zymaster series beer was Fort Ross Farmhouse Ale, so I suspect it was popular enough to launch as their new spring seasonal, perhaps exactly the same or slightly tweaked; perhaps at some point we’ll learn the exact details. The Zymaster farmhouse beer was also 7.2% a.b.v., although the spices seem slightly different. For now, enjoy this old newsreel, a “Special Report” from Anchor Brewing Worldwide News.”

And below is the new label, created to resemble old fruit crate art.

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Beer Birthday: Meg Gill

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Today is the birthday of Meg Gill, founder and owner, along with Tony Yanow, of Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles. Things at the brewery appear to be going swimmingly and by all accounts the brewery’s cans are selling like hotcakes. Meg is also the former national sales manager for Speakeasy Ales & Lagers in San Francisco. When I first met Meg she was working for Oskar Blues, and later she organized the Opening Gala for SF Beer Week in years two and three, a Herculean undertaking. Meg is one of the best beer ambassadors for the industry I’ve ever met, so her continued success is understandable and well-deserved. Join me in wishing Meg a very happy birthday.

The Brewing Network's Justin Crossley interviewing Meg Gill from Speakeasy
Justin Crossley, from the Brewing Network, with Meg at the 22nd Celebrator Anniversary Party in 2010.

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Speakeasy owner Forest Gray, Brian Lenzo, from Blue Palms in L.A., and Meg at a Speakeasy Anniversary event several years ago.

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Faction’s (then Triple Rock’s) Rodger Davis, struggling to keep the sun out of his eyes, with Meg at the Sour Fest.

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Meg and me at SF Beer Week’s Opening Gala a few years ago. (Photo by Mike Condie.)

21st Amendment To Build Bay Area Brewery

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21st Amendment Brewery & Restaurant opened in 2000, and began canning their beer by hand in 2006. The popularity of their beer in cans far outpaced their ability to keep making it on-site, and production was moved to the Cold Spring Brewery in Minnesota to meet demand. But that will soon be changing, as the San Francisco brewpub has announced that they will be building a new production brewery right here in the Bay Area, with plans for the new facility to open later this year.

The new brewery will be located in the East Bay, in San Leandro, at 2010 Williams Street. In addition to a production brewery, the new space will also include a restaurant and tasting room, as well. The new facility is 95,000 square feet and will accommodate an “initial brewing capacity of 100,000 barrels, scalable to over 250,000, making it among the largest breweries in the Bay Area.” Estimated volume for 2014 is over 70,000 barrels. The building used to house a Kellogg Cereal factory.

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From the press release:

“Since we began packaging our beer six years ago with our Minnesota partner brewery, we have never been able to keep up with demand,” said co-founder Nico Freccia. “Building our own local brewery will allow us to continue to focus on improving quality and consistency, and to expand into new markets where our beer is in demand.”

“We look at this as an opportunity for us to bring the vision and beer home to the Bay Area where it all started when we opened our San Francisco brewpub in 2000,” added co-founder and Brewmaster Shaun O’Sullivan. “This will allow us to continue to deepen our SF Bay Area local roots and to keep having fun making great beer. Both Nico and I are excited about making more interesting beers with our unique packaging that craft beer drinkers have come to know and love. It’s every brewer’s dream to open their own brewery and this is truly a dream come true for us.”

In addition to a state-of-the-art craft brewing facility, the new location, where Pop-Tarts and Frosted Flakes were once produced, will feature a tasting room and retail area as well as the company’s world office headquarters. Phase two will commence in 2015 and will include a full restaurant/pub, beer garden, event and meeting rooms and more. The company expects to create 20 new jobs over the next nine months and a hundred jobs over five years.

“This project will be nothing short of the number one destination spot for craft beer aficionados and beer lovers near and far. With an interactive space that will enhance each guest’s experience as they adventure around the production brewery, the plans are to repurpose the historical cereal factory in a way that celebrates the building’s industrial character and blurs the boundaries between the production space and the hospitality space,” said lead designer David Darling, of San Francisco architects Aidlin Darling Design.

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The new brewhouse will be a 100-barrel, four-vessel GEA/Huppmann, “with an initial capacity of eight brews per day.” The brewery will also include a new “state of the art KHS high speed volumetric can filling line that will be capable of filling up to 500 cans per minute.”

