The problem with leaving the house…

Independent Brewing Company

Independent Brewing Company

To me, the brewery scene is supposed to be about a more relaxed approach to life, a way to take time and enjoy the finer things. Having a few good pints instead of a 12 pack and shots. Going out with family and friends to a brewpub or an afternoon in a tasting room instead of partying late with 5 bands playing. Long nights are a thing of the past – and then there was this week.
After last week’s big night in the city I’ve gone to three more shows in the past 7 days, about two more shows than I normally go to in a year. Each of them proceeded with a visit to a brewery nearby.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.30.54 AM

Sorry Brewz Newz readers! I had to replace the photo that used to be in this spot, although preapproved ahead of time by all those involved, the powers that be deemed the level of attire not up to the standards expected of hardcore metal musicians. Here is another photo of Deathgrave, (minus The Wizard) and, appropriately it features a Lagunitas Censored Ale!

Last Saturday our friend Fern posted that her band Deathgrave would be playing a hardcore Metal Fest in Oakland. 20 bands from all over the world playing 15 minute sets in rotating rooms. I was the one who suggested to the wife that we should go. Usually it’s the other way around. I figured a night of hardcore metal wouldn’t be so bad in 15-minute chunks.
Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 11.46.01 PMBoth the kids were with friends so we left pretty early in the afternoon. The first stop was the new Oakland location for Ale Industries. This brewery had been the previous weeks guest on my longtime favorite brewing show “The Session” That particular show was about “sustainable methods they employ for the resource-intensive process that is brewing.” The show is much more fun to listen to than it sounds. When they interview breweries I like to hear how they operate business wise more than their brewing methods. The stories about running a brewery are much more entertaining and much more impressive to me than the art of brewing itself.

now closed

now closed

In the years after the economy crashed in 2007 several brew pubs never recovered and closed down. Part of the reason that I originally wanted to visit all of the breweries in Northern California was because I was afraid some of them wouldn’t be around for long. Ironically, the crash ended up helping the brewing business. Previously dysfunctional cities such as Oakland changed their attitude towards beer. Before that time every story I heard about people trying to open a brewery involved thousands of dollars and thousands of hours invested only to sit idle for months at a time dealing with zoning laws and waiting for permits to come through. Since then it seems the process has become, I don’t want to say streamlined, but it seems to be less of a nightmare than it used to be to get a craft beer business operational.

Today a brewery can be found close to just about any destination in California. One exception is the Hwy 120 Hwy 108 corridor. If you leave the Bay Area to go camping up in the Sierra’s there are no longer any cool brewpub stops or growler fills on the way. The most disappointing loss was Kelley Brother’s in Manteca. That was a really cool old style brewery. It sucks that it’s gone. Lumberyard Brewing was also a big loss, but at least the location reopened as Standard Pour. It should be your last stop for a sit down meal if you go camping in the area -great tap list and menu, friendly, good for kids etc.

When I started to write this I didn’t intend to start writing about dead breweries. I’ll have to

Continuing the Brewz Newz art that is on my wall theme. This one is by Judd, husband to Becky, former drummer of Rein Aveva and with Judd in Brainbloodvolume.

Continuing the Brewz Newz art that is on our wall theme. This one is by Judd, husband to Becky, former drummer of Rein Aveva and with Judd in Brainbloodvolume.

save the Brewz Newz from my other two nights out for later posts. That’s the problem with leaving the house. It gives me too much to write about and I get easily sidetracked. Anyway, back to Ale Industries, from my memory, I think Ale Industries was one of the first new breweries to open that only brewed non-standard beers. They didn’t do the regular line-up of pale ale, stout etc. Their first bottled beer didn’t even use hops. They bottled a Rye before it became popular and I think they were one of the first breweries to have a session IPA and everybody does that now. They also had more interesting stuff on tap at the “Jingletown Jazz Room” I made a mistake and ordered a pint of “This Is the Shit That Killed Elvis” If I would have realized earlier that they sold it there in bottles I wouldn’t have done that. It was the only high alcohol beer on the menu and I should have realized I was in for a long drinking day.

Thankfully the brewer Steve tipped us to the fact that the Oakland Brewing Company did not actually close down as the Internet had told me. It just changed names to the IMG_1911Independent Brewing Company so that was our next stop. Great place, a very laid back warehouse setting. In fact, Keri recognized it right away as a warehouse space where she saw a show a few years ago. It’s located a short walking distance from the entrance to Jack London Square where the now famous Beer Revolution is located.

Oakland Metro Operahouse, I don't know what band this was. I think I was just trying to take a photo of Fern on there right.

Oakland Metro Operahouse, I don’t know what band this was. I think I was just trying to take a photo of Fern there on the right.

