Hulk Smashes Beer Cans

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Here’s a fun series of photographs by a Japanese photographer who goes by hot kenobi on Instagram. Apparently he likes action figures, especially of super heroes, quite a bit. Both his Instagram and Twitter feed are filled with photos he’s taken of them in all sorts of situations. But lately, several of his works have involved superheroes, mostly from Marvel, having some fun with beer cans and bottles. Enjoy.

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Hulk smashes beer cans.

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Captain America holds a can of Asahi like a punching bag while Iron Man takes a swing at it.

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Spider-Man takes down a beer can with his web.

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Superman easily crushes his can, while the mortal Batman has made only a small dent in his.

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Just to mix things up, Wolverine opens a beer bottle with his adamantium claws, as Spider-Man holds on to it so it won’t fall over and spill.

Pretzels In America

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While the exact origin of the pretzel is unknown, the best guess is that they originated in Europe, most likely among monks during the early Middle Ages.

Within the Christian Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. The knot shape has been claimed to represent hands in prayer. Moreover, the three holes within the pretzel represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter.

Not surprisingly, it was Germany — where they drink a lot of beer — that pretzels really came into their own. “Pretzel baking has most firmly taken root in the region of Franconia (modern German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and adjoining Upper German-speaking areas, and pretzels have been an integral part of German baking traditions for centuries.” In fact, while the origin of the name “pretzel” is also uncertain, “the German name “Brezel” may derive also from Latin bracellus (a medieval term for ‘bracelet’), or bracchiola (‘little arms’),” and this is one theory of where the word came from.

But it wasn’t long before they arrived in America, too. “The Palantine Germans, later known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, brought pretzels to America in 1710. German children wore the pretzels around their necks on New Year’s for good luck.” According to Wikipedia, “In the late 18th century, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. The immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel’s popularity spread.”

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On February 8, 1861, Julius Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S., in Lititz, and Julius Sturgis Pretzels is still open today, and still owned by the Sturgis family. Pennsylvania. Lititz is in Lancaster County, which is the next county over from Berks County, whose biggest city is Reading. I grew up near Reading, Pennsylvania, in the small town of Shillington, which was also the home of Tom Sturgis Pretzels, started by a relative of Julius.

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The Julius Sturgis pretzel factory today.

According to the pretzel company website:

The Sturgis family continues to bake pretzels today, using the same old-fashioned recipe and methods established by Julius Sturgis in 1861. Marriott Sturgis, grandson to Julius, was born in 1910 and learned much of the pretzel baking trade in the original Lititz bakery, working for the family business before and after school. One of the bakers he worked alongside was his uncle Tom Keller, and because their mannerisms and baking styles were so similar, the other bakers began calling Marriott “Tom Sturgis”.

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When he was 14, “Tom’s” family moved from Lititz to Reading, Pennsylvania, where he continued to work in pretzel bakeries, including one run by his cousin Victor Sturgis. In 1936, he opened a pretzel bakery with his brother Correll called “Sturgis Brothers”, but World War II conscription took their entire workforce and by 1942 they were forced to close their doors.

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In 1946, after working at a munitions factory during the War, Tom Sturgis established another bakery, which he called Tom Sturgis Pretzels.

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Tom Sturgis Pretzels continues to operate today, run by his son, Tom Sturgis, Jr. and his grandson, Bruce Sturgis. The Sturgis family also now manages the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.

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Tom Sturgis Pretzels in Shillington, Pennsylvania.

The grandson they mentioned, Bruce Sturgis, was a classmate of mine in high school. Though we weren’t close friends, we knew one another and later when I was the beer buyer at Beverages & more, I helped arrange for us to buy a truck of Tom Sturgis Pretzels for our stores. Bruce’s wife used to be married to the brother of a close friend of mine, and was also the sister of another classmate, and she came to stay with me in California for a couple of weeks before she remarried.

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The Julius Sturgis preztel factory in the late-1800s.

My hometown of Reading, which has billed itself as the “Pretzel Capital of the World,” had an article entitled “Reading, Pretzel Capital of the World,” which originally appeared in the April 1948 issue of the Historical Review of Berks County:

A year or two before the Civil War, a pretzel baker moved with his family from the Moravian Village, Lititz, to Reading, then a city of some 20,000 inhabitants. And today, just 88 years later, Reading is the pretzel capital of the world.

An article in the Lancaster “Volksfreund” of July 30, 1879, states that “the first pretzel in the United States is said to have been baked in the city of Lancaster by one Scherle in the year 1827. He was followed by Ambrose Ranch in Lititz and later by a baker in Reading.”

The pretzel baker, Ambrose Ranch, had an apprentice, Julius Sturgis, who is generally credited as being first in America to establish pretzel baking as an industry, back in 1861, in Lititz. The Sturgis family has remained in the business ever since. There are two Sturgis pretzel plants in Reading today. Victor Sturgis, of West Lawn, was incorporated in 1924, followed by a cousin, Tom Sturgis, of South Second Street in 1928.

The baker in Reading, mentioned by “Der Volksfreund,” was Benjamin Lichtenthaler. He was born in Lititz on March 17, 1817. Lichtenthaler began baking pretzels which soon won great popularity throughout this and adjoining states. His factory was located at 37 Apple Street and later at 207 Cherry Alley. At the time of his death, in 1893, the factory output was 1,500,000 pretzels a year. The Lichtenthaler Bretzel Company was succeeded by the Pennsylvania Bretzel Company in 1900.

The local pretzel bakeries, incidentally, spelled their product “bretzels” as late as the early 1900’s. The only concern in Reading which has retained the original spelling is Billy’s Butter Bretzels, established in 1931 by William R. Edmundson at 242 Plum Street.

If Mr. Lichtenthaler established his bakery in 1860, the year he came to Reading, the where and when of the beginning of the pretzel industry in this country might be disputed and if “two teams constantly on the road,” comprise an industry, even Mr. Lichtenthaler may have to yield his laurels to John Sauermilch, Sr., of Boyertown, who started baking pretzels in that place about 1846.

