Beer By BART, The Blog

A Juicy Session: Announcing #126

Announcing The Session #126

Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

Ready for the next installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday?  On August 4th, 2017, the topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet.  New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them. 

So fire up your keyboard – let’s hear about your own encounters with these strange IPAs.

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Any approach is welcome. Choose an idea or find your own:  

  • The encounter:  Do you remember your first NEIPA – if so, what was that like?  Details, please.  And how has your perception of the style changed over time? 
  • Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend … why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does “IPA” still apply in a way that’s helpful to drinkers?
  • Or the crusade:  Testify!  Exactly why do you love or hate these beers?  How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you.  Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?
  • Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?   What makes an IPA simply an unfiltered dry-hopped American IPA without much clarity instead of part of this style?  What about the sweeter “milkshake” IPAs – part of this style definition or something else?   What flaws make for weak examples of the style? Or maybe, where should the numbers be for this style – abv, ibu, color and clarity, etc.? What tasting instructions would you give to judges of these beers?
  • Or take another angle, tell another tale!  Have you been writing about these beers for several years now and watched them evolve?  Know something cool about the making of these beers, the people behind them, their spread to the UK and Europe?

Choose any angle and make it yours – they’re just ideas to get us thinking, not a questionnaire.  And if you have zero interest in such a beer, just say why in the fullest detail. Have fun with it!    

A few resources

The Brewers Association and the related Homebrewers Association both started out skeptical. This discussion (including comments) shows a step towards recognition: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/news/new-england-ipa-haze-craze/  Check out the April Fools style announcement complete with gravy boat snark from 2016: https://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/ne-ipa-recognized-official-beer-style

How to Participate in August’s The Session

On August 4, after you post to your blog, come on back here to add the URL pointing to your brand new post. Put it in your comment below on this page, or to get a little more buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert us directly @beerbybart on Twitter.  

I then follow up soon thereafter with a full round-up of all of the submissions with links back to your work and we all soak in the breadth of opinion and information of the beer blogging community.  Cheers to August’s Beer Blogging Friday, aka The Session!

Enjoy!

-Gail Ann Williams

Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

The Importance of SMaSHing Beers

SMaSH is a catchy acronym for a simple brewers’ learning exercise. There’s no doubt both pro and home brewers get a lot out of tasting the experiment of beers constructed from limited ingredients. But why is SMaSH – Single Malt and Single Hop –  showing up as a description in commercial releases? Is it a buzz word, a brewer’s experimentation artifact or something the beer drinking public appreciates?

smash-sheetNot a lot of ingredients showing up on this brewing sheet from Black Sands Brewing Co.

Recently, just after noticing that SMaSH beers were a topic on The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, and learning that Oregon even has a SMaSH festival, I ran into Cole Emde at the monthly Meet The Brewers Event put on by the SF Brewer’s Guild. Cole is the brewer and co-owner at Black Sands Brewery, a brewpub and homebrew shop in San Francisco. Black Sands often has a SMaSH beer on, so I was curious about how these brews are doing in his restaurant.  

I wondered about the trendiness factor – since creative beers seem to be going in and out of style at such a hectic pace nowadays.

So I asked Cole whether SMaSH is still a thing.

“Duh! If you haven’t gotten on board, you’re behind the curve, to be honest,” he told me.  “The simplest beers are typically some of the best beers.”   

He felt that some of his Black Sands SMaSH IPAs have been as good or better than IPAs made there with multiple grains and hops. And his customers love the idea of learning about hop varieties.

Cole began brewing SMaSH beers for himself, to deepen his education about specific ingredients. “What does this hop mean, what does this grain mean?”  It’s a learning experience for the brewers, but also for the consumer.

And for Cole, it matters most with new hop varieties or the release of the new annual crops.  “I want to know exactly how that hop performs.  It’s a great way to get really intimate with your ingredients.”  He cited the model of Russian River’s Hop To It, an experimental pale ale made (and served at the RR pub) intermittently, exploring each of the latest new hop varieties that come into the brewhouse there.   

This single-minded approach is not going away at Black Sands.  “It’s by far the most important thing we do,” Cole said. “Our Kölsch is a SMaSH – we always have a SMaSH on draft, no matter what.”  

