Monday’s ad is for Pabst Blue Ribbon, from 1949. In the later 1940s, Pabst embarked on a series of ads with celebrity endorsements, photographing star actors, athletes, musicians and other famous people in their homes, enjoying Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. This one features Mr. & Mrs Edward G. Robinson. He was “a Romanian-born American actor,” and “is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as a gangster, such as his star-making film Little Caesar and Key Largo.” The Robinsons are enjoying some PBRs while playing backgammon in their home. There is some art on the while, which makes sense, since he was an avid collector and built up an impressive private art collection during his lifetime.
Today is the birthday of James W. Kenney (January 2, 1845-). He was born in Ireland, but followed his older brother to Boston when he was eighteen, in 1863. He was involved in starting and running several different breweries in Boston over the span of his life, starting with the Armory Brewery in 1877. Then he opened the Park Brewery, the Union Brewing Co. and finally was involved in the American Brewing Co., plus he bought the Rockland Brewery at one point. It also seems like he was involved in the Kenney & Ballou Brewery, but I wasn’t able to confirm that one. Suffice it to say, he was an busy, industrious person, involved in a lot of Boston breweries.
Here’s a short biography from “Important Men of 1913″
Kenney, James W., born near Derry, Ireland, Jan. 2, 1845, and educated in the national schools of his native land. Came to Boston, 1863, and was placed in charge of a large grocery conducted by his brother. Became master brewer in a large brewery. In 1877 started Amory Brewery; 1881 Park Brewery; 1893 organized Union Brewing Co. Was mainly instrumental in organizing the American Brewing Co.; member of directors’ board two years. Large owner and operator in real estate, with interests in railroads, gas companies, banks, newspapers, etc. President, director and vice-president of Federal Trust Co.; director Mass. Bonding and Insurance Co. and Fauntleroy Hall Association of Roxbury; member of American Irish Historical Society and of numerous social and benevolent organizations. Married, April 24, 1876, Ellen Frances Rorke, of Roxbury. Residence: 234 Seaver St., Roxbury, Mass.
Norman Miller’s “Boston Beer: A History of Brewing in the Hub,” has a few paragraphs on several of Kenney’s businesses.
Here’s a rundown of his breweries:
Armory Brewing Co., 71 Amory Street: 1877-1902
This was his first brewery, but it was only known by that name until 1880, and I think he may have then sold it to a Mr. Robinson, who called it the Robinson Brewing Co., although some accounts indicate it was called the Rockland Brewery, which was his nickname. Their flagship was Elmo Ale, named for Robinson’s son, and not for the beloved Sesame Street Muppet. Other sources seem to suggest it was then bought back by Kenney at some point.
Park Brewery, 94 Terrace Street: 1881-1918
Four years later he opened the Park Brewery, which apparently produced only Irish Ales.
American Brewing Co., 249-249A Heath Street: 1891-1918
This was a larger brewery than his other ventures, and he was merely one of the investors in the business, and was on the Board of Directors, though he did hired all Jamaica Plain brewmasters. Apparently it survived the dry years by operating a “laundry” (wink, wink). After repeal, the Haffenreffer family bought it and used it briefly as a second brewery, before closing for good in 1934.
The Jamaica Plain Gazette described their neighborhood American Brewing Co.:
The most “handsome” of all the remaining Boston breweries, the American Brewing Company was active from 1891 to 1918, and then again from 1933-34. Owned by James W. Kenney, who also owned the nearby Park and Union breweries, the Queen Anne style building stands out architecturally with beautiful granite arches and a distinctive rounded corner, topped by a turret.
Historically, one of the most unique features of this brewery was the “customer” room in the basement. Customers were entertained here in a room with walls, ceiling and floor painted with German drinking slogans, flowers and other reminders of the source of the Lager recipes.
The Jamaica Plain Historical Society has even more information on it in their piece about Boston’s Lost Breweries:
The brewmasters were Gottlieb, Gustav and Gottlieb F. Rothfuss, all of Jamaica Plain.
This is undoubtedly the most handsome of all the remaining breweries in Boston and once can see at a glance the pride the owners had in the place, the process and the product. The architect was Frederick Footman of Cambridge. It was built in three phases, with the oldest part on the left, the second one with the American Brewing Company name came next and then the third wing with the beautiful granite arches and terra cotta heads which was the office complex emblazoned with the initials ABC. The granite was probably either Chelmsford or the slightly grayer Quincy.
Still visible in the main, or brewing, building is the large overhead access shaft where the malted barley and water were lifted to the top floor with hoists and pumps. The barley was stored in cedar-lined rooms in the top two stories of the main building to prevent insect infestation. The brewing process was started there as the grain was cooked. The cooked mash then flowed to the floor below where the grain was removed as waste and hops and other ingredients were added to the residual brew, along with the yeast that triggered the fermentation that produced the alcohol. The final product was then stored in temperature-controlled areas at the lowest level. Also still visible in the lower level is the capped wellhead that had delivered countless thousands of gallons of pure Mission Hill spring water to the process.