In the Reading “Weekly Eagle,” of Feb. 25, 1893, there appears an interesting article, entitled “An Old Pretzel Baker.” From this source we learn that John Sauermilch, Sr., the subject of this article, was born in Germany in 1808 and that he learned the pretzel trade from his father, who was an expert baker in Germany. Sauermilch came to America when he was twenty years old. After working as a lime burner for eighteen years, he established a bakery in Boyertown, where he made pretzels just as his father had taught him in Germany. At the time the Eagle correspondent interviewed Mr. Sauermilch, the old, retired pretzel baker claimed that his pretzels had been in their day quite as popular as the Lichtenthaler pretzels of that time.

Mr. Sauermilch said at the time, “Americans are in many things ahead of the old country, but not so far as pretzels are concerned. In the United States it is much more difficult to find a good pretzel, than in Germany to find a bad one.”

Then the Eagle reporter asked why it was that so few bakers could make a first class pretzel. Mr. Sauermilch answered, “They don’t understand pretzel baking and yet think themselves proficient in the work. It is a trade by itself. Some bakers take only bread dough for their pretzel. The proper pretzel dough differs widely from bread dough.”

We leave Mr. Sauermilch and his reporter friend, discoursing upon the pleasant pastime of drinking beer (something which, according to Mr. Sauermilch, Americans did not know how to do either) and on eating pretzels in a beer garden along the Rhine.

Patriotism notwithstanding, Mr. Sauermilch was correct about the number of Americans who were not bona fide pretzel men. Often the bread bakers made left over pieces of dough into pretzels and gave them away with loaves of bread to encourage mothers to buy their product. True pretzel bakers, like Sturgis in Lititz and Lichtenthaler in Reading, had jealously guarded trade secrets and secret yeast formulas. In fact, both places at one time or another have seriously confided that the secret of the success of their pretzel lay in some special quality of the water found in their town. The pretzels were cooked in lye and there was also a great deal of secrecy observed as to where the lye was obtained. Lye from straw ashes was considered best, and next, the ashes of hardwoods. Hickory, walnut and maple were used by others. It is probable that the secret of the different flavors resided in the mixture of the various ashes.

While Benjamin Lichtenthaler has taken the place of most renown there were many others in Reading dedicated to the art of pretzel baking.

John S. Hendricks and John T. Adams, who operated as Hendricks and Adams, constantly referred to themselves in their advertisements, in the 1890’s as having formerly been with Lichtenthaler. The volume, “Reading, Its Representative Business Men and Its Points of Interest,” published in 1893, says of the Hendricks and Adams Firm: “The growth of their trade has already required the employment of six experienced men. The firm has a capacity of making 6,000 regular size bretzels per day, and their trade is constantly on the increase. They were located at 335 Cherry Street, began in business in 1893 and in 1898 employed eight men, operated two ovens and manufactured over 4,000 barrels of pretzels annually. Their investment was $5,000 and their annual product was worth $12,000. They were succeeded by J. T. Adams & Co., in 1907.

Another of the better known men of our town was Andrew Muntz, whose father, Augustus, began a bakery in 1856. He was located at 121 North Eight Street and, according to the personal recollection of Ira J. J. Reber, a well-known local collector, was well versed in the Bible and renowned for his wit and caustic tongue. In his daily selling trips about the county, he delighted in baiting all comers, local and “foreigner” alike. Mr. Reber recalls an occasion when lie asked a New Yorker why the people of New York never ate the cross in the pretzel, and after properly confounding the stranger, replied, “Because then they’d have nothing to sell.”

Mr. William A. Newmoyer, a baker at Quinlan’s, recalls that he learned pretzel baking at the Addison Guyer bakery, 435 N. Ninth Street, fifty-eight years ago. Other names that have long since disappeared are those of Daniel Mayer at 709 Penn St. and Christian Mayer at 52 N. Tenth St.; George May at 344 Locust St. and Charles Muntz at 1410 Muhlenberg St., who advertised his product: “200 for 1 dollar.” Frank P. Nistle started in 1903 on Walnut, above Locust, and William H. Behrle had a bakery on Fairview Avenue. The latter’s son, J. Behrle, is still associated with pretzel baking at the present Heller Bakery on North Ninth Street.

There is only one name, that, beginning many years ago, remains today as one of the largest representatives in the industry. In 1884, Joseph S. Bachman began baking pretzels in a small plant on Nicholas Street. The business prospered to such an extent that it was found necessary to take over additional space. On the death of Mr. Bachman, in 1923, the business was incorporated and moved to its present location in Hyde Park.

There are many types of pretzels available today. Many more have apparently disappeared with the years and new ones have taken their places. The popular butter pretzel, using shortening in addition to the other ingredients, seems to be a modern innovation. Also new are the pretzel sticks, extra thins and penny rods. The soft pretzel is considered one of the oldest types. The stamped cracker pretzel is popular. The sugar pretzel, similar to a sweet bun, has seemingly disappeared.

Mrs. Edith Rumbaugh recalls when Tom Hannahoe, Reading’s famous Mayor of Irishtown, kept three or four goats in the rear of his domicile. The neighbor children brought pails of potato peelings, apparently the mainstay of the animals’ diet, for which they were rewarded by Mr. Hannahoe’s housekeeper. The reward was an oblong pretzel-like cracker, known and remembered by the children as a “Tom Doodle.” Who made them, and how? There the trail of the “Tom Doodle” pretzel ends. We are not left in doubt concerning the close association between Reading and the pretzel, since even across the football field or basketball floor comes the derisive chant of the opponent’s cheering section:

“Pretzels and beer, pretzels and beer, Bach du lieber, Reading’s here!”

