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April/May 2003
Still Crazy After All These Beers

A lot has happened in the 15 years that the Celebrator Beer News has been covering the good beer beat. Bret and Julie Nickels's inspired effort got us going at a time when there were only 20 breweries operating in California. The original quarter-fold tabloid, now the standard "brewspaper" format, chronicled the development of an industry still defining itself.
A rash of openings in the mid-1990s and the Celebrator's expansion to the Northwest and Rocky Mountain states increased our page count and coverage.

By 1996, the industry, like the brewing process itself, was at "a rolling boil" — brewpubs and microbreweries were opening at a rate of several per week! The Celebrator had evolved into a magazine format with a four-color cover, better quality paper and a family of advertisers supporting our continued enhancements. Our mission remained the same: to bring the story of the good-beer movement to an ever-expanding readership, spreading what Michael Jackson called "beer culture."

A year later, the industry statistics as compiled by the Institute for Brewing Studies in Boulder, Colo., showed a marked cooling-off period. The 40–50 percent growth rate of the previous years had slowed to single-digit figures. Business writers decried the end of the microbrewing "fad."

Today we have more artesian breweries in America than the former champ, Germany. You can venture into brewpubs and restaurants across the country and find interesting local beers available. Big grocery stores and small mom-and-pop outlets have quality craft beer for sale throughout the country. And the Celebrator can now be found in every state as well.

The industry has reached a level of maturity and is sustained by an increasingly knowledgeable customer base that is aware of what constitutes a good beer. Our mission has changed from "cheerleader" for the good-beer movement and documenter of openings and closings to a journal of the good life that includes good beer, good food and places where both can be found.

We are fortunate indeed to be covering such an interesting and flavorful subject. And we owe our good fortune to our loyal readers who nurture us through their suggestions and subscriptions, along with the life-giving support of our advertisers. We are indebted to the support and counsel of industry leaders and are inspired by the hard work and dedication of the men and women who make the great beer we enjoy so much.

We are particularly grateful to our far-flung corps of beer writers who make each issue the thoughtful and compelling read we strive to create. We are blessed with the dedicated efforts of our beer news staff, including our resident "beer geek" Jay R. Brooks, G.M.; our ever-watchful guardian of the sanctity of the printed word, Copy Editor Pamela Evans; and the artistry of graphics guru Ken "Spig" Hickmott.

Ultimately, it's about the beer. So we give thanks to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. We've come a long way since her day, when people sat around communal earthenware pots drinking their beer through straws. But it's still the communal quality of beer shared with friends and family that fills our days with passion and makes the "job" of spreading the culture of great beer a labor of love.

Thanks for indulging us for 15 years. Shall we go for 15 more?


Dear CBN:
You are not the only good brewspaper, but you are certainly the Best! I am Bill Sand — Brew Man. I am not a Certified Beer Judge or a brewmaster. I am simply a man who loves great beer.

I recently went brewpub-hopping. I was gone for three months and visited 67 brewpubs. I was armed with several issues of the Celebrator. I put 10,300 miles on my car. More recently, I left my home in Hurleyville, N.Y., to attend an IPA festival at Lucky Baldwin’s in Pasadena, Calif. It was fantastic! I learned of this event in the Celebrator. David [Farnsworth] of Lucky Baldwin’s really knows how to throw a great beer blast!

Since then I’ve attended a Fresh Hop Ale Tasting at the famous Brickskeller in D.C. Again, thank you, Celebrator, for bringing this event to my attention. It was great to meet a beer god like Vinnie [Cilurzo] of Russian River Brewing. He made terrific contributions to the event. It was also great to meet the legendary Dave Alexander of the Brickskeller. Thank you, Tom Dalldorf, for hosting this great event. My only regret is that I didn’t bring my bass guitar. I would have enjoyed adding some bass runs to the Rolling Boil Blues Band.

Thank you, Celebrator, for helping make this the greatest time in human history to be a person who loves beer.

Bill Sand
Hurleyville, N.Y.

Dear Bill:
The Rolling Boil Blues Band could certainly use the runs (as you suggested). Hope we can hook up at the Celebrator anniversary party in February. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Reading the December/January editorial brought to mind what a fine example you are. Thanks to you, Bret, Judy, Bill Owens, Bob Atkinson and all your beer cronies, my eyes and taste buds were opened to the delectable world of fine brews. No longer do I take a bottle of wine to Christmas, but a magnum of Anchor Special Ale.

