Mar 31, 2010

3rd Annual Spring Spaghetti Feast

Our 3rd Annual April Fools' Day Parade & Spaghetti Feast is sure to be a huge hit, as always.

Prizes will be awarded for the best "Flying Spaghetti Monster" costume.

The Parade will start at Old Main Hill at Noon, and end at Merlin Olsen Park. We will be pouring free beer at our BierGarden pavilion. There will be free pony rides for the kids, and ice cream and rootbeer floats for everybody!

No Spaghetti Feast would be complete without music, and this year's special guests are sure to be legendary - Marie Osmond performing with Lady Gaga, for one night only. They will be doing a once-only medley duet of She's A Little Bit Country, She's A Little Bit WTF.

We are looking forward to making this year's spaghetti feast the best ever! Hope to see you there!

Jan 15, 2010

BioFuel - the homegrown solution

(I would like to point out in advance that not all BioFuel is made from Ethanol, and not all Ethanol is made from corn.)

Growing up in Cache Valley, I was always fascinated by the ruins of the old sugarbeet refinery by the train tracks outside of Logan. After WW II, it became cheaper to use sugarcane from the Phillipines, and the sugarbeet refinery closed down.

At some point in my early teens, gasoline prices jumped all the way to a whole dollar - which caused great problems for owners of gas stations, since the pumps and signs were not designed for such amazingly high prices. About this same time, I became aware of the hypothetical use of biomass as a substitute for gasoline. In the words of Henry Ford, "Anything made from a HydroCarbon can be made from a CarboHydrate".

Passing the old sugarbeet factory always made me think - partly about all the jobs that had been lost by farmers and factory workers when it closed down, and partly about all the jobs that could be regained if it opened again.

There are some who believe that our military involvement in the Middle East is about Petroleum, and I will not speculate about that here. However, it cannot be denied that billions of American dollars are being pumped into foreign countries - and some of these same countries use our own money to wage war against us. Our country would be more secure, in many ways, if we ended our addiction to oil. Besides - we could create thousands, even millions, of American jobs.

Cache Valley is in a unique position to create a new biofuel technology. USU has a world-famous Agricultural department, and its Engineering department has had the most science experiments sent into outer space of any University in the world. If we can send a man to the moon, we can figure out a homegrown solution to run our cars - one that enriches American farmers, and American scientists.

There are other countries researching this technology, and eventually a solution will be found. Cache Valley Brewing Company would like to make it happen right here - even if we have to build our own distillery.

Aug 16, 2009

Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson

When my family moved to Sweden, our plane refueled in Iceland - the home of Erik the Red, the polite gentleman who is my namesake. We were only there a couple hours and never even got to leave the airport. I have always been interested in returning.

Living in Sweden in 2nd grade was a fascinating experience, but the only relevant detail is how I spent my allowance money: on comic books (which is how I learned Swedish), and on Svagdricka - a stout "near beer" similar to Kvass.

About a dozen years ago a series of events unfolded (or folded up), and I found myself living in Santa Rosa with no particular reason to stay. I thought this would be a great time to visit Iceland. I wrote to the Icelandic Consulate and expressed my interest in a work-exchange program to study Icelandic (which is similar to Swedish). While waiting for a response, the news reported that a volcano in Iceland was erupting under a glacier, which not only sent floodwater into the town, but also threatened to come loose and wipe the town off the earth. I began to think it wasn't the best time to move to Fire-and-Iceland, and then Santa Rosa opened a public access tv station - which was much more relevant to my interests.

Years later, after winning a few video awards, I began working on a documentary series about brewpubs, and once again Destiny had other plans for me - and Cache Valley Brewing Company was born. I continued studying under the banner of the New Albion (pictured above, at the top of photo).

A month ago at Russian River Brewing Company I met Stulli, an apprentice from Iceland's brewery Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson, named after the Viking hero Egill Skallagrímsson. Besides talking about Scandinavian delicacies like svagdricka and blodpudding (made from reindeer blood) we also talked about brewing in Iceland - and I was surprised to discover that breweries were legalized in Utah before they were in Iceland!

I also airbrushed a unique shirt for Stulli (above) - an unusual triumverate of Egils, Russian River, and Cache Valley Brewing Companies. (I can neither confirm nor deny that opening a brewpub is just an elaborate excuse to make t-shirts.)

Jul 19, 2009

Maximum MicroBrew

Grandpa used to say, "Shake and shake the ketchup bottle; none will come, and then a lot'll." As I child, I could never understand most of the nonsense he told me - I just figured he had eaten one too many fortune cookies! Now that I am older, I see the profound wisdom of his words - or maybe he just got lucky and accidentally made sense for once!

Although Grandpa liked putting ketchup on everything (even watermelon), I believe he was referring to the strange "feast or famine" way that Life sends opportunities to us.

I have been involved in video and computer art for about 15 years. In 2005 I won a couple awards for a documentary about a trip to Egypt with my father when I was 8. (This can be found at ) In the fall of 2007 I decided to make a documentary series, Maximum MicroBrew, about the many wonderful microbreweries here in California's Wine Country. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to get advice about opening my own brewpub some day.

I figured the best place in the world to start was at Russian River Brewing Company - and by strange coincidence, it is just a short walk from my house! I interviewed Vinnie Cilurzo at his brewpub, but I knew any documentary would not be complete without an interview at his new production and bottling facility, which was still under construction at the time.

I placed my documentary on the back burner and had many strange and wonderful adventures - which are chronicled in my autobiography, Stories I Made Up to Sound Cool. There were delays in opening the production facility, Vinnie went out of town several times, but finally in November of 2008 (over a year after I began the documentary) I finally interviewed him in at the new facility - and even videotaped the first bottling of Pliny the Elder! It was worth the wait!

