Today is also the 57th birthday of William Sysak, better known to the beer community as Dr. Bill. Dr. Bill’s massive tastings are the stuff of legends, and he’s now transported them — albeit on a smaller scale — to working at Stone Brewing’s World Bistro & Gardens. He has impeccable taste, be it in beer, wine, whiskey, cigars, what have you, and is one of the most fun people to taste with. He was working with Stone Brewing for a time, but more recently he started his own brewery, co-founding Wild Barrel Brewing, in San Marcos, California, which opened a couple of years back. Join me in wishing Bill a very happy birthday.
Today is the 68th 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 put 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.
Today is the 49th birthday of Vinnie Cilurzo, founder and brewmaster at Russian River Brewing. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Vinnie is one of the best brewers in America and is credited with having made the first Imperial IPA. Along with his partner Natalie, his Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa, California won unprecedented back-to-back best brewpub (and brewmaster) awards at the World Beer Cups in 2006 and 2008, and their flagship Pliny the Elder has been picked as the best beer in America by AHA members seven years in a row, but was finally bested last year by Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, after which Vinnie sent Larry Bell and crew a case of Pliny. Vinnie is one of the nicest people in the industry you’ll ever meet. Last fall, they opened their new production brewery in Windsor, which is an amazing space. Join me in wishing Vinnie a happy birthday.
Vinnie and his wife Natalie from presented to Tom Dalldorf (middle), owner of the Celebrator, a Balthazar of their yummy Damnation Ale in honor of the magazine’s 17th anniversary. A Balthazar is 12 liters or contains about 16 normal bottles of beer.
Dave Keene, owner of the Toronado, Natalie Cilurzo, Dave’s girlfriend Jennifer and Vinnie at CBC in Seattle.
Garrett Oliver, brewer at Brooklyn Brewing Co., and Vinnie at the Brewer’s Dinner the night before GABF begins.
Today is the 67th 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.
Today is the 40th birthday — the Big 4-O — of Travis Smith, who was a co-founder of Societe Brewing Co. in San Diego. Before that, Travis brewed at Russian River Brewing for a number of years, before moving south, where he brewed at both The Bruery and the La Jolla Brewhouse. His brewery quickly became one of the destination spots in San Diego, and his beers are especially tasty, standing out in the area surrounded by numerous great breweries. More recently, Travis left Societe and as far as I know is still plotting his next move. Join me in wishing Travis a very happy birthday.
Travis “MacGyver” Smith showing off the cork gun he made with spare brewing parts lying around the Russian River brewpub. It shot a beer cork a pretty fair distance and would pierce cardboard at 100 feet.
Today is Alec Moss’ 75th birthday, which is quite frankly still hard to believe. Alec doesn’t look a day over 50! Must be the beer and motorcycles. I first got to know Alec when I worked with him on some private label contract beers I did for BevMo when he was head brewer at the now-defunct Golden Pacific Brewery in Berkeley. Alec then spent some time at Redbird Brewing before moving to the coast to be head brewer at the picturesque Half Moon Bay Brewing, but he retired several years ago, although he was coaxed back for a time to work part-time for Anchor Brewing, building them a pilot system. Every time I see him now he seems to be enjoying his retirement enormously. Join me in wishing Alec a very happy birthday.
Today is my friend Arne Johnson’s 54th birthday. Arne is the head brewer at Marin Brewing in Larkspur, California. Arne makes some great beers and is a terrific person to boot. And more recently, he and some friends opened The Cooler in San Leandro. Join me in wishing Arne a very happy birthday.
Arne and me at the Brewer’s Dinner at GABF in 2006.
Rodger Davis of Triple Rock and Arne enjoy a beer out front in the warm sunshine at the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival.
Arne Johnson and Melissa Myers, formerly with Drake’s Brewing, at the Boonville Beer Festival.
