Historic Beer Birthday: Charles H. Wacker

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Today is the birthday of Charles H. Wacker (August 29, 1856-October 31, 1929). Wacker’s family came from Württemberg Germany (though some sources claim he was from Switzerland), and he was 2nd generation American, having been born in Chicago, Illinois. His father Frederick, also a brewer, founded the Wacker and Birk Brewing and Malting Co. In 1882 or 83, Charles joined his father in the family business, and rose to prominence in Chicago throughout his life.

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Here’s his short biography from Find-a-Grave:

He was a “mover and shaker” in the early days of Chicago. He was part of the Chicago Plan Commission formed to win acceptance of the famous Burnham Plan of 1909. He was a contemporary of Daniel Burnham and helped him promote his plan for the development of the city’s lakefront and system of parks. Lower and Upper Wacker Drive (two roads one on top of the other) in Chicago is named for him.

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Here’s his Wikipedia entry:

Charles Henry Wacker, born in Chicago, Illinois, was a second generation German American who was a businessman and philanthropist. His father was Frederick Wacker, a brewer, who was born in Württemberg Germany. He was Vice Chairman of the General Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, and in 1909 was appointed Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission by Mayor Busse. As Commission chairman from 1909 to 1926, he championed the Burnham Plan for improving Chicago. This work included addresses, obtaining wide publicity from newspapers, and publishing Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago (by Walter D. Moody) as a textbook for local schoolchildren.

Prior to serving on the Commission, Wacker was a Chicago brewer and the director of the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.

As a businessman he was part of a consortium of Chicago brewers who underwrote the methods that facilitated the commercialization of refrigeration machines.

Wacker Drive, built as part of the Burnham Plan, and Charles H. Wacker Elementary School are named in his honor. The name Wacker is also attached to other institutions in Chicago, such as the Hotel Wacker.

Charles H. Wacker was educated at Lake Forest Academy (class of 1872) and thereafter at Switzerland’s University of Geneva.

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The Chicago brewery his father started was originally called Seidenschwanz & Wacker, and was located on Hinsdale, between Pine and Rush streets. It was founded in 1857, but the following year it became known as Wacker & Seidenschwanz, and was on N. Franklin Street. That version lasted until 1865. Beginning that same year, its name changed once again to the Frederick Wacker Brewery, and its address was listed as 848 N. Franklin Street, presumably in the same location as its predecessor. Sixteen years later, in 1882, it relocated to 171 N. Desplaines (now Indiana Street) and it became known as the Wacker & Birk Brewing & Malting Co. This is also when Charles joined his father’s business, when he would have been 26 years old. Just before prohibition the name was shortened to the Wacker & Birk Co., although it appears to have closed by 1920.

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Here’s one more biography, from the library at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

Wacker was born in 1856 to a German immigrant who owned a brewing and malting company. Although he worked as a real estate investor and bank director, Wacker eventually took over his father’s business. In civic affairs, Wacker was director of the Ways and Means Committee for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1909, Mayor Fred Busse appointed Wacker to the Chicago Plan Commission, a committee designed to convince residents to issue bonds and spend money on widening streets, improving sidewalks, and redeveloping parts of the city. During his tenure on the Commission, Wacker urged voters to approve the forest preserves referenda. Later, he served on the Forest Preserve Plan Committee. Chicago leaders rewarded Wacker by renaming a double-decker roadway after him. First proposed in the Burnham Plan and completed in the 1920s, Wacker Drive runs along the Chicago River in the Loop.

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Beer Birthday: Jim Woods

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Today is maybe the 36th birthday of Jim Woods, founder of MateVeza, an organic brewer headquartered in San Francisco. I first met Jim when we were classmates at U.C. Davis for the brewing short course before he launched his unique business. All Jim’s beers are made with Yerba Mate, a South American herb that’s similar to tea. Technically, it’s part of the holly family, but contains caffeine and the leaves are used like tea. It works surprisingly well as a spice in beer. A couple of years ago, Jim opened the Cervecería de MateVeza, a small brewpub in San Francisco, right next to a corner of Dolores Park. Rebranded as Woods Beer, there are now four locations in San Francisco and Oakland, with a fifth coming soon.

Jim also puts on the Beerunch one morning (usually a Sunday) during SF Beer Week, the last few years at the Public House at the Giants’ stadium. Join me in wishing Jim a very happy birthday.

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Jim at the new Cervecería de MateVeza in San Francisco.

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Jim at his Beerunch during SF Beer Week in 2010.