Pretzels are no longer, as they once were, necessarily the companions of beer. They are today served with ice cream and other delicacies. In fact, Quinlan’s claims the credit for bringing the pretzel out of the saloon into the parlor.

Although the process of manufacturing the pretzel is essentially unchanged today, modern machinery has speeded production from the “6,000 regular size bretzels per day” of the Hendricks and Adams era, to the 1,000,000 per day capacity of the present Quinlan Pretzel Co., which was started in 1923.

Today most of the pretzels are made from pure wheat flour to which is added only yeast, salt and water. After the dough is made, it is cut off into small pieces and rolled out into strips for twisting. This is done by hand or machinery according to the size of the bakery. The pretzel is let stand for a few minutes for the dough to rise and is then quickly placed in boiling water to which soda has been added. Here the pretzel is partly cooked, just as dumplings, noodles or other doughs are cooked in boiling water. After the pretzels are removed from the boiling solution, they are sprinkled with salt and placed in the oven, The heat of the oven prevents the salt from dissolving, and it clings tightly to the pretzel as it begins to bake. After being thoroughly baked, the pretzels are then placed in a drying or toasting oven to insure crispness.

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For almost a century the pretzels were baked in the same old style hearth ovens. It was a tedious process to place the pretzels in rows in the oven with a long handled wooden shovel, called a peel, and then to remove them again by the same method. The baker was always under a constant pressure to hustle them out in time to prevent burning. In the early days dough was kneaded on the quarter oak, with a jumping rail. A man sat on a lever and jumped up and down until the dough was thoroughly mixed.

Gradually, each process was modernized. First the dough was mixed by a machine and then the correct quantity was cut off automatically and rolled; ready to be picked up and twisted by hand.

The Reading “Adler,” August 5, 1879, quotes from “Der Volksfreund” of Lancaster, July 30, 1879: “A skilled pretzel baker can form seven to eight pretzels out of dough in one minute and no more. However, three men in Lincoln [Lancaster County] have just invented an ingeniously constructed automatic pretzel machine and have had it patented. The names of the three men are Thomas K. Keller, Martin S. Keller and C. W. Myers. The new machine can form sixty to one hundred pretzels per minute or 3,000 to 6,000 an hour.”

Apparently “Der Volksfreund” was a bit premature with its announcement, for a check of the patent office in Washington reveals that no such patent was issued. From a Lititz newspaper clipping, dated October 1, 1942, in the possession of the Sturgis family, we learn that Thomas Keller had married one of Julius Sturgis’ daughters and was also a pretzel manufacturer. Although he had worked on a machine to twist the dough into the pretzel shape, he never succeeded. The trouble was that the dough was never the same consistency.

So the twisting itself stumped the inventors for many years and even Robert Ripley said, “believe it or not,” it couldn’t be done. Reading did it. In 1933 a pretzel machine was perfected by Quinlan’s and in the same year, Earl Curtis, of South Temple, now associated with the Bachman Bakeries, challenged by Mr. Ripley’s statement, also produced the impossible.

Mrs. Helen Hoffer, of Quinlan’s, also surpasses “Der Volksfrennd’s” statement of “seven to eight pretzels per minute and no more.” She deftly spins out the curleques at the rate of forty-five per minute. The rate on the machine varies with the type of pretzel and consistency of the dough, from about fifty to one hundred twenty per minute.

In 1943, the pretzel industry sent a brief to the VVar Manpower Commission, requesting that they be declared an essential industry. It was then that the Honorable Clair Booth Luce, in her usual vituperative manner, ran afoul of the industry by referring to pretzels and the W. M. C. as an indissolvable group of waltzing mice and pretzel benders.”

Congresswoman Luce promptly received her chastisement in the form of a letter from the National Pretzel Baker’s Institute and the “pretzel benders” were declared essential. In fact, it was proven that while bread trucks carry 60 per cent moisture, pretzels were the most perfectly dehydrated food made.

The pretzel industries of Reading ship their merchandise to all corners of the globe. Here is an excerpt from a Chamber of Commerce News Letter: “You perhaps are wondering just who it is that has a taste for pretzels in these [far away] places. Well, to be frank with you the Pretzel Industries are just as much mystified. The idea of a turbaned Hindu in India, or a saronged native in Batavia, munching on a pretzel is a bit hard to conceive. Nevertheless, if we are to believe the shipping addresses, that must be the case.

Reading produces one-third of all the pretzels baked in the United States. The production capabilities of our city’s industry are 15,000,000 pretzels per five-day week, using 900 barrels per week of winter wheat bought, we are informed, all in Berks County. According to the Department of Agriculture, twenty bushels of wheat is the yield per acre. Therefore, manufacturing the pretzels takes the output of 210 acres of farmland, week after week.

Aside from its unquestionable industrial importance, this oddly shaped little item has made for us a multitude of friends. It has been introduced to countless strangers by local concerns as Christmas gifts, and one of the first ideas for alleviating the lonesomeness and homesickness of a far away friend or relative, is the thought of sending some pretzels!

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One of my favorite memories as a child was being in downtown Reading with my stepfather. He took me down a side street, almost an alley, and I could smell baking pretzels. I think it may have been Unique Pretzels, which was Dad’s favorite brand, but I’m not sure. At any rate, it was a stone building, and my Dad went inside, while I peered in from the sidewalk, and could see the stone oven inside, with workers there using a large flat paddle to pull out freshly baked pretzels from it. Soon after, my father reappeared outside, handing me a hot, crunchy pretzel straight from that oven. Although I’m sure I’ve romanticized it over the years, that must have been the best-tasting pretzel I’ve ever had.

Although for everyday pretzels, I still do love the Tom Sturgis pretzels. They can be ordered mail order over the internet, and I treat myself to some every few years. I suppose it’s probably because they’re the ones I grew up with, but there were many others that were just as good, too. Sadly, we can’t get any decent pretzels here in California. Snyder’s used to be about it for anything decent, though I confess they’re about at the bottom of my list of edible pretzels. Happily, Cost Plus recently started carrying a large plastic tub of Utz Sourdough Specials that the family seems to go through at least one a month.

