My Favorite Beer Cities

Another one I never got around to posting because sometimes life gets in the way:

Stephen Beaumont wrote a post a while back on his World of Beer site that “there is no such thing as a “best beer city”", his point being that the enjoyment of beer relies as much upon atmosphere, situation, and history as much as the overall beer and brewery selection in any given city. I kind of agree with him, despite the fact that I called Portland, Oregon America’s best beer city in a previous post. But this is highly subjective, admittedly, and so I thought maybe I’d just list my favorite beer cities, and why I enjoy them as much as I do, without trying to decide which is best, because I like them all for different reasons.

I did not list any cities I haven’t been to, so if a great beer city is not on the list, that would probably be why. So here they are, in no particular order, and special thanks to Stone’s Brewery Reps in each of these towns, because they are the ones that always show me what’s new:

Portland, Oregon: Nowhere I’ve been is craft beer as pervasive as I’ve seen in Portland, OR. I go to Portland about once a year, and every time I go, I get to visit many new craft beer bars or breweries. There is always something new and incredible. And craft beer is literally everywhere, it’s harder to find a restaurant or bar that doesn’t serve craft beer than it is to find one that does. Portland has a great craft brewing tradition, one of the pioneering towns of the modern day craft beer movement, so it is full of 30 year “tradition” and also some groundbreaking innovation. The Craft Brewers Conference will be in Portland in 2015, and I think we’re cooking up some big activities while we are there. Cannot wait for this.

San Diego, CA: Okay, I’m a homie now, after 8+ years of being here. There are currently over 80 craft breweries in San Diego County, and the beer scene is amazingly innovative and vibrant. There’s a beer style for everyone here. If you want a lager, an English Ale, a sour beer, or a west coast IPA, you can find excellent examples of all of these being brewed within miles of each other. I’m proud to be part of the beer community here, I just wish I lived a little closer to San Diego itself and all the great beer bars there, like Hamilton’s, Blind Lady, Small Bar and Toronado just east of downtown, and The Neighborhood and The Local in downtown. I just read that the ~20 mile stretch along Highway 78 from Escondido to Oceanside is home to something like 30 breweries! My favorite place to get a beer and a meal in the San Diego area is URGE Gastropub in Rancho Bernardo, in between San Diego and Escondido.

Cleveland, OH: I’ve traveled for Stone a few times to Cleveland OH, and always have a great time. There is a hard-core craft scene here, while it might not be as big as the scene is in some other cities, it is passionate, down to earth, and intense. There are some great breweries in Cleveland, including Fat Heads, Market Garden, and Great Lakes, and the city’s residents have really embraced Stone, which always makes a visit fun. I love the restaurants in Cleveland also, not only are there several Michael Symon restaurants, there are places like Melt and Winking Lizard that serve lots and lots of craft beer, and have delicious comfort food with generous portion sizes. Lilly’s handmade chocolates is not only a craft beer bottle shop, but they make incredible chocolates, many of them made with beer. The home brewing scene is big also. Plus it’s also home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so it scores double for me.

San Francisco Bay Area: Will always have a spot in my heart. I grew up in the Bay Area, and got my first brewing job here. The brewing scene is widespread here, so like most people, I tend to lump many Northern California breweries together as part of the SF Beer scene. I love the breweries here, the ones I knew in the 80′s when I first started brewing, like Anchor, Triple Rock, Sierra Nevada and Drakes, and the great ones that have come since I left, like 21st Amendment, Faction, Russian River, Bear Republic, and Lagunitas. The Bay Area is home to The Brewing Network, and a bunch of great craft beer bars, and is also home to some of my closest friends in the business. My only gripe about the area is that there are still some craft beer deserts-like the San Jose area and the Diablo Valley, though they are getting better. The East Bay is home to me, but I just wish craft beer would take off in my hometown, Walnut Creek. Ol is a good start, but come on! At least Concord “gets it”, kind of. But like people say when I visit the East Bay and ask where I should go:   “you need to drive through the Caldecott tunnel or take BART to get to a great beer place”.

Denver: I lived in Colorado for 3 years, and absolutely loved it. Denver is a cool town, the LoDo area was just taking off when we lived there. The brewing scene in Colorado is legendary, with breweries like Wynkoop and Breckenridge, and there are exciting new brewers popping up all the time. It’s a fun town to visit, which I get to do just about every year when I go out for the Great American Beer Festival. Falling Rock is the legendary beer bar, and is so packed post GABF sessions that I usually end up going somewhere else. But I love to go there in quieter times. My favorite place in Denver: Euclid Hall, a craft beer centric German-inspired gastropub. But downtown is just loaded with great brewers and great beer bars, all pretty much walking distance from each other. When I lived in Colorado, I was in Ft. Collins, and that town is simply amazing, with brewers like Odell and New Belgium, and several others that have opened since I left.