I found it surprising that we drink more beer than the Chinese. I recently returned from China, where each meal (after 11 a.m.) was served with your choice of water, soda or beer! Mmmm, let me decide. Now it wasn't the best beer, but it was beer. I too will try to share with others as you have shared with me. Thanks for the Celebrator Beer News!

Susie Calhoune
Lodi, Calif.

Dear Susie:
Should we contemplate a Chinese edition of the Celebrator? — Ed.

February/March 2003
15 Years of Cheers and Beers!

It was quite a gathering of industry mavens, conscientious consumers and, most especially, Celebrator writers when the beer moon aligned with bars in San Francisco in mid-February for our little beer rag's 15 anniversary party at the Great American Music Hall.

Who would've thunk it! A 12-page quarter-fold tabloid "brewspaper" dedicated to writing about the good beer in California in the late ’80s (such that it was) has grown to be our proud, colorful multipage bearer of good beer news throughout the country and beyond. What a long, strange sip indeed!

We sadly had to turn down many offers of great beer from exceptional breweries because of limited space at the hallowed music venue down the block from the notorious Mitchell Brothers sex emporium. Class all the way: Our sponsoring breweries were all veterans of the beer renaissance, some of whom were also celebrating 15-year anniversaries with us. Pouring were Alaskan, Anchor, Anderson Valley, BridgePort, Full Sail, Portland/MacTarnahan's, Pyramid, Samuel Adams, Tied House, Unibroue and Widmer. Many thanks to these fine breweries for the generous support.

A large contingent of homebrewers from QUAFF in San Diego attended, as they were in town to accept the Homebrew Club of the Year award at Anchor Brewery. Many attendees traveled even greater distances to make the event truly special. Notably, we had the largest gathering of Celebrator writers at any event in our history! Check out the group photo on our party poster in this issue.

We are honored by the enthusiasm and support given us by beer lovers and producers alike. Moreover, the spirit of the beer community that seems to grow and develop every year in depth, breadth and sophistication encourages us to renew our commitment to sourcing the best news, views and information from the most informed writers for today's beer-loving fans.

Turn on a friend to the joys of craft-brewed beer this week and spread the love. Your local brewers depend on it.


Dear Editor:
I really like your current picture on the Notes from the Publisher bit. You look great with your hair and beard dyed black and tan like that, and you've never been more handsome. But who's the mopey-looking guy to your left?

Tim Vandergrift
Vancouver, B.C.

Dear Tim:
That, my friend, is my handler. You should get one… or two. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Here’s the check to renew my subscription. Don’t make fun of my pink checks; my wife ordered them. Yes, sometimes she makes me hold her purse. Have a good one.

Dean Gillespie
Oceanside, Calif.

Dear Dean:
We never make fun of a man’s beer OR his purse. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
After reading Bob Barnes’s column on Vegas in your last issue, I was really looking forward to my weekend at the Rio. But, Vegas let me down again. The sign on the door of JW's said "Closed for remodeling." I guess not enough people in Vegas appreciate real beer. I checked out a couple of the other microbreweries in town and was amazed at how many of their patrons were drinking that yellow fizzy stuff. Anyway, I thought you might want to pass on the bad news about JW's.

Dave Wolf
Temecula, Calif.

Dear Dave:
Bob Barnes is on the case. The people (tourists) in Vegas may prefer the fizzy yellow stuff, but be assured that good beer is to be found. — Ed.

Dear Don Erickson:
First off, I love your column. In each new issue, I desperately seek viable proof that there is indeed good beer in the nation's second-largest city. With each issue, my soul is once again crushed. I'm forced to ask the eternal question: Why does beer in L.A. suck so bad?

Don't get me wrong, the world was a much darker place while the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel was moving; the Sheraton Four Points by LAX is nice, and My Father's Office is fine and dandy sometimes. BJ's is fine, but why should we have to travel a treacherous distance over inhospitable freeways just to enjoy a decent pint? I could get better beer at the Texaco station when I lived in Seattle. The Elysian Brewing Co. was a scant two blocks away. It's maddening. So with each column, the inclusion of Paso Robles, Salinas, Oxnard and Costa Mesa as being part of the L.A. scene is just damn depressing. That's a long ride home.

Just venting,
Brian O'Hare
Los Angeles, Calif.

Dear Brian:
Check out Don's latest column in this issue on just this topic. Then go on a Beer Safari! — Ed.




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