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Jim and Matt Coelho at GABF 2008.

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Jim at his Beerunch in 2011.

Beer Birthday: Mike “Tasty” McDole

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Today is the birthday of living legend Mike “Tasty” McDole, homebrewer extraordinaire, and one time co-host of “The Jamil Show,” or “Can You Brew It?” and a regular still on the “Sunday Show” on The Brewing Network. Tasty would never refer to himself that way, and on Twitter he claims to be simply a “homebrewer and a craft beer enthusiast.” But most of us who know him would, as he also admits, “make [him] out to be much more.” And that is correct, I believe, as Tasty is one of the best. He’s a former Longshot winner, has given talks at the National Homebrew Convention and has won countless awards and has collaborated with numerous commercial breweries on beers. Join me in wishing Tasty a very happy birthday.

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With Justin Crossley at the Bistro Double IPA Festival in 2010.

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With Shaun O’Sullivan at 21st Amendment in 2009.

Vic Krajl, from The Bistro, Award-Winning Homebrewer Mike McDole & Shaun O'Sullivan, from 21st Amendment
Vic Krajl, from The Bistro, Mike & Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment at GABF in 2009.

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Tasty at GABF in Denver in 2014.

Beer Birthday: Fred Bowman

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Today is Fred Bowman’s 72nd birthday. Fred co-founded the Portland Brewing Co., which was bought a few years ago byPyramid Breweries, which in turn was bought by Magic Hat and then again by North American Breweries. Fred continues to be very active in the craft beer community, and has been supportive of the movement since the beginning. A couple of years ago, he dropped by and stayed with us during his drive ’round the country in a van, visiting old friends and family. Join me in wishing Fred a happy birthday.

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By the Celebrator booth at OBF, from left, John Harris (head brewer at Full Sail Brewing), Tom Dalldorf, and Fred.

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Dick Cantwell, co-owner of Elysian Brewing Co. in Seattle, with Fred at an after party at the Falling Rock during GABF.

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With Lisa Morrison earlier this year in Portland for FredFest.

Beer Birthday: Pete Reid

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Today is Pete Reid’s 53rd birthday. Pete is the publisher of Modern Brewery Age. I first met Pete a number of years ago at a Craft Brewers Conference but finally got to know him much better during a trip to Bavaria a few years back, where the two of us took a side trip to Salzburg to visit the Austrian Trumer Brauerei. Join me in wishing Pete a very happy birthday.

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At the Zotler Brauerei in Germany.

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At the Bavarian Hop Museum, that’s Pete in the back row in the baseball cap.

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Pete, me and Chris Rice, from All About Beer magazine, during a trip to Belgium last year.

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Peter Reid, with Gary Ettelman, of Ettelman & Hochheiser at the NBWA convention in 2008.

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Toasting with Horst Dornbusch at the Bamberg Brewing Museum.

Beer Birthday: Pete Slosberg

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Today is my good friend Pete Slosberg’s 66th birthday. Pete is, of course, best known for Pete’s Wicked Ales. After that he toyed with the idea of making barbecue but decided instead to make some incredible chocolates and had a small company, Cocoa Pete’s. A few years ago, I traveled to South America with Pete (where we took to calling him “El Pete“), where we both spoke and judged beer at a beer conference/competition in Argentina, the South Beer Cup, and then flew to Brazil to attend a pair of beer dinners Stephen Beaumont was hosting and for a while he was working on Mavericks, a newish line of canned session beers, along with Half Moon Bay Brewing, Pete and his wife Amy are just doing a lot of traveling and looking for the next adventure … or sour beer. Join me wishing Pete a very happy birthday!

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This was taken the first time I met Pete, over fifteen years ago at the KQED Beer and Food Festival in San Francisco, when I was more or less still a civilian. It was after I’d written a book on beer, but before I started working as the beer buyer for BevMo.

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Pete with his wife Amy and Shaun O’Sullivan, from 21st Amendment, at one of Sean Paxton’s beer dinners during SF Beer Week earlier this year.

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Working the bottling line at Russian River Brewing, with a bottle of Consecration.

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Matt Bonney, from Brouwer’s, Stephen Beaumont, Sean Paxton, Pete and Rick Sellers, from Odonata at the Bistro Double IPA Festival.

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Pete with his wife Amy and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf at one of Bruce Paton’s beer dinners at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in February 2006.

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Martin Boan, who organized and ran the South Beer Cup, with Pete in Buenos Aires.

