Beer Birthday: Armand Debelder

Today is the 65th birthday of Armand Debelder, master blender and owner of Proef 3 Fonteinen — a.k.a. Drie Fonteinen — a lambic brewery and blendery making traditional geuze and kriek in Beersal, Belgium. According to their U.S. importer, Shelton Brothers:

Drie Fonteinen is the only remaining traditional geuze blender in Belgium, using only 100% spontaneously fermented lambik beer, aged in oak casks, with no artificial sweeteners or other additives. The blendery is connected to the very popular Drie Fonteinen Restaurant in Beersel, on the outskirts of Brussels. The proprietor, Armand Debelder, buys pure lambik from three breweries in Belgium, ages them in oak, and blends them, employing the skill, knowledge, and supreme passion for real geuze that his father handed down to him.

I had a chance to meet and talk with Armand a couple of times during Philly Beer Week a few years ago. And, of course, his beer is amazingly good. Join me in wishing Armand a very happy birthday.

Tom Peters, Frank Boon, Jean Van Roy, Fergie Carey and Armand Debelder
Tom Peters, Frank Boon, Jean Van Roy, Fergie Carey and Armand Debelder at a Lambic Beer Dinner held at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia earlier a couple of years ago.

Me and Armand Debelder
Armand and me at the Great Lambic Summit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology on June 9, 2010.

Beer Birthday: Chris Erickson

Today is the 55th birthday of Chris Erickson, Director of Brewery Operations for Snake River Brewing. He’s been at the brewery for twenty years, and I first met Chris at a GABF almost as long ago, and twice this year we judged together. Chris is a great brewer and helped put Snake River on the map, twice winning Small Brewery of the Year. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.

With the brewery team on stage at this year’s GABF Awards.

Rockin’ the Hyster.

In Belgium, c. 2009

[Note: Last two photos purloined from Facebook.]

Beer Birthday: Melissa Cole

Today is the 41st birthday of Melissa Cole, UK beer writer extraordinaire. I’d met Melissa first online and then in person at the Rake in London a few years ago. She’s also been coming over to our side of the pond to judge at both GABF and the World Beer Cup. She’s a great advocate for beer generally, but especially for women, and is great fun to hang out and drink with. She also writes online at Taking the Beard Out of Beer! which is subtitled “A Girl’s Guide To Beer.” Her first book, Let Me Tell You About Beer, was published a couple of years ago. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.

At the Great British Beer Festival three years ago, with Roger Protz.

Greg Koch & Melissa Cole Again
Melissa with Greg Koch, from Stone Brewing, at GABF in 2009.

Tomme Arthur and Melissa Cole
The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur with a blushing Melissa at the World Beer Cup dinner in Chicago a few years ago.

A couple of years ago at the Rake in London, Melissa and Matt Brynildson, from Firestone Walker.

With friends at University sometime between 1993-97 (photo purloined from Facebook).

Historic Beer Birthday: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

Today is the birthday of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (October 24, 1632–August 26, 1723). He “was a Dutch tradesman and scientist, and is commonly known as ‘the Father of Microbiology.'” Apropos of nothing, “his mother, Margaretha (Bel van den Berch), came from a well-to-do brewer’s family.” Despite hi family ties, van Leeuwenhoek didn’t discover anything specifically useful to the brewing industry, but he did find that there was life pretty much everywhere he looked, using his microscope, including the “microscope—tiny “animalcules,” including yeast cells, which he described for the first time” in 1674-80.” But he laid the groundwork for later scientists to figure how exactly yeast worked. As Brian Hunt wrote in the entry for “infection” in the “The Oxford Companion to Beer,” that “the existence of yeast as a microbe was only discovered in 1674 by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the modern microscope.” Or as Sylvie Van Zandycke, PhD, put it. “The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae was used for thousands of years in the fermentation of alcoholic beverages before anyone realized it! The Dutch scientist, Anton Van Leeuwenhoek observed the mighty cells for the first time under the microscope in 1680.”