Beer Birthday: Bruce Joseph

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Bruce Joseph, who’s been at Anchor Brewery for many, many years turns 58 today. There’s a big picture of him when he was very young in the stairwell at the brewery that I see every time I’m there. He’s been doing the distilling for Anchor’s whiskey and gin for a while now and plays bass with the Hysters (Anchor’s big band) and the Rolling Boil Blues Band (the Celebrator beer band that’s all industry musicians). If there’s a nicer person in the beer industry, I’ve yet to meet him. Join me in wishing Bruce a very happy birthday.

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On stage at the Northern California Rhythm & Blues Festival several years ago.

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A self-portrait of Bruce and me at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2006.

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With Melissa Myers at the Falling Rock during GABF 2007.

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With Garrett Oliver at an industry event during GABF years ago.

Beer In Film #39: Griz’s Lawnmower Ale Collaboration

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Today’s beer video is a short film about this year’s collaboration beer made by the San Francisco Brewers Guild for SF Beer Week, Griz’s Lawnmower Ale. The beer was made to honor Greg “Griz” Miller, longtime owner of SF Brewcraft, who passed away in September of last year. The beer debuted last night at the Opening Galas for SF Beer Week.

See The Elephant: Anchor IPA

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Anchor Brewing will soon be releasing their newest beer, and it should surprise no one seeing the trends in hoppy beers that the new release is Anchor IPA.
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While Anchor Liberty is brewed with just Cascade hops, the new Anchor IPA is brewed with six different hops, including Apollo, Bravo and Cascade for bittering, and the five used in dry-hopping are Apollo, Cascade, an experimental hop still know as 431, Nelson Sauvin and Citra. I’ve been invited to an event at the brewery tomorrow night and I suspect we’ll get a chance to try the new 6.5% a.b.v. beer then. For now, they’ve released a video explaining some aspects of the new beer and it’s historical tie-in. Apparently during the gold rush, the phrase “seeing the elephant” was a “hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness,” something every prospector would have been familiar with. So it’s certainly an interesting way to work elephants into the beer’s lore, but I’ll let Anchor take up the story here.

I have now received the press release:

“When we started thinking about Anchor IPA, we wanted to create a beer we would be proud to serve in our Taproom,” said Mark Carpenter, Brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. “Right now a lot of IPAs are so hop forward that your palate can only enjoy one because of the high bitterness. Our IPA will have a strong hop flavor so you know you’re drinking an IPA. But, the combination of malts we’re using are strong enough to hold up to the bitterness, allowing you to enjoy more than one. The unique selections of both traditional and modern hops we are using provide the backbone and flavor, plus an experimental hop adds to its pleasant fruity & floral aroma, the first thing you notice as you sip the beer.”

The California Gold Rush lured thousands west to “see the elephant,” a 19th-century metaphor for the hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness, adventure, and fortune. As early as 1849, India Pale Ale—prepared by British brewers for export to India by adding dry hops to barrels of hoppy ale—was also heading west, from England around the Horn to San Francisco. Thirsty ’49ers savored imported IPAs, but it wasn’t until 1975 that Anchor, America’s original craft brewery, pioneered the revival of dry-hopped handmade ales with the introduction of Anchor’s Liberty Ale®, the first modern American IPA brewed after Prohibition. Now, that tradition fast-forwards to an adventurous new brew: Anchor IPA™. Made with 2-row barley malt and fresh whole-cone hops, its bright amber color, distinctively complex aroma, spiky bitterness, malty depth, and clean finish unite to create a uniquely flavorful, memorable, and timeless IPA.

The elephant you see on Anchor IPA™ was hand-drawn by Anchor label artist, James Stitt. The expression to “see the elephant” originates from a tale that predates the California Gold Rush.

There once lived a farmer who had heard of elephants but had never seen one. He longed for the day when he might catch a glimpse of this rare, exotic creature. When the circus came to town, he loaded his wagon with fresh produce and headed to the market. On the way, just as he’d hoped, he came across the circus parade, nobly led by an enormous elephant. The farmer was ecstatic, but his horses were terrified. They reared and bucked, overturning his wagon and scattering its precious contents in the road. “I don’t give a hoot,” exclaimed the farmer. “I have seen the elephant!”

