The owner of The Alchemist Brewery, John Kimmich, paid Sonoma County a visit this week. The casual beer drinker may not be familiar with John or his brewery, but the biggest of craft beer enthusiasts get bright eyed and bushy tailed at the mention of their beers.
The Alchemist, best known for making Heady Topper, is located 3,000 miles away in Waterbury, Vermont. The beer made there usually does not leave a 60 mile radius from where it’s made unless someone takes a journey to get their hands on it or convinces someone living in the area to trade some away. John and his wife Jen have seen the type of success that is paralleled by very few if any other brewery outside of Russian River Brewing Co. which has a similar cult like following. So what was Mr. Kimmich doing so far from home?
Approximately ten months ago Orhan Sarabi, Santa Rosa Marathon and Ready, Set, Growl Beer Festival Director, approached me with a simple question, “what beer not made locally excites you and the NorCal Beer Geeks the most?” Before I could open my mouth with a response three people sitting nearby almost simultaneously answered, “Heady Topper.” Keep in mind that I don’t consider Mr. Sarabi a beer enthusiast so I smirked when he responded, “then that’s the beer that I will be pouring at next year’s beer festival in August.” I tried to tell him just how difficult this task would be. I mentioned that people waited in lines for Heady Topper that are as long as the ones that we’ve grown accustomed to in front of Russian River Brewing Co. during the Pliny the Younger release every February. Call it stubbornness, determination or simply not wanting to lose a bet, Orhan Sarabi accomplished what I once considered impossible when John and Jen Kimmich agreed to provide the Ready, Set, Growl Beer Festival with over 700 four ounce pours of this special beer that is rated 100 out of 100 by RateBeer.com and rated the #1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate. It should be noted that John and Jen Kimmich were fond of the 31 Heroes Project that will be receiving a portion of the proceeds and seem to appreciate the fact that the Santa Rosa Marathon is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
After delivering the beer to Morris Distributing in Petaluma it seemed destined that John Kimmich and Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Co. owner, would get together to discuss beer. I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall listening to arguably the two best IPA brewers in the world discuss the beer making process and the rock star status that these two humble men now share in the beer community. Based on the tweet by Kimmich he enjoyed his time in Sonoma County and specifically his time with a great beer making peer and his wife Natalie Cilurzo. See the link for details about the marathon and the Ready, Set, Growl Beer Festival taking place Sunday August 24 in downtown Santa Rosa .
– Peter Lopez