Celebrating ‘liquid gold’: ‘Celebrator Beer News’ originates in Nevada City
Special to The Union
Beer is liquid gold in the Golden State.
California boasts more craft breweries than any other state in the nation. The industry contributes more than $6.5 billion to the state’s economy and employs more than 48,000 Californians.
And the Nevada-City based “Celebrator Beer News” is the voice of the craft beer industry.
At the helm of the magazine is Tom Dalldorf, editor and publisher. The bi-monthly “Celebrator” is the oldest craft beer publication in North America, with a more than 55,000 circulation. Dalldorf’s wife of 52 years, Arlene, is the magazine’s Chief Financial Officer. The two produce the magazine at their Nevada City Victorian home, and send it to Union City to be printed.
“There were only 20 breweries in California in 1988 when the ‘Celebrator’ first started and now there are nearly 700,” said Dalldorf, who has been a leader in the beer, wine and food industry for more than 35 years.
“I was producing wine and food events in the Bay Area, and started producing a few beer events. I met this guy who had just launched the ‘Celebrator,’ and I started doing the layout for him. A year later, he was going to shut it down, so I bought it in 1990,” recalled Dalldorf.
Dalldorf and his wife moved to Nevada City in 2008. In addition to editor and publisher, Dalldorf is or has been a beer judge, beer event producer, beer competition coordinator, guitarist, singer-songwriter, world traveler, lecturer, author, beer connoisseur, news reporter, news anchor, and speechwriter.
His personal “Celebrator” column, “Heard It Through the Hop Vine,” sports the byline Tom “Hop Caen” Dalldorf. The bi-monthly homage to the late Herb Caen, legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist and Dalldorf’s idol, mimicks Caen’s breezy writing style down to the trademark ellipses. Loyal “Celebrator” readers never know what might be included among Dalldorf’s “Hop Caen” musings.
Word Play: a “beer named Lagerithm…” or the “Heineken maneuver…”
Droll Anecdotes: a father named his son Miller Lite so he could take the tyke to church…
Advice: never look at your beer as half empty; look at it as you’re halfway to your next beer…
Statistics: the average American walks 900 miles per year and drinks 22 gallons of beer. That means the average American gets 41 miles per gallon…
The writers Dalldorf has assembled across the globe to cover all-things-beer are also irreverent.
Features and columns herald “Aurora Beerialis written by Dr. Fermento,” “What’s Doin’ in Brewin’,” and “To Live and Drink in LA.”
Dalldorf’s penchant for humor led him to write some beer parody tunes, which led to the creation of The Rolling Boil Blues Band (beer is made at a rolling boil). The band, with Dalldorf on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, performs at beer festivals across the country.
“All our tunes are music you’ve heard all your life, but with silly beer lyrics,” explained Dalldorf.
“Willie and the Hand Jive,” a golden oldie written by Johnny Otis and released in 1958, takes on a new flavor with Dalldorf’s original lyrics and cheeky title, “Homebrew Hand Jive.”
I know a cat named Homebrew Charlie
He makes great beer with hops and barley
When it comes to brewin’ he’s the one
Got a copper plated kettle and an ole’ mash tun
Brewin’ that crazy homebrew
A typical concert playlist might include Rolling Boil Blues Band standards such as “Take Me to the Brewpub” (The Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River”), “Rocky Mountain Beer” (Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way”), or “Hop Back” (The Beatles’ “Get Back”). Promotional material for the group’s CDs insists, “Obviously, rehearsing is out of the question…”
Dalldorf covers the beer scene with gusto, much of the time globe-trotting to exotic locales. He’s visited breweries in England, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Thailand, Netherlands, Canada and Mexico. The “Celebrator” hosts the occasional Brews Cruise to Alaska. There’s a “Celebrator” Belgian Beer Tour.
At BEER Weekend in Las Vegas, beer was paired with seared duck foie gras (which Dalldorf dutifully reported as “ethereal”).
Dalldorf has gallantly covered the nascent brew scene in Hawaii. He’s braved the cold at Colorado Nitro Fest Longmont, joining hundreds of others who enjoyed nitro beers from three dozen breweries while watching colorful circus acts perform inside a heated big tent.
Yes, beer lovers hop to it — tickets for the most popular beer festivals sell out online in minutes.
Another sell-out was the “Celebrator” magazine’s anniversary celebration this year. The gala extravaganza showcased 35 breweries and a festive party for 600 beer lovers at Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley.
For Dalldorf, it’s all in a day’s work.
“Beer is a beverage of celebration and moderation, and fairly inexpensive. People into the beer scene are into it for fun,” Dalldorf enthused. “If someone has a beer they’re proud of, they want to open it for you, drink it, and show it off.”
Not so with wine enthusiasts, believes Dalldorf.
“Being in the wine industry is like sticking your pinky out, wearing a suit and tie, and being all proper,” he quipped. “Wine lovers want to show off the wine bottles in their cellar, but not drink them.”
If the shenanigans surrounding the “Celebrator” and its publisher seem silly, things get serious when it comes to the business of beer.
The magazine hosts blind beer tastings with an expert panel, and rankings are published in each issue. Hoping for sales-boosting favorable reviews, brewers send hundreds of boxes of beer to the Dalldorf’s Red Dog Road home each year (a buzzer rings in the house when it’s activated by the mailman opening the mailbox). Positive or negative reviews can make or break a brew, respectively.
It’s evident when Dalldorf appreciates a great beer: “A big stout with chocolate and berry notes … smooth and richly malty…” or “Deep garnet red in color, the beer effuses herbal hop aromas …”
Dalldorf said editing and publishing the “Celebrator” makes for a “comfortable living.”
Breweries pay $75 to cover shipping 25 magazines of each edition, which are distributed free to their beer-loving customers. Single subscriptions to the “Celebrator” are $19.95 for one year of home delivery. An advertisement in the magazine proclaims, “That’s like buying only four pints!”
“Our mission is to bring the word of good beer to American beer geeks,” added Dalldorf. “My job security is intact by our nation’s love of beer.”
As the motto of the “Celebrator” boasts, “You can take good beer to the bank if you stay true to your brew.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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