Saturday, August 14, 2010

Enjoying the time away

.. but will perhaps come back to play.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Loosey goosey

And so it goes, when one has neither the chops nor the gear to take shots like Jesse Friedman, the least you can do is use him as your backdrop.

So when is it a good idea for a brewer, upon delivering the origin stories of their beers to an unfamiliar populace, to overtly reference other, more well known beers, as their respective influences? Such was the case when Goose Island's brewmaster Greg Hall descended on the Monk's Kettle to rub shoulders with local media and business associates as part of their foray into the San Francisco market; here was an opportunity to showcase some beautifully crafted, unique ales that certainly speak to what he described as Goose Island "doing differently", a message that was hamstrung somewhat by references to two of the best beers on the planet, Orval and Rochefort 8, as their inspirations. (I eagerly awaited the Saison Dupont hat trick, but was sadly left hanging.) Does it do the brewer a disservice, conjuring up the juggernaut of an icon like Orval, down to its very name having been derived from the fountain of legend at the Trappist monastery, when its chances of capturing its essence are so very, very slim?

It's particularly jarring when someone as skillful and well-traveled as Hall, someone who has averaged an annual trip to Belgium over the past 15 years, makes those emphatic allusions himself, rather than coming from the mouth of a marketing exec looking to be evocative. One of the very first lessons a homebrewer needs to learn is that trying to clone anything is a path fraught with disappointment. Trying, on the other hand, to emulate certain appealing characteristics as evident in commercial examples, makes for great learning, and a fun way to heighten your sophistication with the craft. Certainly he knows that Matilda, for all its malty-sweet goodness, bears little resemblance to the hoppy, funky delight that our ring-bearing fish friend represents. Being portrayed as a domestic alternative to one of the most singular beverages on Earth seems almost cruel in how it devalues Matilda on its own merits as an eminently enjoyable, spicy, well-balanced pale ale that deserves to find success on local menus.

Hitting the admittedly larger, somewhat easier target of a Trappist-inspired dubbel, Pere Jacques, the tawny ale named in honor of the abbot of Rochefort, strikes a much truer chord, yet seems unfairly saddled with unmeetable expectations thanks to its open homage to Notre Dame de Saint-Rémy. Clearly, this trio of beers, rounded out by the delightful Sofie, a brett- and barrel-tinged saison that pairs embarrassingly well with soft ripened goat's cheese like Humboldt Fog, owes its existence to Greg Hall's travel experiences in Belgium. But in a town like SF, where one can easily get the beers on which these were inspired, one has to wonder if the overt comparisons hurt their chances of finding their way into the glasses of an uninitiated, alien market.

It would be a disservice to both Goose Island and the local dining public if that were the case. These are exceptional beers on their own merit, and hopefully with some time out from underneath the shadows of the giants whose spirit helped guide their inceptions, they'll gain the opportunity to find their own place on menus and draught lists throughout the City.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

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Monday, February 08, 2010

SFBW'10 - Funky Fairfax

One of the more popular bumper stickers of the "local pride" variety refers to Fairfax as "Mayberry on acid". It's a town that prides itself on waving its freak flag high, and, to the extent that it's possible in a place like Marin county, being a funky little joint.

How appropriate then, that today, the first Monday of SF Beer Week 2010, marks the release of Iron Springs' first foray into the funky and freaky world of brettanomyces-influenced beer, with a somewhat unexpected choice from the house line-up as the guinea pig: their Chazz Cat Rye, an amber, mildly spicy rye beer that's been a mainstay on the draught list since the pub's inception. Dubbed "Rye the Funk Not", the name nicely sums up the degree of experimentalism the brewers invoked in putting this batch together. Head brewer Christian Kazakoff explained it thusly:
I was impressed with the flavor of a Rye beer I did in a firkin with oak chips soaked in Chardonnay; so, I decided to purchase a Zinfandel barrel from a local winery in Oakland and fill it with a new Rye beer I brewed that was in the pre-chill conditioning stage. It took a little over two barrels of Rye to fill the barrel. I inoculated the beer with some brettanomyces and buried it in "The Brett Farm" at Drakes brewery in San Leandro for seven months. When the secondary funk fermentation finished out in October, Persimmons were just being harvested and I love Persimmons. I added twenty pounds of chopped Fuyu Persimmons to the barrel and let it stand for another three months.
He describes the result as a pale, 7% alcohol, oaky beer, with rye spice contrasting with a slight sourness, and a lingering sweetness from the fruit. Besides the limited run RTFN will have on tap at the pub as part of their barrel-aged beer month, there are a dozen or so cases of 750ml bottles that were hand-corked and caged in the Belgian style which are conditioning with champagne yeast and awaiting label artwork for a small release in another month or so. Compared to its second cousin twice removed, it's drier, fairly stronger, and plays its hops much further in the background, letting each of its unique qualities come out to play in distinct order: a spicy, leathery aroma leads into an initial taste of old barrel, ceding to hints of the rye and West Coast hops before the fruity persimmon finish (which I wouldn't have been able to distinguish if it hadn't been for the multiple sessions of a friend's persimmon wine I've had the joy to experience over the past year) cleans up the palate, dryly, with that slight sourness that stirs the appetite and warrants a second taste.