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New Beer Words: Snotter

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Here’s yet another new word that should be added to the beer lexicon. Well, it’s not exactly a new word, but has been around at least since 1824, and most likely earlier. It showed up today in my twitter feed, from Merriam-Webster, as part of their Words at Play series. The word is snotter and has several meanings, the most common being nautical — A fitting that holds the heel of a sprit close to the mast — and others along the lines of “to snivel; to cry or sob.” And more recently snotter is used as another word for snot.

But Merriam-Webster today highlighted an older, less-common meaning of the word in their Words at Play piece entitled “‘Snotter’, ‘Groak’, and 6 More Words Associated with Bad Habits.

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Michael Jackson nosing a beer, during GABF judging in 2002.

Here’s the definition that should be folded into our beer lexicon:

Snotter

Definition: to breathe noisily

Snotter is a dialectal British word, and, as is so often the case with dialect words, carries a certain trenchant charm. It also has a variety of closely-related meanings, as it may be used to refer to snoring, sniveling, sniffing, snorting, or simply as another way to say snot.

If you’ve ever been a beer judge, or even were in a room watching other people judge beer, then you’ve most likely encountered a snotter. There’s a whole lot of noisy breathing going on during beer judging, whether it’s one long draw or a series of short, quick sniffs. Frankly, if you’re not a snotter, you’re probably not doing it correctly.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Camille Maillard

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Today is the birthday of French physician and chemist Louis Camille Maillard (February 4, 1878-May 12, 1936) who was the Doogie Howser of his era, joining the faculty of the University of Nancy when he was only sixteen. He rose to prominence thanks to his work on kidney disorders and later taught medicine at the prestigious University of Paris.

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But his biggest contribution, especially to brewing, was an accidental discovery he made in 1912, which today we call the Maillard Reaction, or Browning Reaction.

Here’s the basic description, from Wikipedia:

The Maillard Reaction a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, biscuits (widely known in North America as cookies), breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.

The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which typically proceeds rapidly from around 140 to 165 °C (284 to 329 °F). At higher temperatures, caramelization and subsequently pyrolysis become more pronounced.

The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors. This process is accelerated in an alkaline environment (e.g., lye applied to darken pretzels), as the amino groups (RNH3+) are deprotonated and, hence, have an increased nucleophilicity. The type of the amino acid determines the resulting flavor. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry. At high temperatures, a potential carcinogen called acrylamide can be formed.

In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds, in turn, break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to make reaction flavors.

It was, and is, for food science and understanding how heat and cooking create flavors. If you want to dive deeper, the Warwick Medical School has an article on the Historical Development of the reaction, and NPR’s Food for Thought on the centenary of Malliard’s discovery posted 100 Years Ago, Maillard Taught Us Why Our Food Tastes Better Cooked.

But it was also very important to brewing, too, especially when it comes to malting and roasting malt to get different flavors and colors in the beer. For example, here’s UC Davis professor Charlie Bamforth writing about the Malliard Reaction in his book Grape vs. Grain.

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Not surprisingly, John Mallett, in his recent book Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse, mentions Malliard’s contributions to brewing science.

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The chemistry website Compound Interest has a good explanation with their post, Food Chemistry – The Maillard Reaction.

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And finally, Popular Science’s BeerSci series discusses the Maillard Reaction in How Beer Gets Its Color.

Going For A Beer

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Today is the birthday of Robert Coover (February 4, 1932- ). He “is an American novelist, short story writer, and professor emeritus in the Literary Arts program at Brown University. He is generally considered a writer of fabulation and metafiction.” He’s written ten novels, along with countless short stories, novellas, and plays. In 2011, he wrote a short story for the New Yorker magazine, entitled “Going for a Beer.”

