Brewed and Tattooed: New Lagunitas Chicago Collaboration “Zephyr Ale”

Updated (6/21/11) See end of post.

Being born in Chicago and now living in Petaluma, CA, I couldn’t be more stoked to make this my first post on Bay Area Craft Beer.

A cross-country tale of Brews, Tattoos, and Restaurateurs …

Zephyr Ale Logo

Fresh off the heels from their Bay Area pub-owner collaborative brew, SF Beer Week Beer, this is the first group effort Lagunitas has done with restaurants. It’s a collaboration with two Chicago eateries, Big Star and The Publican. Why ChiTown? For one thing, Lagunitas Founder Tony Magee is a Chicago native. And another, why not?

This is a special beer made just for Chicago by Chicagoans. We kept it light in color, but big in flavor–it was made with mostly Pale Malted Barely, and we added a bit of Malted Wheat and dry-hopped it with Liberty and Nelson Sauvin to lend a spicy finish. It was fermented with our Lager yeast and we held back on the Hop-bomb effect so the yeast character could poke through a bit. Rolls down smooth and fast, like it’s namesake cross-county train!”

Zephyr Ale is in fact named after the gorgeous art deco streamliner that ran from Cali to Chicago. The train, also known as The Silver Lady, can still be viewed and even strolled through inside the Museum of Science & Industry. Apparently, the hostesses who worked on it were known as “Zephyrettes.”

Design: Hanna Aitchison

In tribute to The Silver Lady, the spirit of collaboration, and generally bein’ rough-around-the-edges, the gang brought in tattoo artist extraordinaire Hanna Aitchison of LA Ink fame to handle the artwork. Unfortunately due to timing constraints it didn’t make the official tap. Stay tuned for details on where it’ll surely pop up.

The beer hits Chicago and California in June but you can get a taste right now …

Lagunitas Taproom Zephyr Chalkboard

Photo: Eric Kenner

If you’re in the Bay Area you can be among the first to try it right at the Lagunitas TapRoom in Petaluma. They just tapped it yesterday. Cheers.

Update (6/21/11): A mural of Hanna Aitchison’s Lagunitas artwork was spotted in Wicker Park, Chicago.

Photo: Markandeya Sendan

A First-Timer Goes to Boonville

“I can’t believe you’ve never been to Boonville!” shocked beer drinkers would cry. In the Bay Area beer world, it’s like admitting you’d never had an IPA.

Photos: Rick Hayes (left) & Alberto Gutierrez (right)

The actual Legendary Boonville Beer Fest, now in its 15th year, is a four-hour beer festival at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds down the street from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. It’s a fine example of a commercial fest, with unlimited sampling and a wide array of micro and regional breweries. It’s a 2+ hour drive from the Bay Area though and we’ve got plenty of festivals at home. The big draw for many is camping in the surrounding area, turning the fest into an all-weekend beerathon (and smokeathon, if that’s how you roll).

Photo: Alberto Gutierrez

I was lucky enough to be granted a spot in the brewers’ camp by Ale Industries in Concord. A lot of the positivity I feel towards Boonville is thanks to those guys and their fun-loving camping crew. Ale Industries’ Morgan Cox has been attending Boonville for a decade and he knows what he’s doing (and grills a mean pork dinner). When I arrived there were already four good beers on tap at the campsite: two from Ale Industries and two from homebrewer and MoreBeer employee Jesse Warren. “Roughing it,” this ain’t.

But let’s try to separate my lucky break from the average person’s Boonville experience. Its official name even includes the adjective “Legendary,” but how legendary is it, really?

The legend: It’s chaos.
True, but that’s not necessarily an insult. Repeat attendees seem to declare this festival a hot mess with a big smile on their faces. Weird, loud, and crazy stuff does occur, beyond the normal beer fest antics of cheering for dropped glasses. Costumes, singing, drinking games, and depantsing…I saw it all in a few short hours.

There is bad behavior, but it doesn’t dominate the festival or ruin the day. For every out-of-control bro emptying his bladder on a fence there’s a beer geek taking notes and most festival attendees are somewhere between those two extremes. They’re drinking beer, making merry and learning a little something about what they like and what good breweries can offer them.