A wonderful touch of the spirit of the times is the “customer” room in the basement. Customers were entertained here in a room with walls, ceiling and floor painted with German drinking slogans, flowers and other reminders of the source of the Lager recipes. The offices had beautiful arched, semi-circular windows with stained glass. The tower is rounded and has a clock fixed at seven and five, the workers’ starting and quitting times. It also has granite carriage blocks to protect carriage wheels from breaking if too tight a turn were attempted when entering or exiting.
During Prohibition it was used as a laundry. After 1934, Mr. Haffenreffer used it for a time as a second brewery. Most recently it was used by a fine arts crating and shipping company, the Fine Arts Express Co. It is presently being converted to housing units.
Union Brewery, 103 Terrace Street: 1893-1911
Next was the Union Brewery, this time to brew German Lager beer exclusively. Here’s a brief description of the Union Brewery from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society, detailing it in Boston’s Lost Breweries:
The Stony Brook culvert sits very close to the surface of Terrace Street, the home of two very productive breweries. The Union Brewery, active from 1893 to 1911, was located at 103 Terrace Street. It produced only German Lager beer. It had a large six story, arched, main building and two smaller buildings housing a stable and a powerhouse. The two smaller buildings and the mural-decorated smokestack, which now also does duty as a cell phone tower remain. The former stable is now Mississippi’s Restaurant.
While for those breweries, it’s certain they were owned by James Kenney, I’m less sure about a couple of others. From either 1878-1880 or 1898-1903 (sources differ) there was a Kenney & Ballou Brewery. It’s seems at least like that James Kenney may have been the Kenney in the name, although it could have been his older brother Neil Kenney, who James worked for when he first arrive in America. That seems even more plausible when you look another brewery founded in 1874, the Shawmont Brewery. In 1877, it became known as the Neil Kenney Brewery, but in 1884 it changed names again, this time to the James W. Kenney Brewery. It apparently closed in 1888, but it appears pretty clear that he and his brother worked together on one, if not both of these breweries. Unfortunately, except for listings in Breweriana databases, I couldn’t find any information whatsoever about either brewery, and they’re not mentioned in any accounts I found of Kenney, either.
Today is the 31st birthday of Erika Bolden, who among much other beer writing in the Los Angeles area, is the Executive Director of the North American Guild of Beer Writers. She has the Herculean task of keeping the rest of us miscreants in line and on task, and she does it with such grace and style that we hardly notice. She’s also run the awards for the last few years, and has grown the event severalfold. Plus she’s an awesome tent neighbor, as we camped next to Sarah and me at last year’s Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. Join me in wishing Erika a very happy birthday.
Here’s a little tidbit I found somewhere along the line, but don’t know the exact source, although it seems to mostly check out. On January 2, 1898, Pabst “officially” named their beer previously known as “Best Select” to “Pabst Blue Ribbon.” I say “officially,” because it had been known colloquially by that name before then, at least since 1893, when they supposedly won the blue ribbon (despite there being some controversy surround that event) that led to its name. According to Pabst’s own company history:
- 1876: The First Gold Medal. Pabst’s Best Select lager wins a gold medal at the Centennial Celebration, marking the first of many awards the beer will win throughout its 150+ year lifespan.
- 1882: A Blue Ribbon on Every Bottle. Having earned awards at US and international competitions, Pabst begins hand-tying a blue silk ribbon around the neck of each Best Select beer to identify it as a first-place winner. You know, because it was.
- 1889: Another New Name. Pabst follows in his father-in-law’s footsteps, changing the brewery’s name to honor himself. The Pabst Brewing Company is born.
- 1892: One Million Feet of Silk. As production rises, so does the demand for blue silk ribbon. The company purchases nearly 1 million feet of silk ribbon per year, which workers tie by hand around each bottle of Best Select.
- 1893: America’s Best Beer. Pabst is awarded the blue ribbon at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, beating out many other popular American brewers. And not surprisingly, some unpopular ones.
- 1895: What’ll You Have? Patrons keep asking bartenders for the beer with the blue ribbon, and the nickname sticks. The phrase “Blue Ribbon” is added to the Best Select name on the label.
- 1898: A New Name for the Classic Beer. The beer’s name is officially changed to Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the brewery produces one million barrels. Pabst begins exporting heavily to New York, even opening his own hotels, theatres and restaurants that, oddly enough, do not serve rival Schlitz beer.
This is the earliest PBR label I could find, from 1910.
But even by 1933, when prohibition ended, this ad, using an earlier ad, shows that the label hadn’t changed much between 1910 and then.
The book “Brewing in Milwaukee,” by Brenda Magee, has an illustration of the first Pabst Blue Ribbon Select bottles, along with a short history.
When they filed a new trademark application with the U.S. Patent Office on December 8, 1947, apparently in order to be in compliance with the “Act of 1946,” they were granted Registration No. 521,795 on March 7, 1950. In the application, they stated that “[t]he trade-mark was first used in January 1898, and first used in commerce among the several States which may lawfully be regulated by Congress in January 1898.” Similarly, when an Historic Designation Study Report” was prepared in late 1985 for the Pabst Mansion, it stated. “The beer’s reputation was greatly enhanced by being judged the best at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The word’s “Blue Ribbon” were first added to the label in 1895 with the Blue Ribbon label first used in January 1898.”