Seattle: Seattle’s scene is legendary as well, and every time I go there-which is on a pretty regular basis because of its proximity to Yakima (where almost all our hops are grown)- there always seems to be a new brewery that is creating a lot of buzz. I like the old standbys, like Pike and Elysian, and love Brouwer’s Cafe, which always has amazing Belgian beer selections. I’m looking forward to trying Toronado next time I’m there, which will be soon.

Philadelphia: I have to admit, I have a hard time figuring out Philly’s beer scene. Not that it isn’t great, but it is a bit unusual in that it seems to be dominated by beer bars and restaurants as opposed to breweries. There are some great breweries in the area, like Victory, Yards and the Iron Hill pub chain that wins so many awards at the GABF every year, but when I go to Philadelphia, I usually end up in a Belgian beer bar-there are several awesome ones in the town. Monk’s is the “must-visit” place in Philadelphia. But Eulogy Belgian Tavern is also great, and I’ve also enjoyed the times I’ve visited the Belgian Cafe, Tria Cafe, and Jose Pistolas.

Asheville: I went to Asheville twice in 2013, and there aren’t words to describe how cool the brewing scene is there. For a town of 80,000+ people, it certainly has a lot of really good breweries and beer bars, and I can see going there a LOT in my future. Wicked Weed Brewing, The Thirsty Monk, and Jack of The Wood are all great places to hang out. I have told my wife more than once that I want to retire there. It’s beautiful, the people are friendly and kind, and the beer is great. Can’t really beat that, can you?

Boston: I lived in the Boston area for 6 years while working for Anheuser-Busch, and the beer scene at the time was pretty much dominated by Sam Adams and Harpoon. I became friends with many of New England’s craft brewers while I lived there and active in the New England District of the Master Brewers Association. I think New England’s craft beer presence was clouded a bit in the early days by the rampant use of Ringwood yeast, but there are many amazing beers there now. I love New England and would move back in a heartbeat if Stone were to move their headquarters there (yeah, right. Probably not going to happen). If you include Maine and Vermont as part of the overall scene, you get some world-class craft brewers like The Alchemist and Allagash added to the mix.  If I had to name a “best beer state”, Vermont might be at the top of my list.

Burlington VT: Simply one of my favorite towns. It’s beautiful, and has a great vibe, and good beer. Not only are there several world-class breweries within the town limits, it’s also just a short distance away from brewers likeThe Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, Otter Creek, and so many other great Vermont Breweries. I wouldn’t mind retiring here either, if I can still deal with the cold and snow by the time I get to be retirement age.

St. Louis: I lived 5 years in St. Louis, and of course, Budweiser was king there when I lived there. But I went back last year for the first time in about 7 years, and was excited to find a vibrant craft scene, that includes the great Schlafly beer, and also newer brewers like 4 Hands and Urban Chestnut.  The town will always be beer centric, and it’s great to see people embrace craft beer since the sale of Anheuser-Busch to Inbev.

Austin: Like most people, I tend to think of music first when I think of Austin, but the beer scene is really great. I wrote a lot about the town in a previous post, but there are great craft beer bars and restaurants all over town. And yes, 6th Street, where a lot of the music is, is a bit of a craft beer desert, but you can find good beer if you look hard enough, and on the perimeter of 6th street are some great craft beer places, like Easy Tiger and Star Bar

Temecula:  This is my hometown, and I have to admit, I didn’t like it much when I first moved here over 8 years ago. It was chain restaurant hell, but in the past several years it has became home to some great gastropubs, like The Public House and Sorrel, and there are a bunch of breweries that have opened on the west side of town. Black Market opened a few years ago, was really the first brewery here after Vinnie Cilurzo’s Blind Pig Brewery closed, and they brewed a great Hefeweizen and GABF winning Rye IPA when they first opened up. Since Black Market, several breweries have also opened, owned by really super people who are brewing great beer. The list of brewers in Temecula now includes Black Market, Iron Fire, Refuge, Aftershock, Wiens and Garage Brewing. Many of these breweries sell much of their beer out of their tasting rooms, and are within either walking distance from each other or just a short drive, so a safe brewery crawl is always fun and safe to do on a weekend. Riverside County and Los Angeles are no slouches either when it comes to craft brewing-there are some great breweries that have opened up across the region, and some of my favorite beer bars, like 38 Degrees, Blue Palms, Najas, Haven, Lucky Baldwin’s, Congergation Ale House, and Mohawk Bend are located near LA.

London: I’ve been so fortunate to have been able to travel to London about 6 times in the last 5 years. I love the city, and I love the pub scene in England. Some of my favorite stops in London: The Fuller’s Brewery is still amazing after all these years, and some of the newer craft breweries, like The Kernel and Beavertown are brewing really exciting beers. Meantime in Greenwich does a great job brewing both German style beers and historically influenced English Ales. There are some really great craft beer pubs around London too, including The Rake in the Borough market area, The Craft Beer Co. in Clerkenwell, and the Euston Tap, just outside the Euston train station.