If you keep a sense of humor, you can have an amusing time people-watching the shenanigans. Just make sure you control your own consumption somewhat so you can laugh about the guy passed out under a tree, not be that guy.

Iron Springs Brewing Ambrewlance / Photo: Rick Hayes

The legend: A marching band?
True. The Humboldt Firkin Tappers, a band of mostly-local musicians, travel the festival and the campgrounds doing marching-band arrangements of rock and pop songs. Some find them irritating, and rumor has it they’ll drain all the beer at your campsite if you’re not careful, but for my money there’s nothing better than hearing Cee Lo’s “F*** You” played on brass instruments by drunk people.

The Humboldt Firkin Tappers / Photo: Rick Hayes

The legend: The weather’s gonna suck.
This year, true. Friday and Saturday were chilly and overcast, and then it rained on-and-off from Saturday night through Sunday. On the way out of town, on windy Route 128, it hailed. Hailed! We get it, Mother Nature: you’re not a beer fan. Please don’t send frogs and locusts next year.

The key is to pack lots of layers – more than you think you’ll need – and make sure someone in your group brings a canopy. The other survival tactic is attitude. Decide in advance not to let lame weather dictate your mood, and if you’re finding this difficult, drink more delicious beer until it’s easy.

The legend: The four-hour festival just gets in the way of your three-day camping party.
Well…true and false. Any weekend when I can sleep in a tent is a good one, and I consider a beer festival in the middle to be a bonus, not a nuisance. But that’s easy for me to say, because I’m not a brewer. Hauling kegs, setting up, cleaning up and staying sober to truck it all back through town is not as enjoyable as chilling with friends at the campsite. When you see brewers at fests like this let them know you like their beer so they remember it’s worth it.

Dan Del Grande of Bison Organic Beer (Center) & the Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton (right) / Photo: Alberto Gutierrez

A corollary legend you’ll hear among beer industry people is, “If you can’t get a spot in brewers’ camp, it’s not worth it.” The brewers’ camp does have a few distinct advantages over the general campsite. For instance, fire pits are allowed, brewers tend to go all-out on camp food (Marin Brewing smoked two whole pigs), it’s less rowdy (notice I said “less” rather than “not”), and there’s little chance of running out of beer. However, I think the main benefit of the brewers’ camp for most people camping there is a little more touchy-feely than most will admit: that’s where their friends are. I enjoyed meeting new people during the weekend, but I spent most of my time hanging out with familiar faces from the Bay Area and getting to know friends-of-friends I’m sure I’ll see again soon. That would have been fantastic with or without fire pits.

Marin Brewing’s Whole Pig Roast Prep / Photo: Alberto Gutierrez

If you don’t socialize with beer industry people and have no shot at a space in brewers’ camp, don’t despair. I think anyone who brings a crew of beer buddies, lots of quality beer, and coolers of home-cooked food and/or a small barbecue can have a great time in the general camp. In either camp, you’ll need to arrive early to secure a good spot and bring earplugs, ibuprofen, water and maybe toilet paper (see below).

The legend: The porta potties can make a grown man cry.
Mostly false. From the sound of things, the toilet situation was much improved this year. They got cleaned at least once, had paper at least half the time, and – while they were definitely still beer festival porta johns – didn’t nearly approach the levels of hurl-inducing vileness I’d been warned about. Thanks, AVBC!

The legend: Boonville is awesome.

Thanks again to my hosts Morgan Cox (Ale Industries Co-Owner and Camp Food Master) and Steve Lopas (Ale Industries Co-Owner and Chairman of the Coffee).


Beer Mom Kristiann Garrett

Kristiann Garrett

Photos by Kelsey Williams

About four and a half years ago, Kristiann Garrett, co-owner of Devil’s Canyon Brewery with her husband Chris, was at the brewery finding it a bit more difficult to get through the day than normal. Sudden sharp pains had woken her early that morning and kept interrupting her daily activities at increasingly frequent intervals. By 3 p.m. she finally took a rare moment to lie down and grab a nap on the brewery couch, but was woken to help sell a gift card to a waiting customer.