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Pete, with Edu Passarelli (owner of Melograno), Stephen Beaumont and me after a beer dinner at Edu’s place in Sao Paulo.

Historic Beer Birthday: Hans Adolf Krebs

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Today is the birthday of Hans Adolf Krebs (August 25, 1900-November 22, 1981). He was a German-born British physician and biochemist. He was the pioneer scientist in study of cellular respiration, a biochemical pathway in cells for production of energy. He is best known for his discoveries of two important chemical reactions in the body, namely the urea cycle and the citric acid cycle. The latter, the key sequence of metabolic reactions that produces energy in cells, often eponymously known as the “Krebs cycle,” earned him a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1953. And it’s the Krebs cycle that is his relation to brewing, as it’s also known as the respiratory phase, the second aerobic state of the fermentation process immediately following the lag period.

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Here’s a description of the Krebs cycle from Life Fermented:

The Krebs cycle, also known as the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle or the citric acid cycle, is a circular and repeating set of reactions which requires oxygen. In beer making, this would occur in the first stage of fermentation when the yeast is pitched into a well aerated wort, and carries on until all oxygen is used up.
Pyruvate (are you tired of this word yet?) is first converted to acetyl-CoA (pronounced “Co-A”) in the following reaction:

pyruvate + 2 NAD+ + CoA-SH → acetyl-CoA + CO2 + NADH, with the help of the pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) complex. Note that this is the first time CO2 is produced, and yet more NADH is generated.

This acetyl-CoA then enters into a cycle of reactions which nets two molecules of CO2, one GTP (guanosine triphosphate, another unit of energy equivalent to ATP), three NADH, and one FADH2 (flavin adenine dinucleotide, which functions similarly to NADH). After the cycle completes, another acetyl-CoA molecule enters and the cycle repeats itself.

But wait, this just made more NADH, and we need to regenerate NAD+ so glycolysis can continue. Both the NADH and FADH2 now donate their electrons to a process called the electron transport chain/ oxidative phosphorylation. The result is a return of NAD to the NAD+ state, and a large amount of ATP cellular energy.

Because the Krebs cycle is so efficient at producing ATP energy units, this is the yeast’s preferred pathway. But, you’ll notice a rather conspicuous absence: ethanol. This is only formed in the absence of oxygen.

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Here’s a biography of Krebs, from the Nobel Prize website:

Sir Hans Adolf Krebs was born at Hildesheim, Germany, on August 25th, 1900. He is the son of Georg Krebs, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat surgeon of that city, and his wife Alma, née Davidson.

Krebs was educated at the Gymnasium Andreanum at Hildesheim and between the years 1918 and 1923 he studied medicine at the Universities of Göttingen, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, and Berlin. After one year at the Third Medical Clinic of the University of Berlin he took, in 1925, his M.D. degree at the University of Hamburg and then spent one year studying chemistry at Berlin. In 1926 he was appointed Assistant to Professor Otto Warburg at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology at Berlin-Dahlem, where he remained until 1930.

In I930, he returned to hospital work, first at the Municipal Hospital at Altona under Professor L. Lichtwitz and later at the Medical Clinic of the University of Freiburg-im-Breisgau under Professor S. J. Thannhauser.

In June 1933, the National Socialist Government terminated his appointment and he went, at the invitation of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, to the School of Biochemistry, Cambridge, where he held a Rockefeller Studentship until 1934, when he was appointed Demonstrator of Biochemistry in the University of Cambridge.

In 1935, he was appointed Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Sheffield, and in 1938 Lecturer-in-Charge of the Department of Biochemistry then newly founded there.

In 1945 this appointment was raised to that of Professor, and of Director of a Medical Research Council’s research unit established in his Department. In 1954 he was appointed Whitley Professor of Biochemistry in the University of Oxford and the Medical Research Council’s Unit for Research in Cell Metabolism was transferred to Oxford.

Professor Krebs’ researches have been mainly concerned with various aspects of intermediary metabolism. Among the subjects he has studied are the synthesis of urea in the mammalian liver, the synthesis of uric acid and purine bases in birds, the intermediary stages of the oxidation of foodstuffs, the mechanism of the active transport of electrolytes and the relations between cell respiration and the generation of adenosine polyphosphates.

Among his many publications is the remarkable survey of energy transformations in living matter, published in 1957, in collaboration with H. L. Kornberg, which discusses the complex chemical processes which provide living organisms with high-energy phosphate by way of what is known as the Krebs or citric acid cycle.