Today is the 64th birthday of Bob Stoddard. Bob was an early beer pioneer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally a Miller distributor’s rep., Bob bought the original Palo Alo Brewing Co., which was started in 1983, from founder Ken Kolence two years later, in 1985. It was undercapitalized from the start, and there were some other issues, and it closed in 1987. It was also the first location to brew Pete’s Wicked Ale. A few years later, in 1993, he opened Stoddard’s Brewhouse & Eatery in Sunnyvale. By 2002, it was successful enough to open a second location in Campbell. Unfortunately, the new location was too large to be sustainable and today the original location is the FireHouse Grill & Brewery and the newer one is Campbell Brewing Company/Sonoma Chicken Coop. I attended the grand opening of the Campbel brewpub, but I can’t find my photos from the event. I think that’s the last time I’ve seen Bob, but somebody told me what he’s doing these days, only I can’t remember. I’m sure someone will happily fill me in. Until then, join me in wishing Bob a very happy birthday.
Bob, from an eBay listing for the book”Home Brewer’s Gold,” published in 1997. Surely someone must have some better photos of Bob? If so, send ’em my way, please.
And here’s part of the write-up from the same book:
Today is the 47th birthday of Tim Clifford, brewmaster and co-owner of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, in Capitola, California, which is near Santa Cruz. Tim’s a longtime homebrewer and worked for Williams Brewing and also 7 Bridges for many years, and continue to be on the board of the Santa Cruz co-op. Although originally a history major, Tim’s passion went off in a different direction, happily, and he opened Sante Adairius in 2011, making some incredible and unique beers. Join me in wishing Tim a very happy birthday.
Me and Tim enjoying some hop tea, while picking hops at Moonlight Brewing’s hopyard in 2007.
Today is the birthday of Joe Owades, born today in 1919. He’s best known as the father of light beer. Owades was trained as a biochemist but ended up working in the beer industry, first for Rheingold Breweries in Brooklyn, eventually becoming their vice president and technical director.
Joe passed away in 2005, and in his obituary it tells the story of light beer:
It was at Rheingold where Mr. Owades finally applied his college training to his profession, developing a process to remove the starch from beer, making it lower in carbohydrates and calories and, thus, cholesterol. The new beer was called Gablinger’s, which became a product of Meister Brau, all of which was eventually purchased by the Miller Brewing Co. Miller Lite was made famous by the company’s “tastes great, less filling” advertising campaign, but it was exactly the same product that Mr. Owades had invented in his laboratory years before.
After stints at Anheuser-Busch, Carling and others, in 1975 he began consulting, and a few years later moved to the Bay Area. Owades also worked on formulas for such brands as Samuel Adams, Tuborg, New Amsterdam Beer, and Pete’s Wicked Ale. He taught a short course at Anchor Brewing he called the “Art and Science of Brewing” and also consulted with the wine industry as well. He had 25 patents, including Prequel, a pill that supposedly if you take before you start drinking, will reduce the effects of alcohol.
I first met Joe when his neighbor, who was an early marketing director at BevMo, asked him to meet with me when we first started developing private label beers at Beverages & more. I’ve never been a fan of low-calorie light beer but its influence on the industry is undeniable and that, along with Joe’s contributions to several of the craft beer pioneers, makes his legacy equally as undeniable. Join me in raising a toast to Joe’s memory.
Here’s a more tongue-in-cheek obituary featured on Morning Remembrance, which bills itself as “a collection of sarcastic obituaries ripped from the deadlines.”
Joseph L. Owades, the biochemist whose recipe for light beer achieved the impossible feat of making crappy beer even crappier, is now more stale than a Herman Cain pick-up line.
Fresh out of college, Owades got his first job researching for Fleischmann’s Yeast. Then he found out Fleischmann was one of his mom’s canasta friends and “Yeast” was another thing entirely.
In the 1950s he created the first “diet” beer by discovering an enzyme that destroys fat starches, and in the process, any reason for wanting to drink beer in the first place.
When Miller Brewing Co. bought his process they marketed the new beer with the familiar “tastes great, less filling” jingle, replacing the less successful “Hey! You gotta chug twice as much of this crap to get a buzz!” jingle.
Over the years Owades wrote over 40 research papers on beer, all of them supporting the same thesis that he’s okay to drive and nobody understands him.
Owades requested his body be brewed into a tasteless yellow liquid and poured directly into the toilet to save time.