Here’s a short biography, from the Science Museum Brought to Life:

Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft in the Netherlands, to a family of brewers. He is known for his highly accurate observations using microscopes.

Leeuwenhoek worked as a draper, or fabric merchant. In his work he used magnifying glasses to look at the quality of fabric. After reading natural scientist Robert Hooke’s highly popular study of the microscopic world, called Micrographia (1665), he decided to use magnifying lenses to examine the natural world. Leeuwenhoek began to make lenses and made observations with the microscopes he produced. In total he made over 500 such microscopes, some of which allowed him to see objects magnified up to 200 times.

These were not the first microscopes, but Leeuwenhoek became famous for his ability to observe and reproduce what was seen under the microscope. He hired an illustrator who reproduced the things Leeuwenhoek saw.

In 1673 he began corresponding with the Royal Society of London, which had just formed. Leeuwenhoek made some of the first observations of blood cells, many microscopic animals, and living bacteria, which he described as ‘many very little living animalcules’. In 1680 his work was recognised with membership of the Royal Society – although he never attended a meeting, remaining all his life in Delft.

Leeuwenhoek with His Microscope, by Ernest Board (1877–1934)

Here’s a story from Gizmodo, by Esther Inglis-Arkell, explaining Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s role and iviting readers to Meet The First Man To Put Beer Under A Microscope:

The man in the picture [the same one at the top of this post] is considered the “Father of Microbiology.” He helped to discover and sketch microorganisms. When he turned his microscope on beer, he saw some of the most useful microorganisms in the world — but he failed to recognize them.

This man above is Anton van Leeuwenhoek, and he’s wearing an absolutely bitchin’ coat because he was a draper by trade. In fact, he draped so successfully that he managed to indulge his hobbies as he got older, one of which was lens making. Anton spent his days making powerful microscopes and sketching the objects he put in front of them. He discovered many things, the most interesting of which were animalcules, things that looked like tiny little animals. His sketches and descriptions, as well as his microscopes, jumpstarted the field of microbiology.

It wasn’t long before he turned his lens on beer in the process of brewing. It was 1680 when he first trained his lens on a droplet of beer. At the time, no one knew what it was that made hops, barley, and water turn into beer. Although they knew of yeast as a cloudy substance that appeared in beer after it spent some time fermenting, they were entirely ignorant of what it did; to the point where there were laws against using anything except barley, hops, and water in the beer-making process. Naturally, as soon as Anton looked at brewing beer he saw little circular blobs. He saw the way they aggregated into larger groups. He saw the way that they produced bubbles of what he thought was “air,” and floated to the surface.


Despite his obsession with microorganisms, he utterly failed to recognize them as life. These blobs, he believed, had come loose from flour. They aggregated into groups of six as part of a chemical process. Anton was fascinated by these groups of flour globs. He modeled them in wax, because he wanted to figure out the ways six globs could stick together while all being visible from above. This is his sketch of his models.

It took another 150 years before Charles Canard-Latour figured out that the “air” was carbon dioxide and the sextets of blobs hadn’t aggregated together, they’d grown. Archaeologists believe that beer was probably first brewed around 3000 BC. That means that we used an organism for nearly 5,000 years before we realized it even existed.

Although van Leeuwenhoek did write about the wood used in beer barrels:


Historic Beer Birthday: John L. Hoerber

Today is the birthday of John L. Hoerber (October 24, 1821-July 3, 1898). Hoerber was born in Germany, I believe, but founded the John L. Hoerber Brewery in 1858 of Chicago, Illinois, located at 186 Griswold Street. There was very little information I could find about him, not even a photo. But his brewery appears to have taken on a partner in 1864, and was renamed the Hoerber & Gastreich Brewery, but just one year later was hte John L. Hoerber Brewery again. But in 1865 it was sold. As far as I can tell, another John L. Hoerber Brewery was opened in 1864, located at 216/224 West 12th Street, but appears to also have been sold in 1882. Then in 1882, yet another brewery was opened at 646/662 Hinman & 22nd Streets, though it 1885 it changed its name again from brewery to the John L. Hoerber Brewing Co., which is stayed until prohibition. After prohibition, it reopened as The Hoerber Brewing Co., and remained in business until 1941, when it closed for good.


