The San Diego Beer Club Message Board › Part II - A MUST READ Extreme Brewing: Pushing the Envelope West Coast Style

Part II - A MUST READ Extreme Brewing: Pushing the Envelope West Coast Style

user 4522736
San Diego, CA
Post #: 18
Enter the Brewpub

The early eighties also gave birth to a movement to change the laws regarding brewing (producing) and serving the product on premises (retail), a notion that was strictly forbidden by the alcohol laws of the time. Grass roots legislation made it possible for North American brewpubs to come into existence and begin making assertive and characterful beer. Horseshoe Bay Brewing north of Vancouver, BC, and Bert Grant's Yakima Brewing & Malting Co. in Yakima, WA, were the first to produce and serve craft-brewed ales on draft in a restaurant setting.

The late Bert Grant was a larger-than-life Scotsman with an equally large opinion of his beers?mostly justified. His signature beer was a Scottish ale on draft that took the style to a much hoppier level. He brewed the way he drove?pedal to the metal?causing this reporter to question riding with him at all.

Grant had a sound background in commercial brewing and hop production, causing author Michael Jackson to observe, "He brought a combination of individualism and perfectionism and love of beer on the one hand, and technical brewing experience on the other." Many brewers that followed had Grant's passion for beer but few had his fundamental understanding of the process.

A short time later, Paul Shipman launched his Independent Ale Brewery (later Redhook) in Seattle. Paul tells the story of bringing some of his first beers to Bert to get his opinion. Bert tasted and replied, "Interesting." Paul knew his first tries were somewhat flawed and said, "When Bert Grant tells you your beer is interesting, watch out!" Redhook improved greatly thereafter.

From British Columbia to Modesto, CA, the "good beer" movement was now in full swing. New places were opening at a feverish pace in the mid-eighties. Stanislaus Brewery (St. Stan's) in Modesto was making "alt" beer before most people knew what it was, and?talk about simultaneous creativity?Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland dedicated it's initial "biers" to the German alt tradition at about the same time. Widmer's hefeweisen, also a pretty wacky idea at the time, went on to become its flagship beer. In later years, Widmer partnered with the Portland Brew Crew to make commercial quantities of award-winning homebrew recipes with the Collaborator series.

BridgePort Brewing, Oregon's longest lived microbrewery, began life with the wine-growing Ponzi family and reached another level with ownership from Gambrinus producing authentic award-winning cask-conditioned English-style ales. BridgePort's neighbor, Portland Brewing, grew out of its original location in the Pearl district (before it became "hip") and evolved into the regional MacTarnahan's, making assertive beers such as its IPA and Black Watch Porter.

Seattle's Pyramid Brewery had a schizophrenic beginning with its lager half, Thomas Kemper, uncomfortably sandwiched in the mix. Try to imagine veteran brewer Rande Reed making world-class dobblebocks at a dairy farm brewery on an island west of Seattle and world-class ales at Pyramid in Seattle.

Juneau, AK, became the site of craft beer's most difficult location when Alaskan Brewing opened. Its award-winning Smoked Porter has become legendary. Talk about "last frontier" innovation!

In the late eighties, Anderson Valley Brewing Co. opened in the unlikely village of Boonville, CA?a town with a style and a language all its own. Boont was to become celebrated outside the enclave?and eventually nationwide?due solely to the inventive efforts of the brewery. Slightly north is the town of Fort Bragg, home of North Coast Brewing Co. and its early efforts toward introducing odd beers to locals and beyond. PranQster and Old Rasputin are world-class contributions to American brewing.

Oregon's Rogue and Deschutes breweries were founded on assertive beer?Rogue thought outside the hop box and Deschutes taught beer lovers to embrace the dark. As the fabulous beer decade of the ?80s drew to a close, Marin Brewing Co., and later Moylan's, offered great beer, including exotic fruit-flavored beers and high-powered wheat bocks that took beer in a new direction. In Seattle, Charles Finkel and his brewer, Fal Allen, were producing cutting-edge beer five barrels at a time at Pike's Place Brewery (later Pike Brewing).

The Next Wave

The decade of the nineties put the good beer movement on the map?in the stores, on the news, and in the investment portfolios of people of means. With so much good beer being made and so much public awareness of new styles of beer, the potential seemed limitless.

Seattle's Elysian (Dick Cantwell) and nearby Boundary Bay (Skip Madsen) breweries continue the quest to contribute to exotic beer and develop new styles. Don't ask about the AK-47 malt liquor. Veteran brewer Teri Fahrendorf brought Steelhead in Eugene, OR, into the brewing limelight and provided a "post-grad" school for many great brewers. These include the late Glen Falconer, who established Wild Duck as a brewing force in the same town. Down the Oregon coast, Darron Welsch put the Pelican Pub & Brewery on center stage with multiple wins at major beer judgings, while Anchorage's Midnight Sun Brewery lit up the long winter nights with exotic brews of its own.

Back in California, Russian River Brewing's Vinnie Cilurzo went to school on Sierra Nevada's brewer Steve Dressler and tried his hand at making "fresh hop" beer. His contribution was the "estate" hop yard grown at the Korbel winery that allowed him to literally pick and pitch the fresh hops into the boil. Bear Republic in Healdsburg, Lagunitas in Petaluma, and Speakeasy in San Francisco contributed mightily to the growing reputation for northern California wacky brewing with assertive, non-traditional beers that defy categorization.

Southern California had never made much of a splash in the mash tun of life until a young homebrewer from a wine-making family in Temecula opened Blind Pig Brewery in the early nineties. Vinnie Cilurzo's earliest efforts gave beer lovers a hop infusion and thirst for exotic beer that continues today in the brewing at PizzaPort in Solana Beach and Carlsbad. Brewers Tomme Arthur and Jeff Bagby have produced outstanding brews to rave reviews. The Tres Hombres must also include Tom Nickels, brewer at Oggi's and fledgling publican at O'Brians in San Diego. The region is also home to the Arrogant Bastard himself, Greg Koch and his ragtag band of beer assassins at Stone Brewing in San Marcos. "You're not worthy!"

The Herculean task of assessing West Coast brewing in a few short paragraphs is naturally fraught with peril lest the best be omitted through oversight or the worthy innovator, like Brian Hunt of Midnight Brewing who never seeks praise, be ignored. Surely a book-length chronology will some day be attempted to ensure that this aspect of beer history is preserved. Just not today.

As you seek out that next pint of highly hopped bliss or an exotic yeasty beasty brew, give a moment's thought to the many who labored over a hot brew kettle in an attempt to make a beer that is truly inspired and distinctive in our fast-paced, cookie-cutter world.


Tom Dalldorf is a long-time beer enthusiast and wine educator. He opened the Vintage Cellar Wine Bar Cafe in 1979 and took over publication of the Celebrator Beer News in 1990. He loves to play the blues because "you're never to old to play the blues."
user 4522736
San Diego, CA
Post #: 39
Great Info
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