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FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017
Beers and Cheers: 29 Years

 
When the Celebrator’s first issue hit the streets in January 1988, its mission was to cover and support all of the breweries then producing in California. It seems unbelievable now, but California, home to the first craft brewer (Anchor Brewing in 1965) and later home to the first purpose-built small brewery (New Albion in 1976), had only 20 breweries operating when a young beer-loving couple came down from Vancouver, British Columbia, to start America’s first “brewspaper,” a newspaper dedicated exclusively to covering the small brewing industry in the state that gave birth to what we call craft beer today.

Bret and Julie Nickels, who were given support and encouragement by legendary publican Judy Ashworth at her equally legendary Lyons Brewery Depot in Sunol, Calif., passionately covered and combed the state for any and all stories of good beer and brewing. Their reports served to connect beer lovers with the beers and beer venues they craved. It was a natural match that no doubt helped to stimulate the expansion of the early brewing industry.

The sad part of the story was that Judy’s iconic pub burned to the ground just before Christmas, so the Celebrator’s first issue (then called the California Celebrator) debuted at a fundraiser held at the Sunol Country Club to try to resurrect the lost beer mecca. Judy later reopened her pub in nearby Dublin, Calif. But the Celebrator was off and running.

Many of the breweries that were in the pages of our first issue not only have survived to this day, but some have done very well indeed. Included in our first issue and still brewing today are Anchor, Anderson Valley, Buffalo Bill’s, Calistoga Inn, Mendocino, Rubicon, Sierra Nevada, Tied House and Triple Rock.

Breweries that were covered in that first issue but are now just fond (or not-so-fond) memories for some veteran beer geeks include Devil Mountain, Golden Pacific, Hogshead, Humboldt, Local (SLO), Nevada City, Pasadena, San Francisco Brewing, Santa Cruz, Saxton, Stanislaus, Thousand Oaks, Truckee and Xcelsior. The pioneers are the ones most likely to catch all the arrows.

Our “brewspaper” continued to cover the good-beer story and expanded first to the Pacific Northwest and then eastward, trying to keep tabs on all of the brewing activity taking place around the country. The Great American Beer Festival in Denver brought the nation’s brewers and enthusiastic fans together each year to celebrate and drink the beers of the rapidly growing craft beer industry. The Craft Brewers Conference did the same for the brewing fraternity and helped enhance the camaraderie so characteristic of our contemporary small breweries.

Today, with over 700 breweries operating just in California and over 5,000 across the nation, the scope of this journal has greatly expanded as well. Our corps of veteran beer writers continues to bring the word of beer and brewing to our readers each issue. Many thanks on our 29th anniversary to them and to you, our readers, whose thirst for beer information and insight is our reason for finding that next beer story.

Beer and Travel

Stephen Beaumont, one of our earliest contributors and coauthor of The World Atlas of Beer, reviewed elsewhere in these pages, shares his motives, philosophy and experience on beer travel in his column, “Beaumont’s Journal.”

Bryan Jansing’s article on “Rome, Italy’s Beer Garden,” should get your taste buds oriented toward that Italian visit you’ve been contemplating.

Chuck Cook, no stranger to the ancient brewing traditions of Belgium (his travels and brewery visits are legendary), checks in with a timely piece on the cafes and beer venues of the lambic region of Belgium, home to the ancient art of spontaneously fermented beer. Mr. Cook also travels to three well-known American breweries that have embraced the magical arts of spontaneous fermentation in his article “Making Coolships Cool Again.”

That and so much more in this issue as we begin our 29th year. And thanks, dear reader, for your support of our efforts as we look forward to our 30th anniversary next year!
 

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