There’s a little bit more information in this translation of “Chicago’s Breweries Statistical Items about the Most Outstanding Breweries,” from Western Brewers, 1875:

J. L. Hoerber is one of our oldest German citizens….He founded a brewery on the South Side….in 1858. He sold this brewery later and established himself at his present location, 220–222 West Twelfth Street. Evidently this was a very fortunate choice, because property values….have increased rapidly in that neighborhood.

Mr. Hoerber has had ample opportunity and means to enlarge his establishment, but 24he prefers to brew only as much beer as he requires in his own beer hall, and possibly enough to supply three or four of his old customers.

Hoerbers’s brewery and beer hall is one of the most imposing brick buildings on West Twelfth Street. The frontage, including the cigar business of the younger Hoerber, is seventy-five feet. Since the house on the east, at 218 West Twelfth Street, also belongs to Mr. Hoerber, the total frontage on Twelfth Street reaches one hundred feet….

The ground floor of the main building is used for the beer hall. It is a popular meeting place for all who like a good glass of beer.

The upper floor contains a hall, a dining room,….etc., and is used for lodge meetings by the Freemasons at present.

J. L. Hoerber brews only in winter, and his guests may rest assured that they will always receive genuine lager beer in the summer, since he serves only his own 25 product.

The business….is stable and well managed. Mr. Hoerber is superintendent…. He stored one hundred and fifty cords of ice….

As we pass the main building, walking towards Dussold Street, we notice the following arrangement: The beer hall faces Twelfth Street; at the back is the adjoining icehouse and the brewery. The yard along Dussold Street would make an excellent beer garden.


Chicago historian and beer writer Bob Skilnik had an article in the Chicago Tribune that mentioned te Hoerber Brewery in 1997:

A population increase from a few hundred in 1833 to more than 100,000 in 1860 opened the market and made success possible for scores of brewers. In 1857, the city council ordered the grades of all existing properties to be raised to a height that would ensure proper drainage. John Hoerber used this opportunity to raise his combination saloon, store and boardinghouse and install a small brewery underneath, pumping fresh beer to his customers. By doing so, Hoerber beat the now-defunct Siebens on West Ontario by about 150 years for the title of Chicago’s first brew pub.



Historic Beer Birthday: William Anderton

Today is the birthday of William H. Anderton (October 23, 1866-January 27, 1928). He was the son of James Anderton, who founded the Spring Water Brewery, later renaming it the Anderton Brewery. After his father died in 1905, William “took over management of the firm and it was merged in 1905 to become part of the Pittsburgh-based Independent Brewery Company (1905-1933). The local facility was closed in 1920 (like many other breweries) with the enactment of nationwide prohibition.”


Here’s a biography of Anderton, from “Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, published in 1899:

WILLIAM HENRY ANDERTON, secretary, treasurer and general business manager of the Anderton Brewing Company of Beaver Falls, Pa., whose portrait we present on the preceding page, received his primary education in the Beaver Falls schools,-taking a collegiate course at the Iron City Business College of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1883, he entered the employ of the Hartman Steel Co., of Beaver Falls, in the capacity of clerk, remaining in their employ until 1889. He was a prime mover in, the organization of the Union Drawn Steel Co., and was secretary and treasurer of that company, until December, 1890. At that date, Mr. Anderton became secretary, treasurer and general business manager of the Anderton Brewing Co., which position he still holds. He assisted in organizing the People’s Water Company in 1897, and is its vice president. He is a believer in the principles of Democracy, and an active worker for that party. Socially, he is a member of the Ma-sonic fraternity, being included among the members of Beaver Valley Lodge, No. 478; he is also treasurer of the B. P. O. E. lodge, No. 348.