After writing these notes up, I was tempted to look for a SMaSH beer in my own fridge. Even though modern brewing has developed a reliance on using blends of hops and malts and label laws do not require disclosure of materials that are built into the definition of beer, I knew I actually had one,  made with a single pale malt and just Sterling hops.

But I also knew this bottle of beer was not going to give me the desired simple SMaSH effect. A beer from a complex sour fermentation, brewed with wild yeast and lactic bacteria, that pint satisfied another thirst entirely. 

Which may go to show that a single strain of yeast is the unspoken partner of a simple SMaSH brew.  SMaSHaSY?

The next day, I spotted a draft SMaSH beer listed at San Francisco’s Holy Water, a neighborhood cocktail bar with a great beer program.  And, lo and behold, it was from Black Sands Brewing.  Curiously, the name of the hop and malt chosen for what turned out to be an excellent IPA were not listed on the board, and the bartender didn’t have more information. But that was fine with me. 

It was a mystery SMaSH – and it tasted good.

– Gail Ann Williams, co-founder of Beer By BART

 

PS:  For the announcement of this round of the Sessions, see http://marklindner.info/bbl/2017/06/announcing-session-125-smash-beers/

Want to participate in the next one?  You’re invited!   I’ll be hosting it and I plan to announce the topic by early next week.  Check back soon.

 


Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Conspiracy Under the Tarps: We Dig into the Origins of Barrelworks

The Best of the U.S. Meets the Best of Belgium
Firestone Walker’s David Walker (L) and Matt Brynildson (center)  share a lambic with Cantillon Brewer, Jean Van Roy (R)

It started with a chance encounter at Cantillon in May 2011.  Steve Shapiro (one of the two of us responsible for Beer By BART) visited the famed Brussels lambic brewery.  And he was delighted to run into Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson and a tall companion with a British accent.  Steve remembers that Jean Van Roy was astonished that he and Matt knew each other. That encounter was, however, Steve’s first introduction to Firestone Walker Brewing’s co-founder, David Walker. Steve remembers Matt whispering about Walker sipping one of the complex, acidic Cantillon beers. “Look, he’s smiling!”

Steve snapped a photo (above) as the three brewing legends enjoyed another lambic creation together.

Not long afterward, we ran into David Walker at San Francisco’s City Beer Store.  Curiously, he implied that he was the one interested in starting a sour program but facing resistance. It caught our attention. A few very nice sour “wood aged” beers from the brewery had already showed up here and there. What was going on?

David Walker, Jeffers Richardson, Jim Crooks
David Walker, Jeffers Richardson and Jim Crooks at the Firestone Walker Invitational beer fest, after the launch of Barrelworks

But eventually all was moot. We were delighted when we heard of plans for a sour fermentation facility called Barrelworks in Buellton, an hour and a half south of the main Firestone Walker location in Paso Robles, way down on the Central Coast.

We got to know Jim Crooks and Jeffers Richardson, the two who anchor the program, each with his own complicated and engrossing back story at Firestone Walker.  Still, the more we heard about their own stories and about Barrelworks, the more puzzled we were.  Had it really been a forbidden project when Walker sipped at Cantillon? The website hinted of drama, but was that just marketing hype? What was true?

So last summer we decided to track this down and take whatever time the story required.  The idea was that we would get the versions of the origin tale from various protagonists and show how differently they saw things.  We were delighted when Beer Advocate Magazine took our project on, and we dug in.

Curiously, each thing we looked into was deeper and more complex than the last. The secrets behind Barrelworks went all the way back to the unusual origins of Firestone Walker itself.  Matt Brynildson, Jim Crooks, Jeffers Richardson, Adam Firestone and David Walker all gave generously of their time and did deep dives into all kinds of tales that we reluctantly left aside as we sharpened our focus and fought to stay within the word count.  Our respect, friendship and appreciation for the people at Firestone Walker grew over the course of our investigation.

The story’s up now on the Beer Advocate website, and we hope you enjoy all of it.

