New Texas Brown Ale Has NorCal Homebrew Roots

I know what you’re thinking, “Texas Brown Ale? Who dreamed up that ridiculous sounding beer style?” Well, it’s origins stretch back to San Rafael, it evolved in Texas and eventually became what we know today as the American Brown Ale. You can now try a Texas version thanks to a newly released collaboration beer from Bear Republic Brewing, Fat Head’s and Stone Brewing called TBA. Bottles of it started hitting the shelves yesterday in select locations.

According to Internet lore, a homebrew shop in San Rafael called Great Fermentations spawned a new brown ale in the 1980’s. The proprietors, Jay Conner & Byron Burch, were simply bored with the traditional English-style and jacked up the crystal and chocolate malt, and like all good California brewers, pumped it full of Cascade hops. Apparently the results were delicious, but the category busting beer didn’t get any respect from the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) until it arrived in Texas.

That’s where homebrewer Scott Birdwell, founder of the Houston Foam Rangers club, created a new category for the hoppy brown ale in the Dixie Cup Homebrew Competition. It was dubbed the California Dark category. Birdwell saw how popular the recipe was when he visited Conner and Burch in San Rafael during a convention. West Coast brews were also getting a lot of attention at the time and he saw the need for another area of competition.

Shortly thereafter, the AHA took notice of the beer style, but decided to call it the Texas Brown Ale. According to Birdwell the beer “Obviously struck a note with homebrewers all over the country as this proved to be a popular style, and eventually the name evolved into American Brown Ale.”

As for the Bear Republic, Fat Head’s and Stone TBA, it apparently “incorporates a few new twists,” such as molasses and brown sugar. That was Richard Norgrove’s contribution, brewmaster at Bear Republic, who said, “Everyone got to add elements they feel are special to them for the beer style.” Their finished product topped out at 7.1% ABV and 81 IBU’s. It incorporated Pale 2–Row, Crystal 60, Toasted Wheat, Victory, and Chocolate Malt along with Bravo, Brewer’s Gold, Cascade, and Columbus hops.

Here’s a well-produced video about the collaboration:

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California Senate Declares February Craft Beer Month

Hooray for California craft beer! Earlier this morning the Senate passed resolution SCR 66 on a 36-0 vote declaring February Craft Beer Month in California. The passage came appropriately enough at the beginning of Sacramento Beer Week Festivities. Sen. Ellen Corbett introduced the resolution. Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association was on hand along with Steve Swinford of Rubicon Brewing and Jan-Erik D. Paino of Ruhstaller.

The resolution is a symbolic acknowledgement of the craft beer industry and the historic role California has played in its evolution nationwide. It also emphasizes the economic impact of the industry in the state. Below is the complete text of SCR 66.

Update: There was some speculation online today that the resolution was only official for 2012. The California Brewers Association has confirmed that this is not the case. California Craft Beer Month will be acknowledged every year, not just in 2012.




INTRODUCED BY   Senator Corbett

(   Principal coauthor:   Senator La Malfa  

(  Coauthor:   Senator   Evans

FEBRUARY 16, 2012

Relative to California Craft Brewery Month.



SCR 66, as amended, Corbett. California Craft Brewery Month.

This measure would proclaim the month of February 2012 as

California Craft Brewery Month.


Fiscal committee: no.