William Henry Anderton is one of a family of five children. He was born October 23, 1866, is a son of James and Betty (Green-wood) Anderton, and grandson of James and Sarah (Morris) Anderton. His grandparents came to America from England in 1856, accompanied by their son James, and settled at Fallston, Beaver county, Pa., where their two sons, John and Joseph, had located a few months previously. There father and sons worked in the mines for some years. John died at Fallston, in February, 1899, but Joseph now resides in Rochester, Pa. The be-loved father departed this life in May, 1879, at the age of seventy-nine years, and was preceded to the grave by his faithful wife and companion, who died in March, 1878, in her eighty-fifth year.

James Anderton, the father of William Henry, was born in Streetbridge, Royston, Lancastershire, England, June 26, 1830. He worked for eighteen years in the mines in his native place, beginning at the early age of eight years. In his youth he had no educational advantages whatever,-his only mental training being a night school organized by himself and his fellow miners, known as the “Youth’s Seminary.” There the boys taught each other, being too poor to afford an experienced teacher. The school organized by these lads has grown into a famous institution of learning, and is now known as the Literary Institute of Oldham, England.

James Anderton accompanied his parents to America when twenty-six years of age, worked in the mines at Fallston, until 1866, and then removed to New Brighton, Pennsylvania. He continued to follow this occupation at the latter place until March, 1868, when he removed to Beaver Falls, purchased his present residence, and engaged in the hotel business. The following year (1869), he went into the brewing business in a small frame building, situated quite near the elegant structure in which he at present officiates. The first brewing was made November 30, of the same year, and consisted of only nine barrels. In 1875, Mr. Anderton built the old part of the present structure, and with a much increased capacity, he continued to brew ale and porter until 1895, when he built a large brick addition, with all the modern improvements, and began brewing beer. The Anderton Brewery is now one of the most complete up-to-date breweries in Pennsylvania, and has a capacity of 30,000 barrels per year. There are many larger breweries in the Keystone State, but none more complete.

While, still in his native land, James Anderton was united in marriage with Betty Green-wood, a daughter of Joseph and Mary Greenwood. This event took place in 1852, and their union is blessed with five children, viz.: Jonathan ; Mary G.; William H. ; William H., second ; and Sarah A. Jonathan was born June 2,2, 1853; he is vice president of the Anderton Brewing Company. He wedded Margaret Hart, a daughter of Hilton and Ann Hart, and their home is made happy by the presence of four sons: James, Hilton, Jonathan, Jr., and William H. Mary G. was born February 1, 1858. She became the wife of C. W. Rohrkaste, who is now superintendent of the Anderton Brewery. They have three children: James A.; Mary A.; and Florence E. William H., the third child, died at the tender age of five years, and the same name was given to the next child. William H., the fourth child, is the subject of this brief sketch. Sarah A., the fifth child, was born October 14, 1869, and died in early childhood, aged three years.

James Anderton is a fine illustration of a self-made man, which in a great measure is due to his progressiveness, reliability and integrity. He ranks among the most esteemed citizens of Beaver Falls, and takes an active interest in fraternal organizations, being a member of Lone Rock Lodge, K. of P.; Valley Echo Lodge, I. O. O. F.; Mechanics Lodge, A. O. U. W.; and Beaver Valley Lodge, F. & A. M., of which he has been treasurer for the past nineteen years. He was one of the organizers and original stockholders of the Union Drawn Steel Co., and is one of the stockholders of the People’s Water Co., of Beaver Falls. In his religious convictions, the elder Mr. Anderton is an Episcopalian, of which denomination he and his family are members. Politically, he is a stanch Democrat, but could never be persuaded to seek or accept public office.

William Henry Anderton chose for his wife Emma J. Bailey, a daughter of James and Emma Bailey. In his business ventures he has met with success and, like his father, he is known to be an upright, honorable man. His home bears evidence of comfort in all its surroundings, and he always lends his aid and influence to the support of measures which he believes will be conducive to the general good.

The Anderton Brewing Co. was located in Beaver Falls, between 23rd and 24th streets near the railroad tracks. The local owners would sell their company in 1905, but the brewery remained in Beaver Falls producing beer until 1922.

And here’s Anderton’s obituary, from Western Brewer, an industry trade newsletter.