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Going For A Beer

He finds himself sitting in the neighborhood bar drinking a beer at about the same time that he began to think about going there for one. In fact, he has finished it. Perhaps he’ll have a second one, he thinks, as he downs it and asks for a third. There is a young woman sitting not far from him who is not exactly good-looking but good-looking enough, and probably good in bed, as indeed she is. Did he finish his beer? Can’t remember. What really matters is: Did he enjoy his orgasm? Or even have one? This he is wondering on his way home through the foggy night streets from the young woman’s apartment. Which was full of Kewpie dolls, the sort won at carnivals, and they made a date, as he recalls, to go to one. Where she wins another—she has a knack for it. Whereupon they’re in her apartment again, taking their clothes off, she excitedly cuddling her new doll in a bed heaped with them. He can’t remember when he last slept, and he’s no longer sure, as he staggers through the night streets, still foggy, where his own apartment is, his orgasm, if he had one, already fading from memory. Maybe he should take her back to the carnival, he thinks, where she wins another Kewpie doll (this is at least their second date, maybe their fourth), and this time they go for a romantic nightcap at the bar where they first met. Where a brawny dude starts hassling her. He intervenes and she turns up at his hospital bed, bringing him one of her Kewpie dolls to keep him company. Which is her way of expressing the bond between them, or so he supposes, as he leaves the hospital on crutches, uncertain what part of town he is in. Or what part of the year. He decides that it’s time to call the affair off—she’s driving him crazy—but then the brawny dude turns up at their wedding and apologizes for the pounding he gave him. He didn’t realize, he says, how serious they were. The guy’s wedding present is a gift certificate for two free drinks at the bar where they met and a pair of white satin ribbons for his crutches. During the ceremony, they both carry Kewpie dolls that probably have some barely hidden significance, and indeed do. The child she bears him, his or another’s, reminds him, as if he needed reminding, that time is fast moving on. He has responsibilities now and he decides to check whether he still has the job that he had when he first met her. He does. His absence, if he has been absent, is not remarked on, but he is not congratulated on his marriage, either, no doubt because—it comes back to him now—before he met his wife he was engaged to one of his colleagues and their co-workers had already thrown them an engagement party, so they must resent the money they spent on gifts. It’s embarrassing and the atmosphere is somewhat hostile, but he has a child in kindergarten and another on the way, so what can he do? Well, he still hasn’t cashed in the gift certificate, so, for one thing, what the hell, he can go for a beer, two, in fact, and he can afford a third. There’s a young woman sitting near him who looks like she’s probably good in bed, but she’s not his wife and he has no desire to commit adultery, or so he tells himself, as he sits on the edge of her bed with his pants around his ankles. Is he taking them off or putting them on? He’s not sure, but now he pulls them on and limps home, having left his beribboned crutches somewhere. On arrival, he finds all the Kewpie dolls, which were put on a shelf when the babies started coming, now scattered about the apartment, beheaded and with their limbs amputated. One of the babies is crying, so, while he warms up a bottle of milk on the stove, he goes into its room to give it a pacifier and discovers a note from his wife pinned to its pajamas, which says that she has gone off to the hospital to have another baby and she’d better not find him here when she gets back, because if she does she’ll kill him. He believes her, so he’s soon out on the streets again, wondering if he ever gave that bottle to the baby, or if it’s still boiling away on the stove. He passes the old neighborhood bar and is tempted but decides that he has had enough trouble for one lifetime and is about to walk on when he is stopped by that hulk who beat him up and who now gives him a cigar because he’s just become a father and drags him into the bar for a celebratory drink, or, rather, several, he has lost count. The celebrations are already over, however, and the new father, who has married the same woman who threw him out, is crying in his beer about the miseries of married life and congratulating him on being well out of it, a lucky man. But he doesn’t feel lucky, especially when he sees a young woman sitting near them who looks like she’s probably good in bed and decides to suggest that they go to her place, but too late—she’s already out the door with the guy who beat him up and stole his wife. So he has another beer, wondering where he’s supposed to live now, and realizing—it’s the bartender who so remarks while offering him another on the house—that life is short and brutal and before he knows it he’ll be dead. He’s right. After a few more beers and orgasms, some vaguely remembered, most not, one of his sons, now a racecar driver and the president of the company he used to work for, comes to visit him on his deathbed and, apologizing for arriving so late (I went for a beer, Dad, things happened), says he’s going to miss him but it’s probably for the best. For the best what? he asks, but his son is gone, if he was ever there in the first place. Well . . . you know . . . life, he says to the nurse who has come to pull the sheet over his face and wheel him away.

Brewhog Determines 6 More Weeks Of Winter Beers For 2017

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Over in Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil the Groundhog — a.k.a. the Brewhog — raised up his head this morning and looked around, and this year and saw his shadow. You know what that means? It’s six more weeks of drinking winter beers this year. Or something about a late spring, I can’t keep it straight. You can see a video of Punxsutawney Phil here. And there’s more information about Groundhog Day at the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

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But this year, I suppose given how the year is going isn’t too surprising, not every groundhog agrees on what the future hold. For example, both Staten Island Chuck along with General Beau Lee in Georgia have predicted an early spring. And so did Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.

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Although another Canadian groundhog, Balzac Billy, from Alberta, Canada, did see his shadow and so is predicting six more weeks of winter, as did Buckeye Chuck of Ohio and Essex Ed of Orange, New Jersey. And so did Big Al, a 14-foot, 1,000-pound alligator, from Texas, who is given KFC chicken each February 2. If he eats the chicken, it’s an early spring, if he passes, then it’s more winter. This year, he didn’t eat.

So it’s up in the air whether, I mean weather, we’ll have an early spring or more winter. I tend to go with the original, Punxsutawney Phil, but for no better reason then I’m from Pennsylvania. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

alaskan-marmot
In Alaska, they celebrate Marmot Day.

Fingers crossed. And if you don’t have time to watch all of the deliciously wonderful Groundhog Day film today, here it is in a slightly shorter version just over three minutes.

Historic Beer Birthday: Martin Stelzer

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Today is the birthday of Martin Stelzer (January 30, 1815-August 3, 1894). Stelzer was an architect, probably from Germany, who built a number of homes in Plzeň, Czech Republic, such as “the old (small) Synagogue in Pilsen, the Little Theatre (formerly on Goethe Street) and a stone Saxon bridge in the suburbs of Roudná which has one rare feature, a sweep middle.” He was also hired by the local Burghers (or citizens) to build the town brewery, which today is known as the Pilsner Urquell brewery. He is also believed to have hired their first brewmaster, Josef Groll.

Martin_Stelzer_(1815-1894)

This biography is from the Pilsner Urquell website:

When it comes to the founding of Pilsner Urquell, Martin Stelzer remains one of the most important figures, though he is also one of the most misunderstood.

Often mischaracterized as a brewer, Martin Stelzer was the most famous builder in nineteenth-century Plzen — something like the unofficial town architect. Born in 1815, Stelzer had constructed more than two hundred buildings in Plzen by the time of his death in 1894, including such important sites as Old Synagogue of 1859 and the Small Theater of 1869.

When he was first hired to create the new town brewery in 1839, however, Stelzer was just 24 years old — and, most importantly, he had never built a brewery of any kind. (Later, he would be seen as something of an expert on the subject.) One special demand: the new brewery was supposed to be a cold-fermentation or lager brewery, something that did not exist in Plzen at the time. To familiarize himself with the requirements of the project, Stelzer traveled to Bavaria in December of 1839, visiting several breweries there.

A common rumor holds that Stelzer befriended Josef Groll, the first brewmaster of Pilsner Urquell, during this trip, or even that Stelzer brought Groll back to Plzen with him. However, no confirmation of this appears to have been published during Stelzer’s lifetime. It certainly seems possible that the two were friends, however, given the closeness of their age: the original brewmaster was less than a year and a half older than the architect.