Just another two blocks from Beer Rev is where the show was at the Oakland Metro Operahouse. Unlike the venue from a week earlier, this place had a better selection of beer and the prices were good. We kept drinking. At the very moment we were at that show, BJ, the Hamm’s drinkin’ head of the San Jose Drunks,IMG_1916 as well as crust punk vinyl collector, 6drinking6celebrity6 on instagram posted a photo of the Reina Aveja 7” and likewise, that will be the YouTube selection for this Brewz Newz post.
Speaking of failed businesses, my greatest failure ever is that I quit doing Probe Records before I finished putting out the Reina Aveja full length. The band flew out to California to play some shows and record with Billy Anderson. The tracks were all recorded and the covers were done. Around that same time I realized that my time was done too. The Internet had replaced my usefulness as a publisher. My attempt to reboot the distribution for the record label was a complete failure. I covered the money to get the tracks mastered at Fantasy Studios and then another label was to to take over from there. Then…. I don’t know who to blame other than myself so I’ll avoid the details but basically, not only did the full length never get released, but it disappeared. It’s just gone! The recordings don’t even exist to put on bandcamp. I would say it was infuriating, but that would undermine how the band must have felt.
So this YouTube recording is not actually that recording but from the aforementioned low budget 7” recorded in 1998. It was Jessica bass, Becky drums, Margaret guitar (in the YouTube photo below Margaret and Becky had switched instruments.) It’s Jen’s amazing vocals that make this recording remarkable. I’ve seen over a thousand bands play in my life and I’ve never witnessed anybody as powerful as Jen.

A current day photo of Jen with her son Henry.

A current day photo of Jen with her son Henry.

Brewz Newz is Very Old School

This is now the beer column of punk rock’s past. I have to expel a few ghosts. If you came here strictly for beer news, prepare for bemusement.

My son Henry is 11 and he is old school. Last Christmas he could have asked for an Xbox, but he didn’t want one. He wanted a Game Cube. It doesn’t work right on the flat-screen TV so he has to play it out in the garage on the tube TV.IMG_1857
Two years ago his gymnastics coach said that he was able to bond with Henry because “He’s into the old school Pokémon from when I was a kid!” He said that Henry had memorized the first 150 characters along with knowing all of their powers. That surprised me. Later on I asked him if he had really memorized the first 150 Pokémon characters. He said, “No, I didn’t memorize them. I just know all of them from playing the game.”
That made sense to me. 20 years ago I could name over 150 record labels and tell you which bands were on each one. That was just part of my world at the time.
These days I can easily name over 150 breweries and tell you what beers they brew, where they are located, if they have a taproom and whether or not they are kid friendly. It’s just something I’ve been into.
Thankfully the wife also enjoys breweries however she does not share my mission in seeking them out. I had to harangue her into taking a half-day off work so we could have time to check out some new breweries before we went to the expensive old guy punk rock show in the big city.

IMG_1811New School Brewz
First we went to Cellarmaker (already featured in an earlier post) just because I wanted to make sure that we started things off right, then we stocked up on beer around the corner at the City Beer Store. Close by is another new brewery next to the Giants baseball stadium simply called the Local Brewing Company. I liked this place right away, partly because it was nearly empty, but also because Neutral Milk Hotel was playing as we walked in. It was a nice mellow scene at 3pm. The place looks like a hole in the wall from outside but there is a

Approximately 15 seconds of my 15 minutes of fame, the drunken guy on the cover of a Queers record is wearing a Probe t-shirt. Sticking with the ongoing Brewz Newz theme of featuring the art hanging on my walls, I am presenting a photo of the promo poster of the album that has been tacked up above my closet dresser for many years now.

Representing approximately 15 seconds of my 15 minutes of fame, the drunken guy on the cover of a Queers record is wearing a Probe t-shirt. Sticking with the ongoing Brewz Newz theme of featuring the art hanging on my walls, I am presenting a photo of the promo poster of the album that has been tacked up above my closet dresser for many years now.

lot of space inside with 14 of their beers on tap.

The show was at the Regency Ballroom and, of course, there is a new brewery less than a mile walk away called Bartlett Hall. This place seemed to have no business being a fully functioning brewery. It’s a darkened restaurant that sells $17 hamburgers because they are in the middle of the city. However, fuck it, it’s a real brewery, I must go. We were already tanked by the time we got there but I’m sure the beer was spectacular.

Screeching Weasel, The Mr. T. Experience and The Queers
The Regency Hall was selling beer in a plastic cup for $12. For that very reason many people missed the best band IMG_1876because they were next door at the 101 getting a cheap infusion of alcohol before they came in. The Queers opening set was a quick slap in the face. If you came late, you missed it.
I remember reading that the people who attend sporting events where they get charged high prices for alcohol actually consume more alcohol because they binge drink before coming in. I’m sure the same thing is true for punk rock. Part of the reason that I planned to spend half the day drinking before this show is because I anticipated the aggressive drinking prices at the show. Not to mention the aggressive pat down everyone got before going in. They weren’t checking for weapons, they were checking for vodka.

Rouge clearly wins the contest for best looking bottle, but if you really want a true spicy beer I would get the Six Rivers Brewery on the left. It cost half the price for twice the hot pepper gratification. Good for clearing the head.

Featured beer: Rouge clearly wins the contest for best looking bottle, but if you really want a true spicy beer I would get the Six Rivers Brewery selection on the left. It cost half the price for twice the hot pepper gratification. Good for clearing the head.

My memory of The Queers is bittersweet as they were one of the first well-known touring bands to play the old Haps Bar ($1 pints by the way) and it was fantastic. Then they played my first all ages show and that didn’t go as well for reasons I won’t get into. However, I never had a chance to make it up to them because the week that they were coming back for the 4th time the building was sold and Donna lost the bar. The new owner cancelled my shows and turned the place into an upscale steak house.
In 20-year-old craft beer news, I was the one responsible for getting Donna to add a Sierra Nevada tap to Hap’s bar, before that they only sold Bud. She explained to me that it cost her 35cents to fill a red solo cup with Bud, but it cost 65cents to fill it with Sierra Nevada so she charged $2 instead of $1. On one busy night she ran out of Bud. She announced over the PA that since they were out of Bud she would be selling the Sierra Nevada for $1. The roar from the crowd was deafening, and hilarious.

