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Meet the Meisters

Jordan Mackay | October 17, 2012 | Story Wine and Spirits

Nicole Erny
Master Cicerone

Cicerones didn't come onto the American scene until 2008. Just three years later, Oakland’s Nicole Erny, at 28, became not only the youngest person to achieve the title of master cicerone from the Cicerone Certification Program but also the first woman, proving indisputably that beer geeks aren’t just long-bearded, big-bellied men. Today, Erny is becoming a force in the world of beer connoisseurship. Her ability to sniff out acetaldehyde, along with her intricate knowledge of beercarbonation systems, has made her a much-in-demand beer judge, and she’s already a top cicerone trainer, traveling around the country administering examinations and leading seminars.

Dave McLean
Magnolia Brewery

Since founding Magnolia on Haight Street in 1997, Dave McLean has been something of a godfather to the growing beer scene. Through the San Francisco Brewers Guild, he’s helped raise the profile of craft beer in town with such events as S.F. Beer Week and Brews on the Bay. When locals were obsessed with extreme, hopped-up beers, McLean stepped in as a proselytizer for the now-fashionable philosophy of “sessionability” (balance with regard to flavor and alcohol). And Magnolia is still growing. As of this year, refillable growlers of Magnolia’s beer are sold at Whole Foods and the Fatted Calf, and a whole new brewery and restaurant will soon open in Dogpatch.

Christian Albertson and Nat Cutler
The Abbot’s Cellar and the Monk’s Kettle

Previously residents of Colorado and Seattle, respectively, Christian Albertson (left) and Nat Cutler (right) opened the Monk’s Kettle in 2007, and it was an instant hit. Even in this suds-saturated moment, the Kettle still has the beer selection to end all beer selections. This past summer, the duo opened perhaps the most ambitious beer-focused restaurant in the country, the Abbot’s Cellar. Here you will find taps finely tuned to temperature, rarities such as Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout on tap, and over 120 ever-changing selections. The back of the restaurant has a two-storied cellar designed to properly store beers including large-format and vintage brews, such as a magnum of 2010 Rochefort 8 Belgian dark, which goes for $150. These guys aren't fooling around.

Craig and Beth Wathen
City Beer Store

The Wathens didn’t set out to create the craft beer agora of San Francisco. “We just wanted to create the kind of store that we would want to shop in,” says Craig, who, along with wife Beth, opened City Beer Store in 2006. Last year the shop, which has 300-plus beers on tap and in bottle, expanded into the space next door. Now, even on a Tuesday night, the tasting area can feel positively raucous. Every conversation is about beer—home brewing, German beer styles, hard-to-find ales from the Russian River, you name it. If there is a nirvana for beer nuts, this is it.

Adam Lamoreaux
Linden Street Brewery

In 2009, Adam Lamoreaux founded Linden Street Brewery, which claims to be the first production brewery to operate in Oakland in 50 years. “Breweries are infrastructure,” he says. “And Oakland’s needed this for way too long.” His brews are without peer locally (or anywhere, for that matter), particularly the Old California lager, or steam beer—a rare ale-lager hybrid and a signature beer style of the Bay Area in the last century. Equally lauded are Lamoreaux’s collaborations with chefs: He makes beer out of the yeast from Tartine’s bread, and he crafts the lemongrass-rice beer Supafly for James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare. Three years in and it’s already clear: Lamoreaux could make Linden Street as synonymous with Oakland as Anchor Steam is with San Francisco.

Read More:

Good Food for Good Beer

Taste Test: Tap vs. Bottle

Beer Gypsies and DIY Brewers

Know Your Beer Terms: A Short Glossary

Upstart Breweries Around The Bay

The New Beer Buzz

The 9 Best Place to Drink Beer Now

Anatomy of a Beer: From Head to Glass, What Your Beer is Trying to Tell You

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