In addition to directing the expansion of the Burghers’ Brewery in 1849 and 1852, as well as the construction of a new fermentation room in 1856, Stelzer designed and built the brewery’s enlarged cooperage in 1870. Stelzer’s other projects included the next-door Gambrinus brewery in 1869 and the Dobřany town brewery in 1873. He remains part of everyday lore in Plzen today, having given his first name to the street Martinská in central Plzen as early as 1857.

Pilsner-Urquell

Roger Protz wrote the entry for Pilsner Urquell in the Oxford Companion to Beer, and he mentions Stelzer in these two paragraphs.

Local businessmen and tavern owners in Pilsen committed to raise funds and build a new brewery, to be called Burghers’ (Citizens’) Brewery. A leading architect, Martin Stelzer, was hired to design the brewery and he toured Europe and Britain to study modern breweries that used the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution—pure yeast strains, steam power, and artificial refrigeration—to make beer.

He returned to Pilsen to design a brewery on a site in the Bubenc district with a plentiful supply of soft water and sandstone foundations where deep cellars could be dug to store or “lager” beer. He also brought with him from Bavaria a brewer called Josef Groll who had the skills to make the new cold-fermented style of beer. See groll, josef. The brewery was built rapidly and its first batch of beer was unveiled at the Martinmas Fair on November 11, 1842. The beer astonished and delighted the people of Pilsen. It was a golden beer, the first truly pale beer ever seen in central Europe, for the lager beers brewed in Bavaria were a deep russet/brown in color as a result of barley malt being kilned or gently roasted over wood fires. A legend in Pilsen says the wrong type of malt was delivered to the brewery by mistake but this seems fanciful. It’s more likely that Martin Stelzer brought back from England a malt kiln indirectly fired by coke rather than directly fired by wood. This type of kiln that was used to make pale malt, the basis of the new style of beer brewed in England called pale ale. A model of a kiln in the Pilsen museum of brewing supports this theory.

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And here’s an account from Food Reference:

At the start of the nineteenth century, the quality of beer everywhere was often poor and standards varied wildly. This prompted some of the Plzen’s conscientious and passionate brewers to band together to find a way of producing a beer of a superior and more consistent quality.

Their first decision was one of their finest, to appoint a young architect called Martin Stelzer. Traveling far and wide to study the best of brewery design he returned to Plzen with plans for the most modern brewery of the age.

He chose a site on the banks of the city‘s Radbuza River, which offered a number of natural advantages – sandstone rock for the easy carving of large tunnels for cold storage, and aquifers supplying the soft water which would one day help make Plzen’s finest beer so distinctive.

But, most importantly, Martin Stelzer also discovered a brewmaster who would change the way that beer was brewed forever: a young Bavarian called Josef Groll.

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The original gate, which still stands at the brewery.

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The brewery today.

Historic Beer Birthday: W.C. Fields

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Today is the birthday of W.C. Fields (January 29, 1880–December 25, 1946). His full name was William Claude Dukenfield. He “was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer. Fields’ comic persona was a misanthropic and hard-drinking egotist, who remained a sympathetic character despite his snarling contempt for dogs and children.

His career in show business began in vaudeville, where he attained international success as a silent juggler. He gradually incorporated comedy into his act, and was a featured comedian in the Ziegfeld Follies for several years. He became a star in the Broadway musical comedy Poppy (1923), in which he played a colorful small-time con man. His subsequent stage and film roles were often similar scoundrels, or else henpecked everyman characters.

Among his recognizable trademarks were his raspy drawl and grandiloquent vocabulary. The characterization he portrayed in films and on radio was so strong it was generally identified with Fields himself. It was maintained by the publicity departments at Fields’ studios (Paramount and Universal) and was further established by Robert Lewis Taylor’s biography, W.C. Fields, His Follies and Fortunes (1949). Beginning in 1973, with the publication of Fields’ letters, photos, and personal notes in grandson Ronald Fields’ book W.C. Fields by Himself, it was shown that Fields was married (and subsequently estranged from his wife), and financially supported their son and loved his grandchildren.”

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Known as “The Great One,” William Claude Dukenfield was better known to the world by his stage name, W.C. Fields. Born in Darby, Pennsylvania, on January 29, 1880, Fields created a hard-drinking, sarcastic, egocentric persona that was so convincing he became one of the most famous drunk misanthropes who ever lived. He famously said that a man should “never work with animals or children,” and carefully cultivated the perception of a curmudgeon, but in real life he was a devoted father and grandfather.

His entertainment career began in vaudeville, where he made a name for himself as a juggler and comedian, and later took the act on Broadway, before making his first short films in 1915. He eventually made around 45 films, the most of famous of which were “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” “The Fatal Glass of Beer,” “My Little Chickadee,” “The Bank Dick” and “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.” Most of his most memorable quotes come from his films, though they’ve become entwined with his public persona, making it difficult to separate his roles from the man.

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Fields with Mae West.

Fields’ screen character often expressed a fondness for alcohol, a prominent component of the Fields legend. Fields never drank in his early career as a juggler, because he did not want to impair his functions while performing. Eventually, the loneliness of constant travel prompted him to keep liquor in his dressing room as an inducement for fellow performers to socialize with him on the road. Only after he became a Follies star and abandoned juggling did Fields begin drinking regularly.[59] His role in Paramount Pictures’ International House (1933), as an aviator with an unquenchable taste for beer, did much to establish Fields’ popular reputation as a prodigious drinker. Studio publicists promoted this image, as did Fields himself in press interviews.

Fields expressed his fondness for alcohol to Gloria Jean (playing his niece) in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: “I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That’s the one thing I am indebted to her for.” Equally memorable was a line in the 1940 film My Little Chickadee: “Once, on a trek through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew…and were forced to live on food and water for several days!” The oft-repeated anecdote that Fields refused to drink water “because fish fuck in it” is unsubstantiated.

