Beer Birthday: Ben Spencer

Today is Ben Spencer’s 41st birthday. Ben is the head brewer at Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery. Ben grew up in Virginia, and spent some time brewing in Colorado, and even worked for Greenpeace, before coming to the Bay Area in 2004. That’s when he left Boulder for San Francisco to make beer at Magnolia. Ben’s a terrific brewer and a great person, too. Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

Ben with Jesse Houck, when he was still brewing with 21st Amendment (he’s now at Golden Road) during Brews By the Bay 2008.

A sextet from San Francisco at GABF in 2008. From left: Adrienne McMullem, with 21st Amendment, Ben, Sean Paxton, the homebrew chef, Ben’s wife Kelly, Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, and Dave.

A satisfied Ben with Dave McClean after a vertical tasting of Old Thunderpussy in 2009.

Ben Spencer, Dave Hopwood & Dave McLean
Ben with Dave Hopwood (Stone) and Dave McClean (Magnolia) at the 22nd Celebrator Anniversary Party in 2010.

After Bruce Paton’s cheese and beer dinner in 2008. From left, Arne Johnson (Marin Brewing), Aron Derosey (Beach Chalet), Bruce Paton, Sheana Davis, Ben, Ron from 21A, Brenden Dobbel (Thirsty Bear) and Rich Higgins (Gordon Biersch).

Ben in the basement brewery at the end of brewing a mild earlier this year.

Beer Birthday: Andy French

Today is the 47th birthday of Andy French, brewmaster at Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco, one of the new wave of breweries that opened in the city in recent years. I first met Andy when he brewed at Speakeasy, and after that would see him from time to time at Zeitgeist, though he first started brewing back East in the DC area. When his roommate Chris Lawrence, who also worked for Speakeasy once upon a time, decided to open his own brewery, he tapped Andy to work the mash paddles, and things have been going great since they opened a few years ago. Join me in wishing Andy a very happy birthday.

Andy at his brewhouse in 2012.

Beer Birthday: Brian Yaeger

Today is the 41st birthday of fellow beer writer Brian Yaeger, author of Red, White & Brew. Brian also writes online at his Red, White & Brew Beer Odyssey blog. A couple of years ago Brian and his lovely bride Kimberly lived in Portland, Oregon (having moved from San Francisco), but then moved to Amsterdam, before more recently moved back to Portland. Join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

Brian Yaeger, Brian Lenzo, owner of Blue Palms Brewhouse, and Meg Gill
Brian with Brian Lenzo, owner of Blue Palms Brewhouse, me and Meg Gill at the Speakeasy Brewery during SF Beer Week in 2010.

Craig Cauwels with Brian, the Beer Chef Bruce Paton and me at a Schooner’s beer dinner at Cathedral Hotel in 2008.

Beer Birthday: Forest Gray

Today is the 48th birthday of Forest Gray, co-founder and president of Speakeasy Ales and Lagers in San Francisco. I first met Forest when Speakeasy first bottled their beer when I was the beer buyer at BevMo. For the last severnteen years, his brewery has made some terrific beers, especially their Big Daddy I.P.A. Join me in wishing Forest a very happy birthday.

Forest Gray, Brian Lenzo and Meg Gill
Forest with Brian Lenzo, from Blue Palms in L.A., and Meg Gill, now with Golden Road, at a Speakeasy Anniversary event several years ago.

The Speakeasy crew at the start of SF Beer Week in 2013. That’s Forest with the glowing hat. [Photo purloined from Facebook.]

Beer Birthday: Shaun O’Sullivan

Today is 21st Amendment brewer and co-owner Shaun O’Sullivan’s 52nd birthday. Shaun is one my favorite people in the industry. He’s a tireless champion for craft beer and very supportive of other brewers, such as with his fun collaboration projects. He’s one of the founders and organizers of SF Beer Week and through his brewpub puts on many special and educational events all year, not to mention his extensive travel schedule. His new production brewery in San Leandro is just about to open, and they recently did the first brews in the new facility. Plus, he’s one of the few people brave enough to read the rough draft of my book, Under the Table, and even claim to like it. Now that’s a friend. I just can’t say enough good things about Sully, so I’ll stop here. Join me in wishing Shaun a very Happy Birthday.

Shaun O’Sullivan and business partner Nico Freccia in the front of their brewpub.

Shaun and me outside the Bistro after judging the Double IPA Festival.

Shaun O’Sullivan with Don Barkley of Napa Smith Brewing on the first day of SF Beer Week.

Nico with Dave Keene and Shaun at a can party at the Toronado.

Nico and Shaun in lederhosen during 21st Amendment’s Beer Bus School.

But this by far my favorite, it’s hard to understand how he could have given up all that to start a brewery.

Beer Birthday: Brian Stechschulte

Today is also the birthday of Brian Stechschulte, former executive director of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, who’s recently started working for Speakeasy Ales & Lagers as their Public Relations & Media Director. I’m just guessing at Brian’s age, but by my reckoning he’s got to be about 38 this year. In addition to his paying work with the guild and SF Beer Week, he also writes online at All Over Beer and Bygone Beer. Brian’s a terrific ambassador for beer and a great addition to the industry now that’s a working stiff. I think of him as a kindred spirit. Please join me in wishing Brian a very happy birthday.