WHEREAS, California is the birthplace of the craft brewing

movement, when Fritz Maytag acquired the Anchor Brewing Company in

1965 and began brewing authentic  ,  handcrafted

beers; and


WHEREAS, California is the home of the first microbrewery,

beginning with Jack McAuliffe who built a small brewery in Sonoma

from scratch, and began selling New Albion ales in 1977; and


WHEREAS, The second largest craft brewer in the country, Sierra

Nevada Brewing Company, was founded in Chico, California, in 1979,

and spurred the craft brewery movement around the country; and


WHEREAS, In 1977, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 3610

to amend the state’s tied-house laws to remove the restriction on

on-premises sales of craft beer. Following this change in law,

California became home to three of the first five brewpubs in

America; and


WHEREAS, The second brewpub in America was opened by the Mendocino

Brewery in Hopland, California; the third brewpub, opened in

September 1984, was Buffalo Bill’s in Hayward, California; and the

fifth, opened by John Martin in March 1986, was Triple Rock Brewery

in Berkeley, California; and


WHEREAS, The California craft brewery industry has an annual

impact of $500 million on the state’s economy in direct wages and

benefits; and


WHEREAS, The California craft brewery industry creates more than

17,000 jobs, which in turn creates billions of dollars in positive

economic impact; and


WHEREAS, The California craft brewery industry creates more

revenue for the state and federal governments than many other

industries, generating more than $36 million in taxes in 2010; and


WHEREAS, California now has more breweries than any other state in

the country, including over 280 small, independently owned craft

breweries; and


WHEREAS, California is now known and recognized internationally

for the quality of its craft breweries. Year after year, Californian

breweries win more medals at the World Beer Cup, the largest

international beer competition in the world, and the Great American

Beer Festival, the largest beer competition in the United States,

than breweries found in other states; and


WHEREAS, Brewery tourism is increasingly popular and contributes

to the economic impact of the state’s tourism industry; and


WHEREAS, The California craft brewery industry is a leader in the

stewardship of natural resources and the environment  ,

and has made a major commitment to implement sustainable

practices that are environmentally sound, including some of the

largest solar arrays in the private sector, and the use of fuel cells

and other innovative conservation techniques and processes; and


WHEREAS, Despite the challenges of intense global competition, the

state’s craft brewery industry is strong and growing, and is a major

contributor to the economic vitality of California; now, therefore,

be it

Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly

thereof concurring, That the Legislature hereby proclaims the month

of February 2012 as California Craft Brewery Month; and be it further


Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this

resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.

Three Ring Circus Beer Dinner & Sideshow was a SF Beer Week Highlight

A nine-course meal, twelve beers from three breweries and circus performers were on the bill for the Three Ring Circus Beer Dinner & Sideshow at the Elks Lodge in San Francisco on February 15th. The event was a collaborative effort organized by the Home Brew Chef Sean Paxton, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Shmaltz and Ninkasi Brewing. It was by far the most ambitious and elaborate festivity taking place during SF Beer Week and lived up to the $120 price tag.

Every detail of the event paid homage to the circus, including the food. Paxton put his spin on a variety of carnival treats using local ingredients and gave each course a playful name, such as The Mermaid, The Drumstick and The Sword Swallower. Nearly every component of the food incorporated beer from the three breweries. The most highly anticipated course was the Hopped Cotton Candy wrapped around a cube of Sonoma foie gras terrine mixed with He’Brew Geneisis from Shmaltz. The sugar laden candy instantly melted around the fatty goose liver. It was delightfully decadent.

As the dinner progressed circus acts and sideshow performers entertained the crowd.  Most of them fell into the freak show genre. Classic acts like sword swallowing, walking on glass and mind reading took the stage along with a few acrobatic performances that mesmerized the dinner party, including Spiral, the pioneer of contemporary hoop dance.

The grand finale of the dinner was the unveiling of the collaboration beer, appropriately called Three Ring Circus Ale, that was created by the evening’s organizers. Brewed at Speakeasy, the very unconventional nut-brown ale was made with dulce de leche, popped corn and peanuts. Other noteworthy beer selections included Ninkasi’s Conventionale Imperial Stout (2010), He’Brew Genesis 15:15 by Shmaltz, and Speakeasy’s Massacre Black Wheat Wine. A complete food and beer menu can be found below with photos.

Although the evening extended well into the night due to slow food service (a minor flaw) the event was a great success. The historic Elks Lodge provided a wonderful backdrop, the entertainment was exceptional and the whimsical food paired nicely with the beer in almost every instance. Hopefully the organizers will bring this event back next year. SF Beer Week needs more quality events like this one.