On movie sets Fields famously shot most of his scenes in varying states of inebriation. During the filming of Tales of Manhattan (1942), he kept a vacuum flask with him at all times and frequently availed himself of its contents. Phil Silvers, who had a minor supporting role in the scene featuring Fields, described in his memoir what happened next:

One day the producers appeared on the set to plead with Fields: “Please don’t drink while we’re shooting — we’re way behind schedule” … Fields merely raised an eyebrow. “Gentlemen, this is only lemonade. For a little acid condition afflicting me.” He leaned on me. “Would you be kind enough to taste this, sir?” I took a careful sip — pure gin. I have always been a friend of the drinking man; I respect him for his courage to withdraw from the world of the thinking man. I answered the producers a little scornfully, “It’s lemonade.” My reward? The scene was snipped out of the picture.

There’s no doubt that regardless of how much Fields drank, he certainly created a reputation and persona around it. And while he seems to have favored whiskey, gin and other spirits, he did love his beer, too. Below are some quotes I’ve collected by Fields, the first group being quotes he said, or were attributed to him, while the second group are quotes from films he appeared in, and thus easier to verify.

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Personal Quotes

  • “I never drank anything stronger than beer before I was twelve.”
  • “Everybody has to believe in something … I believe I’ll have another beer.”
  • “If I had to live my life over, I’d live over a saloon.”
  • “I never drink water; that is the stuff that rusts pipes.”
  • “I drink therefore I am.”
  • “There are only two real ways to get ahead today — sell liquor or drink it.”
  • “I like to keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy.”
  • “I must have a drink of breakfast.”
  • “I never worry about being driven to drink; I just worry about being driven home.”
  • “It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it.”
  • “A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.”
  • “Fell in love with a beautiful blonde once. Drove me to drink. And I never had the decency to thank her.”
  • “Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
  • “Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”
  • “Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.”
  • “I never drink water. I’m afraid it will become habit-forming.”
  • “What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”
  • “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” [Note: Tug McGraw has a similar quote attributed to him.]

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Film Quotes

  • Ouliotta Delight Hemogloben: “Do you think he drinks?”

    Mrs. Hemogloben: “He didn’t get that nose from playing ping-pong.”

    — From “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break,” 1941
  • Receptionist: “Some day you’ll drown in a vat of whiskey!”

    The Great Man: “Drown in a vat of whiskey. Death, where is thy sting?”

    — From “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break,” 1941
  • The Great Man: [Suffering from a hangover] “Somebody put too many olives in my martini last night!”

    Stewardess: “Should I get you a Bromo?”

    The Great Man: “No, I couldn’t stand the noise!”

    — From “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break,” 1941
  • Egbert Sousé: “Ten cents a share. Telephone sold for five cents a share. How would you like something better for ten cents a share? If five gets ya ten, ten’ll get ya twenty. A beautiful home in the country, upstairs and down. Beer flowing through the estate over your grandmother’s paisley shawl.”

    Og Oggilby: “Beer?”

    Egbert Sousé: “Beer! Fishing in the stream that runs under the aboreal dell. A man comes up from the bar, dumps $3,500 in your lap for every nickel invested. Says to you, “Sign here on the dotted line.” And then disappears in the waving fields of alfalfa.”

    — From “The Bank Dick,” 1940
  • Egbert Sousé, to his bartender: “Was I in here last night, and did I spend a twenty dollar bill?”

    Bartender: “Yeah.”

    Egbert Sousé: “Oh, boy. What a load that is off my mind. I thought I’d lost it.”

    — From “The Bank Dick,” 1940
  • Cuthbert J. Twillie: “During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. Compelled to live on food and water … for several days.”

    — From “My Little Chickadee,” 1940
  • Cuthbert J. Twillie, nursing a hangover: “I feel as though a midget with muddy feet had been walking over my tongue all night.”

    — From “My Little Chickadee,” 1940
  • Whipsnade: “Some weasel took the cork out of my lunch.”

    — from “You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man,” 1939
  • S.B. Bellows: “Meet me down in the bar! We’ll drink breakfast together.”

    — From “The Big Broadcast of 1938,” 1938
  • Businessman: “You’re drunk.”

    Harold: “Yeah, and you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow, and you’ll be crazy for the rest of your life.”

    — From “It’s a Gift,” 1934
  • Quail, to a valet: “Hey, garcon. Bring me a drink.”

    Valet: “Water, sir?”

    Quail: “A little on the side…very little.”

    — From “International House,” 1933

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W.C. Fields in “International House.”

Historic Beer Birthday: Robert Burns

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Tonight, of course, in Burns Night, with Burns Suppers and other celebrations going on in Scottish, and other, communities worldwide. The reason it’s today is because it’s the day that Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns was born (January 25, 1759–July 21, 1796). He was “also known as Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire, Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.”

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He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne” is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and “Scots Wha Hae” served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well known across the world today include “A Red, Red Rose”, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”, “To a Louse”, “To a Mouse”, “The Battle of Sherramuir”, “Tam o’ Shanter” and “Ae Fond Kiss”.

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Never been to a Burns Night? The Telegraph has an answer to What is Burns night and who was Robert Burns? “It’s a night that features whisky, haggis and poetry in honour of ‘Rabbie’ Burns.” Notice that it’s primarily whisky that is the featured drinks at these events. In a nutshell, “Burns suppers may be formal or informal. Both typically include haggis (a traditional Scottish dish celebrated by Burns in Address to a Haggis), Scotch whisky and the recitation of Burns’s poetry. Formal dinners are hosted by organisations such as Burns clubs, the Freemasons or St Andrews Societies; they occasionally end with dancing when ladies are present.”