It's warming to see experimentation such as this taking place so close to home (even if the intentional "infection" occurred in Contra Costa), and with today's news that Mill Valley Beerworks got their brewer's notice from the TTB, it might not be long before we're seeing the first spontaneously brewed Marin beer. Perhaps I'm fantasizing a little. But it's a fun fantasy to harbor when enjoying something as wickedly complex and time-consuming yet blithely titled Rye the Funk Not.

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SFBW'10 - The Younger and the rest of us

The sign says it all.

"I can't imagine getting in line for a beer," came one slightly tongue-in-cheek comment from the small assemblage of local beer writers huddled beside a table overflowing with Ryan Farr's chicharrones, as we discussed the completely unforeseen mad dash that had occurred earlier in the day up at Russian River, where demand for their annual February release* had formed, to say the very least, a "line". Even Natalie Cilurzo's own estimates on the lifespan of this year's batch of Pliny the Younger ("I don’t know how long it will be available at the pub. However, I venture to guess less than one week and more than one day!") turned out to be quite generous, as by 6pm Friday afternoon, after about 7 hours of being poured, the 600 gallons on tap at the Santa Rosa pub had already dried up. Even Mario, a Santa Rosa native and stalwart supporter of all things Russian River chimed in to say (unbeknownst to all of us that just as we were making the rounds at the SF Beer Week gala, the atmosphere up in Sonoma had already turned somewhat grim) had he would have been happy to wait until Saturday to get his share, had he been able to foresee the unprecedented crowds that had appeared well before the door's had even been opened. After all, last year there'd been no crowds at all, no lines, not the slightest bit of fuss - that easy, relaxed Sonoma pace had been shattered this time around, the pub apparently having fallen victim to its own success, the obsessive completists monitoring the ubiquitous top ten lists, and the ease with which social networking tools can amass armies of beer fanatics like blinkered, hops-driven flash mobs.

Not that it mattered entirely on my part, thanks to Mario having stashed my very own growler of the stuff by the gala entrance. And as we departed into the early evening, someone perched outside the event noticed the bottle I was casually swinging from my pinkie and called out, "Hey, is that Younger?", forcing me to glance over my shoulder the whole way back to the parking garage in fear that we were being followed...

Despite all the hype and a reputation it couldn't possibly live up to, it remains a wonderful treat of a beer, and one for which I'm happy to say that I didn't have to stand in line. A fortuitous way to begin SF Beer Week 2010, indeed. Expect it to make some further, albeit brief appearances over the course of the week, in your finer Bay Area drinking establishments.

* And as for that other February special release, the darling Valentines' Day black Belgian ale dubbed "Rejection", expect that one to make an appearance at Toronado tomorrow night.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Greater than the sum of its parts

"Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness: on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming at something else, they find happiness by the way.

Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so."
- John Stuart Mill

Bookshelves are put to second best use at the new Gestalt Haus.

For the better part of the year, Fairfax locals had been teased with the promise of the impending opening of an outpost of San Francisco's Gestalt Haus, a venue that's but a smudge on the map in the SF beer scene but one that had the potential for making a big mark in our little burg. For months, the little ex-furniture shop on Bolinas Avenue sat unchanged, wrapped in the same secretive butcher paper and adorned with a coming soon sign that indicated, curiously, that despite the name, our local version of this popular little bike-friendly sausage-and-a-pint shack was, for better or worse, entirely unaffiliated with the SF joint of the same name.

Hofbräu dunkel is as dark as it gets here.