At 6 pm, she looked at Chris. It was time to go to the hospital; their daughter was definitely on the way. Five days later, Millie Garrett, made her debut appearance at the brewery.

In some ways, it’s not surprising that Garrett would almost give birth in a brewery. Beer is in her blood, literally. Her maiden name, Dienstbier, means “beer service” in Czech, and her great-grandfather once worked in the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

“He didn’t know much English,” recalls Garrett, “but what he did know was, ‘I need my medicine,’ and what he meant was beer.” Chuckling she adds, “And he lived until he was 98-years-old, so…”

Like her great-grandfather, Garrett has always had a respect for the healing powers of good beer. “Beer is food,” she says, “it has all sorts of nutrients in it”

As a former personal trainer, Garrett said, “My clients would ask me, ‘do I have to give up beer?’” “It’s about balance,” she added, “Have a beer, walk around the track.”

Still, with her love of beer, she said she never expected to get into the brewing business.

As a child, Garrett grew up just down the road in Cupertino, and moved to Vancouver at 16. Her 18 years of ballet when she was younger, while seemingly a lifetime ago for her she says, still shows its mark in her strong, slender posture.

She attended the University of Portland, where she graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and Social Studies. After college, a one-month fellowship teaching English as a foreign language, finally took her to Prague, the land of her great-grandfather, where the national beverage happens to be beer. One month turned into two and a half years of managing a sports bar and teaching English.

Just before she left for Prague, however, Kristiann Dienstbier did run into her older brother’s college roommate, Chris Garrett, at the time a homebrewer that picked up the skill in college because, as Kristiann puts it, “it was cheaper to make good beer himself.”

According to Chris, that was the moment he knew there was something special about this girl, for Kristiann, it seems it took a little longer.

From Prague, Garrett agreed to move to Costa Rica, where for six month she helped a friend open a bar, until a few weddings finally brought her back to the Bay Area. Little did she know at the time that her own relationship and wedding would keep her there.

Garrett’s bartending and managing days are evident when she maneuvers a tap. With Millie perched on her hip, Garret grabs a pint glass in her free hand, deftly angles it under the tap, and pours herself a little of Devil’s Canyon’s newest special brew, a classic Saison. Now at 38, her movements are deliberate and graceful, but her style is casual. Her uniform today consists of jeans, white Adidas sneakers, and a zip-up jacket with a pink collar—functional and well-suited to keeping up with a brewery business and an energetic four year old.

“Is it Beer Friday,” Millie asks.

“Yeah, bud, It is Beer Friday,” Garrett responds with a smile.

It’s the monthly event put on by the brewery in what amounts to the backyard of their warehouse space in the back of a business park. Everyone was busy setting up the two bars; the caterers were prepping their food; and the band was arriving to set up inside.

Garrett, still with Millie on her hip managed to knock out a few managing details—helping the bartender figure out how to keep track of the beer club members, joking with the guitar player about his new rose embroidered cowboy shirt, and making sure the reporter got to try their Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale that Garrett had mentioned earlier as being “probably the best beer she’s ever had.”

Garrett then gathered up Millie to take her home to the sitter, although Millie would have hardly been the only preschooler to stick around at Beer Friday. As the people started to show around 6 p.m., strollers and baby backpacks were not uncommon accessories.

Early on in Beer Fridays, Garrett said, “It really is families; you get kids dancing to the band, you get everybody.” Later on, she said, the crowd shifts over as the kids leave and the younger adults move in, but in the early hours, Beer Friday appears much like a community block party.

Everyone who works at Devil’s Canyon is used to kids though. Since she was five days old Millie has been a fixture in the place. As a baby her crib sat just behind the desks in the only office, Garrett said. Now, in Garrett’s own office– they had a wall installed– the room is covered with Disney princesses, there is a play kitchen, several boxes of blocks and toys, and Millie’s own computer. With Garrett’s work computer and Millie’s computer side by side, it looks like Devil’s Canyon’s Brew Mom has a very small assistant.

“Everyone knows,” Garrett said smiling, “language, curb it.”

Garrett explained that she has even become a bit of a mom to everyone in the brewery. She said she advocates for everyone to quit smoking, take breaks on long days, and get a good night’s sleep as opposed to a good night of drinking in if she knows they have a busy day following.