Unless you count Jaz and the Helper Monkeys I don’t have any history at all with MTX but Ted the guitar player is a key member of the current day Brewz Newz brewery clan. Plus Keri has read Dr. Frank’s books so we were down for the Mr. T Experience.



When Screeching Weasel came out on stage … but I’ll leave the show here for now. I’ve done enough show reviews in my life. Instead I will save my Ben Weasel /Probe Records swan song bit for my next old guy school of punk rock beer – whatever this is I need to keep these posts short or you fine people will stop clicking on the link.

The search for acoustic music is still ongoing. Which brings me to the youtube music clip for this post. Because I had stopped paying attention to new music for several years, when I joined instagram last year I just thought Pipsqueak was Jerome’s instagram name.

Then I saw a photo of the Pipsqueak LP, put two and two together, and ended up buying it on bandcamp. Not only is it acoustic but there are violins, a really great fucking record. A big switch from the 3-minute punk rock he was doing with Snuggle. I found one of the songs on youtube…

The wife was clearly excited to meet the author.

The wife was clearly excited to meet the author.



Matty Luv and a Mouthful of Beer

matty1.jpg.resizedBringing together a number of recent non-beer related themes in Brewz Newz… the other day, after I brought up my shift towards acoustic music, my friend Dover mentioned how much he liked the Matty Luv/Max split record from many years ago. My first thought was, “Maybe it’s on youtube?” It’s not. However, the songs can be found on the Matty Luv memorial website

The featured beer this post is Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Generally I don’t get too worked up about pale ales. However, just out of curiosity I’ve done a great deal of comparison tasting. Most of the good ones taste similar to the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with various hop characteristics to distinguish them. What I like about Mirror Pond is that it has a light but detectable malt backbone that is absent from most other pale ales. At the same time the initial hop taste is just as strong and pleasant.

The featured beer this post is Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Generally I don’t get too worked up about pale ales. However, just out of curiosity I’ve done a great deal of comparison tasting. Most of the good ones taste similar to the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with various hop characteristics to distinguish them. What I like about Mirror Pond is that it has a light but detectable malt backbone that is absent from most other pale ales. At the same time the initial hop taste is just as strong and pleasant.

Matty wrote those songs to play a few solo shows while he was between bands (Fuckboyz and Hickey). At first he didn’t want to do an acoustic record, but he said I could use a live recording that my roommate Todd had made at one of our house parties. When I was searching for that record on youtube I found another song from that same night. It was one that we didn’t have room for on the record.
The Spit Muffins were also playing and as soon as she walked in Matty dragged their singer Kimball to a corner to work on a song he had written to sing with her. I think that was the only time this song was ever performed and that’s kind of a big deal when you realize that Matty was the best songwriter of his generation. It sounds like someone really cleaned up the recording too. Thanks to the person who did this!

I’ve watched and listened to more youtube in the last month than I have in my life previously. My son Henry made me my own channel just so I could use it to post a little video clip of the Bananas on this site. Then on my next brewznewz post I was adding a link to the end of the post when I found that the entire Ringwurm CD was on youtube. I decided I would use my u-tube channel to post all of the old Probe Records releases, but then I realized that I don’t know how.


Last month I also decided that I’d like to start going out to shows again, but just the small ones. I almost never go to bed before 1 or 2 AM but I only want to go out during the day. It just feels wrong for me to be out late at night. Plus, I have to wear the double ear protection… on second thought – I’ll just stick to going to breweries.

A few years ago Main Street Brewery was having a beer pairing dinner, but when we got there they had a Mayan flute player cranking at Black Sabbath level volume. A fucking flute! I had to leave, left the wife alone once again. Luckily some really cool parents I knew from daycare spotted me from their car as I was walking out, I jumped in, and they quickly drove me to a drugstore to buy some earplugs. These days I always have some earplugs with me. Noise happens everywhere!

Hop Dogma Brewery

Hop Dogma Brewery

The wife is different. She’s not giving into old age as readily as I am. She still enjoys a good crowd and loud places.
Late last year I planned a half-day off work to drive out to the coast and visit Hop Dogma brewery, a beautiful brewery that overlooks the ocean, AND IT’S FUCKING QUIET THERE and also to see Joe’s new acoustic band play up the road at a place called Winter’s Tavern. It was on a weekday. The wife wasn’t thrilled at the idea and correctly guessed that I was just using the show as an excuse to go to another brewery. She mentioned that they often have shows at 1234 Go! Records in Oakland, the city where she works. “Why don’t we go to a show there? “ She then warned me, “You do know that Joe’s band is also playing this weekend in San Jose. Nobody is going to be at the show out in the middle of nowhere on a weekday.” I said, “Exactly!”

Brewer Dan

Brewer Dan

The Hop Dogma Brewery was wonderful. The brewer had just returned from the Great American Beer Festival and I didn’t have to ask many questions before he started telling stories.
The show was nice and small as I expected, with good beer on tap. I hung out with Joe and played pool with his new band -who had never even heard of his old band Ringwurm. It was a good night. However, I have to admit that my wife was right.
When we finally did go to a show at 1234 Go! Records it was… nice. Despite being in the city I didn’t stress at all. There was great beer on tap at two different places on the same street as the record store. Nice places with big windows! I barely looked through the records because these days I don’t know what records to look for. I bought a book about ACDC instead. Only two bands played and it was over by 10pm!