Then, back in September, thanks to messages out of the blue posted both on the forums and Twitter, we discovered they'd be hosting a quick and dirty open house. Turns out they'd gotten their liquor license squared away, yet were still tied up in logistical wrangling with the health department, so they'd planned on pouring a fresh keg of Hofbräu lager for suggested donations of $2 a cup while showing off their nearly completed digs. A ton of obvious work had gone into the place, most notably the 14' redwood bar at the center of the action, adorned with two gleaming towers promising some fine German draught choices and some equally fine local selections. The jukebox was loaded with the appropriate amount of Fugazi, the tables were set, the bike racks were loaded in, and things looked ready to go, simply waiting for the green light to finish the kitchen, and they'd be open in two weeks.

Two weeks passed quickly, without any news, and then it was October, and the still unchanged storefront facade caused me to wonder if I'd imagined the whole thing, riding down the hill through the late summer's breeze on that fine September evening, filling up on an honest pint of Munich's finest while gamely chatting up the obviously excited, if not slightly terrified, proprietors of our town's newest watering hole. And with the annual hubs n' hops Biketoberfest fast approaching, it was starting to become a bit of a concern, how the place would survive having missed, in its construction phase, all the year's big crowd draws, all the events that actually get folks to take that wrong, long left turn and wind up here on the dark side of Mt. Tamalpais, before the winter sets in and the rain cloud obscures our existence from the rest of the world until May.

And so, then, the day before the festival, something very strange happened.

They moved.

Apparently, things with the health department weren't progressing as quickly as the Haus folks would've liked, so when a nearby bookstore that happened to already have both a liquor license and a fully functioning kitchen abruptly closed its doors, Gestalt Haus just as abruptly moved in and made themselves at home. And with untold back-breaking hours building a plywood bar from scratch and moving the keg coolers and draught towers and picnic tables and glassware, they opened their doors just in time to see the largest parade of pedal-pushing beer drinkers of the season ride past, and stop in.

Half liter, liter, or keg: you choose.

And it may just be the "how much weight will this support?" feeling one experiences when bellying up to grab another Maß from the bar that lends the place's name such appropriateness. While the original's tagline - beer, brats, and bikes - was supposed to convey its gestalt, whole experience being greater than the sum of its parts, the gestalt at our own, potentially short-term bar (because they do still hold the lease up the street, and aren't pinning themselves down just yet) is quite different, and pretty endearing. The parts here - communal seating with a real Stammtisch feel, excellent, simple beers in proper glassware, great natural lighting and a quiet, relaxed vibe - add up to a gestalt that virtually defines "session". Not much worth commenting on by themselves, but put together, it adds up to something of real worth, and in a place that's better for it.

And did I mention they have bacon potato chips?

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not forgotten

Fat cats in party hats are standing by

It's literally been years since I've been able to conjure up a strong enough blend of bravery and laziness to allow Pfiff! to go this long - nearly two months! - without any posted updates, but there's no denying the past six weeks have been an enjoyable sabbatical, made of equal parts reflection and disregard. And it would be a shameful, outright lie if I didn't state how pleasant it's been to take a break. Absence, the heart, fonder and all that. While the past few months have seen many acquaintances increasing their responsibility to write diligently, often, and in depth about beer, I've been feeling preternaturally detached from the scene, at last in terms of writing about it. Of course, it's only natural that this waxing phase should coincide with a nice, traffic-driving profile that excusably calls me out on a lack of regular writing, an event that would throw anyone looking to drive and snare traffic on their site into a hysteria of shotgun composing, throwing up scattershot postings in an attempt to create a web of interest in which to capture this newfound audience unawares. The fact that it elicited an even smaller shrug of dismissiveness on my part than usual should have been a good clue that something was amiss.

This short, but well spoken piece by John LeMasney, is a good detour at this point. Which is not to say that's what's happening here, yet, anyway. I'll prove it to you soon. What's irrefutable, though, is that my attention, interest, and energy has been recently diverted, but surely not permanently. If there are actually any readers out there who've been waiting and wondering, my apologies. We'll be back shortly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fermentation Friday - Abby Abbey*

Is this normal?

Lowered expectation warning: The following is a complete cop out.