Sometimes when Opportunity knocks, you are still asleep, or in the shower, and miss it. This time, I already had the Door wide open - and Opportunity punched me right in the face! Less than 48 hours after videotaping the final interview of my documentary, I found out that my hometown of Logan, Utah was going to allow brewpubs! Once again, the documentary went onto the back burner.

When I first began my documentary, I contacted my BrewMaster friend and told him of my plan to ask different microbrewers for their advice about opening a microbrewery. We agreed on a 5-year plan to open a brewpub in Logan - we figured it would take at least that long to get approval from the City Council! I began contacting our old high school friends, and they all agreed: Logan was over-ripe for a brewpub, but the City Council would never allow it! As it turns out, they were wrong.

Opportunity is funny - I would never have heard the news about Logan's City Council allowing brewpubs if we hadn't already been working on our 5-year plan! (Special thanks to our classmates Gene Needham and Mark Fjeldsted of the Downtown Alliance of Business Owners for convincing the City Council to make this historic decision!)

A couple weeks ago I was informed that the deadline for the video contest (which I won before) is coming up, so the documentary is off the back burner once again. Yesterday I found out that Vinnie's birthday is the day after the deadline - yet another reason to turn up the heat! Now the Maximum MicroBrew documentary series has a new chapter - an autobiographical "How-To" video for opening a brewpub.

Like Grandpa said, "You are never given a Dream without also being given the Power to make it come true - but you may have to work for it!" Grandpa was actually right this time - shaking ketchup bottles is a lot of work!

Jun 21, 2009

Anastasia's Revenge

When I first moved to Santa Rosa almost 15 years ago, I was not much of a beer drinker - I spent most of my time in coffee shops working on my writing and artwork. None of the local watering holes appealed to me, nor did the sloppy people that frequented them.

One day a friend took me to a coffee shop called Higher Grounds, and my life was changed forever. They had microbrews on tap there - something that I had never seen in a coffeeshop before, even in Berkeley! From a tap handle labeled Old Rasputin Stout, a pair of Svengali eyes beckoned me hypnotically. The forces of destiny pushed me forward, and I was handed a glass of deep darkness so dense it distorted daylight. The first cold sip glowed warmly to my fingertips. I felt every strand of my DNA undergo a subtle change. And it tasted good, too!

I was soon introduced to a drink called Anastasia's Revenge - a pint of Old Rasputin fortified with a shot of espresso. I found this was the perfect way to prepare for my typing class - it perked me up in a very soothing way. Sadly, Higher Grounds stopped serving beer, and finally disappeared altogether, leaving only the shadowy trace of a doorway, over which letters glowed faintly: "Magick Theatre - Not for Everybody: For Madmen Only!"

Years later, I was enjoying a Pliny the Elder at Russian River Brewing Company with my friend Randell, and listening to a band. A voice said, "Hey Randy, you've got to try this. Oh, and since you are Randy's friend, let me pour a glass for you, too." I looked up to see those same hypnotic eyes again, this time on a t-shirt, and another magickal glass appeared in my hand. I didn't know what to expect, but what I tasted was an improvement on perfection - Old Rasputin aged in a bourbon barrel, Special Edition XI. That was when I first met Ken from North Coast Brewing Company.

I ran into Ken again at the Face to Face Brewfest last weekend, and he had brought a couple bottles of Old Rasputin XI from his own personal cellar. He was kind enough to allow me to hold the bottle while we posed at the Russian River booth for a photo (seen above). Several people told me that Russian River's Consecration was the best beer there, but clearly none of them were fortunate enough for a small sip of this special cellar selection.

- special thanks to Rasputin and Ken.
- apologies to Herman Hesse.

Mar 28, 2009

The times, they are a-changin!

Utah's governor just signed a new law allowing homebrewing. To celebrate this historic change, we plan on stocking a line of homebrewing supplies when we open our new facility.

So Relax - Don't Worry - Make a Home Brew!

This marks another in a long line of changes that are dragging Utah, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century:
- Logan's City Council's sudden approval of brewpubs last December (and the inspiration for this blog);
- Removing the bizarre "Club Membership" requirement for drinking establishments;
- Legalizing homebrewing (as described in this very post);
- The (unsuccessful) attempt allow draft beer stronger than 4% (by volume) - better luck next time!

These modern changes are relevant to my interests. Like Grandpa used to say, "I am very interested in the Future - I plan on spending the rest of my life there!"

Feb 18, 2009

Standing on the shoulders of Giants

Russian River Brewing Company has been a great inspiration to me in many ways. Of course, the many awards on their walls, from the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival, would be inspirational to any brewer, but there is something very special about this place. If our own brewpub becomes even half as successful, I will consider that one of the greatest accomplishments in my life - and one that I owe to the inspiration and advice from Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo.

I have enjoyed their special atmosphere since the first month they opened, over 4 years ago - and I am fortunate that I live within walking distance! Their sunny patio is across the street from the town library, and I have often enjoyed a new book in the warm sun with a cold Pliny.

Their food is also top-notch. In fact, when my father came to visit over Christmas, he said theirs was the best pizza he ever had in his life!

And yet, there are several places that make good beer and serve good food, but somehow they lack that je ne sais quoi that makes Russian River such a special place. Some have suggested that part of their magic comes from the New Albion Brewery sign that graces the top of their barrel-aging room - a relic from the very first "micro-brewery", founded in nearby Sonoma in 1976. That may be part of their secret, but Vinnie and Natalie are also the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.

I have felt privileged to attend a couple brewfests with them, but it is a little strange having people tell "me" how great I am - when I know they really mean Vinnie. It is like being the batboy for Babe Ruth's team: my hat and shirt might look the same, but I know I am not even in the same league. All I can hope is that by letting me stand in his shadow, I might someday grow into a giant.