The Hickey LP/CD originally came out on Probe Records but Steve of 1234 Go! took over the repressing of the Hickey CD many years ago. At the time he didn’t have a record store. I learned about that when I read about it in the newspaper. I met him (10-12 years ago?) at some place in Oakland to give him the remaining Hickey CDs and I remember he downed three pints of heavy beers in the first 10 minutes that we were talking. I was a little surprised and told him that I couldn’t remember the last time I had met someone I didn’t keep up with. I felt the Hickey CD was in good hands.

Anyway, of course you should track down the real thing but here is a u-tube version of the greatest LP, punk rock or otherwise, to come out in the decade before the Internet. Any other opinion on the matter is due to ignorance or poor taste.

Hickey in Probe #6

Hickey in Probe #6

I keep posting photos of the art on my walls. That is a theme on Brewz Newz that will continue. The two Matty Luv screen prints in this post were done by Bradley Roberts and have been hanging on our wall for almost 13 years. Judging from his instagram Bradley is a brewery patron, and an attendee of the vegan beer fest each year. He was the drummer for Your Mother and now Love Songs.

Matty at Hap's with The Fuckboyz

Matty at Hap’s with The Fuckboyz

To keep with another theme of Brewz Newz, getting old, I bought my first pair of reading glasses. I have been telling everybody. “Check out Brewz Newz, but don’t do it on your phone! It looks crappy on a phone.” However, now that I have glasses the idea of checking out stuff on a phone makes more sense now that I can see it. I have been trying to type text messages  at arms distance for too long. However, I won’t be wearing glasses full time quite yet so I still prefer the home computer and good old email if you want to send a message, complaint, or pass on a link or something Actually, only one of my eyes is bad so I think I’m going to get a monocle to carry around with me on a little chain.

Matty Luv didn’t have plans for getting old. He delighted in his plan to be the 1,000th person to jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. However, that was foiled when Bridge officials stopped keeping count at 975. I should have felt worse when Matty died. Despite the fact that I considered him the most important element of what made Hickey who they were and the entire cult that they created around them. I would have felt more heartsick if it had been someone else. Matty cared deeply, but he was also fearless. When I heard that he was gone I just nodded my head as if it made sense.  He was an amazingly sweet and conscientious badass and he never wasted anybody’s time while he was on this planet.


Aesop and Matty =, Fuckboyz/Hickey/Yogurt and the classic impossible to find Dr Dre Del “Mic of Defiance!” cassette tape can now be found on youtube

Aesop and Matty =, Fuckboyz/Hickey/Yogurt and the glorious long gone Dr Dre Del “Mic of Defiance!” cassette tape can now be found on youtube

King of the Awkward Silence

IMG_1745A few weeks ago I was momentarily befuddled when I saw Laura Jane Grace singing with Miley Cyrus on youtube. I knew that I KNEW the voice but had to google the name to place it. Raising two kids and not being on the internet I had lost track of the punk rock scene for about 10 years so I was more thrown off that she was playing with Miley Cyrus than I was over the fact that the guy from Against Me! is a woman now. Yesterday on the Marc Maron podcast I heard the story of her transformation from champion of DIY punk rock to a big label recording artist. It was the same old story I expected to hear and altogether understandable. However, I was thrown for a loop when she said, “people in the punk scene are kind of homophobic in general.” Really??!  I guess I wouldn’t know first hand but from my memory the punk scene was almost militantly pro gay.  Punks made fun of Green Day for wearing eyeliner??  That would have been so absurd and stupid that I think I would have remembered the halfwit who uttered such an inanity. Of course, I was living in the Bay Area, things may have been different in Florida.Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 12.52.55 AM

The wife told me today that instead of writing about beer I should start a blog called “This interview is over!” Where I interview people until they don’t want to talk to me anymore. I thought it was a bizarre suggestion to make. (???) She explained that whenever I talk to people I ask very awkward and inappropriate questions and that I tend to make most people uncomfortable. Then she mentioned a few times where I did this in front of her recently.
Although troubling, I liked her explanation because my previous interpretation was that people had stopped talking to me because I was boring. I know that my ability to socialize is stilted. Most of the time when I talk to people I get the feeling that in the back of their mind they are thinking, “please stop talking!” Conversations come to a halt quickly. I just don’t have the gift of amiability. I could never be a salesman.
As a hetero white male I know the problem is my own fault. If things were different I could believe that people just didn’t respect my opinion as a woman or my transgenderness was disconcerting to them. Lucky for me, I don’t have any guilt over the issue because I have been a hardcore libertarian from birth. I never had to evolve towards my belief in the personal freedom of others, sexually or otherwise.
It is compelling to know that there are many individuals who are willing to endure public humiliation, hormone therapy, and sometimes even have their bodies surgically altered simply because they have a need to express their true selves sexually. What I do find maddening is that often the same group of understanding people that are now embracing transgenders, men and women, are still able to roll their eyes and be completely dismissive of talented and accomplished women simply because they have the the courage to distinguish themselves sexually.
With all due respect to Laura Jane Grace and the homophobia or transphobia that she experienced in the punk scene, no person in present day America, has been the subject of more cruel vitriol for expressing his or her sexuality than Miley Cyrus.