Historic Beer Birthday: Otto Bremer

Today is the birthday of Otto Bremer (October 21, 1867-February 18, 1951). He was born in the Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) area of Germany, and along with his brother Adolf, settled in Minnesota, in the St. Paul area.


Bremer was a German American banker and philanthropist. He founded Bremer Bank and the Otto Bremer Foundation, which grants funds for use in the communities where the banks operate. His brother Adolf married brewer Jacob Schmidt’s daughter, and my 1901, Adolf and Otto Bremer owned 25 percent of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company stock. When Schmidt passed away in 1911, the Bremer brothers took control of the brewery. When Adolf died in 1939, Otto assumed the role of president of Schmidt’s brewery until he died in 1951.

Otto Bremer with a sandwich and a beer.

Here’s a partial history of the Jacob Schmidt brewery during the time the Bremers were involved, from Wikipedia:

Jacob Schmidt started his brewing career in Minnesota as the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Co. He left this position to become owner of the North Star Brewing Co. Under Schmidt’s new leadership the small brewery would see much success and in 1899 Schimdt transferred partial ownership of his new brewery to a new corporation headed by his son in law Adolph Bremer, and Adolph’s brother Otto. This corporation would later become Bremer Bank. With the new partnership the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company was established. In 1900 the North Star Brewery would suffer a fire that would close it for good. With the new management team in place a new brewery was needed, the new firm purchased the Stahlmann Brewery form the St. Paul Brewing Co. and immediately started construction on a new Romanesque brewery incorporating parts of Stahlmann’s original brewery along with it including the further excavation of the lagering cellars used in the fermentation process to create Schmidt’s Lager Beer

Upon Schmidt’s death in 1911 the Bremers took full control of the company and continued to see success and growth. In 1920 National Prohibition came to Minnesota and stopped the production and sale of intoxicating beverages. Schmidt’s was one of the few breweries to see success and remain open all throughout prohibition in offering nonalcoholic beverages or near beers such as Malta and City Club as well as other beverages. It was rumored that Schmidt’s continued to produce real beer during prohibition complete with a secret underground tunnel that allowed for beer to be transported from the brewery on the bluffs to awaiting ships on the Mississippi river below. None of these rumors were ever confirmed though.

Since Schmidt’s never stopped production of beverages in the brewery it was one of few breweries in Minnesota that was ready to produce real beer when prohibition was lifted in 1933. Schmidt’s re-released City Club beer as an strong beer with the new slogan of “Tops in any Town”. After prohibition Schmidt’s saw widespread success and continued to grow. This Success brought attention to the Bremer family leading to the kidnapping of Edward Bremer by the Barker-Karpis gang on the 16th of January, 1934; he was released on the 7th of February of the same year with 200,000 bail. As Schmidt’s continued to grow becoming the 7th largest brewery in the country by 1936 it was decided offering City Club in cans would be more profitable and became one of the first brewers in Minnesota to offer beer in cans. Like Hamm’s Schmidt’s offered beer in flat top cans, but became one of the only brewer to switch back to cone top cans after. During World War II Schmidt’s was granted a contract from the government to supply beer to the troops, made possible by a long standing friendship between the Bremers and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1951 Otto Bremer died and City Club beer began to be phased out. In 1954 due to mounting pressure and competition from outside National Brewers the Bremers decided to leave the brewing industry and sold the company to Detroit based brewer Pfeiffer.


And here’s another biography of both Adolf and Otto Bremer, from Funding Universe:

Otto Bremer and his younger brother Adolph immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1886. The Midwest, where the young men settled, had experienced a period of rapid growth: the population had exploded and business opportunities were abundant. Otto Bremer’s first job was as a stock clerk for a wholesale hardware business in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1887, he took a bookkeeping position with the National German-American Bank–he had three years of elementary banking training in Germany, according to a Ramsey County History article by Thomas J. Kelley. Bremer eventually became chief clerk.

The boom days of the 1880s were followed by a bust in the early 1890s. Banks in St. Paul’s sister city of Minneapolis went under. The National German-American Bank had to suspend operations for a time. By the end of the decade, the nation was in a deep economic depression.