Krebs was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1947. In 1954 the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, and in 1958 the Gold Medal of the Netherlands Society for Physics, Medical Science and Surgery were conferred upon him. He was knighted in 1958. He holds honorary degrees of the Universities of Chicago, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Paris, Glasgow, London, Sheffield, Leicester, Berlin (Humboldt University), and Jerusalem.

He married Margaret Cicely Fieldhouse, of Wickersley, Yorkshire, in 1938. They have two sons, Paul and John, and one daughter, Helen.

And in the Microbe Wiki, on a page entitled “Saccharomyces cerevisiae use and function in alcohol production,” under a section called “Fermentation of alchohol,” the Krebs cycle is placed in its portion in the fermentation process:

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is able to perform both aerobic and anaerobic respiration. The process begins with the yeast breaking down the different forms of sugar in the wort. The types of sugars typically found in wort are the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. These sugars contain a single hexose, which is composed of 6 carbon atoms in the molecular formula C6H12O6. Disaccharides are formed when two monosaccharides join together. Typical disaccharides in the wort are galactose, sucrose, and maltose. The third type of fermentable sugar in the wort is a trisaccharide. This trisaccharide is formed when three monosccharides join together. Maltotriose is the trisaccharide commonly found in the wort and is composed of three glucose molecules. The wort does contain other sugars such as dextrins but it is not fermentable by yeast10. These dextrins contain four monosaccarides joined together. In order for the yeast to use the disaccharides and trisaccharides they first must be broken down to monosaccharides. The yeast does this by using different enzymes both inside and outside the cell. The enzyme invertase is used to break down sucrose into glucose and fructose. The invertase catalyzes the hydrolysis of the sucrose by breaking the O-C (fructose bond). The other enzyme used is maltase, which breaks down maltose and maltotriose into glucose inside the cell. The enzyme does this by catalyzing the hydrolysis of the sugars by breaking the glycosidic bond holding the glucose molecules together.

Once the sugars are broken down into monosaccharides the yeast can use them. The primary step is called glycolysis. In this process the glucose is converted to pyruvate using different enzymes in a series of chemical modifications. The electrons from glucose end up being transferred to energy carrying molecules like NAD+ to form NADH. ATP is also formed when phosphates are transferred from high-energy intermediates of glycolysis to ADP. In the presence of oxygen aerobic respiration can occur. This occurs in the mitochondria of the yeast. The energy of the pyruvate is extracted when it goes through metabolic processes like the Krebs cycle. The products of this type of metabolism are ATP, H2O, and CO2. However if there is no oxygen present and an abundance of sugars, as in the wort, the yeast undergo alcoholic fermentation. This type of metabolism yields much smaller amounts of energy when compared to aerobic respiration. However, because of the large supply of sugars from the different grains the wort is a very good environment for fermentative growth. The alcoholic fermentation begins with the two pyruvate acquired from glycolysis. These two pyruvate are decarboxylated by pyruvate decarboxylase to form two acetaldehydes and CO2. The CO2 is the gas that is observed during fermentation as bubbles that float to the top of the wort creating the kräusen or beer head, the foam that is very characteristic of a freshly poured beer. Pyruvate decarboxylase is a homotetramer meaning it contains four identical subunits. This also means that is has four active sites. The active sites are where the pyruvate reacts with the cofactors thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) and magnesium to remove the carbon dioxide9. The final step to form alcohol is the addition of a hydrogen ion to the aldehyde to form ethanol. This hydrogen ion is from the NADH made during glycolysis and converts back to NAD+. The ethanol is originally believed to serve as an antibiotic against other microbes. This form of defense ensures that bacteria do not grow in the wort, thus ruining the beer with off flavors. However recently with the boom of craft beer different bacteria have been purposefully added to create what is known as sour beer. The sour taste comes from the waste products of the bacteria.

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To learn more about the Krebs cycle check out this video from the University of Oklahoma’s Chemistry of Beer – Unit 7 – Chemical Concepts: Krebs Cycle:

Historic Beer Birthday: George F. Klotter Jr.

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Today is the birthday of George F. Klotter Jr. (August 25, 1835-1900?) His father, along with partner Johann G. Sohn, established the Hamilton Brewery in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1846. Klotter Sr. left that brewery, while Sohn continued alone, and Klotter started another brewery, the George Klotter Brewery in 1866 The following year George Jr., and his brother Louis, joined the brewery, and it was renamed the George Klotter and Sons Brewery, which it remained until 1888.