Montreal: Fortunately, I got to Montreal twice when I lived in new Hampshire. It’s a great beer town full of Belgian influenced brewers. I have very fond memories of doing an all day walking brewery/pub crawl with several friends from the Brew For or Die homebrew club. And our Unibroue stop was epic. I’ll never forget going into an Irish pub on St. Catherine Street and hearing an Irish band play Metallica.

Brussels: I’ve only been to Brussels once, and for the best reason: to visit Cantillon. Steve Wagner and I stopped there for a night during one of our trips to London. Jean Van Roy was very generous with his time and his sampling when we told him where we were from. And in the town center, there are the world famous beer bars like Delirium Tremens. The Belga Queen was one of the best dinner experiences I have ever had. Boon Gueze on cask–all night.

Grand Rapids, MI: Made my first visit to Grand Rapids for the American Homebrewers Conference in June, and it’s really a very cool beer town. Founders is right there-their beers are fantastic, and their restaurant serves great sandwiches. Walking distance from Founders is Hop Cat and several other great beer spots. And Brewery Vivant was a fun last minute stop-they are killing it. Lots of really great places. And nearby, Kalamazoo (home to Bell’s) and Ann Arbor-Home to Ashley’s and close to Jolly Pumpkin, are no slouches either!

Now that Stone is working on opening up breweries in Berlin and in a location TBD on the East Coast, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the world’s great beer towns.

 

On my quality soapbox (again)

I haven’t posted here in what seems like forever. Those who know me know that I have a lot going on right now, both personally, and professionally, and the motivation to sit in front of the keyboard and type out my thoughts just hasn’t been there lately.

This is a post I wrote soon after the Craft Brewers Conference in April, and just never got around to posting, so here it is..

From April 2014:

During the keynote session of the Craft Brewers Conference, Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association, gave his annual state of the industry talk. In that discussion, he told a story about going to a beer festival and trying many really bad beers from newer brewers. These brewers thought their beer was fantastic, and were buoyed by the positive response they had received from their customers, so they had no idea their beer, from a technical standpoint, was flawed. This is cause for concern. Paul’s  takeaway message: “QUALITY QUALITY QUALITY and “don’t f*@k it up” for the rest of us.” A lot of craft brewing people have spent years building this industry, and one serious quality issue could really ruin the great momentum that has been built.

In the biggest honor of my career, right after Paul’s opening address, I was awarded the Brewers Association Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing, and as I walked up on the stage to say a few words, I decided then and there that I would follow up Paul’s comments with a few of my own, which ended up being something about how the growth of this industry is great, but if you are starting a brewery, please, please, please hire a brewer who knows what the hell they are doing.

A few hours later, Dr. Michael Lewis from UC Davis gave a seminar where he stressed the importance of having technically trained brewers on your staff. And he took it a step further, saying that it is also important that they have an independent certification of their mastery of the craft.

Recently, my friend Jeremy Danner from Boulevard Brewing Company posted on Facebook the following: “Fellow brewer types, as you plan your trips to GABF this fall, if you can afford a week in CO, you can afford a microscope. Buy one.” I loved this post…

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you already know that beer quality is very important to me. It is important that, as brewers, we all strive to make the highest quality, most consistent beer that we can. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. On the other hand, a craft brewer making lousy beer can drive fledgling craft beer drinkers permanently to other beverages, like wine or spirits. And that’s bad news for all of us.

Unfortunately, there are some brewers starting up who don’t understand the importance of this, and worse yet, how to achieve it.

I teach the Wort Production and Recipe Formulation for the UC San Diego Extension Brewing Certification Program, and one thing I constantly preach to my classes is that if you are starting a brewery, at a minimum you need to invest in a microscope, a pH meter, and hydrometers. Basic stuff, right? But I’ve walked into so many new breweries that have none of this, or perhaps just hydrometers to check gravity, and it just makes me shake me head. And not enough brewers out there have had any formal sensory training, and know how to identify off-flavors in their beers, and subsequently, how those off flavors are formed, and how to fix them or prevent them.

Again, beer quality, as defined by most brewers, has a very clear meaning: The ability to brew beer with no off flavors, the ability to brew the same beer consistently from batch to batch, to recognize and fix quality issues before the beer gets packaged, having the recognition of when its best to simply dump a beer that has gone south, and the ability to evaluate beer ingredients to brew the best beer possible.

Notice I did not mention formulation. To me, that’s where the consumer comes in. Once all the brewers master the art of quality, their formulations can come under fair scrutiny by beer drinkers, who then use their purchasing power to determine which beers thrive and which beers don’t.

