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The sad finale began with the headline "A word to you about the way it is with me."

It took an entire column to get to the point: Herb Caen was announcing he had inoperable cancer. San Francisco's prolific "tower of babble" had finally met a deadline even he, with his never-to-be-equaled record performance, couldn't diffuse with his deft, characteristic turn of phrase. For nearly 60 years, Herb was chronicler of "Bagdad by the Bay" for the Ess Eff Chronicle (and, for a time, the Brand-Ex Paper across the alley).

The "City that knows how" was quick to show its affection for their "Bard of the Bay" by throwing a parade and party fit for a conquering hero. Politicians, sports and rock stars, socialites, media gliterati and just plain folks jammed the Market Street Embarcadero area in a love-fest in honor of the operator of the mighty Royal whose daily musings entertained, informed, provoked and, at times, infuriated generations of generations of readers hooked on Herb.

I was one of them. I was ecstatic the first time I got my name in his column. During the darkest days of the Vietnam War protests, I put a Vietnamese-English Bible on sale at the book store I was managing on O'Farrell Street because I thought it was ironic if not incongruous. Herb called it "a curious gesture." No matter, I WAS IN THE COLUMN! The number of phone calls I got made me aware of the awesome size of his audience. His readership was so habituated to the daily dose of "Herbicides" that many insisted they couldn't do their daily "business" without Herb's column in hand. When he went on vacation, people all over Northern California were constipated for weeks.

Over the years I managed to slip into "The Column" a few more times. The thrill never lessened. The Celebrator adopted the "look and feel" of Herb's column when we launched "Hop Caen" in 1990. It began as a tribute (not to mention a de facto admission of a lack of originality) and seems to have become a favorite feature for our readers. As of this writing, we still haven't decided whether to continue the Hop Caen moniker. What will continue is a column attempting to put subject matter on the beer world in a different, less serious, perspective. Herb even did beer items over the years which invariably found their way into this column. A favorite was Herb's reciting of "The Ballad of Steam Beer" the final couplet of which read: "But I chant out a hymn to Gambrinus/The god of small change and good cheer,/For singing a song of the nickel,/That buys the big glass of steam beer." The verse was by one William S. "Billy" Barnes, a District Attorney of San Francisco in... 1902! As Herb would say, "Gawd, I LOVE this town!" Gawd, Herb, how we loved you...

In the land of "forty shades of green," the Irish government set out to crack down on alcohol-related traffic accidents. A spokesman for the Automobile Association in Dublin said it's time to stop blaming accidents on motorists: "In many cases the pedestrian is to blame. Often, he is lying prone in the roadway." Now THAT's putting the blame where it belongs!

If YOU were lucky enough to get email messages from Seattle's Pike Brewery "Head" brewer Fal Allen, it might look like this: "Yes...... thats right Boooys N GRrls ...... Its time to relive to fun, frolic & social instability of the PiKe bRewErs nite. tonight's episode features: Buck Fitty pints (while they last), actually seeing Guest & visiting brewers from around town, FREE tv sports, yeast metabolism in action AND Meeting an actual real live brewer.... & asking him questions a nature that relates to & of brewing or Small not widely known Jazz musicians. Questions like: 'Say Kevin........What is your favorite thermophilic homofermentative yeast & did Jimmy smith ever jam with him??' BUT I must take exception to being refereed to as a beer Geek .... we prefer 'socially challenged beer enthusiast' Thank you ery much - Fal." (See what so much rain and coffee can do to an otherwise fairly normal person?)

Industry veteran Bill DeLucchi, owner of A&D Distributing in So. San Francisco is as passionate about his son's baseball career as he is about getting microbrewed beer around the SF Peninsula. Son Dustin, who was mentioned in this column several years ago as a baseball prodigy, is now an outfielder for Arizona State (as a freshman!). This year he was invited to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League — the oldest amateur collegiate baseball league in the U.S. I wonder what kind of beer they'll be serving at the new Pac Bell Ballpark when Dustin's playing there a few years from now?...

Brewer John Harris, he of Full Sail's Portland micro, is handing out the ceegars in celebration of their family's new addition — a 9 pound 5 ouncer of the "Brewster" variety named Fiona! Can we look for a special brew from John?...

And profuse apologies to Brewer Don Gortemiller for misreading the band on HIS cigar celebrating the arrival of his new Brewster — it's Leslie JOAN Gortemiller, not Juan. The old eyes aren't what they used to be...

The new cider effort from Boston Beer Company plows fertile new territory for the formerly staid category of cider marketing. The new product is called HardCore™ Cider and presently comes (so to speak) in two flavors -- apple and cranberry. We are sure that with a name like "HardCore" the possibilities for marketing are limitless. We fully expect to see new flavors with the HardCore theme and may we be the first to suggest Porno Peach? Lusty Lemon? "How's This For A Pear" Cider? Come on, you can think of a few! How about a slogan like "There's a cider inside 'er!" The possibilities are as limitless as the fertile imagination of Jim Koch his own self...

Perhaps the best known logo in the micro industry, Red Tail Ale, is showing up on draught and even "cask conditioned" thanks to increasingly expanded production. Mendocino Brewing Co. is also going back to the well for more money to expand the size of the new brewing facility just getting started in Ukiah. At $8.25 per share this is surely the cheapest piece of "tail" you're likely to find.




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