I don't know if it's the weird muggy heat or the headache that's accompanying it or what, but despite digging as deeply into my smartass as possible, this month's Fermentation Friday isn't happening for me. Sorry to disappoint, Matt. No matter how hard I force it, this baby's not moving out of neutral. While I'm stuck in the driveway here with the engine running, I wonder if I'd been deluding myself in the past in thinking I was witty enough to word my way around any topic, but this one ("I want to know if and why you break away from the norm") has me completely con- and dumbfounded. For the life of me, I can't remember the last time we brewed anything that one might consider "normal". (This should not be taken as boasting: I never said they were any "good".) Years ago, deeply hidden in the ancient mists of my already cloudy memory, I seem to recall brewing up batches that didn't include homegrown herbs, oddly modified grains, obscure hop varieties, unusual sugar sources, or peculiar tinctures, beers that you could matter-of-factly call "a stout" or "a West Coast pale ale". In fact, when joking last week about how we were simultaneously putting up a batch of kombucha while prepping a yeast starter for our holiday ale, and how haha funny would it be were I to swap the two by mistake, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the thought had, yes, momentarily, crossed my mind. Seriously. What if?

So, rather than waste any more of your precious Friday reading time (go out and kiss a girl or pet a dog or vice versa), we'll make our entry simple. Here's the recipe for this year's holiday ale (the original gravity reading of which you see pictured up above), and here's a link to the song that's been stuck in my head all day. And if you need a reminder on how to make the amber candi sugar yourself, here are the instructions. Enjoy.

Many thanks to Matt at A World of Brews  for hosting this month's mind-boggling Fermentation Friday, a monthly blogging carnival gathered around the topic of homebrewing, originated by Beer Bits 2

*About that title.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What next?

After a month in the making, our Italian Modernists dinner is in the books. And while the jury's still out as to whether or not we'll have an official wrap-up of the event posted here, it would be unfair to go too long without publicly thanking the folks who made it the success it turned out to be. It's no small feat to collect nine relatively obscure beers in quantities to serve fourteen diners, nor is it terribly easy to convince those fourteen diners that an afternoon of Italian beer could be all that enticing (especially when up against the likes of Stumptown and the Toronado anniversary party), to say nothing of assembling and executing a equally lengthy pairing menu.

On the topic of the menu, here it is.

The first order of thanks has to go to our ably dexterous mate in the galley, Mr. Alex of Drink A Week, here caught childishly trying his hand at the delicate art of beer blogging*, who not only kept the food train running for the five hours that we were serving, but managed to keep a live microblog feed of the event running simultaneously for his dozen or so followers. If there's a kitchen assistant who can handle a bigger heap of verbal and physical abuse during an event than Alex can, I'd be shocked (and if you know of one, please let me know as I could probably use them next year).

Second in line for kudos is Dave Hauslein, the beer manager for Healthy Spirits, without whose help the wicked variety of beers we had chance to sample would not have materialized (here seen apparently doubling up on his portion of the polenta and sopressata). Dave goes way out on a limb to provide an unmatched service to local weird beer lovers, not only stocking the big name trends of the day, but allowing space for bottles that may sit a little while just waiting to be united with a certain taster with an adventurous palate.

(And on the topic of thanks, while I know Des is listed as a contributor on the masthead here, that's really just a formality that allows her to pop into any of my published posts and clear up any unbearably unsightly editing errors, and as such it would be completely uncouth for me not to publicly thank her for the enormous contributions, in cooking, hospitality, and the immense clean up effort, that she donated to what is truly my singleminded obsession of hosting this annual affair.)

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't thank our guests for not only taking a chance in coming in blind to our little experiment, but also for doing my job for me in taking some great pictures, bringing along extra delicious beverages, and even lending a hand in the kitchen when our pacing dragged a little. As taxing as these events can be, the guests make them completely worthwhile, placing you in the odd position of being simultaneously exhausted and eager to get the next event scheduled on the calendar, whatever it may be. So, until then...

* Yes, the Peroni made multiple appearances, and yes, it's intended as humorous irony.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A new Marin beer destination in the Works

As anyone who balances a 9-5 with a handful of obsessive hobbies can attest, it doesn't take much motivation to find oneself daydreaming, entertaining notions of transforming the "fun" part of the workweek into the "business" part, until the original "business" part becomes utterly eclipsed by non-stop, buck-the-system, financially-gratifying "fun". But in terms of brewing beer, while many homebrewers would find the offer to swap their daily grind with a good pair of boots and a mash paddle deliriously enticing, such (often psychoactively enhanced) delusions of crossing the great divide between 5 gallons and 5 barrels are often met headlong by sobering apprehension over reams of legal paperwork, sparse sources for funding, and the uncertainty whether you've got a clear vision of your business and your market beyond getting compliments at your buddy's BBQ when you show up with the free keg. Despite how much homebrewers may adore their hobby, the vast majority of them will never dare try to parlay it into a living.