I’ve seen many people take the opinion that having poor quality beer out there won’t affect the overall growth of craft beer. In other words, beer customers won’t turn away from craft after having a poorly brewed beer. In some respects that is true-one bad apple won’t spoil the whole bunch. But here is a reason why brewing quality matters: The craft industry is now a major factor in overall beer consumption. Big brewers are starting to really focus on craft beer, and they have the marketing power to exploit poor quality beer and generalize that across the entire craft beer scene. This is not a joke or an idle threat, look what Anheuser-Busch did to craft beer in the 1990s, when they drove the expose on Dateline with Sam Adams and the concept of “who really brews your beer”. The fallout on craft beer started immediately afterwards, and it took years for the craft beer business to recover, and most contract brewers disappeared. These big brewers understand quality, and have a lot of power, and if they ever figure out how to effectively combine these two elements to convey their message it could have a very bad effect on the rest of the industry. Fortunately, for us, their Executives and Marketing folks still don’t “get” what craft beer is all about, so they haven’t been able to effectively talk about this with any credibility.

As MIchael Lewis says, it’s not good at all for craft brewers to get smug with our success, spend too much time patting ourselves on the back, and rest on laurels, since a potential quality disaster is just around the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Historian and Author Ron Pattinson visit

Ron Pattinson, author of the The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer, will be in the San Diego area this coming week. He is the author of many books and the blog Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. He is well known for deciphering brewing ledgers from hundreds of years ago and in the process, has helped debunk many of the brewing myths that have been out there for years. Ron has brewed historical beer recipes at many breweries, including Fuller’s in London and Pretty Things in Massachusetts. Additionally, he helped me a ton by providing analytical data,  and proofreading my book on IPA. If you are a home brewer or professional brewer and want some unique and interesting historical beer recipes, his new book has over 100 recipes going back hundreds of years. Ron doesn’t often travel to the US. He spends most of his time in Amsterdam and the UK, so don’t miss this rare opportunity to meet a great person and knowledgeable beer historian!

The schedule
Thursday, May 15
Ron will brew a historical East India Porter recipe with me and Liberty Station Brewing Manager Kris Ketcham at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens-Liberty Station. Post brew, Ron will have a book signing and meet-and-greet with several members of Stone’s Brew Crew from 5 to 7 p.m. while Liberty Station holds its One-Year Anniversary Celebration. Ron will have books available to sell and sign.

Friday, May 16
Ron will be at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens-Escondido for a casual meet-and-greet and book signing from 4 to 6 p.m. Afterward, he will travel south to be on the FM 94/9 Rock and Roll Happy Hour with me and Ken Wright at 7 p.m. I recently found out that Ron and I share a love of 60s Garage Band music, so I hope to have a nice selection of tunes to play on the show.

Saturday, May 17
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ron will be at ChuckAlek Independent Brewers (2330 Main St, Suite C, Ramona) doing a homebrewer Q&A and book signing. That evening from 6 to 8 p.m., he has agreed to conduct a talk geared at professional brewers regarding Brettanomyces in regards to British brewing practices. That will be held at The Brew Project (1735 Hancock Street, San Diego) in Mission Hills.

 

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World Beer Cup Judging

As I was watching the live stream of the 2014 World Beer Cup awards ceremony the other night on the The Brewing Network, I noticed in the chat room a lot of suppositions about how the competition is run. As a long time judge, I thought I might take a little time to explain how the competition for the WBC (and the GABF) is organized and how the judging process works. Special thanks to Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator and long time Competition Manager Chris Swersey from the Brewers Association, who reviewed this post and added some valuable detail about the process.

First off, the competition is blind, meaning that judges do not ever know what beers they are tasting in any given session. The only information provided is a random identification number and a description of what (if any) special ingredients might be in the beer (about a third of all beers are entered in styles allowing entering brewers to specify fruit, spices, type of wood, etc.). The random numbers assigned to each specific beer change for each round they are judged, making the process truly a blind competition.

Judging sessions are divided into a morning session and an afternoon session for each day of the judging. In each approximately 3 hour session, 6 or 7 judges are assigned to sit at a specific table, and they judge 1, 2 or 3 flights of beer (most often 3). The judges stay at the same table for each half-day session. Each round consists usually of 10-12 beers, so there can be 20-30 beers total in each session, and with 2 sessions per day, that results in 40-50 beers being judged by any particular judge over the day. Unless it is a medal round, the table is usually split in half, and one side of 3-4 judges gets one round of samples, the other side of judges get a different round of samples, though they are always the same style. Morning sessions tend to focus on lower alcohol styles; afternoon sessions tend to include higher alcohol or higher flavor styles. This is not a hard and fast rule, just a general theme. Also, at any given table styles tend to be scheduled as less flavorful followed by more flavorful – for example, golden ale followed by stout.

It is common to have 2 different styles judged in any session, though for each individual flight in a session, they are all the same style. So for example, in one session, a team of judges at a table could have 2 flights of American Pale Ale, then 1 flight of Imperial Stouts (I am not divulging what styles I judged). Categories with 12 or fewer entries are judged in one first and final round, meaning all 6-7 judges taste all the beers, choosing (usually) 3 winners.

Categories with 13-24 entries are judged at one table, but in two flights. In the first flight, the table is split in half. Each group of 3 or 4 judges evaluates half of the entries, passing 3 on to the final round. In the second and final flight, all 6-7 judges taste the 6 finalists, choosing (usually) 3 winners.

