Beer Birthday: Alex Puchner

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Today is the 54th birthday of Alex Puchner, who’s the Senior Vice President of Brewing Operations, and its first brewmaster, for the BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse chain. He started with the chain in 1996, a co-founder, when they built their first brewpub. Alex had been homebrewing for a decade before that first brewery. There now have 159 locations in 18 states, although they backed away from their brewpub model and contract most of their beer, but have added lost of guest taps and good bottled imports, including a great selection from Belgium. Alex has been very active over the years in the beer community and the CCBA, and has been great for beer in California, providing many people’s first introduction to craft beer with BJ’s. Join me in wishing Alex a very happy birthday.

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Alex with Greg Hall, formerly with Goose Island, during a visit to San Francisco a few years ago.

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Alex in the brewhouse (Note: purloined from Facebook).

Beer Birthday: Steve Wagner

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Today is Steve Wagner’s 57th birthday. Steve is a co-founder of Stone Brewing and the president of the California Craft Brewers Association. In the late 1980s, Steve was a member of the band “The Balancing Act,” who put out several albums on I.R.S. Records. Now he just presides over one of the most successful microbreweries in the U.S. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Mitch Steele, Stone Brewing’s brewmaster, with Steve, at CBC when it was in Austin, Texas.

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The Stone crew: Arlan Arnsten, Steve and Greg Koch at CBC in San Diego 2008.

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With Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch in a publicity shot (by John Schulz Photography).

Beer Birthday: Anat Baron

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Today is the birthday of filmmaker Anat Baron, whose Beer Wars movie started people writing and talking about the beer business, from all sorts of angles, four years ago, and while it’s slowed down, the discussion has yet to have completely gone away. Or as Alan from A Good Beer Blog puts it, “joined to the long standing discussion about the beer business and added an interesting interpretation.” Love it or loathe it, it has certainly managed to capture people’s attention, and if that’s all it’s done, that’s still a huge positive to my way of thinking. But it’s also opened quite a few minds to what those of us who’ve been embedded in the beer business have known forever, which is how the business operates, where it’s fair and unfair, and what you can do as a consumer to support the beers and breweries you love. Join me in wishing Anat a very happy birthday.

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Anat behind the bar.

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Publicity photo for Beer Wars.

Beer Birthday: Alexandra Nowell

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Today is also the birthday of Alexandra Nowell, brewmaster of the recently opened Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, southwest of L.A. She’s brewed previously at a variety of Bay Area breweries, including Moylan’s and Drakes, before moving south to Kinetic Brewing a couple of years ago. More recently, she joined Three Weavers, located in Inglewood. Join me in wishing Alexandra a very happy birthday.

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The Drake’s/Stone Quarter Century of Issues Celebrator 25th Anniversary Pale Ale brew crew (from left to right): Drake’s owner John Martin, Stone Northern California regional brewery rep. Dave Hopwood, Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele, Stone San Francisco regional brewery rep Michael “Zippo” Parzick and, obviously the only one doing any real work, then-Drake’s brewmaster Alexandra (on the brew deck).

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Alexandra scooping out spent grain at Drake’s.

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With Jesse Houck, who also worked at Drake’s, but is now brewing at Golden Road. in L.A.

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Alexandra with Mike “Tasty” McDole (purloined, er … borrowed from the Weekly Pint)

Beer Birthday: Chuck Silva

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Today is also the birthday of Chuck Silva, brewmaster at Green Flash Brewing in San Diego. His West Coast IPA has taken the world by storm, and personally, I love his Tripel and Le Freak. The big, shiny new brewery they recently built is also pretty amazing. Join me in wishing Chuck a very happy birthday.

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Chuck at GABF two years ago.

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The beer chef, Bruce Paton, with Chuck at one his beer dinners.

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Chuck at Mammoth Lakes Bluesapalooza in 2007.

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Chuck serving the symposium beer at Stone Brewing during Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego in 2008.

Beer Birthday: Jay Sheveck

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Today is also the 45th birthday of Jay Sheveck, a beer writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles. In addition to writing for the Celebrator, Jay wrote the Beer Guppy’s Guide to Southern California . He’s also been working for many, many years on a documentary film about the early days of craft beer, Beer Pioneers. There’s a teaser trailer of it at the bottom of this page. Personally, I’m excited about his film (and not just because I may be in it, unless I end up on the cutting room floor, that is). Join me in wishing Jay a very happy birthday.

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Alec Moss, former brewer at Half Moon Bay, with Jay at the celebrator’s Best of the West Fest in 2009.