Brian’s profile picture, used without permission but begged for here in the hopes that in the spirit of its use will be granted magnanimously.

Brian and me with San Francisco mayor Ed Lee at this year;s SF Beer Week opening gala.

Bob Brewer, from Anchor Brewing, with Brian at GABF a couple of years ago.

Brian after grad school graduation in 2003. Notice the can of beer he’s drinking.
[Note: The last two photos purloined from Brian’s Facebook friends, blame them.]

Anchor To Release Liberty Ale In Cans

Anchor Brewery announced today that they will be releasing Liberty Ale in 12 oz. cans, at least for a limited time. The cans are “a commemorative offering celebrating the 40th anniversary of the historic beer that started a revolution.” From the press release:

“I remember brewing the first batch of Liberty Ale with Fritz Maytag 40 years ago. We were both young and eager beer lovers and knew we wanted to create a beer unlike anything else at that time,” said Anchor Brewing Brewmaster Mark Carpenter. “We had come across a new hop variety called Cascade that had a distinct piney bitterness that we used in the brew. Through Fritz’s interest in history and travel he’d learned of a process European brewers used called dry-hopping; adding dry hops to beer fermenting in the cellar to boost its hoppy aroma. So we dry-hopped the ale with whole-cone Cascade hops, as well. During an era when light lagers were prevalent, Liberty Ale was a very hoppy ale for most people. Their palates were shocked and delighted by such a unique beer.”

The beer was originally sold to the public beginning in 1975, when the country was seized by bicentennial fever. Liberty Ale commemorated the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride. Considered the first American IPA brewed after prohibition,” it was also “the first modern dry-hopped ale in the US and was the beer that popularized the now-iconic Cascade hop.” Beginning this month, Liberty Ale 6-pack cans, as well as bottles and kegs, will be available throughout the U.S.


Beer Birthday: Bruce Paton

Today is the Beer Chef, Bruce Paton’s 60th birthday. Bruce has been doing fantastic dinners pairing greatvbeer and gourmet food for almost twenty years in the Bay Area starting at Barclay’s Restaurant and Pub in Oakland and continuing at the Clift and Cathedral Hill Hotels in San Francisco. He’s has been doing events and consulting at various food and beverage operations since the hotel closed in 2009, so look for more of his beer dinners in the coming months. I’ve been to many, many of Bruce’s food events and they’re allvspectacularly top notch. He did around eight each year. Raise a toast and stuff your face in wishing Bruce a very happy birthday.

My hands down favorite photo of Bruce, which I took for the Chef’s Association of the Pacific Coast newsletter. I don’t think this is the one they used, but, by far, as I think it captures Bruce’s spirit and his great love and passion for what he does with his cooking and beer.

Giving a cooking demonstration with Garret Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table at the 2005 GABF.

Bruce with Russian River co-owner Natalle Cilurzo.

Me and Bruce Paton, redux
Me and Bruce New Year’s Day a few years ago at Barclay’s.

Beer Birthday: Jeremy Cowan

Today is Jeremy Cowan’s 46th birthday. Jeremy owns Shmaltz Brewing, makers of He’Brew. Jeremy is a good friend and we’ve known one another since he first pitched He’Brew to me at BevMo many years ago (which is detailed in Jeremy’s memoir Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah). Though Jeremy splits his time between San Francisco and New York, I still manage to see him at beer events pretty frequently, but less so now that he’s built a brick and mortar brewery in upstate New York. Join me in wishing Jeremy a very happy birthday.

Jeremy, with City Beer Store owner Craig Wathen.

A few years ago at the Toronado for a He’Brew release party. From left: Alec Moss, recently retired from Half Moon Bay Brewing, Pete Slosberg, Jeremy, and Rodger Davis, when he was still with Drake’s Brewing.

Jeremy with Rich Norgrove, with Bear Republic, at GABF in 2006.

Me and Jeremy at the Bistro Double IPA Fest in 2009.

Jeremy shortly after he launched the Shmaltz beers, before all the grey hairs set in. (Thanks to the anonymous source that sent me this photo.)

Beer Birthday: Brenden Dobel

Today is the 45th birthday of Brenden Dobel, head brewer at Thirsty Bear in San Francisco. Brenden grew up in the Bay Area, but learned brewing in Bavaria, at Doemans. He also brewed at Reccow and Broken Drum, before coming to Thirsty Bear over ten years ago. Brenden’s a terrific guy to share a pint with and discuss arcane subjects like history or English literature. If he hadn’t found brewing, he most likely would have ended up a teacher, or perhaps a sailor. Please join me in wishing Brenden a very happy birthday.

Shaun O'Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, and Brendan Dobel, Thirsty Bear
With Shaun O’Sullivan at the SF Brewers Guild festival in 2010.

Brenden at some old unknown event.

Lars Larson (Trumer) & Brendan Dobbel (Thirsty Bear)
With Trumer brewmaster Lars Larson at the Celebrator’s 22nd anniversary party in 2010.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden & Aron Deorsey with our 4 bottles of dessert at a Sierra Nevada beer dinner after beer camp a few years ago where we made a beer for SF Beer Week.