Categories with 25-48 entries are judged at two tables, in two flights. In the first flight, half of the total number of entries is assigned to each table, and each table is split in half. Each of the four groups of 3 or 4 judges evaluates their share of entries (never more than 12), passing 3 along to the final round at one table, for a total of 12 finalist entries. In the final round, all 6-7 judges taste the 12 finalists, choosing (usually) 3 winners.

Categories with 49-72 entries are judged at three tables, in three flights. In the first flight, one third of the total number of entries is assigned to each table, and each table is split in half. Each of the six groups of 3 or 4 judges evaluates their share of entries (never more than 12), passing 3 along to the second round at one table, for a total of 18 second round beers. The second round table is split in half, with each group of 3 or 4 judges evaluating 9 beers and passing along 3 finalist entries. In the final round, all 6-7 judges taste the 6 finalists, choosing (usually) 3 winners.

Categories with 73-96 entries are judged at four tables, in three flights. In the first flight, one quarter of the total number of entries is assigned to each table, and each table is split in half. Each of the six groups of 3 or 4 judges evaluates their share of entries (never more than 12), passing 3 along to the second round at one table, for a total of 24 second round beers. The second round table is split in half, with each group of 3 or 4 judges evaluating 12 beers and passing along 3 finalist entries. In the final round, all 6-7 judges taste the 6 finalists, choosing (usually) 3 winners.

Categories with more than 96 entries are judged at tables increasing every time another 24 entries is added.

Most categories have 2-3 rounds. Categories with more than 192 entries like India Pale Are are judged over 4 rounds. For most styles, the tasting flow is structured in multiples of 12 or 24 entries. For certain high alcohol or high BU styles the multiple is 10 or 20 instead of 12 or 24.

During the first round (only) comments are filled out that are returned to the entering breweries:

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The beer evaluation form used for beers in the first round of WBC and GABF. Judges who don’t write a lot of comments on this form may not be invited back. It’s important feedback for the entering brewers.

In rounds 2, 3, and sometimes 4, for each category, 3 of the 10-12 samples are again selected for moving on to the next round. By the time the beers make it to the final round, they have been selected and passed through as being one of the top 3 in each previous round. The final round (the medal round) can consists from anywhere from 6-12 samples that have arrived via a process of elimination. If a table is doing a medal round, the table is not split, and every one of the 6 or 7 judges tastes and evaluates the same beers to award the medals. Note that you may taste 2 rounds of a certain style, yet may not judge in the medal round, which can get sent to a different table of judges.

The judging requires consensus on the 3 beers being passed forward. It is not based on scores. No scores are given, unlike in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) homebrew competitions (see below for their scoresheet). The 3-4 judges at WBC and GABF have to all agree on which 3 beers are the best of the round and are deserving of being passed on. This can take a fair amount of discussion, though the process is helped by the fact that each style has very specific Style Guidelines and each judge is required to use those guidelines for the basis in which they judge the beers. And if a beer is not perfect in any way with respect to the style, it will not be given a gold medal. Which is sometimes why there is no gold medal awarded in a category. It’s not a ranking contest, medals are given based on very specific guidelines for gold, silver and bronze awards.

BJCP Judging Scoresheet includes a detailed scoring system-not used at WBC or GABF

By the time the judges get the remaining beers for the medal round, the beers are, by and large, world class examples of the particular style. And determining which get awarded medals can be tough and at times contentious. The discussions and debates that occur are always respectful, but judges are not always in agreement over which beers deserve to be awarded a medal.

This year there were 94 separate categories that were judged. All the judges have proven skills in taste evaluation of beers and knowledge of beer styles. In an impressive showing, 75% of the judges this year were from outside the United States. And no judge is allowed to judge in a category that they have a beer entered in. It was a pleasure and an honor to sit at the table with some of the best brewers in the world and judge this year’s World Beer Cup. The integrity of the competition is at the highest level, and my congratulations to all the winners this year, many of whom are good friends.

 

 

 

The Russell Schehrer Award

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At the annual Craft Brewers Conference held in Denver this year, I was honored to be awarded the  Brewers Association Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing.

Without trying to sound too sappy, I was more than humbled by this. And shocked when I got the phone message from Dick Cantwell, telling me that I was the recipient of the 2014 award. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities in brewing, ever since I landed in Michael Lewis’ Brewing Science class at UC Davis in the early 1980s. After 4 years trying to start a brewery, I got an early start in the 2nd wave of brewpubs in California in 1988 at San Andreas Brewing Co., moved on to a wonderful 14 year career at Anheuser-Busch, where I was able to develop many new beers for AB, and now am celebrating 8 years with Stone Brewing Co. It’s been a wild and fun ride, and I love the brewing business as much, or more now, than when I started 26 years ago.

I’ve been fortunate enough to brew with and learn from some of the most skilled, knowledgable brewmasters in the business-from the old school German Brewmasters at Anheuser-Busch to Steve Wagner at Stone Brewing Co., and I’ve been able to brew with many other huge talents in Stone’s collaboration brewing program. You never stop learning in this business-or if you do, you quickly become irrelevant. So I relish the opportunity to brew beer with others.