Thankfully, the dimwitted herd will eventually fall in line, as they did with Lady Gaga and the exceptional women who came before her.

11262566_901859176501478_1356241421_nI read in Zymurgy Magazine this week that 17 new breweries open up everyday in the United States. Last weekend I was able to visit two that have been at the top of my list for a long while. Mraz in El Dorado and Berryessa in Winters. It turns out that Mraz is just up the road from where my family celebrates Christmas every year at our Uncle Dan and Aunt Bev’s House. Berryessa is much further off the beaten path 62 miles to the East of Mraz, but I really like the picnic table set up and wide space surrounding the brewery. If you’re not a Hop Head you’ll like these breweries as they combine many European and West Coast styles. My best move was that I bought many bottles of the Mraz beers. I’m not a cicerone but it’s obvious that their bottle conditioned ales are about as good as you’ll ever find.

Brewznewz tracked down Mraz brewer Mike and Justin from Mraz at Berryessa Brewing 24 hours after our visit to their brewery.

Brewznewz spotted Mraz brewer Mike and Justin from Mraz at Berryessa Brewing just 24 hours after our visit to their brewery.


IMG_0216Last year I joined social media for the first time and this year our house is falling apart bit by bit. Coincidence?
Our kitchen has been torn out. I brewed a beer five weeks ago and it’s still fermenting in my closet. I have an electric skillet and the toaster oven out on the patio, but everything is out of sorts.
Now that our kitchen is gone we decided to try out some new restaurants in town. What we have learned is that the Main Street Brewery is still our favorite place.
Last week I was listening to the Adam Carolla podcast and he had on Jon Taffer from the Bar Rescue show. He explained that restaurants like quick turnover where as bars want people to stay longer and order drinks. All of the profit comes from serving drinks but it is still important for bars to serve good food because people who order food stay an average of 52 minutes longer than people who don’t. That probably also explains why brewpubs always have great food.



Last Sunday we showed up at Hoppy Brewing Company in Sacramento with a party of fifteen and we were seated and had beer in less than ten minutes. Do you think that would have happened at some jackass Applebee’s? Try doing that at a big dumb IHOP! Brewpubs rule.IMG_1678                                                           Each year for Father’s day I plan some sort of low stress family outing coupled with a nearby brewery. The tradition started several years ago by going to Half Moon Bay Brewing and the Beach. Last year was HWY 1 Brewing on the way back from Manresa and the year before that we went to the Black Diamond Mines followed by EJ Phair Brewing in Pittsburgh, Ca. (I actually learned about the mines by reading Black Diamond Brewery’s old web sight.)

This year for Father’s day Mount Tam came to my mind as a destination because of my last post on brewznewz. We drove to the top of North Peak, walked around the top a couple of times, and followed that up with a visit to Iron Springs Brewery in Fairfax. The town of Fairfax is a little ways off of the highway so it’s not a brewery you’re likely to run into by accident. I also went to Iron Springs a couple of years ago with my friend Hal so I knew it was a place the whole family would like. It was good to see that the super nice lady who does the fantastic chalk drawings is still working there! She brought me my second beer. I took a picture of her latest creation.

IMG_1683Last week I had a hearing test at Kaiser. They recommended I get a hearing aid, but it would be $1,500 an ear so that’s not going to happen. My bigger concern is the tinnitus anyway. My ears never stopped ringing after an ACDC concert 30 years ago. I got used to it, but about six years ago the noises in my head got worse. Sometimes I listen to the sounds in my head and I honestly wonder how (if?) I am still sane. I don’t want to complain though because I have two different musician friends who not only have tinnitus, but they have both gone completely deaf in one of their ears. Not only that, the deaf ears still ring! NO PEACE IN DEAF!! That sounds horrible, but both of those guys lead productive lives that are far from miserable. I admire them for that.

Thankfully breweries are usually pretty laid back and quiet. Altamont’s Tap Room being the one big exception, but that’s my own problem. I have ISSUES. It’s not Altamont’s fault that I’m a grouchy anxiety riddled old dude who pees his pants when the music is too loud. Plus, when Altamont first opened the owner took the wife and I aside at a sparsely attended Pleasanton brew fest and gave us an impromptu lesson in lager tasting. He was a really nice guy and the beer is great. I had a fantastic Smoke n’ Dank in Oakland recently, nice to find the local beer in the big city.

And now the music for this post, I love them, but I can’t listen to ACDC any more. I would also love to drive around blasting heavy bands like Ringwurm, Led Zeppelin, and Brainoil, but when I do that now, when I step out of the car the effect is as if a bomb has gone off. Not only is the ringing louder but all sound is deadened, and the effect of one transgression can lasts for weeks. That’s why I started listening to what the wife unaffectionately refers to as “your whiney voice music.” Neutral Milk Hotel and The Mountain Goats mostly. It has the raw energy and emotion of punk rock, but they are easy on the ears.

I am going to add another link to this post because I just realized that the Ringwurm CD I put out on my record label in 1996 is available in it’s entirety on youtube. Plus, the singer, cover artist, Joe is one of the half deaf dudes I was talking about above. I lost a good bit of my hearing blasting this CD 16 hours a day in my Freightliner truck, hauling tomatoes up and down HWY 5 back in the ’90’s. These days you can find Joe and his artwork at Idiomism Records on twitter. I also want to mention that this was an unmastered bare bones recording before the age of digital tweeking. There are no effects at all on the vocals, Joe was just born with some crazy ass vocal chords.