The elephant became the universal symbol of the Gold Rush, as evidenced by the journals, letters, and sketchbooks of the forty-niners. Whether or not they struck it rich in the diggings, those plucky pioneers would forever treasure their California adventure as the defining moment of their lives.

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Some Girls For Strong Beer Month

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It’s February, and that means it’s time for the 12th annual Strong Beer Month, once again with six new extreme beers each at 21st Amendment and Magnolia throughout the month. Try them all, and you get to keep the commemorative logo glass. Just collect all 12 punches in your Strong Beer Month ticket before the beer’s all gone. You can read all about it at both Magnolia and 21st Amendment websites.

This year’s theme is the 1978 album “Some Girls” by the Rolling Stones. “The players on the album from left to right on the album (green row) are: Ben Spencer (Magnolia Head Brewer), Shaun O’Sullivan (21A owner), Zambo (21 Head Brewer), Dave McLean (Magnolia owner) and Nico Freccia (21A owner). There is also an Easter egg in the album, see if you can find Motor Kiesling, a good friend of both the 21A and Magnolia.”

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Here’s the beer for this year:

Side One: Magnolia:

  1. Rye Rye Rocco Rye Brown Ale: 8.1% abv
  2. Let It Rauch German-influenced Smoked Beer: 8.1% abv
  3. Promised Land Imperial IPA: 11.2% abv
  4. Smokestack Lightning Imperial Stout: 9.7% abv
  5. Quadlibet For Tenderfeet Belgian Abbey-style Quadrupel: 8% abv
  6. Old Thunderpussy Barleywine: 10.6% abv

Side Two: 21st Amendment:

  1. Framboise Forte d’Or Belgian-style Raspberry Golden Ale: 10.2% abv
  2. Dub Step Imperial I.P.A.: 10.2% abv
  3. Beast of Burden American-Belgo Imperial IPA: 9.9% abv
  4. Red Titan Giant Red Ale: 12.8%
  5. Bike Lane Hopper Imperial Black IPA: 9.6% abv
  6. Hendrick’s Imperial Stout: 9.3% abv

And here’s the back cover, too, with more details about each beer:

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This year for the first time, they also created a third poster, this one showing the Strong Beer Month gang pal’ing around with all of their celebrity friends. Must be nice to be a brewer.

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Hamm’s In San Francisco

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A friend and regular reader sent me this old photograph of the Hamm’s brewery sign at night, taken in San Francisco around 1954, the year the Hamm’s Brewery opened. It’s a nighttime shot of the iconic Hamm’s sign on the roof of the brewery that was located at 1550 Bryant Street. When it was built, “it was the largest commercial sign on the West Coast.” The brewery closed in 1972, and sign taken down three years later, in 1975. According to Wikipedia, it was a “20-by-80 foot sign, with a 3-dimensional 13-foot beer chalice on top, [and] appeared in the first Dirty Harry film. In the early 1980s, the beer vats were first squatted and then rented out to punk rock bands. Known as “The Vats,” the brewery was a center of San Francisco punk rock culture with about 200 bands using individual vats as music studios. The building was renovated in the mid 1980s and converted into offices and showroom space.” In 2012, the Chronicle did a piece about the sign’s fate, What happened to the Hamm’s Brewery sign?, that included additional photos taken during the day, but the sign looks most impressive at night, and it was even animated, with neon rings of beer turning on and off in sequence, so the glass of beer looked like it was emptying and then filling up again.

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Beer Birthday: Aron Deorsey

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Today is the birthday of Aron Deorsey, brewmaster at the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant in San Francisco, along with the Park Chalet and the Lake Chalet in Oakland. I got to know Aron much better a few years back when we roomed together attending Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp for SF Beer Week. He’s been making great beer at the beachside brewpub for a number of years now, and is great fun to hang out with. Join me in wishing Aron a very happy birthday.

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Brendan Dobbel, from Thirsty Bear, Rich Higgins, from Social Kitchen, Aron and Zambo, from 21st Amendment at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp a few years ago.

Aron Derosey, from Beach Chalet, and his friend Maggie
Aron and his friend Maggie at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2009.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
At a Sierra Nevada beer dinner at the Chico brewery in 2010. Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron with the 4 bottles of dessert.

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Aron (in the center) at the Thirsty Bear Oktoberfest in 2002.