Look at the previous brewers who have won this award. I am in some amazing company. And many of the previous winners approached me to say “welcome to the club”. I am glad that that, with the exception of Greg Noonan, whom I only met once, I know everyone else on this list, consider many of them good friends,  and consider all of them inspirations. It’s an amazing business we’re in, and an amazing time in brewing history. I simply feel fortunate to be able to be a part of it.

Previous recipients of the Brewers Association Russell Schehrer award for innovation in craft brewing:

2013 – Peter Bouckaert, New Belgium Brewing Co.
2012 – James Ottolini, St. Louis Brewery, Inc.
2011 – Jennifer Talley, Squatters Pub Brewery/Salt Lake Brewing Co.
2010 – Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
2009 – Steve Parkes, American Brewers Guild
2008 – Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Company
2007 – Matt Brynildson, Firestone Walker Brewing Company
2006 – Dan Carey, New Glarus Brewing Company
2005 – Greg Noonan, Vermont Pub and Brewery
2004 – Dick Cantwell, Elysian Brewing Company
2003 – Phil Markowski, Southampton Publick House
2002 – John Mallett, Kalamazoo Brewing Co.
2001 – John Harris, Full Sail Brewing Co.
2000 – Mark Carpenter, Anchor Brewing Co.
1999 – Fal Allen, Pike Brewing; Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
1998 – Garrett Oliver, The Brooklyn Brewery
1997 – John Maier, Oregon Brewing Co./Rogue Ales

I may never know who originally nominated me for this award, but I want to thank them. This is such an honor. And I want to acknowledge the contributions of Team Stone, and especially our Brew Crew, because this wouldn’t have been possible without their never ending hard work and passion that it takes to get our beers out into the world for people to enjoy.

I also want to give a shout out to Teri Fahrendorf, founder of the Pink Boots Society, a non-profit organization for women in the brewing industry that several of our female team members at Stone belong to. Teri was the deserving recipient this year of the annual Brewers Association Recognition Award. Teri and I started professionally brewing at about the same time in the Bay Area, I remember the first time I met her when I was at San Andreas and she was at Golden Gate Brewing in the late 1980s. She has done so much for this business, and has had a wonderful and innovative career, and I was so glad to see her get this recognition.

The Home Brewers Guide to Vintage Beer

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I recently received this book, The Home Brewers Guide to Vintage Beer the mail, and I am tremendously excited about it for many reasons.

If you’ve read my book on IPA, you know that beer historian Ron Pattinson helped me a lot with it, he contributed numerous data tables on English and Scottish IPA brewing analysis and specifications, and fact-checked my manuscript before publication. His website Shut Up About Barclay Perkins is one of my favorite internet sites about beer. I visit it at least twice per week, because I always learn something new about brewing, not only about historical English techniques, but Scottish, German and American facts as well. He has done amazing work in researching old brewing logs and figuring out how the brewers made their beers, what the ingredients were like, what the style names meant, and along the way, debunking many brewing myths and clarifying the brewing procedures used through written brewing history. It really is an incredible place to learn about brewing history.

By my count he includes over 110 historical beer recipes in this book, covering the following styles: Porter, Stout, IPA, Pale Ale/Bitter, Light Bitter/Light Ale, Mild Ale, Stock/Burton Ale, Scottish Ales, Brown Ale, Broyhan, Grodziskie and some other European styles. In each chapter, he gives a synopsis of how and when the style originated and how it evolved over time. Each recipe is laid out in an easy to follow style, sized for a 5 gallon brew, but easily scalable to your own brewing system. And there are historical notes provided for each recipe as well.

Pattinson IPA Recipes

Here are 4 of the Historical IPA Recipes in Ron’s book.

Pattinson Mild Recipes

Here a couple of Mild recipes

I was never much into history until I started writing the IPA book, and then I got sucked in completely into the history of brewing, and the thrill of discovering extinct beer styles. Ron Pattinson’s website provided a lot of information that I was able to use in the book, and it was very gratifying that Ron was so willing to help.

Ron has worked with many brewers to brew historical recipes including my friends Dann and Martha Paquette at Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project (check out  Pretty Things Historical Beers to see some of the historical beers they have brewed), and John Keeling and Derek Prentice at Fuller’s, who brewed an historical Double Stout and XX Strong Ale with Ron’s help as part of their Fuller’s Past Master’s Series.

I’ve never actually met Ron Pattinson, all our correspondence has been via email. But I am excited that he will be in the San Diego area this spring, and we hope to brew a batch of beer with him while he’s here. He will be selling his book on the trip, so I hope you all come out to any of the events that scheduled (we’re hoping Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens Liberty Station in mid-May). More to come on this as events get planned.

 

The Ecliptic/Stone Collaboration-White Asteroid!

