California Craft Beer Summit and an Unexpected Twist

Homebrewer Jon Ezell

Homebrewer Jon Ezell

This week’s post on “Not My Father’s Beer” comes from Jon Ezell, an avid and talented homebrewer from Salinas, California. Here’s the reason why.

If you saw this blog two weeks ago, you know that my sister in Austin, Texas passed away from lung cancer on Thursday, September 1. Due to Labor Day weekend, the funeral had to wait until Tuesday. Our family was going through emotionally draining days with important decisions to make. I didn’t see how I could fly to San Francisco on Wednesday, drive 100 miles to our home in Monterey, wash clothes, repack and, on Thursday morning, drive 190 miles to Sacramento for the 9:00 am start of the second annual California Craft Beer Summit.

I had attended last year’s inaugural Summit, in the company of California’s craft beer glitterati, and enjoyed it immensely, but this year’s just wasn’t going to happen for me. It turned out there were no refunds on those $289 VIP tickets–believe me, I checked–but I could transfer the ticket. I immediately thought of Jon, who has a wife, two small children and, like most thirty-something dads, a limited budget. Jon’s Summit experiences, and his reports via email, Facebook and the post below, left me really happy with how things worked out. Enjoy his report!

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The 2016 California Craft Beer Summit took place September 8-10 in Sacramento. Over 4,000 craft beer brewers, homebrewers, trades people, and enthusiasts were in attendance. It was a chance to wander amongst the legends of the industry, listen to their stories and insights, and sample their creations.

Beer was abundant at the summit, but time was not. In the mornings it was a hard choice between presentations – yeast management or pairing beer with deserts, brand building or using coffee in beer. Like brewing, it was a balancing act of sacrifice and gain.

Flavor Training presentation

Flavor Training presentation

During the afternoon sessions one was able to see all the talks. The Cilurzos from Russian River, Dr. Charlie Bamforth from UC Davis, Sully and Niko from 21st Amendment, Jamil Zainasheff from Heretic, and Peter Zein from AleSmith were all standouts for me. They all resonated a commitment to quality as the key to success both for the industry and for the individual. Every one of them defined quality as being 100% consistent in the beer being produced, although, Dr. Bamforth got a little more specific, saying we should all be making clear beer, diacetyl free. And no hazy New England IPA’s or Pilsner Urquells for Charlie.

A symposium with the Cilurzos (Russian River) and Tomme Arthur (Pizza Port/Lost Abbey) concluded the Summit. They talked about one of the first pow-wows of California Craft brewers in the 90s, when they set up booths according to style -IPA, Porter, etc. Vinnie remembered that the IPA tent only had 8 options. Twenty years later at this summit167 breweries all brought at least one IPA. Tomme was met by a room full of cheers and applause when he talked of a future where there would be no “craft” moniker. Just like there is no “craft wine,” there would only be beer and not all of it industrial lager. Natalie also likened Blue Moon to pink zinfandel as a gateway to much greater possibilities, and said that all beer has a place under the sun – laughter and more applause ended the summit.

Jon at Saturday's beer fest with The Brewing Network's Mike ’Tastey’ McDole

Jon at Saturday’s beer fest with The Brewing Network’s Mike ’Tastey’ McDole

There was still the party on the Capitol Lawn. Thousands descended on the 167 breweries. It was hot in the sun, but people were dedicated. I even saw David Walker, of Firestone-Walker, sweating it out with his employees as he poured out the last of a private stash of barrel-aged rye barleywine. Our local Monterey brewers from Alvarado Street Brewing also had a good showing at the next booth down.

It was an amazing three days – a true celebration of craft brewing in our beautiful state and beyond.

Jon with Colorado homebrewer Greg Myers

Jon with Colorado homebrewer Greg Myers


  1. Leslie, my experiences tied to this years California Craft Beer Summit just took another step in to the surreal. My first time reading your blog was your wonderful tribute to your Sister.I have no idea how I stumbled upon it, but I’m so glad I did. I recently learned of the passing of a friend who I had known since the 70’s. We often passed each other going the opposite direction on the American River Bike Trail, but rarely had time to get together or talk.
    I had volunteered for this years summit to experience a different side of the business, I raise hops on a small scale and attempt to home brew. I was assigned to pour for the attendees on Thursday and Friday evenings, a task which I thoroughly enjoyed, not at all what I figured a volunteer would be doing. Thursday evening as I was talking to one of my “customers”, Greg Myers, the gentleman pictured with Jon in his post, walked up and asked for a sample. My heart missed a beat and I froze. He is the spitting image of my recently departed friend, albeit a bit thinner with more hair, but enough to stop me cold for a few seconds. I didn’t say anything to Greg at that time, but the next evening I saw him again and felt compelled to show him a picture of my friend and explain how it had affected me when I first saw him.. He was stunned, and agreed the similarities and the timing were sort of eerie. We talked for a bit and it was like old friends just catching up. It was about this time that Jon walked up and introduced himself and we spoke for a few minutes. I talked to the 2 of them in between serving beers until they wandered off to enjoy some more of the summit.
    My reward for volunteering was a ticket to the festivities on Saturday and I was more than ready after pouring samples for everyone else while being unable to enjoy any myself. I spent the first half of the 4 hours with 2 ladies who also beer blog to yet again experience this wonderful industry from another angle. After parting ways with the ladies I found myself at the Yolo Brewing booth speaking with one of the partners about the state of things and who should walk up,but Jon and Greg. We told Jon about how Greg and I met and I got to learn more about both of them, where they live, what they do etc. Conversation always flows easily with the lubricating qualities of beer, but I felt a bond with both of these gentlemen and am proud to have met them, My mother always told me that some good always comes from bad. I don’t always agree, but this time I do. Your tragedy allowed Jon to attend the Summit, and for he and I and Greg to meet and begin what I hope will be a long and interesting friendship.I hope your sister and my friend are up there enjoying how things worked out and the little ironies of life. I live in Sacramento and often visit your wonderful little seaside town.Be well and perhaps you and I and Jon can enjoy a beer together some day..

    • Leslie Patino says:

      Hi Dave, what a nice comment, or bunch of comments. Life can indeed take some strange turns. I’m glad you were able to make some interesting connections at the Summit. Next time you head down toward Monterey, give me a heads-up so we can meet over a beer or two!

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