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It 1888, it was renamed the Bellevue Brewery until finally closing in 1919.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Josef Groll

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Today is the birthday of Josef Groll (August 21, 1813-November 22, 1887). He was born in Vilshofen an der Donau, Germany. Many consider the Bavarian brewer to be the inventor of pilsener beer.

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Josef Groll’s portrait.

According to the Wikipedia account:

The citizens of Pilsen were no longer satisfied with their top-fermented Oberhefenbier. They publicly emptied several casks of beer in order to draw attention to its low quality and short storage life. It was decided to build a new brewery capable of producing a bottom-fermented beer with a longer storage life. At the time, this was termed a Bavarian beer, since bottom-fermentation first became popular in Bavaria and spread from there. The climate in Bohemia is similar to that in Bavaria and made it possible to store ice in winter and cool the fermentation tanks down to 4 to 9 degrees Celsius year-round, which is necessary for bottom-fermentation.

Bavarian beer had an excellent reputation, and Bavarian brewers were considered the masters of their trade. Thus, the citizens of Pilsen not only built a new brewery, but also hired Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer. Josef Groll’s father owned a brewery in Vilshofen in Lower Bavaria and had long experimented with new recipes for bottom-fermented beer. On October 5, 1842, Groll produced the first batch of Urquell beer, which was characterized by the use of soft Bohemian water, very pale malt, and Saaz hops It was first served in the public houses Zum Goldenen Anker, Zur weißen Rose and Hanes on 11 November 1842, and was very well received by the populace.

Josef Groll’s contract with the Bürgerliches Brauhaus (citizens’ brewery) in Pilsen expired on April 30, 1845 and was not renewed. Groll returned to Vilshofen and later inherited his father’s brewery. The Pilsen brewery was directed by Bavarian brewers for nearly sixty years until 1900.

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Groll around age 60.

Here’s a description of Groll and his development of pilsner from the German Beer Institute:

The modern Pils may be a northern German brew, but it was a Bavarian brewmaster, Josef Groll, who started it all a scant 160 years ago, when he accepted a new job. Groll, who was born in 1813 in the Bavarian village of Vilshofen (some 100 miles northeast of Munich), prepared a new mash on October 5, 1842, at his new place of employment, the Burgher Brewery in the Bohemian city of Pilsen. As it turned out, the brew that Josef was mixing in the mash tun that day was truly revolutionary…it was the very first blond lager. It was a brew that was to set the style for an entirely new line of beers. The beer that resulted from that first brew was first served on November 11, 1842…and it has conquered the entire world ever since.

Until Groll made his new beer, the standard drink in Pilsen was a top-fermented brew, an ale. But not all was well with the Pilsen ale, because on one occasion, the city council ordered that 36 casks of it be dumped in public. It had become all too frequent that the beers available to the good burghers of Pilsen had been unfit to drink. This caused them to stick their heads together and to hatch a drastic plan: They would invest in a new, state-of-the art brewery and contract a competent brewer to come up with a better beer. In the 1840s, that meant a brewery capable of making Bavarian-style bottom-fermented brews, that is, lagers. Because of the reputation of Bavarian beer, Bavarian brewmasters, too, were held in high regard. So the citizens of Pilsen not only built a Bavarian brewhouse for Bavarian beer, they even engaged a Bavarian brewer to rescue the Pilsner beer from oblivion.

The fellow they engaged for the job was the above-mentioned Josef Groll of Vilshofen. He was an intrepid brewer who clearly rose to the challenge. Instead of using the standard dark malts of his day, he kilned his malt to a very pale color — a technique that had only recently been perfected in Britain. Groll then made use of only the finest of local raw materials. He flavored the brew with plenty of hops from the Saaz region of Bohemia (today, Czech Saaz hops is considered one of the finest aroma hops money can buy) and, of course, brewed with the city’s extremely soft water. From these ingredients he made an extract, which he fermented with good Bavarian lager yeast — and a new beer was born. Nobody before Groll had ever made such an aromatic golden-blond, full-bodied lager.

When Joseph’s contract was up, on April 30, 1845, he went back home to his native Bavaria, but his new beer’s reputation spread quickly beyond the limits of Pilsen. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Joseph Groll sure had cause to feel flattered. Initially, the designation Pilsner beer was just an appellation of origin — a beer made in the city of Pilsen. But soon the new brew was copied everywhere. The first imitators were in adjacent towns with similarly soft water and equal access to Saaz hops. This was the beginning of the Bohemian Pilsner style. But breweries across the border, in Germany, began also to be interested in the Bohemian phenomenon … they had to, because it started to eat into their own sales. This was the time in Europe, when the emerging railway network made the transportation of beer possible to just about any major city.