In my last post I talked about how a buddy and I went backpacking after representing San Andreas Brewing Co. at the Oregon Brewers Festival several years in a row in the late 80s and early 1990s. After one of those backpacking trips, we found ourselves driving through Bend OR, and stopped by the Deschutes Brewpub. That’s where I first met John Harris, who has since went on to do some great brewing for Full Sail, and just recently opened his long-awaited brewery, Ecliptic. John and I have been friends ever since we first met, and have had many beers together over the years at industry conferences and festivals.

So for the first time, we got to brew a batch of beer together. John came up with the idea of doing an Imperial Wit, and of course, without hesitation, I agreed (I usually don’t object to any collaborative beer ideas unless it’s physically impossible to do, or its a style I don’t like-which eliminates about 0 beers). Having never brewed this style before, I was really looking forward to it. We talked a bunch about the recipe, and I suggested using New Zealand Motueka Hops, and we agreed on abv and IBU targets, as well as the use of orange peel and coriander (big surprise) as additional spices.

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The recipe!

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I thought the decision to use chamomile in an Imperial Wit was inspired. Nice job John!

This was the first time John had brewed with wheat at his new brewery, and of course, the lauter stuck. I’m getting a reputation: clogging wort chillers in the UK, and clogging lauters in the US. After much raking with a boat oar, the runoff finished and the rest of the brew progressed without any issues.

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Stone Lead Brewer Jeremy helping out dumping malt into the mill.

 

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Mash in

 

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Crafty use of a discarded Anheuser-Busch keg as a grant, to regulate flow from the lauter

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Unique way to wheel a pump around the brewery. Nice having a pump cart with a workspace on it.

All in all, it was a pretty mellow brew day, and we had lots of brewer visitors throughout the day, including a team from Brewers Supply Group, Matt Brynyldson from Firestone Walker, Otto Ottolini from Schlafly, Greg Hall from  Virtue Cider in Michigan and John Mallett from Bell’s.

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Every brewery should have a workout center

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Jim Boyd from Roy Farms tasting the wort

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Hanging out with John always involves some good music. We had tunes going all day, this band Broken Teeth were a bit like old school AC/DC. John has turned me on to some good music over the years.

I’ve never been much of a cider drinker, but Greg Hall brought some of his Virtue Cider in and it totally changed my perspective on what cider can be. These weren’t simply fermented apple juices, there was an amazing amount of detail that went into each cider he shared with us, including the apple varieties, how long after harvest they are pressed, the yeast (he had some with Belgian Yeast, American yeast, and Brettanomyces), barrel selection. Each of the 4 ciders was completely different than the others, some were quite funky and others clean and tart. I was really impressed.

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Greg Hall’s Cider Selection. Amazing.

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John Mallett and John Harris troubleshooting over a beer.

So the beer itself-John suggested the name White Asteroid, and despite several other ideas brought forth, it stuck. It ties in nicely with John’s theme-Astronomy, and our name (Stone). All these years I have known John and never knew how into astronomy he is. It’s pretty cool, all his beers at Ecliptic have astronomically themed names. So White Asteroid-totally appropriate.

The Ecliptic Brewery is a fun place to visit. John’s beers are fantastic, and the astronomy theme can be seen throughout the restaurant. And the food is great!

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John’ s amazing beer list. I really enjoyed the NGC 881 Pale Ale, brewed w/ ADHA 881 experimental hops.

John sent us a keg of the beer so we could try it, it’s been pouring in our QA lab for a few days now and it is delicious. Spicy and fruity, the coriander and orange peel are stellar, the bitterness is firm, the beer is nice and dry and the chamomile subtleties are wonderful. I love how the beer turned out, and am pleased to have had the chance to finally brew with John. I hope we get to do it again soon.

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Behold! White Asteroid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bay Area Trip Part 2

In the last post, I talked about how much fun we had brewing At Heretic in early January. In addition to brewing at Heretic Brewing Co I also got to visit two exciting new breweries while in the Bay Area.

Rodger Davis is a Bay Area brewing icon, having been the brewmaster at both Triple Rock and Drake’s, and he recently opened his new brewery, Faction Brewing with his wife Claudia. Located in an old military  hangar in Alameda, they have tons of space with an incredible view of the San Francisco skyline. They have plans to put a deck outside to capitalize on the view, and their tasting room, while still being constructed, is already a great place to enjoy their really nice beer selection. I’m a big fan of Rodger’s beers, so I hope they make their way to SoCal at some point. If not, I’ll just have to visit every time I’m in the area!

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I love this logo

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Isn’t this view amazing? It will be unobstructed forever, because of an endangered bird species that makes its home in the area.

 

Stone NorCal Brewery Rep Dave Hopwood, Mike McDole and I also went to a new brewery, The Rare Barrel in Berkeley. Jay and Alex do exclusively Brettanomyces with Lactic Acid Bacteria or Pediococcus soured beers. Excellent beers, and I really like their approach. I sometimes have trouble drinking sour beers, though I do enjoy tasting them, but the beers at The Rare Barrel had such a pleasant, mellow tartness that I could drink them all day. Their facility consists of barrels and primary fermentation (from Brettanomyces…they’ve never used standard brewers yeast). They don’t have a brewhouse, they brew at other local breweries, and ship the wort back to their facility for fermentation and aging.