“One of our employees calls me Mama K, and he calls Chris, Papa C,” Garrett said chuckling. “We are all a little family; we have to be,” she adds, “We’re all sharing space and it is small so we all really need to get along.”

Garrett’s duties at the brewery, however, extend beyond mommying the brewers, she is responsible for taking care of tax paperwork, licensing, dealing with other brewers that use their equipment, event planning, the brewery’s charitable donations, as well as picking up any extra slack. For a while, she was the brewery’s “Root Beer Queen” brewing batches of Devil’s Canyon’s now extremely popular kid-friendly product.

In the early days, Garrett said, she would help out with the brewing, move kegs, and work behind the bar with Millie in one arm, pouring beer with the other. Now, nearing the brewery’s ten-year anniversary, Garrett is still a “woman of many hats” as she puts it and running the business is still a seven day a week job. Still, she explained, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before they decided to open Devil’s Canyon, Garrett had been working as a U.S. history teacher at Woodside High School and Chris had been working in the tech industry in the valley. Originally the brewery, was a very small operation, more of an elaborate hobby, but with the “dotbomb,” Garrett said, “We were like, ‘ok, here we go; full steam ahead in the beer business.”

“I thank god for beer because, teaching high school was not easy,” Garrett laughs.

Now, as one of a growing number of women, getting into the craft beer business, Garrett said she doesn’t really see herself as a woman in the beer industry but as a woman in the Devil’s Canyon industry.

While she said that she is encouraged by the rise of women in brewing she would like to see less of the more chauvinistic beer labels in the male centric beer universe.  Her view of craft beer, she says is more centered on her own Devil’s Canyon family and community.

“It’s just beer and good people, and it’s an amazing crowd we’ve pulled together here.”

Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah Readings & Tastings

A brewer’s story is often filled with adversity, heartbreaks, mishaps and hopefully a little humor. Jeremy Cowen’s began in San Francisco in 1996 when he launched Shmaltz Brewing and personally delivered his He’Brew beer with help from his Grandmother’s Volvo. Fourteen years later the brand has exceeded his wildest expectations and he recounts his efforts in a new memoir called Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah: How it Took 13 years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks to make Shmaltz Brewing Company an International Success. Whew!

Cowan has decided to host a number of book signings and tasting nights at various bookstores throughout the Bay Area where you can sit back and enjoy a glass of beer and learn how he built his brand from scratch.

Saturday, May 7, 2011
Omnivore Books
3885 Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco, CA (Map)
4 pm – 5 pm, Free

Jeremy Cowan will do a book reading and signing at this food book haven in Noe Valley. Following the reading, he’ll host a beer tasting featuring selections from both the HE’BREW Beer® and Coney Island Craft Lagers® lines.

Monday, May 9, 2011
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA (Map)
5:30 pm – 7 pm, Event is open to the public with a purchase of the book or a $10 Kepler’s gift card.

Cowan will speak at Kepler’s, in the new Roy Kepler Pavilion, and will host a beer tasting following the event. He’ll feature selections from both the HE’BREW Beer® and Coney Island Craft Lagers® lines. For more information, please visit: .

Thursday, May 12, 2011
3042 Claremont Avenue, Berkeley, CA (Map)
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Free (Beer For Sale Onsite)

Cowan will do a book reading and sign copies of Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, and selections from the Shmaltz beer line-up will be available for purchase. This is one of the finest Judaica shops in the Bay Area, and they will have a variety of Shmaltz gear (usually only available online) as well.

Friday, May 13, 2011
50 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA (Map)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm, Free

Cowan will read from Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, and afterward will host a beer tasting featuring selections from both the HE’BREW Beer® and Coney Island Craft Lagers® lines. This 3-floor independent bookstore is conveniently located in downtown SF, so the event will be an excellent lunch break.

Sunday, May 15, 2011
Dog Eared Books
900 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA (Map)
7 pm – 8 pm, Free

At the Bay Area’s finest independent book store in the heart of the Mission District, Cowan will read passages from Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah and host a beer tasting featuring selections from both the HE’BREW Beer® and Coney Island Craft Lagers® lines.