“The problem was that it was getting harder and harder for Crooks to keep the burgeoning project secret. “It was like, this is Jim’s deal, and it was like, don’t tell Adam,” Firestone sighs, recalling his brewers’ increasingly ridiculous attempts to keep him in the dark. “‘Guys, I can see the barrels! They’re dribbling all over the floor. They smell like hell!’”

Alas, some of the weirdly wonderful or disputed details ended up on the cutting room floor as we trimmed the story down to article length. Thanks to Tom Griffin, who told about bringing the first second-hand bourbon barrels out to California, thus getting Matt Brynildson into the incredibly delicious Anniversary beer tradition that recently resulted in another must-not-miss example.  We hope to tell those tales another time.  Mike Hoffman told us how he lost the SLO production brewery, with many details that were eye-opening and fascinating but would have taken us far outside the original focus of the story.  Thanks to Ryan Sweeney from LA’s Surly Goat and related beer bars who told us about arriving at the Paso Robles pub one day and having a draft beer from that sour program that did not exist. There it was, on tap! We dropped another thread of the story that had to do with the unforeseen demand for 805, the popular mainstream blonde ale.   The rise of the Barrelworks program was mentioned as a soul-saving counterbalance to the monotony of producing so much 805. We kept scrapping quotes packed with astonishing insights in order to get the bones of the story in.

And we are excited for the next chapters and new beers coming from Firestone Walker. We’ll be bugging them about the progress of the Belgian sour project mentioned in the beginning of the article, and following their beers.

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Jim Crooks and one of his talented wooden foudres in the wood cellar at Barrelworks

So please check out our Feral Ones story in BeerAdvocate magazine.  And, as our editor Ben Keene reminds us, if you subscribe to BeerAdvocate, not only do you support beer journalism, but next time we write something there you will see it all gloriously laid out in a real glossy magazine you can touch, (perhaps with something akin to this issue’s historic Area 51 brewing images from Jeffers), a month before it ever goes up online.

– Gail and Steve

[photos by Steve Shapiro and/or Gail Ann Williams]



Explore beer destinations by Bay Area Rapid Transit

Don’t Miss the Pink Boots beers!

The month of March has special significance for beer, arising from March eighth, traditionally International Women’s Day. On or around that date, all over the world, brewers now host women from their own companies and colleagues invited from their local brewing communities in an onsite day devoted to creating a charity beer.

These beers — the result of the Big Boots international brewing effort — are perhaps the most visible manifestation of the Pink Boots Society, a group that has formed to raise funds for scholarships for women working in the brewing industry. The premise is that while the industry skews male, employers are looking for people with education and experience. Many brewers, distributors and service staff are essentially self-taught until they get to learn collaboratively on the job.  So, on the production side, just to get your resume looked at despite your feminine name you had best have formal beer education among your qualifications.

    This year some fine Bay Area brews are on the way! Freewheel Brewing, Laughing Monk Brewing, The Rare Barrel and Seabright Brewery all did group Pink Boots big brew days earlier in the month. 

Freewheel has released their version — “Herstoric Alewife’s Golden Ale” is on at the brewery and will soon be at select taps around town.

Seabright Brewing is now pouring “Nectar of Ishtar” honey wheat ale near the Santa Cruz boardwalk, meant to be a pleasant pairing with BBQ shrimp as well as a subtle nod to the sacred brewing traditions of ancient cultures.

“Pink Boots Prophetess” is the release from Laughing Monk.  It’s coming up on Friday March 31 in SF.  The concept of Lady Grey Tea led to bags of loose tea and orange peels in an ale that just may be your cuppa tea.

The Rare Barrel’s Pink Boots Collaboration, “Solidarity Forever,” is to be released on Friday as well, in Berkeley. The process (including all the microbes that had done the heavy lifting of the beer making to create the blending beers) is described in the excellent blog post by Danielle Byers, who organized a notably democratic process for a large group to discuss and rank choices at several stages. Ad hoc teams creatively dosed small samples with drops of custom herbal tinctures to envision a blend. (The winning combo would later be executed by placing herbs and flowers directly into sour beer and given some time to infuse.)