Otto Bremer left the National German-American Bank at the turn of the century to make a run for the office of city treasurer. A well established and respected member of the community by this time, he won the election and served for five terms. (He had an unsuccessful but closely contested race for mayor in 1912.) Meanwhile, his brother Adolph was making his own headway in St. Paul’s business community. One connection led to a romance as well. Adolph married Marie Schmidt, the daughter of North Star Brewery owner Jacob Schmidt, in 1896.

While serving as city treasurer, Otto Bremer became a charter member of the board of directors for the American National Bank. The bank was formed in 1903 through the merging of two St. Paul banks. Bremer held 50 of the 2,000 shares of capital stock. The charter members of the board of directors, well aware of potential pitfalls, operated a conservative banking business, unlike the days of wild growth when banks and customers were extended beyond their means.

Brother Adolph’s responsibilities also continued to grow. When the brewery was reorganized as the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company in 1899, he was named president. Adolph Bremer took over operating control when Schmidt died in 1910. He brought Otto in as secretary and treasurer shortly thereafter.

As Adolph gained ownership in the brewery, Otto Bremer increased his holdings in the bank, becoming a major shareholder by 1916. Adolph joined his brother on the American National Bank board of directors that year.

In 1921, Benjamin Baer, the bank’s second president and an original board member, died. Otto Bremer was named chairman. He also bought much of Baer’s stock and by 1924 gained controlling interest in the bank.

The brewery and its sales agencies in rural Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin provided a direct link to the Bremers and American National Bank in St. Paul. The brewery or the Bremers owned the land or buildings the sales agencies occupied, creating a starting point for further business relationships in the communities.

Otto Bremer became an advisor to local bankers, who often formed corresponding partnerships with American National. Dependent on the cyclical agricultural economy, country banks needed loans from city banks with a more diverse and therefore a more stable of base of business. Otto Bremer formed a deep commitment to the rural communities, and when economic disaster struck he was there to help.

Trouble began with a ramp-up of farm production in response to the needs created by the United States’ entry into World War I. Farmers began planting more acres and buying expensive machinery. Agricultural land increased in value. Farmers took out larger loans to drive the expansion. Demand collapsed following the war. Harsh weather conditions in the Midwest further hampered farmers. Loans went unpaid. A recession hit the nation in 1920, taxing city banks supporting the stressed country banks.

“Bent on maintaining the public trust in the country banks, Otto Bremer loaned them his good name and his money. Throughout the 1920s banks came into the fold of the American National Bank or the Bremer group,” wrote Kelley. Eventually, Bremer had to begin borrowing against his assets to keep country banks afloat.

By 1933, he held large or controlling interests in 55 banks in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Montana, apart from his holdings in American National. However, he was $8 million in debt. The backing of Adolph Bremer’s shares in the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company and a loan from the Federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation helped Otto Bremer keep his stock in American National and the country banks in the family.

Despite the one-two punch delivered by the farm recession and Great Depression, the Bremer brothers had kept control of both the brewery and the bank. When Adolph Bremer died in 1939, Otto Bremer succeed him as president of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company.

Otto Bremer in 1943.

In 1943, he created the Otto Bremer Company. The bank holding company consolidated his holdings in the country banks and would protect them from being sold to settle his estate, according to the Kelley article.

The Otto Bremer Foundation was formed the next year to make charitable grants in the communities served by the country banks. The ownership of the Otto Bremer Company was transferred to the foundation in 1949. After Bremer’s death in 1951, the banking chain entered an extended period of consolidation. The brewery was sold in 1954, but descendants of Adolph Bremer held stock in American National until it was sold to Milwaukee-based Firstar Corp. in 1996.


Beer Birthday: Jonathan Cutler

Today is the 44th birthday of Jonathan Cutler, brewmaster/owner of Piece Brewing in Chicago. His brewpub makes great pizza and even better beer. Plus, he’s a terrific, fun person. He even got a shout-out at the Academy Awards a couple of years ago, when Quentin Tarantino said “Piece Out” during his acceptance speech. Join me in wishing Jonathan a very happy birthday.