I got this at one of Joe's showings many years ago because I love the concept. I have four or five friends that are serious artists and I'd like to support them but all of them are into the dark and weird. I like paintings of bucolic hillsides, colorful birds, and pretty ladies in fancy hats like my Grandma Lydia used to draw.

I got this at one of Joe’s showings many years ago because I love the concept. I have four or five friends that are serious artists and I’d like to support them but all of them are into the dark and weird. I like paintings of bucolic hillsides, colorful birds, and pretty ladies in fancy hats like my Grandma Lydia used to draw.

Hoi Polloi Brewpub and Beat Lounge in Oakland, Mill Valley Beerworks

The more beer I drink, the less this is about beer.

The last two breweries I visited were completely different, but both good examples of why it is nearly impossible to keep track of how many breweries exist in Northern California.
Hoi Polloi is very small but they do brew their own beer in the back room. They had their own amber ale and a house IPA with 15 other taps.IMG_1631 I snuck a picture of the brewing equipment. I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos. The place seemed much more neighborly than beer touristy. It’s actually a hip-hop lounge, but when the wife and I were there the music was mellow and in the background. I noticed a set of turntables and some speakers on the bar that weren’t being used. I’m guessing things aren’t always so mellow later at night. A lot of the people there came over with food from next door and there was a wide range of ages and a friendly bartender.


After the hip-hop lounge we went to go see The Bananas at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records.


People can interpret lyrics anyway they want so to me Feel Better is a fantastic song about how drinking beer makes things better. It starts out sad, then there is a bottle and it turns celebratory. That’s how drinking beer should sound.  I took out my phone to catch the last chorus, it was the only 10 seconds of video I took that night.




Mill Valley Beerworks. When I was here three years ago the brewing equipment was set up right next to the bar. The bartender told me they moved it downstairs about six months ago. They have these tables here now.

I couldn’t begin to describe to you how the first beer I had at Mill Valley Beerworks tasted, but it immediately reminded me of the Barrel Head Brewery in San Francisco. Since my taste buds aren’t that developed I must have subconsciously put together the hint that it was the same beer I had there. For instance, the beer menu very clearly said “Fort Point” next to each of the house beers. I had ordered a Fort Point beer at the Barrel Head four months earlier. I remember it because it was the first time I had seen the brewery name.
The bearded bartender with two full sleeves of tattoos on his arms and wearing a flannel didn’t seem out of place among the well healed formerly hipster patrons of upper crust Mill Valley. I asked him, “So is Fort Point you?” He said, “yes!” Then I asked, so is it brewed here? And I pointed down towards the floor, meaning the basement where they moved the brewing equipment. He said they brewed Fort Point off site in San Francisco. I figured that meant that they had only moved the tanks downstairs at this location, but for some reason I didn’t ask.

It seems this place is popular with the locals for it’s food. The menu is rotating and locally sourced as would be expected. I noticed that they had some sort of artisan toast for $4 (not $3.99, the clientele here is too sophisticated for that old trick). It’s that kind of place. One of my favorite radio shows, Armstrong & Getty, recently made fun of the trend towards fancy $4 toast, but to me $4 fancy toast actually makes more sense than going to a steak house and paying $40 for a cut of meat and some vegetables that can be bought for a third the price and grilled more comfortable at home, so to each their own.

Later on I checked the Fort Point Brewery website and noticed that the bartender from that morning is one of the two founders of Fort Point Brewing. Also the head brewer there used to be the head brewer at Mill Valley Beerworks, so that makes sense. The bartender didn’t seem out of place because he’s the guy running the place.


A nice setting, a good place to drink alone during brunch hours. I asked for water and I got that fancy bottle – no extra charge. That’s an 11% Belgium Quad, the stronger the beer, the thinner the glass.

Mill Valley is just 14 miles north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, right next to the famed Mt. Tam. It’s a very idealized place surrounded by mountains with a lot of trees. You can tell the residents work hard to maintain the small town charm of the place, but it’s not somewhere you can avoid the hustle bustle. No place where the streets are lined with parking meters is it ever actually laid back. A good illustration is that the small building that houses the Mill Valley Beerworks has no sign on it at all. As I left I paused to take a picture of it before I got in my car, but another car immediately pulled up next to me waiting for my parking spot. I didn’t take the picture.

Cellarmaker Brewery, City Beer Store, Mission Public and how I became the crazy man screaming in the street

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.04.36 PMI planned out every step of this trip in advance and then I blew it by not following my plan. I left work early and I took BART. I had put this trip on my calendar eight weeks in advance and I didn’t know that the Giants would be playing a playoff game this night. Not a big deal. I thought I would make it back to BART before the game was over. I was wrong.IMG_1030
I got to the brewery well before it opened up at 3pm. As I arrived there was a crazy man walking down the street shouting as he walked. He yelled stuff at people behind me and then just stopped in front of the brewery and mumbled angrily.
I walked around the block to the City Beer Store. This place was better than I expected it to be. They had a great tap list and I would have been happy to stay there for a long time, but I wanted to go to the brewery. I decided I would come back later.