Zeitgeist in SF will be doing an event with as many of the Big Boots brews as they can bring in. (Watch their announcements.)  Look for more beer bars to jump in.

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[Blending day at The Rare Barrel in Berkeley involved well-organized tasting and comparing, finally followed by a full glass of beer to simply enjoy.]

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[Seabright Brewery’s Pink Boots brew in Santa Cruz, Ca. Brewmaster Cat Wiest front right.]

    Usually the Pink Boots group takes part in an early formulation discussion. Next, somebody at the host brewery finalizes a recipe so that the ingredients can be ordered on time.  After that, the collaboration day can take many forms.

    Some Pink Boots beer making days — like the sour blending session held at The Rare Barrel — are refreshingly educational and participatory.   Others are more of a brew day observation experience. Just witnessing a professional brew can be a valuable experience for sales people and front of house staffers in many cases, though it may not be as useful for most practicing or aspiring pro brewers.
     There are beer sampling opportunities and photo ops at all of these events, but the most memorable and inspirational collaborations take it further, with hands-on interactions and discussion of the engineering and the effects of that particular brew deck. (Or sour beer blending procedure, in the case of The Rare Barrel.) Doing tasks rather than simply watching them becomes a key part of the group day.  Even attaching an unfamiliar type of hose connector, ceremonially adding a handful of hops to the kettle or recording the temperature on a brew log as a guest brewer brings the group together while the others snap pictures.
    Whatever the level of involvement in the actual beer making processes, the primary goals of meeting the other local women in the industry and raising funds to educate women in the brewing world are first and foremost.

[Two kinds of honey and huge mesh bags full of tea leaves figured into the brew day at Laughing Monk Brewing, SF.]

I asked some of the women at the Laughing Monk event what it all means to them:
Amelia Franklin, Laughing Monk, sales:
  • The Pink Boots Society is really important for recognizing the contributions of women in all aspects of the field.  Hopefully also encouraging more women to participate when they see the industry is a little more diverse than they thought.
  • I have a lot of communication with the brewer in my role.
  • The beer we brewed today is my concept. I like how much you get to think!

Robin Knight, Laughing Monk, marketing and event planning:

  • PBS Big Boots brew puts the focus on women and gives us a chance to get a little more woman power into the brewery.
  • My take away from today is that brewing is physically hard work and that there’s a lot of waiting, so you really have to love it to do it.
Ashley Meredith, Harry’s Hofbrau, bartender:
  • Seeing inside other work spaces and how they are functioning has been the most eye-opening aspect [of these brew days] for me.
  • Today I’ve enjoyed learning about the development of Laughing Monk, from their opening til now, and about their future expansion, not knowing as much about the opening a business side of beer as I do about the brewing side of beer.

Erica DeAnda, Freewheel Brewing, assistant brewer:

  • Honestly, just coming together meeting so many women from all different aspects of the beer industry means we can all learn from each other. Whether you’re in sales, a brewer, a bartender — we can all come together to empower each other.
  • Freewheel is so English, so cask focused. The techniques used here today were different. Putting the lactose in was interesting. We don’t deal with that a lot!

Jaime Zlamal, Speakeasy, QA lab director/brewer:

  • I think Pink Boots as an organization is super-rad. Through networking, we can help each other to go where we want, whether it’s by sharing our experiences or our connections.
  • The brew day also involves all of us in something that’s creative and fun.
Jen Jordan, Anchor Brewing, brewer:
  • Sometimes it’s hard to take a class, due to production schedules. The Pink Boots Society manages to carve out these one day educational opportunities, and the industry sees value in the scholarship program.
  • It’s really enjoyable, just on a process side, to see how many ways there are to make beer well. It’s social learning: I learn so much about the bigger picture of the industry.
  • I never would have thought about brewing with tea, but it’s a no brainer.
pbs-trb-2017-listening.jpg
[Pink Boots participants learning about the blending philosophy at The Rare Barrel]
And there were more breweries making charity beers during these March brew days, around the state and around the world, most of which should be pouring now or soon.  To see world-wide Big Boots brew day images:   https://twitter.com/hashtag/bigbootsbrew2017
Words & pix by Gail Ann Williams

Famous Floating Festival

The annual Brews on the Bay beer festival at Fishermans’ Wharf in SF is unique in several of its features.  It’s all-City, completely local — now with nearly 30 SF breweries expected.  Who knew we’d get 30 breweries just within the City of SF itself?  But more astonishing, it’s on the Jeremiah O’Brien, a legendary Liberty Ship that still floats today thanks for volunteers who keep things shipshape.