Burns’ favorite drink was most likely whisky, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t drink wine or beer, and that fact was reflected in his poetry and song lyrics. He even did his own well-known version of the folksong John Barleycorn. So after you’ve enjoyed your haggis, and drank your whisky, here are a selection of Burns’ work where he mentions beer or ale. Some are the full poem, though most are simply an excerpt from longer poems or lyrics.

Robert Burns, from “Epitaph On John Dove, Innkeeper,” 1785

“Strong ale was ablution,
Small beer persecution,
A dram was memento mori;
But a full-flowing bowl
Was the saving his soul,
And port was celestial glory.”

Robert Burns, from “The Holy Fair,” 1785

“Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair
Than either school or college;
It kindles wit, it waukens lear,
It pangs us fou o’ knowledge:
Be’t whisky-gill or penny wheep,*
Or ony stronger potion,
It never fails, or drinkin deep,
To kittle up our notion,
By night or day.”

[*Note: a “penny wheep” is English small beer.]

Robert Burns, chorus from “Lady Onlie, Honest Lucky,” 1787

“Lady Onlie, honest Lucky,
Brews gude ale at shore o’ Bucky;
I wish her sale for her gude ale,
The best on a’ the shore o’ Bucky.”

Robert Burns, from “Duncan Davison,” 1788

“A man may drink, and no be drunk;
A man may fight, and no be slain;
A man may kiss a bonie lass,
And aye be welcome back again!”

Robert Burns, from “Tam o’ Shanter,” 1791

“Inspiring bold John Barleycorn, What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil; Wi’ usquebae, we’ll face the devil!”

Robert Burns, “Gude Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon,” 1795

“O gude ale comes and gude ale goes,
Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.

I had sax owsen in a pleugh,
They drew a’ weel eneugh,
I sald them a’, ane by ane,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.

Gude ale hauds me bare and busy,
Gars me moop wi’ the servant hizzie,
Stand i’ the stool when I hae done,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.

O gude ale comes and gude ale goes,
Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon,
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon.”

Robert Burns, “On Gabriel Richardson,” 1795

“Here brewer Gabriel’s fire’s extinct,
And empty all his barrels:
He’s blest – if as he brew’d he drink –
In upright, honest morals.”

Robert Burns, from “Scroggam, My Dearie,” 1803

“There was a wife wonn’d in Cockpen, Scroggam;
She brew’d gude ale for gentlemen;
Sing auld Cowl lay ye down by me,
Scroggam, my dearie, ruffum.”

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Engraving by David Allan, an artist from Alloa, of Burns’ poem Contented Wi’ Little.

Robert Burns, from “Contented Wi’ Little and Cantie Wi’ Mair,” 1794

“Contented wi’ little, & canty wi’ mair,
Whene’er I forgather wi’ sorrow & care
I gi’e them a skelp as they’re creeping alang,
Wi’ a cog of good ale & an auld Scottish sang.”

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Belhaven’s Robert Burns Scottish Ale.

Baby Beer Names

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A few years ago I wrote an article for the Brewer’s Association I called Papa’s Got A Brand New Beer that was for Father’s Day. It featured a number of names that beer people have given their kids, celebrating their love of beer. My old friend, Adam Lambert — who I’ve known since he was in college and working part-time for SLO Brewing — recently tweeted “I think we need a blog for beer related kid names.” While setting up an entire new blog on that topic seemed too much, at least for me, I figured a page of People’s Beer Names could work.

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I can only assume there are more that I haven’t run across. If you know of any to add to this list, please let me know by commenting here. I’m especially interested in names that parents have already given, so if you know a name that’s already been bestowed on a child, please let me know who (I don’t need exact name, just something like “employee at x brewery/bar/distributor/etc.”) so I can refer to without naming names.

Here are the names I already either know of, or seem possible.


Boy’s Names

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  • Brett: confirmed — Brett Porter is head brewer at Goose Island/ABI, and formerly with Deschutes
  • Brewer: theoretical — appears in baby name books
  • Bud: fictionally confirmed — Bud Bundy, character on Married… with Children, named after Al Bundy’s favorite beer
  • Cooper: confirmed — son of a man with 20 years in the draft dispensing business
  • E.S.B. initials: unconfirmed — rumored story told to Jay R. Brooks for a name like “Ethan Sebastian Brown”
  • Flanders: possible — for the Belgian beer style, Flanders Red
  • Porter: confirmed — son of Jay R. Brooks, and also the son of Chris Graham, COO of MoreBeer
  • Stout: confirmed — A Facebook friend knows one


Girl’s Names

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  • Abbey: possible — for Abbey-type breweries
  • Amber: confirmed — daughter of Geno Acevedo, El Toro Brewing, and middle name of the daughter of Colorado beer write Dan Rabin
  • Burton: possible — for the beer-brewing city in England
  • Cascade: possible — for the hop variety*
  • Crystal: possible — for the malt variety
  • Genny: possible — for Genesee Cream Ale, nicknamed “Genny”
  • Heather: possible — for the shrub used in brewing
  • India: confirmed — A Facebook friends knows a couple whose daughter got her name at least in part because they love IPAs and homebrew
  • Iris: possible — for Cantillon Iris
  • Kate: possible — for Portsmouth Kate the Great
  • Mara: confirmed — daughter of British beer writer Martyn Cornell, Hebrew for bitter
  • Matilda: possible — for Goose Island Matilda
  • Sierra: confirmed — daughter of Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Sofie: possible — for Goose Island Sofie
  • Vienna: confirmed — daughter Jennifer Talley, Auburn Alehouse

NOTE: * – I’ve seen many suggestions for different hop variety names, but most seem somewhat forced. Understanding that a name could conceivably be anything, I only want to list names that seem reasonable or have actually been given to a kid by his or her parents. For another example, I’ve seen several mentions suggesting “Bock” or “Lambic” as names, but unless someone’s actually named their kid those, they don’t really seem that likely to me. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of suggestions like that out there on the internet. really more bad suggestions than good ones.