Two young brothers from Mill Valley, however, are taking the plunge with Beerworks. And "plunge", at this stage of their start up, probably feels like an accurate descriptor to Justin and Tyler Catalana, considering that what they foresaw as one of their biggest hurdles - getting the town council to approve their bid to open up a brewery and on-premises beer bar in a small storefront at the edge of the downtown square - passed by with hardly a blip of resistance. In fact, the first I'd heard about their proposal was the day they brought it to the council meeting, and watched as they proceeded to update their website three times with 12 hours, from "we're heading to the meeting, would love some support", to "council said they'll review", to "council has approved". Thank our cruddy economy for removing the typical barrier of neo-prohibitionist, NIMBY neighbors: In times like this, a town's desperation for tax revenue and desire to add foot traffic to a quiet edge of downtown's retail area trumps all others.

When asked about their inspiration, the brothers point to their recent travels in Asia as a turning point in both the nature of their relationship with beer, and also in determining the direction they wanted to take in starting a business. They might even argue that it all hinged around one particular beverage they experienced in Vietnam, the "morning brew" known as bia hoi. "They see it as nutritional, as a cereal beverage", says Justin. "What breweries are doing around here, especially in California and down the West Coast, is such a small window of what you can do with grains." And one look at their anticipated bottle list (which they quickly concede is a "work in progress") demonstrates a fondness for otherness, with Danish, Italian, Norwegian and Japanese craft beers, many with strong local flavor, dominating the board.

And while they admittedly also want to feature local beers, Tyler going out of his way to mention that one of his favorite recent beers has been Lagunitas' Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, while also heaping praise on Berkeley's Trumer Pils, the modus operandi behind Mill Valley BeerWorks is clear:

"We want people to try new things," Justin asserts.

Tyler concurs, ""We're trying to set up a business model where people aren't coming to us for consistency." And certainly, showing people the extent of what's possible in beermaking, keeping things fresh and somewhat unexpected, appears to be a core concept of their vision. They talk in terms of art galleries and theaters when referring to what they plan to offer their community, places one goes for pleasure without having a concrete idea of what the end experience will entail. It's a artful move that dissipates one of the cornerstones of Big Brewing, wherein the promise to the consumer is the unwavering assuredness that all preconceived notions will be fulfilled the same way, unvaryingly, endlessly.

"We're going to have a heavy emphasis on outside beers, which is really nice because it means we can be more experimental with the beer that we're brewing, as we're not relying solely on the sales of our own beers." It's obviously attractive to any brewer, being given the space to fiddle around with recipes without fearing the repercussions of not churning out a predictable product. As Justin says, "We want it to be a sort of studio for us. We'll probably have a beer or two that we always have on tap, but other than that..."

Tyler interjects, "We want to be experimental, but not in a way that's just for experimental's sake." I wondered if their enthusiasm to stretch themselves so thin across the plane of what's possible in brewing would dilute their brand, but it's clear that they both see it the opposite way, as a trademark value of their brewing. As Tyler sums it up, "Something for me, a connection between each thing we brew, beers that have some sort of - and I don't want to say we just want to brew uncommon beers - but like that Vietnamese beer, making people aware of these things out there that are really unique."

They then relay the story of recently asking a local storeowner for their impression of one of the beers they were selling, Baladin's Nora, and being told that while the storeowner enjoyed it, he sternly assured them it technically wasn't a beer. "People can have a narrow view here about what beer is. And people’s bad experiences with fruit beers, when they’ve never had a good kriek? We want to show people what’s out there."

In looking for a word that sums up an admittedly ambitious beverage-making wishlist that included side discussions about such things as Russian rye bread beer, African-inspired beers fermented with Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and kombucha, "unique" seems fairly apt. Which is not to say that they want to be entirely defined by being obtuse, but rather as they put it, by taking the chance in "re-popularizing beers that other breweries might not be doing because their brewing systems can't."

"We both like cooking, and it's been a large part of our upbringing, being part Sicilian, and knowing the way cooking works definitely affects our brewing. There's thought behind it, you can change the process, knowing why things are doing what they're doing."

And their desire to have the flexibility to produce a broad spectrum of beers, from sessionable cask ales to heady eisbocks, is driving the size and design of their brewing system (not to mention designing it to share a space just a hair over 1,100 square feet). So rather than it being a hindrance, their experience with tinkering in the homebrewing realm will serve them well, as the 3-barrel system that's being designed for them will be in essence a blown-up homebrewing rig, capable of being switched around and reconfigured to handle a wide variety of mashing and fermentation techniques. They anticipate that those beers will be delivered via ten taps alongside a few handpumps, with the odd bottle conditioned beer coming out of the cellar now and then. And while they won't be serving food, they're eager to connect with local businesses in the same way City Beer and Toronado have, welcoming people to bring in food to enjoy with their drink.