Liberty Ships were built in the Bay Area to win WWII. You can get shown around during the fest if you dig history and engineering.  Or just hang on deck enjoying a band and tasting an amazing array of beers.  The Bay view from the deck is stunning. And this fest usually features excellent San Francisco Food trucks dockside. This Saturday the food tasting may be as good as the beer tasting.

All on Saturday Sept. 17!  Tix at the door, or grab them now:  See you there.

We’ve got some fond memories:

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P.S. If you are like a lot of locals who avoid Fishermans’ Wharf, this is an excuse to take that historic streetcar line, the “F,” from the Ferry Building near Embarcadero BART, and rumble down to the Liberty Ship.  It’s also a pleasant walk.

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Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Farewell to Barclays, Welcome to The Cooler

One of the first places we sought out to explore interesting beers was a little restaurant and beer bar below grade off College Avenue in Oakland’s Rockridge area.  Over the years, we dropped by, took pictures like the one below, hung out with friends and eventually tried dozens of beers. One visit to Barclays using BART gave us the idea to list craft beer destinations near BART stations, leading to the Beer By BART website, and many adventures including writing for The Celebrator and other publications.

There wasn’t anyplace quite like Barclay’s, though it seemed as if there should have been. The food was pretty much straight-ahead pub fare.  Many a plate of fish and chips or a burger satisfied kids and adults between dart games and perusal of the deep beer list.   Plaques and mugs hung on the walls to honor regulars past and present.  Now and then a special meal by nearby resident Bruce Paton raised the culinary game.

The last special dinner was last weekend. The establishment was a casualty of rising rents.  Tonight the word is that people will hang out together until the beer is gone.  And then, the community that found home there will evaporate into the night.

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Goodbye, Barclays.Barclay's 2a

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cooler Way to Go

There are many new venues opening, and perhaps, if we are lucky, some of them may come to provide the kind of home Barclays created for regulars and visitors.  One new gathering place that deserves a visit is The Cooler, the new project in San Leandro’s downtown, on East 14th Street.  It’s an easy, flat walk from BART, under half a mile and under ten minutes for most on foot.  We wrote up a description of The Cooler here.

arne-coolerIndustry veteran Jeff Botz, Marin Brewing Company Brewmaster Arne Johnson, and their partner, Eric Keyes, have got The Cooler up and running as a comfortable destination with a fine array of beers you can see on their website.

In this picture, taken just before the opening, Arne is fitting out the draft systems at The Cooler with easy connectors he cleverly customized, so that changing kegs in their roomy cold box area will be simple and swift.

Here’s to new places, new ideas and to remembering the pioneers and the places we first encountered the craft beer community.

Cheers.

 

Winter Fest becomes Spring Brews Festival

The Brewing Network, the podcasters who had the mojo to become publicans, were slapped with the same dilemma all of us in the SF Bay Area had with the Super Bowl in the winter months. It messed up our winter beer schedules, moving SF Beer Week back onto the new Rate Beer Best celebrations, and making the venerable BN’s January Winter festival simply too schedule-conflicted to make any sense.  The solution?

April of course, and a name change to the Spring Brews Festival 2016. And no foolish messing with the first, this festival comes to town on the second, Saturday 4/2. As always the list of brewers pouring is delightful, but just as important, the BN’s fest brings together old friends along with new faces in a delightful park, Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza, easy walking distance from BART in front of their popular pub, the Hop Grenade. This festival has been better run and more fun each year, and is especially appreciated for Tasty’s Tasting Room, one of the best ways to try top quality homebrewed beers from talented local DIY home brewmasters. From the start, brewing demos were part of the fun, along with seeing our beer community hanging out together.

Looking forward to a verdant vernal version of the now-classic annual festival! It’s been a blast every year.