The Menu


Pre-Dinner Reception Nibbles: Gourmet Popcorn

Bacon fat popped organic popcorn seasoned with tomato powder, roasted garlic, hop salt and smoked in bourbon barrel wood

Black Truffle Oil Scented Popcorn with cooked in vegetable oil with roasted garlic salt flakes

Thyme Infused duck fat popcorn with Sonoma Vella Dry Jack shavings, green peppercorns


First Course: The Mermaid

Lobster and prawn mousse infused with Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale, wrapped around petrale sole filets, Speakeasy White Lightning Ale “Tide Sauce”, Ninkasi Little One Beer Foam, Speakeasy Prohibition Ale quinoa “sand”

Paired with Ninkasi Sterling Pils


Second Course: The Drumstick

Willie Bird Smoked Turkey legs rillettes layered with He’Brew Genesis 15:15, shallots, dried figs and thyme, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese, malt pickled heirloom pumpkin, assorted crackers, breads and spiced nuts

Paired with Speakeasy Massacre Black Wheat Wine and Coney Island Geektoberfest


Third Course: The Sword Swallower

“Haute” Dogs infused with 4-H style Lamb, Speakeasy Scarface Imperial Stout, caramelized onions and rosemary Ninkasi Renewale Porter Beer mustard, fennel carrot slaw, sweet roll

Paired with He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA


Fourth Course: Hopped Cotton Candy

Centennial hop scented sugar, wrapped around a cube of Sonoma foie gras terrine mixed with He’Brew Genesis

Paired with Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA


Fifth Course: Slider

Ground elk and duck heart patty, rendered dry aged beef fat, Brioche bun, house made He’Brew Genesis 15:15 beer ketchup, baby arugula, Speak Easy Payback Porter braised red onions

Paired with Ninkasi Conventionale (2010 Imperial Stout), Speakeasy Scarface Imperial Stout and He’Brew Genesis 15:15


Sixth Course: Churro

Point Reyes Blue cheese mixed into a Speakeasy Double Daddy savory churro, roasted garlic powder

Paired with Ninkasi Total Domination IPA


Seventh Course: Three Ring Circus

Roasted red, gold and white baby beets, Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog crumbles, carbonated citrus segments, malt candied hazelnuts, micro greens drizzled with a Three Ring Circus Collaboration vinaigrette

Paired with Speakeasy Prohibition Ale


Eighth Course: Funnel Cake

He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA infused batter with bergamot zest, Three Ring Circus Wort Honey Drizzle, Malted Powdered Sugar Dust, Ninkasi Sleigh’r Beer Caramel

Paired with Coney Island Albino Python


Ninth Course: The Non-Fried Non-Twinkie Cupcake

Ninkasi Conventionale Imperial Stout Chocolate Cake, filled with a He’brew Jewbelation 15 mousse filling, Speak Easy Prohibition Frosting, THCO Cocoa Nibs, Caramel Malt

Paired with the Speakeasy, Ninkasi, Shmaltz, Home Brew Chef Collaboration beer: Three Ring Circus

Almanac Dinner with Ryan Farr Celebrated Pork & Beer for Charity

Left to right: Bryan Hermannsson (Pac Brew Labs), Damian Fagan, Steve Altimari (Highwater Brewing), Jesse Friedman & Ryan Farr / Photos © Brian Stechschulte

Sometimes the best SF Beer Week events aren’t just about beer, but instead highlight what goes well with it at the dinner table. Case in point is Butchers & Beers, which took place on February 13 at The Beast & The Hare in San Francisco’s Mission District. Jessie Friedman and Damian Fagan of Almanac Beer teamed up with butcher extraordinaire Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats for a piggy breakdown lesson, dinner and charity auction.

The first half of the Almanac dinner event was dedicated to Farr’s butchering demo and the guest of honor was splayed out in all its glory in the center of the restaurant. Attendees huddled around the table and were perched on top of chairs to get a glimpse of the action. For forty-five minutes Farr hacked, sawed and sliced his way through each portion of the animal, pointing out tasty sections, telling stories and answering questions.