And connecting with local businesses, particularly in the community of Mill Valley, seems like an essential goal of these two locals. "I like Mill Valley," Tyler says, "and there’s a lot that’s cool about Mill Valley." When I comment on how my brief habituation in the town that we lovingly referred to as Ewok Village was marked by a nightlife that shut down around eight o'clock, he reminds me that I probably wasn't the only one wishing there was something more up my alley (literally) to occupy my time with. "There's a lot of people in the woodwork who regret having to go into the City every Friday or to just stay at home."

Despite the apparent ease that they had in getting the town's approval, Tyler admits, "It was hard convincing the town that we're not going to be just a rowdy bar, because we have this emphasis on beer. But we don't want to promote the status quo of current American beer culture, we want to help in changing that, to enjoying beer, versus beer as an auxiliary to various activities." And one of the ways they intend on changing public perceptions of beer is through transparency and inclusion, hosting monthly brewing classes, setting up a few homebrew kits so that people can brew their own beers while the brothers brew adjacently on their system.

As if to dispel any hovering concerns about being accessible, Tyler adds, "We want to have some very cheap beers, like a $2 pint all the time. You're always skating a weird line, people thinking it's 'cheap' because of the price, but it's literally so cheap for us to make it, the mark-up just seems unfair. But for me, when I go to the place where they make the product, I expect the product to be cheaper." They talk about how they ensured their licenses would allow people to bring their kids in, how they intend on always having a low alcohol session beer on tap for folks who're just looking to relax with their laptop, and how they picture the interior being run with communal tables that invite the friendly, sociable attitude that they are fond of in places they themselves frequent.

When asked for the single biggest piece of advice they would share with any other would be entrepreneurs, the reply comes swiftly: "Find your money first." While they do have some major investors lined up, they were blindsided by how quickly they got approval to open shop, and admit that they had expected to use the time waiting for the council's approval to secure their funding. They're also in the process of developing a way for small investors to help get them off the ground. When asked about the "adopt a bottle" section of their website, Justin explains, "What we want to do is be able to people the chance to buy a bottle for $5,000, and that will pay back at a certain percent over three years." While they're currently hammering out the details with their lawyer (they won't be actual "shares" of the company, nor will it be open to buyers outside of California), they're hoping it will provide some help on a local level, and increase the buy-in from the community.

Other than the financial hurdle, though, as far as a pair of enterprising homebrewers go, these two bring some unique experience to the table that may give them edge they need to be truly successful. Tyler's experience in architecture has paid off not only in drafting plans, but also in handling the requisite presentations and being mentally prepared for all the bureaucracy. "There is lots of paperwork," he concurs, "which is intimidating, but not impossible. All the information you'll ever need is on the internet."

Justin points out that while his dad is a contractor, the two brothers grew up in a very "hands-on" environment, a quality they suggest is one of their strong points. Knowing how to do metal fabrication, electrical engineering, and, as he puts it, "being comfortable manipulating things in the physical realm" all contribute to what they envision as being successful in building up their own brewery and bar from scratch. It certainly doesn't hurt that he also studied fermentation science and spent some time at Chris White's yeast lab in San Diego.

They recognize it's an uphill battle, but one that they appear to be masochistically enjoying, recognizing that the act of being good beer ambassadors has begun far before they open their doors, as they try to explain to investors why they decided not to get licensed to sell wine ("What are the women going to drink?") and why don't intend on being open past 10:00 p.m. They're clearly taking pleasure out of dispelling the myths of what enjoying good beer responsibly is all about, and hopefully that positive attitude will serve them well as they encounter the unforeseen but inevitable impediments down the road.

"And don't forget to put in there that we're looking for money," a smiling Tyler reminds me. It's a running theme. "While we've been cautious at every step, we've been lucky." With the big obstacles seemingly melting away (the town's approval, a rental space with an agreeable landlord), and brimming with creative ideas, it looks like the only thing that could stop them from being Marin's newest brewery is if the dollars dry up. Otherwise, it looks like all signs are pointing to us having a unique new place to savor a thoughtfully handcrafted beer amongst the redwoods.

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