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Grab your tickets and check out the list of brewers. We’ll see you there, if not on BART on the way out!

BARTing to SF Beer Week, an update

First, the Beer By BART update.  We added sixteen New beer destinations to the Beer By BART home page since last beer week.  Even though this is a personal, non-sponsored, non-commercial list, we are finding that after coming up with the fifty-odd super-obvious candidates for visiting and telling your out of town friends about, it is getting harder to decide which additional places to include or exclude from the long list. We now list about 90 destinations not far off BART (or off major MUNI lines in SF).  And there could be more, to be honest.  When we started this site nine years ago with about 20 entries, we were actively considering any place that included IPAs on tap and kept the beer serving lines clean.

We have loved doing this project.  It started us doing freelance writing for Celebrator Beer News, and other outlets.  We have met people, helped people with vacations and pub crawls, gotten into wonderful converations about the growth of the wonderful community, the creative industry and the growing market segment… and are they the same? Sometimes?  What an adventure the rebirth of good beer as turned out to be for California and especially for the people in the BART counties.  Thank you for subscribing (here or at FB or Twitter) and encouraging us! 

Next, about Beer Week.  OK, Gail here. I’m a football hater, so don’t listen to me about that, but it is seriously disruptive in a negative sense to have to move SFBW from February, as the beer goddesses and spirits intended, up into January.  Like, um, today!   But it had to be.  If you doubted, look at the traffic disruptions the Superbowl will cause starting tomorrow. Not after beer week, but on the first Saturday.

Here’s the official page for MUNI stop changes  They say it could get worse, “With set-up and take-down, transportation impacts may extend from January 23 – February 12, with these dates subject to change.” Some sites are saying to avoid Embaradero BART Station until February 12th.  I hope that’s ridiculous, but you may want to change from BART onto MUNI at Mongomery Station instead.

Looking backwards, in 2009 our blogging about the first SF Beer Week was mainly about getting a lovely seat at the Barleywine Fest, now part of craft beer history. Here’s to all the new, exciting traditions we’ll be looking to repeat next year.

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The pleasure of tasting with friends endures. Happy SFBW 2016.  See you around the bay!

 

 

Faction is brewing up a strong community

Faction hosts the Ales for ALS Beerfest for 2015

Beer drinkers rejoiced over the selection of one-off brews made with an exclusive hop blend when Faction Brewing Co. presented the second invitational Ales for ALS Beerfest.  The fest was part of a broader charity initiative that provided the coveted hops to breweries that pledged $1 per pint from sales of the resulting beers to research amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. On a warm, breezy August Saturday in Alameda, Calif., the event lived up to its promise as a destination festival. The Ales for ALS Beerfest attracted more than 1,500 beer lovers who swarmed the brewery to enjoy live music, food trucks, a raffle and outstanding brews.

Ales for ALS is an annual project founded by hop growers Mike and Cheryl Smith, third-generation hop farmers in Yakima, WA. The couple knows the face of the debilitating failure of nerves and muscles brought by ALS all too well.

“My dad died of ALS, my 54 year-old brother has ALS now, as well as a cousin and an uncle,” explained Cheryl.  “Six out of eight kids in my father’s generation died of ALS.”

“When my brother was diagnosed, we just began thinking we had to get busy raising money to find some kind of treatment or cure.”

Get busy is just what they did. Their Loftus Ranches are best known for developing varieties such as Simcoe®, Citra®, Mosaic® and Equinox. To raise funds, Loftus partnered with Hopunion hop supply company to offer a proprietary blend of experimental and hard-to-get hops to participating breweries, to support the ALS Therapy Development Institute, a major research organization working on a cure.

Initially the Smiths selected the breweries, but now brewers come to them. Mike Smith said, “it’s really touching, because every volunteer brewery has a family member, friend or colleague who has ALS.”

Last year Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River Brewing Co.) selected the hops with Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) and John Mallett (Bell’s Brewery).

