Behind the Glass - Shot Away IPA

The Rolling Stones performing at Altamont as seen in the documentary about the event, “Gimme Shelter."

The Rolling Stones performing at Altamont as seen in the documentary about the event, “Gimme Shelter."

In December 1969, the Altamont Speedway — located just outside Livermore  — made headlines for a rowdy concert that brought the Rolling Stones and other top talent to Alameda County on a last minute venue switch. In addition to a highly-publicized killing of a fan that jumped on stage, the event became known for its bad vibes, poor organization, and otherwise unruly atmosphere. Despite the negatives, the concert that was modeled after Woodstock and saw 300,000 fans attend is an important part of local history. So, it’s no surprise that Altamont Beer Works, named for the geographical area in which it was built, pays tribute to the concert with its flagship brew—Shot Away IPA.

John Ernst, Altamont’s brewery’s media manager, called the beer an ode to the concert. “We wanted to name the beer after one of the Rolling Stones songs,” he explains. For the first two years Altamont Beer Works was open (2012-2014), the name was Shelter IPA, for the song “Gimme Shelter.” A cease and desist letter sent them scrambling to rename it.

“We literally all sat around drinking and [listening to the song],” Ernst shares. That’s when Shot Away—a lyric from the song—was chosen as the beer’s new moniker.

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Anne Newell, 71, remembers the concert well. She was in her early 20s when her and her friends decided to attend. The lineup and the location were detailed on the radio. No one bought tickets; they just showed up.

“At that time it was weed and acid and I guess pills,” Newell said of common drugs of choice. “The music part was great and then it got bad… The crowd was bad. People were overdosing,” Newell remembers.

“There was a lot of people having bad trips it seemed,” said Sibyl Lewis Darter, who also attended. “Puking was more common than I’d have liked.”

Newell described the concert as having bad vibes from the beginning; everyone was paranoid. She compared it to other concerts she attended in the late 60s, mostly at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, where people sat around sharing joints and passing booze and just listening to the music.

“There was no security whatsoever except the stupid Hells Angels and they were only at the stage,” Newell recalls. “The stage was really low so people were just walking up and just climbing on the stage.”

It’s no secret that low stage lead to the death of the fan that jumped on during the Stones set and was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels. In all, there were four deaths at the concert, and reportedly a few live births.

Altamont Beer Works pays homage not just with their flagship beer but also with a wall of memorabilia hanging in the tasting room in Livermore.

It’s one of many references to the Altamont hidden, or not so hidden, in the brand’s licensing. Their logo features a photo of the infamous windmills, a skyline that is quickly changing as new equipment replaces the old.

“We… are just super tied to that area,” Ernst said. — Story by Nora Heston Tarte


The Altamont Speedway Free Festival was an infamous rock concert held on Saturday, December 6, 1969, at the Altamont Speedway in northern California, between Tracy and Livermore. Headlined and organized by The Rolling Stones, it also featured, in order of appearance: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, with the Rolling Stones taking the stage as the final act.


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Everard Strong