I’ve been collecting dates now going on forty years, having starting with a small notebook that I’d hand scribble dates wherever I found them. That was recopied in its entirety … twice, because I kept outgrowing them, before finally turning to the infinite space of digital. But in those early days I was not as scrupulous in keeping a record of my sources, mostly for space reasons. But the truth is it was originally something I did for fun, just for me, and I never really saw any potential for it until it decades to late to go back and find the literal thousands of sources I used to compile the original lists. But somewhere, I found an entry giving January 2 in 1898 as the date that Pabst first used, or sold, the Pabst Blue Ribbon beers with a new label, officially calling them that for the first time. Maybe it’s because the first was a holiday and nothing was sold until the next day, who knows. But even though I can’t be absolutely sure of that, it’s still fun to take a look back at the label for one of the most well-known brands of beer through the years, and today seems as good a day as any, 119 years later. So here’s a few more labels I turned up.
Current label logo.
Portrait from “100 Years of Brewing,” originally published in 1901.
And here’s another portrait that included this text: “German-born Peter Schoenhofer (1827-1893) came penniless to America in 1851 and took jobs in various breweries around Chicago. Eventually he and a partner, Matheus Gottfried, opened a brewery. Schoenhofen bought out Gottfried in 1867 and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company. Ads bragged that the beer’s clean taste came from the artesian spring located under the brewery. Their Edelweiss brand was the best known.”
Here’s an entry about Schoenhofen from the Encyclopedia of Chicago:
Peter Schoenhofen, a Prussian immigrant, was in Chicago working in the brewing trade by the 1850s. In 1861, he started a partnership with Matheus Gottfried; they were soon operating a brewery at Canalport Avenue and 18th Street where, during the early 1860s, they made about 600 barrels of lager beer a year. In 1867, Schoenhofen bought out his partner, and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co. By 1868, annual output had increased to about 10,000 barrels. During the 1890s, when the business was owned by the City Contract Co. of London, England, annual output reached 180,000 barrels. Around 1900, the Schoenhofen family regained control of the company, which employed about 500 people at its brewery on West 12th Street by 1910. During this time, the company was also known as the National Brewing Co. The company’s “Edelweiss” brand of beer was a big seller. Operations shut down during Prohibition, but by 1933, after the national ban on alcohol production was lifted, the company was back in business as the Schoenhofen-Edelweiss Co. After being purchased by the Atlas Brewing Co. in the late 1940s, Schoenhofen became part of Dewery’s Ltd. of South Bend, Indiana, in 1951, and thereafter assumed the Dewery’s name. By the beginning of the 1970s, there was nothing left of its Chicago operations, although Dewery’s reintroduced the famous Edelweiss brand in 1972 after nearly a decade-long hiatus.
Forgotten Chicago has a nice photo gallery about the Schoenhofen Brewery and what remains of it today, saying that what is left “of the Schoenhofen Brewery are still the most impressive pre-Prohibition era brewery structures in Chicago. Buildings were first erected at 18th and Canalport in 1862 when the brewery relocated here from 12th and Jefferson. The last buildings were built in 1912, and the brewery remained in business until 1924, a casualty of prohibition.”
The area where the brewery operated are today known as the Schoenhofen Brewery Historic District.
I love their ad copy: “A case of good judgment,” which they used extensively. And this beer was a “secret brew,” whatever that means.
This is a fun piece of illustration, an infographic New Year’s Eve card of sorts, commissioned by Baltika, which is a Russian brewery that’s part of the Carlsberg Group. They hired Anton Egorov to create something like Мы больше, чем просто варят пиво, which is a reverse translation of their English version of the infographic, “We Do More Than Just Brew Beer.” Egorov completed it in December of 2014, so presumably they used it in either 2015 or 2016, since according to the artist’s description, his illustrations were for a corporate calendar. That’s one I would have liked.
Today might be the birthday of Fal Allen. I say might, because he keeps telling me that he’s not exactly sure when his birthday is — apparently the result of having hippie parents — and he had kept changing it on his Facebook page, though now he’s removed it entirely. Fal returned to his goats and to Anderson Valley Brewing a few years ago, having lived in Singapore for four years, where he built and ran a craft brewery for Archipelago Brewery, a division of Asia Pacific Breweries. He blogged about his exploits there on his Brewing in Singapore blog, but since returning stateside, he’s been blogging at The Goat Rodeo, and we’re certainly happy to have him back stateside. Join me today, tomorrow or perhaps the next day in wishing the ageless Fal a very happy birthday.
While still GM at Anderson Valley, launching Brother David at the Toronado in San Francisco. Clockwise from left: Fal, Mark Cabrera, David Gatlin, me and Dave Keene, the beer’s namesake and Toronado owner.