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Jay and a glass of Chimay.

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Jay and his wife Vicki at the Director’s Guild dinner in 1998.

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Jay and his new son Jake.

(Note: last three photos purloined from Facebook.)

Beer Birthday: Mitch Steele

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Today is the 53rd birthday of Mitch Steele, production manager/head brewer at Stone Brewing. Mitch started out at the tiny San Andreas Brewery in Hollister, California but spent a number of years at one of the much larger Budweiser breweries when he brewed for Anheuser-Busch, before finding a home at Stone. He’s obviously a terrific brewer but is also a great person and close friend, too. He was also my roomie for GABF judging three years ago and is also the author of IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. He’s a big advocate for craft beer and always willing to help out a fellow brewer or homebrewer. Join me in wishing Mitch a very happy birthday.

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Mitch with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner at the Craft Brewers Conference in 2007.

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Mitch picking up his 3rd Place award on the floor of GABF 2009 for Stone’s Levitation Ale on cask at a special judging at the Great British Beer Festival in 2009 (and which I had the pleasure to judge).

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Betsy Hensley, Judy Ashworth, Mitch, Brendan Moylan & Bruce Paton at the Celebrator’s 22nd Anniversary Party.

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Mitch and 21st Amendment brewer Shaun O’Sullivan practicing their pointing during a collaboration brew in 2008 in San Francisco.

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Outside the Bistro IPA Festival in 2007 with Publican Judy Ashworth, Former San Andreas Brewing owner Bill Millar, Mitch and Bistro owner Vic Krajl.

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And no birthday post is complete without a blast from the past. Here’s Mitch’s high school prom photo in all it’s living color glory. It’s from Northgate High School Class of 1980 in Walnut Creek, CA (special thanks to Mitch for updating the old black & white photo with the glorious color one!). Love the powder blue tux.

Beer Birthday: Tyler King

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Today is also the birthday of Tyler King, who is the senior director of brewing operations, and employee #1, at The Bruery in Southern California. I first met Tyler at the Boonville Beer Festival five years ago although Patrick must keep him locked up in the Bruery making great beer, because I don’t run into him very often. Join me in wishing Tyler a very happy birthday.

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Tyler, with Rachel and Patrick Rue, shortly after they opened The Bruery at the Boonville Beer Festival in 2008.

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Tyler with Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery along with Bruery founder Patrick Rue, after they did a collaboration beer together.

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Apparently Tyler has a thing for unicorns. I wonder if he ever visited the Mystic Brewpub in Pennsylvania before they went out of business? That places was a unicorn lover’s dream.

Beer Birthday: Matt Brynildson

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Today is the 43rd birthday of Matt Brynildson, brewmaster at Firestone Walker Brewery. I’ve known Matt for some time, though I got to know him a lot better when I traveled with him to Burton-on-Trent in England to do a guest brew at Marston’s. And a few years ago, we both were in Chile to judge at the Copa Cervezas de America. But suffice it to say that apart from being incredibly gifted as a brewer, Matt is also one of the nicest and coolest people in the industry. Join me in wishing Matt — a.k.a. “Batman” — a very happy birthday.

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At Marston’s in Burton-on-Trent a few years ago.

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Matt (center) outside the Toronado with one of his assistant brewers along with Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef enjoying the rare San Francisco winter sun.

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Matt bookended by Adrienne and Claudia, from 21st Amendment Brewery, at the Boonville Beer Festival in 2007.

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In Chile at Kross Cerveza Independiente with brewmaster Asbjorn Gerlach, Matt and Lars Larson from Trumer Brauerei.

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Matt at the first Firestone Walker Invitational, held three years ago.

Green Flash Buys Alpine Beer

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I don’t know many details at this point, but Craft Business Daily is reporting that “San Diego’s Green Flash has just announced their acquisition of small, local 3,000 barrel Alpine Beer Company. Financial terms were not disclosed,” adding — quite correctly, I think — “the age of craft buyers acquiring craft brewers is upon us.” I know that Green Flash had been brewing kegs for Alpine recently, while founder Pat McIllhenney was working on expansion plans for his brewery. As more details come to light, I’ll update them here.

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Alpine founder/brewmaster Pat McIllhenney with Tomme Arthur at the inaugural Firestone Walker Invitational a few years ago.