City Beer Store taps

City Beer Store taps

When Cellarmaker finally rolled up their warehouse doors they had a giant TV with the earlier play-off game on. Sometimes I appreciate the breweries that don’t have TV’s but baseball is my exception to the rule. They had subtitles on the TV and a record player was playing a Social Distortion LP. I really liked the beer. I took a photo for instagram featuring beer and baseball in the same photo but it felt oddly disingenuous so I didn’t post it.
IMG_1034My next planned stop was Mission Public. I heard from the wife that two old friends of ours had opened up a sandwich bar tap house in the Mission.

Chubby and Anthony of Mission House

Chubby and Anthony of Mission House

Anthony used to do film negatives for Probe Records, but I hadn’t seen him since then. I hadn’t talked to either of them in many years. Both Anthony and Chubby were there. It was good to see them and I really liked the place and stayed for a long while. If I would have headed back to the City Beer Store then I think my SF daytrip would have worked out perfectly.

Chubby's art has been hanging on our walls for over 15 years.

Chubby’s art has been hanging on our walls for over 15 years.


My downfall began when I decided to also check out Zeitgeist because it was just a few blocks away. I had confused it with a different place. I thought it would be a barebones German beer garden with wood tables surrounded by a cyclone fence. Instead, it felt like a hip and happening nightspot. It seemed loud and I felt like I didn’t belong there. I got agitated. When I left I could see the sun was starting to go down so I picked up my pace. However, in my haste, I walked around a cross street and that was my doom.

I had been walking too far east and I wasn’t where I expected to be. It was getting dark. IDIOT! ! I had fucked myself. I went off plan. FUCKING IDIOT! I pretended that I was calm, but at that point the heart was already pounding. I tried to find the map app on my phone, but I couldn’t focus. I was in an empty warehouse section of the Mission District. At first I started mumbling, “Oh shit, Oh shit Oh shit, Oh shit” as I was walking.
I never had a fear of heights until about six years ago. That’s also when this started happening to me so I tend to equate the two things. It is similar to the feeling of reaching the top of a giant Ferris wheel and every muscle in your body involuntarily clenches as you realize there is no escape, no way to stop it. You just have to get through it.
I am aware that nothing is wrong. I don’t feel like I am in danger, but it doesn’t matter. Not being in control of my environment brings on an overwhelming sense of frustration. First the stomach drops, the hair raises, and then it strikes me hard in the chest. It feels like being attacked from the inside, a sudden acceleration that I can’t control. I think this sensation is what leads some people to believe in demonic possession.
Ironically, once the actual panic sets in, that’s when the fear ends for me. At that point I’m just a raging dickhead. Not cool and powerful Hulk rage, more similar to the sad indignant rage of an old man who is having trouble sucking in air.
As I walked on I started shouting randomly “FUCK YOU! … nnmm… nmmm FUCK YOU! ……… …. Ah … What the FUCK!!!!… …… FUCK YOU!!!” at nobody. At that point a Chupacabra could have come flying out of tree and bit me on the neck and it wouldn’t have had any effect on me. My central nervous system was already in overdrive. In fact, a Chupacabra attack would have been helpful at that point. It would have given me something to focus on.



I had my phone in my hand and tried to call the wife. I choked out one coherent sentence, “Where am I?” and I tried to give her a street name or something (I thought I was Coherent, she tells me now that I sounded insane and I was interrupting Game of Thrones.) Then I started cursing and hung up on her. She tried to call me back several times. I didn’t pick up or hung up right away. When this happened years ago, things were icy around the house for quite a while, not good for the marriage. However, this time she knew what was going on and didn’t take it personally. She was just concerned that I would get arrested.
I walked a few blocks. I was walking and randomly cursing. As I started to calm down I realized that I was no longer in an empty warehouse section. I was on a tree-lined street and people were crossing the street to avoid me. I specifically remember a nicely dressed Asian man keeping an eye on me as he lead his wife across the street. That shut me up and I felt properly shamed.Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 10.16.25 PM
A block or so later I saw bright lights coming out from behind some latticework. It took me several seconds to figure it out but I realized I was standing across the street from Cellarmaker Brewery again. This was fantastic because it meant I knew exactly where I was! It also meant I could go in and have a beer.
The bartender eyed me all the way to the bar and seemed relieved when I spoke precisely. I ordered a Belgium style blond ale which is not my normal style, but it was what I was in the mood for. It was the best beer of the night.
I texted the wife, “Sorry! It’s over now. Doing well!” She texted back, “Great!! Love you!”
It didn’t bother me at all that BART was packed and standing room only with Giants fans. I felt relieved, like I had been in big fight and came out of it unscathed. I was too exhausted and relaxed to care.
The next day my chest was painful, but I knew to expect it this time. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack. ($400 for an EKG even with medical insurance!)
A few weeks later I was explaining to a friend why I don’t go out at night. She nodded and said understandingly, “Oh, you have anxiety and you get panic attacks.” Her husband has the same thing. For some crazy reason this common sense explanation was a revelation to me. For the longest time I thought I was developing a mental illness, but I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I was afraid they would suggest medication. However, Jay Moore, Steve Martin, Ben Weasel, and every single person interviewed on the Marc Maron podcast has talked about going through some sort of bout with anxiety and panic attacks. It’s completely normal.
When I told this to the wife and explained why I was feeling better she shook her head sadly and said, “Oh honey, you are not normal.”
Either way, this happened way back in October and I haven’t had a panic attack since then which is longer than I’ve ever gone since they started. I’ve gone out at night four five times since then too. I think I am done with them.