Serving beer and pizza at the CBC Reception at the Field Museum.

At Stone Brewery during CBC in San Diego in 2008. From left: Peter Schell, Eric Rose (Hollister Brewing), Ian Ward (Brewers Supply Group), Jonathan Cutler (Piece Brewing), Chad Kennedy (Laurelwood Public House) and Fal Allen (now back at Anderson Valley).

Jonathan picking up another GABF award for Piece in 2007.

Jonathan Cutler always cries at weddings
Jonathan tearing up during Dave Keene and Jennifer Smith’s wedding during GABF a few years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: William G. Ruske

Today is the birthday of William G. Ruske (October 21, 1842-May 2, 1915). Ruske was born in Germany and came to Western Pennsylvania, co-founding the Keystone Brewing Co. 1886, and was its president. In 1899, Keystone became part of a regional trust known as the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, which was formed by the merging together of thirteen Allegheny County breweries. Ruske was initially secretary of the trust, but became president when his predecessor died. The brewery survived prohibition and today is known as the Iron City Brewing Co.


This is his obituary, from the American Brewers’ Review the year he passed away:


Pittsburgh brewery around 1919.

And here’s part of another history of Iron City Brewing, from the merger through the end of prohibition, from PA’s Big House:

As the century came to a close, breweries in the Pittsburgh area merged to form the Pittsburgh Brewing Company (PBC). The twelve local breweries included: Wainwright; Phoenix; Keystone; Winter Brothers; Phillip Lauer; John H. Nusser; Eberhardt & Ober; Hippely & Sons; Ober; J. Seiferth Brothers; Straub; and Iron City. In addition to these initial twelve breweries, nine more were included in the merger. Now, Pittsburgh Brewing Company was Pennsylvania’s largest brewery and third largest in the nation with combined assets worth an estimated $11 million. For the next three decades, PBC boasted a brewing capacity of more than one million barrels per year.

The onset of Prohibition in 1920 brought serious strain to breweries across the nation. Pittsburgh Brewing Company, however, was able to survive by using its facilities to produce ice cream, soft drinks, and non-alcoholic “near-beers.” When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, PBC was one of only 725 breweries in the U.S. still operating.

After Prohibition, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company regained market share and produced the same products it had made prior to the act. The president of the company at that time also created a new subsidiary and reinstated the original name: the Iron City Brewing Company (ICBC). ICBC’s products included Iron City Pilsner, Iron City Lager, Tech Beer, and Blue Label Beer. In 1947, the company again expanded and Iron City Brewing Company continued to grow in the market. By the mid-1950’s, ICBC became the best selling beer in Pittsburgh.


I really couldn’t find very much information on Ruske, or even his original Keystone Brewery. But one curiosity I came across was this undated tintype. But since tintypes were popular for around twenty years, from the 1860s through the 1870s, I think it’s safe to conclude that’s what this one was created. The two beer bottles on the posts are from the Keystone Brewery and the label apparently reads Cabinet Export Beer.


Beer Birthday: Lucy Saunders

because beer is food: in cooking, at the table, and by the glass …

So begins the website of beer cook Lucy Saunders, whose birthday is today. Lucy has done much to promote both cooking with beer and enjoying food with beer through her books and other writings. She’s a treasure, in more ways than one. Join me in wishing Lucy a very happy birthday Lucy.

At the beer bistro in Toronto for Stephen Beaumont and Maggie’s wedding reception.

Lucy with Stacy Williams, Brand Manager for Gambrinus, at the Hot Brands reception at the NBWA Convention, when it was in San Francisco a few years ago.

During CBC in Austin, Texas in 2007, at the Moonshine bar for an event with Lucy for her book, Grilling with Beer. Here, Lucy with three contributors to her book, myself included.

Lucy with Vinnie Cilurzo at the GABF brewers reception in Denver in 2006.

Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment, Fergie Carey, co-owner of Monk’s, Lucy Saunders, the beer cook, and Tom Peters, also co-owner of Monk’s at the Canned Beer Dinner several Junes ago.