UPDATE: I have now received a press release from Green Flash with additional details on the deal:

At Alpine Beer Company this morning, Green Flash founders, Mike and Lisa Hinkley and Alpine Beer Company founders, Pat and Val McIlhenney announced that their breweries will join forces, teaming up to share resources, knowledge and experience. Both the McIlhenneys and the Hinkleys view the affiliation as mutually beneficial, and are committed to supporting each other for the success of both breweries. Each company will remain independently operated and maintain its distinct brand and culture. Pat will remain Alpine’s President and Brewmaster to oversee all operations of Alpine Beer Company while also ensuring Alpine beers continue to meet his unwavering standard of quality, whether brewed at the Alpine or Green Flash facilities. The most notable change will transpire over the next several years, as Alpine beer will become available to their legions of fans from across the country who have only experienced the greatness of Alpine beers while visiting California.

In a “handshake agreement,” Green Flash began brewing Alpine beer in November 2013 at their San Diego facility with the goal of helping longtime friends at Alpine raise capital to expand their production capacity. Green Flash has been producing three of Alpine’s brews (Nelson, Hoppy Birthday and Duet), increasing Alpine annual production from 1500 to 3000 BBLs.

The experience of brewing together has been a successful learning experience for both breweries. Green Flash Brewmaster, Chuck Silva divulged, “It was both intriguing and challenging to meld our philosophies while we worked together to scale up Pat’s recipes to be brewed in larger quantities. We worked together to stay true to the original beer and were very happy with the ultimate results. Working with a close friend is a real treat, but for me, brewing with Pat and making Alpine beers, is yet another highlight of my brewing career in San Diego.”

The successful arrangement they have shared over the past year was the impetus that prompted the breweries to take their relationship to the next level. Each views the partnership as an organic evolution that will benefit both of their operations in many ways. “Our team was thrilled to be able to brew the awesome beer from Alpine when we began teaming up,” says Mike Hinkley of Green Flash. “The excitement of our brewers is what prompted me to think about additional ways we could work together and help each other. We perceive this solid new partnership as an incredible opportunity to continue to explore our craft while benefiting from the passion and experience of Pat McIlhenney.”

“After working with Green Flash for the past year, I have come to truly trust and deeply respect the entire Green Flash operation – Chuck and all of their brewers are meticulous, yet easygoing, and I am comfortable working with the team,” says Pat McIlhenney of Alpine Beer Co. “There are many benefits in teaming up with Green Flash as a partner. Not only are they committed to producing high-quality beer, the company culture and mom and pop roots of Green Flash are very similar to our own.”

Alpine employees 20 people, is distributed exclusively in California with the ability to produce a maximum of 1500 BBLs from their San Diego County brew-house, with most of their beer sold directly from their on-site pub. Brewing capacity limitations have made it impossible for Pat and his team to support the overwhelming demand for their exceptional products. As partners, Alpine will be able to tap into the growing Green Flash team of talented brewers, their production capacity, access to capital, and human resources in operations and administration. Mike added that “I am hopeful that the culmination of the next few years will be that, together, we build a new production facility in Alpine. Maybe we will even brew some Green Flash ale in Alpine.”

“I know there is strength in unity, which will allow both of our breweries to secure even higher quality ingredients – we will be a great force as a team,” exclaims Pat. “However, the most important advantage is how this partnership will help improve the quality of life for my employees. For the first time, Alpine will be able to offer our team an excellent company benefits package including affordable health care, 401K plans and other perks made possible by this exciting partnership.”

In 2015, Green Flash will begin bottling select Alpine brews in 22oz bottles adding to the three current draft offerings. Collaborative brews are already in Chuck and Pat’s top-secret conversations, so consumers can expect these to appear in their tasting rooms and at the best craft beer bars in Southern California. The two Brewmasters are already talking about how they can work together at Green Flash’s Cellar 3, a special barrel-aged beer packaging facility that is currently under construction in Poway, and will include a cork-finish bottling line.

Chuck said, “I consulted Pat and borrowed some of his ideas when I made our tenth anniversary Flanders-style ale, which was a great success and will be recreated at Cellar 3. I am always on the look-out for ideas. With Pat and me on the same team, you can count on us to push the envelope even further.”

Mike summarizes, “This partnership is win-win-win. Green Flash wins because we are teaming up with a truly iconic brewery. Alpine wins because they get to see their beers enjoyed by so many more of their adoring fans. But most of all, beer geeks everywhere win, because Chuck and Pat will be working together to create beers that will blow their minds.”

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Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva, Alpine Beer Company President and Brewmaster Pat McIlhenney and Green Flash Co-Founder and CEO Mike Hinkley.