Working Man and Altamont in Livermore.

Went to a couple of breweries with the wife today. Working Man Brewery, great strong brews.12 beers on tap. I like this place a lot. While we were there I told the wife that I think I’m all better now. I’m too old to have anxiety or panic attacks. We can go out at night again if she wants to. She said, “Really??” Then she took out her phone and bought us two tickets to Screeching Weasel, The Queers, and Mr T Experience in SF in August. I’m going to look forward to that. … I hope. I think so. I warned her I’m still going to be wearing my gun range ear protection.
Thanks to Bug I have a new gun range ear protection hero… I just bought one of their albums on I-tunes. I have no time for vinyl.

Then we went to Altamont Beer Works. Freaking nuts. This place has always drawn a crowd. The service is quick, but now they’ve got the music blaring too. I don’t even know what was playing but it was nothing good. The wife had to yell to talk to me. Not a good place for an old man. I drank quickly so we could go, plus we had to pick up Henry at gymnastics. There is a new pizza place a half mile from our house that has six different taps dedicated to Altamont. I’m happy about that but I may not go to the brewery again. Holy crap that was weird.


Great photo I took of the wife five years ago at Magnolia Brewery. It was my birthday.

Sacramento City of Beer

IMG_1580I bought this barley wine because it has a picture of a cardinal on it. I like pictures of birds. I like colorful birds. I have to admit that Ravens and Crows are much cooler birds. However, if I could pick a bird that I wanted to find on a beer label, I would pick the Scarlett Tanager. That is one handsome motherfucking bird.

893e623eb6a803611250c6d1c6e89952                I like breweries because I feel like I belong in most breweries. Brewpubs usually have wood tables instead of tablecloths. The ages tend to range a little higher and lower. If I see a combination of grey hair and younger couples with toddlers in tow then it’s probably my kind of place. The weekend after we checked out three new breweries in Sacramento we were back the next week and that time we went old school again with Hoppy Brewing Company. They had all kids meals for just $1 on Sundays. Yeah!


Hoppy Brewing Company

Plus, in other old school value for your dollar brewznewz, Davey’s band the 4 Eyes played at Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen the night before and they were selling River City Brewery Beers for $3 a pint.

(Special thanks to the man Charles Albright for actually giving me his gun range ear protection for the show. I brought mine, but my son was wearing it.)

Then last week we were in Sacramento again for the third weekend in a row. We were there for yet another roller skating birthday party. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t skate because I am an old man and I know better.
Afterwards I just happened to know that American River Brewing  is 12 minutes south of the rink. The wife and I stopped in there and it was exactly my type of place. The beer there is really great too! They also had a barley wine in bottles that wasn’t on tap. Some night when people are over I am going to open it at the same time as the barley wine with a bird on it so we can compare. Good times.


American River City Brewing



Breweries on Broadway!

I’m really into getting old. I want to seem older than I am. I’d like my hair to turn grey. Right now, at age 47, I’m not young enough that being uncool can be ironic, but not yet old enough to get an old guy pass for being uncool. I wear my wife’s gun range ear protection on top of my earplugs when I go to the punk show. I know it’s not cool. When I truly achieve old man status I won’t care, and that will be cool.


She was wearing a v-neck but otherwise a pretty good artist recreation.

I also failed the brewznewz last weekend when I didn’t take a photo of the girl behind the bar at New Helvetia Brewing. I didn’t do it because she would have had a look on her face that said. “I’m smiling but I’m actually a little uncomfortable” and it would have spoiled the dress she was wearing. However, within another ten years I’m hoping to move on from creepy old dude to harmless old man and I’ll be able to take that photo.

New Helvetia Brewing is right in the middle of Broadway in Sacramento, a 3-block walk from my friend Davey’s house, just a little further down Broadway by car is a brand new Brew Pub called Oak Park Brewing. It’s in an area that used to be squalid and now it is nice. The place has a great big patio that was filled with people. They also had an imperial red for me. I took a picture of Davey here for brewznewz. Davey is the one that started this site, but so far I am the only writer he invited that actually posts stuff on here. He told me that spelling Brews News with ZZ’s was a joke, because Z’s are supposed to be cool. I don’t get it.


Davey gives Oak Park Brewing Company the thumbs up.

We also went to Track 7 Brewery because it was just a few streets away from a wine party we went to. We had to wait in line to get our growler filled.
The next day a group of us went back to New Helvetia (no, she wasn’t there this time) and the patio was filled there too. It looks like these new breweries are all doing well. That’s great! I love them! It’s especially great when you can walk there.
When we used to visit Sacramento several years ago I used to always lobby to eat at the breweries. We had to drive a little farther to a places like River City Brewing, Hoppy, or Brew it Up (RIP), but I knew when we got there we could get a big table for all of us and drink beer while we waited. Now it’s the opposite. The breweries are more plentiful and closer, but also more popular than ever. I’m hoping they all stay in business so if some get too popular there will be fall back breweries to take us old folks who don’t need to be at the very best place to be happy.


Drinking New Helvetia’s great Thurston Adambier on a Sunday with Karen, the wife, me, Lisa, Bill and Davey was back at the house with the seven kids we have between us.