This year Mallett returned. Ken Grossman brought his son, Brian Grossman. Cilurzo nominated Rob Kent (Bear Republic Brewing Co.) and Julian Shrago (Beachwood BBQ Brewing) in his place. Although Equinox and Mosaic® have names now, these recent graduates of the breeding program were included this year. Five as yet unnamed, experimental hops also made the mix. (291, 260, 344, 438 and 522, for those keeping score at home.)

Kent poured Bear Republic’s Red Racer IPA for ALS at the fest. He said it was an honor to choose the hops. “The selection process involved the ‘rub,’ which is squeezing and rubbing hops between your hands to heat up the lupulin to release its aromatics,”  Kent explained. “At this point there was debate about which hops make the cut. There were many good varieties to choose from. They ranged from fruity to earthy.”  

Most breweries brought one-off IPAs and hoppy beers, but there were stylistic surprises, such as a dry-hopped sour from The Rare Barrel, and a Brettanomyces-fermented interpretation from Cellarmaker Brewing Co.

Night-shift brewer Molly O’Brien got to formulate her first professional recipe, a saison, for this year’s version at Drake’s Brewing Co. “When I logged on to the ALS site, everyone was kind of doing pale ales and IPAs. And I love IPAs, but I wanted to do something different,” she said.  

View of San Francisco from Faction Brewing on Alameda Island. Photo by Gail Ann Williams
View of San Francisco from Faction Brewing on Alameda Island. Photo by Gail Ann Williams

Faction’s founders and festival hosts Rodger Davis and Claudia Pamparana poured their elegant imperial pale ale interpretation of Ales for ALS.  “The ALS beer was the very first beer we brewed at Faction and released in September of 2013,” said Pamparana. By the time the second Ales for ALS hops blend shipped, Davis and Pamparana had volunteered Faction as the festival site.

According to the Smiths, last year, 68 breweries got hops, and donations more than doubled from the prior year to $325,000. This year, after the accounting is done, 89 breweries in 25 states expect to combine donations with proceeds from the festival to again more than double last year’s contribution. Faction’s donation totaled $44,000.

Davis, too, has personal connections to ALS.  He’s made friends with Corey Reich, a Piedmont High School tennis coach who was diagnosed several years ago and has beaten the odds so far. Davis invited Reich to the event at his brewery, where Reich enjoyed the festival in his wheelchair.

While there’s still no way to halt this usually fatal disease, as the ALS Therapy Development Institute website reminds us, “ALS is not an incurable disease. It is an underfunded one.”


How to visit Faction

Donate to Ales for ALS

(This story was originally written for Celebrator Beer News, which comes out every other month on paper, by Gail and Steve in collaboration. Mike Condie submitted cool photos as well. Publishing works in mysterious ways, however. So, here it is electronically at Beer By BART instead. )

Celebrator Beer News covers SF doings

The Travel Issue of the Celebrator Beer News, (August and September 2015), is now available free at many brewpubs, breweries and home-brew shops.  Look for our stories and photos. On page 5, Steve tells of his trip to Victoria Beer Week, on page 3 find a Thirsty Bear photo, and on page 12, enjoy our regular San Francisco column, featuring the opening of Local Brewing Company and the expansion of Speakeasy.

Plus, you’ll find intriguing articles by our colleagues about interesting beer destinations around the world. The Celebrator can also be read online at http://www.fricke-parks.com/CBN_Aug_sept_15/

Some of our favorite photos that didn’t run this time:

photo Co-founder Regan Long and head brewer Patrick Murphy at Local Brewing Co.
Co-founder Regan Long and head brewer Patrick Murphy at Local Brewing Co., San Francisco, just before opening in early Summer.
Shaun O Sullivan shows off his wandering barrel, filled and then left to age at the new 21A Facilities in San Leandro during the entire construction.  A liquid time capsule
Shaun O Sullivan shows off his wandering barrel, filled and then left to age at the new 21A San Leandro during the entire construction.
San Leandro brewers
A San Leandro collaboration brew is plotted by Drakes, 21A, and Cleophus-Quealy

Kushel Hall
Brewmaster Bushel shows off the new controls in his upgraded brewhouse
Speakeasy
Expansion at Speakeasy — these barrels are getting evicted — Brian Stechschulte, Forest Gray, and Kushel Hall.