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Amazing beer list. My favorites were Egregious, a dry hopped sour golden, and Sirius Black, their blackberry sour. But they were all fantastic.

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I also want to make mention of some great beer locations that we visited while in the area:

The Diablo Valley needs more craft beer spots, but it’s getting there. Creek Monkey Tap House is a great spot, in an old house alongside a creek in downtown Martinez. We’ve done several Stone events there in the past couple of years, and they always have Jamil’s Heretic beers on tap.

Another Diablo Valley favorite is ØL BEERCAFE & BOTTLE SHOP, in downtown Walnut Creek. Great bottle shop and bar, they focus primarily on Belgian beers. I had a Gueuze Tilquin there, from Belgium’s newest gueuze maker, and it was quite nice.

I didn’t get to EJ Phair Concord this time around, but it’s one of may favorite spots in central Concord, right across the street from Todos Santos Plaza, where the Brewing Network will be holding their annual Winter Brews Festival on January 25th. I was also excited to learn that The Brewing Network will be moving their studio to a location right by EJ Phair in Concord, and they will have a tap house there as well. Exciting times!

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Had some great barbecue and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale at Slow Hand BBQ in Pleasant Hill.

Surprisingly, this was the first time I had a chance to visit Jupiter Beer in Berkeley, and we enjoyed some Pizza and some house brewed beers.

The Bay Area is “home” for me, and I always love visiting. Hope to get back there soon!

 

 

 

 

Evil Cubed-Bay Area Trip part 1

 

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The San Francisco Bay Area (the Diablo Valley/East Bay specifically) is home for us. Both my wife and I grew up there, still have family and friends there, and it holds a special place in our hearts. I love having the opportunity to visit, I don’t get to enough, but I did get to go last week for a few days, and had a great time visiting breweries and some new craft beer bars.

Had a great experience brewing with 2 of my favorite people in the craft beer world, Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic Brewing Company, and Mike “Tasty” McDole, Homebrewer/Collaborator extraordinaire and Brewing Network legend. This whole idea came together a year ago, when I was able to attend the Brewing Network’s Winter Brew Festival in Todos Santos Plaza in central Concord (I went specifically to taste a Session IPA I brewed with Alex Nowell at Drake’s over the holidays). We were having a beer together when Mike suggested we brew a beer together once Jamil’s brewery opened up. After some schedule wrangling, we finally made it happen, and we spent a great day at Heretic in Fairfield brewing a Triple IPA.

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At the event that started this idea, back in January 2013-The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival. Heretic Brewing has pictures like this all across their bar top, which is really great.

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That photo above inspired this amazing logo for the beer!

I love brewing at other breweries as a collaborator. Often it’s the only occasion I have to really brew anymore. As I described in a previous post, my job currently involves running and managing the brewery (as opposed to brewing). Though I have to say that this day, Chris, Jamil’s head brewer, and brewer Warren did the bulk of the work, and we just tried to not get in their way. It was a super fun day, Jamil and Liz Zainasheff were wonderful hosts, and we ate and drank very well while there. If you haven’t tried Heretic’s beers, you need to. Evil Twin and Evil Cousin are amazingly hoppy and delicious. And, we seriously hope to have Jamil visit us at Stone for a collaboration brew sometime soon.

I just saw a “Movie Poster” for this beer, a Triple IPA late and dry-hopped with Amarillo and Australian Summer hops. Tropical fruit goodness, I do hope I get to taste some. I know it will be poured all over the Bay Area during San Francisco Beer Week, but I don’t think I’ll make it to the Bay Area this time. In the Bay Area, it should be available at the 2014 Winter Brews Festival in Concord, and at The Bistro in Hayward for their 14th Annual Double IPA Festival on February 8. But I also know that Jamil is trying to get some to Southern California.

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The “Movie Poster”. Note the music credit

Here are some photos from brew day:

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The Brew Log. Hoping to dispel the rumor that I don’t like crystal malt.

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Getting ready to mash in. Milling is done on a high level, accessible by the scissor lift on the left.

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Trying to stay out of Heretic Head Brewer Chris’ way. Found out about halfway through brew day that he doesn’t like people on his brew deck. If true, he dealt with all of us incredibly well!

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It was a nice surprise having Chris from Dunbar Brewing in Santa Margarita spend the day with us. Several of Team Stone brewed a collaboration with him at his brewery last year.

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And on another note:

Stone Double IPA

Thanks to my friend, London Brew Wharf’s Angelo Scarnera for the picture. He liked the beer.

The 8.5% abv Double IPA (see how I did that?) I brewed with Fergus at Adnams in December has apparently been released and is now pouring at the braver JD Wetherspoon locations in the UK. If anyone tries this beer, please let me know how it tastes!