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Christmas in July - Monday Night Tasting 2008

As I leaned back in the summer sunshine, I closed my eyes and imagined it was December. Euphoria was rising and my head whirled as the weekly selection of brews tingled my lips. We were celebrating Christmas in July. We had planned to have a tasting of vintage Samichlaus lagers, but the cache of cellared Christmas beers was so numerous that we pushed our Samichlaus tasting into plans for the following Monday, but launched temptation with one Samichlaus, vintage 2002, in the finish.

The Legend of Judy Ashworth filled my brain. In 1983, she was 39 years old and the single mother of three kids. Already known throughout the San Francisco area as a master of mixology, she became publican of the Lyons Brewery Depot, a roughneck, macro-drinking bar in Sunol, Alameda County, California. At the time, craft beer was peeking over the horizon, and Ashworth embraced it with an enthusiasm that would soon hail her as the spokesman of the microbrewer.

Three years after she opened her pub, she held a Farewell to Bud Party. She banished macro-lager forever, and brought in beers from Sierra Nevada, Mendocino Brewing, Buffalo Bill’s, and Santa Cruz Brewing. Eventually, her tap list grew to 20 micros. Inventor of The Passport, she awarded beerdrinkers with a stamp for every new beer they tried, along with the opportunity to earn free beer, t-shirts and a boot-full of their favorite beer as they broadened their palates with greater variety.

Ashworth became the champion of blended beers, serving up so many combinations that Charlie Papazian devoted 100 pages to her in his book, Microbrewed Adventures. Because she introduced the tradition of cellaring beer until July, I am now benefiting from her brilliant creativity on the East Coast, this July Monday in 2008. Not long after she opened in the 80’s, she served up a July celebration of Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale and the robust seasonal, Sierra Celebration Ale, from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

"Thanks, Judy."

Our Christmas in July celebration brought out the diversity that now exists in the world of the microbrew. The list is impressive, with more to come in the weeks ahead:


Photos (from top): Christmas Beers for July 2008 Monday Tasting; Dell Massey, Master of Ceremonies, gingerly releases a Christmas Brew; Monday Night Connoisseurs patiently await Mad Elf

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