During the demo appetizers were available in the form of chicharrones, corn dogs, sausage, green beans and sauerkraut. To wash it all down, Almanac served it’s new Winter Wit alongside the Nautilus Saison by Pacific Brewing Laboratories, Speakeasy’s Double Daddy IPA and No Boundary IPA from Highwater Brewing. Representatives from each brewery were on hand to talk about the beer and mingle with guests.

While the lesson was going on attendees could also bid on the various pig parts and take them home at very reasonable prices. All of the proceeds benefited the Food Pantry and according to Almanac, $550 in total was raised during the event.

Once demo was finished, the remaining portion of the evening was dedicated to a feast prepared by Farr and is crew from 4505 Meats. One succulent pig part after another was brought out on a platter, carved and quickly scooped up by the hungry flock of guests.

Overall the evening was fun, informative and delicious. The Almanac duo have been carefully crafting beer dinners since they launched last year and if you get the chance to attend one of their events, do it. Your stomach will thank you.


Rich Higgins Departing Social Kitchen & Brewery, Kim Sturdavant to be Brewmaster

Rich Higgins / Photo © Brian Stechschulte

By the end of February Rich Higgins will have made his final batch of beer at Social Kitchen & Brewery on 9th Avenue in San Francisco. The Master Cicerone has been at the helm of the brewing program since the Inner Sunset brewpub opened back in May of 2010.

His immediate plans call for some time off and research in Belgium, England and Germany, and then he’ll focus on his craft beer consultancy business. According to Higgins, “I’ve got too many opportunities, gigs, and contracts out there that I’m not able to seize upon and move my career forward.”

Higgins’ career started back in 2004 when he took an assistant brewer position at the San Francisco Brewing Company (now closed). After leaving in January of 2005 he spent time at Gordon Biersch and ThirstyBear Brewing before taking the brewmaster position at Social Kitchen.

During his two years at the brewpub Higgins created a balanced menu of session styles and bold high gravity beers. He also worked closely with the kitchen and several visiting chefs on his monthly Brewmaster Dinner Series. Higgins firmly believes that “there’s a beer for every food, and a food for every beer,” which he carefully explained during a recent series of beer and food pairing classes at the Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts in San Francisco.

Higgins’ exit from Social Kitchen also means he’ll be stepping away from his involvement with the San Francisco Brewers Guild, where he spent two years as Secretary, two years as President, and one year as a Board Chair. He spent many hours with the group organizing SF Beer Week, Brews on the Bay and other Guild activities. While he said the extra work outside the brewery has been exhausting, “I’ve learned a ton and it has given me great tools for effective leadership, organizing, and rabble rousing down the road.”

Don’t expect Higgins to disappear from the Bay Area brewing community. He’ll be working with restaurants and other venues around town that could use some help on beer menus and food pairing options. Before you can enjoy those results, head down to Social Kitchen over the next few weeks to try his strong beers while you can.

Enter Kim Sturdavant

Kim Sturdavant at right with James Davids

Fans of Social Kitchen shouldn’t despair. Higgins will be handing off the brewing system to a set of capable hands in Kim Sturdavant, who’s spent the last five and half years at Marin Brewing Company under the mentorship of Arne Johnson. Sturdavant plans on easing his beer onto the menu while learning the ropes of Social Kitchen’s brew system.

Down the road his goal is to get 10 beers on tap at all times, but he’s still figuring out how to juggle the equipment to ensure it happens. According to Sturdavant, Social Kitchen’s brew system is far too large for on-site consumption only and ownership has decided to pursue a distribution license.

As for the beer he has in mind, priority number one is a Pale Ale and then some hoppy English beers. Fans of Higgins’ Belgian styles won’t be disappointed. Rapscallion will stay on board and Sturdavant is thinking about brewing some sort of Belgian Single. You can also expect a Stout and Pilsner in the future.

Sturdavant is excited about the new opportunity even though he’s leaving a mentor behind. He said, “Arne Johnson is a great brewer and has impeccable taste. I can’t say enough about how valuable it was to learn from someone like him, to really learn to do things the right way, right off the bat.”

In the coming month you can expect to see Sturdavant’s hard work appearing on Social Kitchen’s beer menu.