Our Brewers Swimsuit Issue got its start as a gag or spoof of the titillating annual Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated. Our thought was brewers in swimsuits and boots in the brewhouse, just for fun… but little did we know just how crafty these craft brewers could be!
Our first takers included the always-exuberant Fal Allen, then at the Pike Brewery in Seattle. We had a shot of him in the mash tun smoking a cigar, his swimsuit barely visible above the grainy liquid. That batch must have tasted, well, Fal-like. Teri Fahrendorf was our first lady brewer to take the, er, plunge, along with her crew from Steelhead Brewing Company at Burlingame Station, in the more liberal region of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Brewers are an imaginative lot, and things really started to get interesting in June 2002, when the swimsuit feature hit the front page for the first time, featuring the gang from Kelley Bros. Brewing in Manteca, California. Inside were additional pictures of staff (one involving a rather large python) that would drive most HR directors into fits of apoplexy. The brew crew from Anderson Valley completely missed the point about “Swimsuit Issue” and were pictured in the altogether (except for boots!) with brewery schwag positioned in strategic places (for the sake of the children). But sorry, that shot is lost somewhere in the archives.
The Kona brewers stepped up the next year with a cover shot of themselves and a surfboard held to cover the essentials. Kona really hit the Swimsuit Issue Big Time with a great shot of brewers in scuba gear with a keg underwater. Wild! It made the cover too. There was also a cool shot of the brewers swimming with beer in hand that would have been cooler if that stupid turtle didn’t get in the way.
Roger Lind, Lind Brewing was an early contributor. Looks like he collaborated with the Russians too. Brewer Michael Ferguson, then with Barley’s Casino in Las Vegas, was pictured no-handedly holding up a keg by the bung with… well, we’ll let you imagine with what. The June 2004 cover HAD to go to the gang from Stone Brewing in San Diego, who converted the brewhouse into a beach by spreading malt on the floor, creating an in-brewery beach scene. Nice. That issue also contained a double-page spread on coated stock with our biggest selection of embarrassing photos yet: outtakes from the Stone shoot; pictures from the swimsuit contest held at that year’s Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego; more lack of swimsuits from the Anderson Valley boys; the Yoho Brewing gang in what amounts to Japanese thongs; and the Mad River gang from Blue Lake, Calif., wearing kegs with the spigots located right where the guys could relieve themselves with beer. Very tasteful. We managed to locate a photo from the CBC in San Diego (how many beer peeps can you name) and the Mad River Brewing Company gang from Blue Lake, California.
Our June 2005 cover was a spoof of National Geographic. The Kona kids were underwater with a keg, a sixer and a pint glass filled with beer. Underwater! Additional photos included the big dog and staff from Big Dog’s Brewing in Las Vegas that also made our cover. Nice sign, guys!
The June 2006 cover went to the city of Portland, with an inset of the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company staff in bikinis (brewer Alec Moss at least had his Hawaiian shirt open). Sadly, we can’t locate that one either. We do, however, have a shot of the late Fred Eckhardt, often referred to as the Dean of American Beer Writers, in a Speedo (he had just turned 80!). He was a Master swimmer and teacher.
After that outstanding effort, we got nothing in 2008. We posted a small note in the April 2009 issue to alert brewers of the annual swimsuit opportunity and got two takers. On our cover are the brewers and staff of Maui Brewing in Hawaii, and the brewers from Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in Victoria, B.C.
Many thanks to our LA writer Tomm Carroll for contributing a great shot of the Blue Palms Brewery gang in the walk-in. So Hollywood. The Boulder Dam Brewing gang gave us some inspired pix along with our ace photographer Mike Condie who got a great shot of the staff at the Pacific Coast Brewing Company in Oakland (now sadly closed). Wait, you don’t think? Nah…
Bob Barnes, our indefatigable Nevada writer, kicked down with some shots of brewers and staff at Ellis Island Casino & Brewery and High Sierra, both out of Nevada and 7 Seas Brewing in Washington. Also contributing were Full Circle Brewery in Fresno, Ruth McGowan’s in Cloverdale and Silver Peak in Nevada.
Perhaps our most notorious “spread” was our by-now-infamous pictures of the Walking Man Brewing boys from Stevenson, Washington, and one girl, retired porn star Jeanie, not afraid to bare all for the beer world (what part of Swimsuit Issue didn’t she get?). We apologized and promised to show no more retired porn stars. That issue is a serious collector’s item.
The annual Swimsuit Issue was perhaps our most popular feature. With the advent of Human Resources, however, the entries got scarce. Thankfully, we still have the remnants of past layouts (look for back issues of Celebrator on eBay or give us a call) including our most infamous retired porn star shots that made Walking Man Brewery truly walk. Eyes forward, gentleman. OK, move along, stop staring, nothing to see here…