By the turn of the 19th century, it had become chic from Paris to Vienna and from Hamburg to Rome to drink the beer from Pilsen. The beer’s name had become a household word, usually in its abridged form of Pils. The term Pils had evolved from an appellation of origin to a designation for a new beer style, the very model of a modern lager beer. When Groll died in the village of his birth, in little Vilshofen, on October 22, 1887, he probably had no idea how profound a revolution he had brought about in the world of beer!

Groll’s beer was taking the continent by storm and was even making inroads in Munich, where brewers were starting to make their own variation on the Groll brew. The Burgher Brewery of Pilsen, however, where it had all started, was far from flattered by the imitations its beer had spawned. This brewery was far more interested in supplying the demand for Pilsner beer itself than having other breweries usurp what it considered its proprietary brand name. In 1898, therefore, the Burgher Brewery of Pilsen went to court in Munich. It sought an injunction against the Thomass Brewery, which had come out with a blonde lager, named “Thomass-Pilsner-Bier.” The verdict that the court handed down in April 1899, however, went against the plaintiff. The court argued that “Pilsner” was no longer an appellation, but had become a universal style designation.

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A diorama of Groll in his lab at the Pilsner Urquell Museum.

And this account is from Food Reference, but appears to have been written by Pilsner Urquell:

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

The first brewmaster, a visionary, young Bavarian Josef Groll, revolutionized how beer was brewed, looked and tasted.

Beer as we know it has always been produced using the same basic ingredients, hops, barley and water, and for thousands of years was brewed in open vats with fermentation occurring at the top of the brew.

Groll was able to look beyond what was possible and combine his knowledge of an innovative new bottom fermenting process, known as ‘lagering’, with his access to the finest local ingredients at Plzen: a special type of two-row fine-husk barley, the locally grown Saaz hops and of course the uniquely soft local water.

In 1842 Josef Groll’s vision became reality. He succeeded in making a beer the best it could be.

Josef Groll was an unlikely hero, so rude and bad-tempered he was described as the ‘coarsest man in the whole of Bavaria’ by his father.

But it is the fate of every genius to challenge those around him. Throughout history those who have made a step change in their fields, those who have had an idea of true originality, have had one thing in common, the ability to see beyond the ordinary, and create something extraordinary.

Sir Issac Newton observed an apple, and it changed how we see the world. A certain Mr Columbus discovered the New World by rejecting how everyone had seen the old one. And in 1842 Josef Groll created a beer that changed the way the world would see beer.

From the dawn of civilization, beer had been a dark, murky liquid. Then a protest by the citizens of Plzen, Bohemia, inspired the change that would influence the entire beer industry and set the standard for all lagers.

After furious citizens had dumped no less than 36 barrels of undrinkable sludge into the city’s gutters in 1838, it sparked off a remarkable chain of events – a new brewery building, an innovative new brewmaster and finally the world’s first golden beer.

On 4 October 1842 in St Martin’s market, Plzen, Josef Groll unveiled his new creation to widespread sensation, after all a golden beer had never been seen before.

News of this remarkable Plzen beer spread throughout Bohemia. The arrival of the railway and the beer’s popularity amongst German and French tourists soon meant that Plzen’s famous brew gained international appeal.

But with success inevitably came competition. Josef Groll’s original golden beer soon spawned many imitators, many of which also claimed to be Plzen or Pilsner beer, whether they came from Plzen or not. In fact, today Pilsner has become a generic term around the world for any bottom-fermented golden beer sold as ‘pils’ or ‘pilsner’.

In 1898, the brewery acted to protect itself against inferior competitors and the beer’s name was changed to Pilsner Urquell- a German phrase meaning literally “from the original source, Plzen”.

Some say the name was changed to satisfy consumer demand for the original golden beer. But as those who know their beer will tell you: you can tell the original Pilsner by its slightly darker shade of gold, and of course by its taste which is a world apart.

Beer Sweden also has a nice two-part account, as does Brewing Techniques and Food Reference. Pilsner Urquell’s Czech website also has a brief history and a timeline. Brewer K. Florian Klemp wrote Presenting Pilsners for All ABout Beer, which includes Groll’s story.

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Beer Birthday: Zambo

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Today is the birthday of David Zamborski, better known to the brewing world as simply “Zambo.” He used to brew for BJs in Southern California but then number of years ago moved to San Francisco to take over the brewpub operations at 21st Amendment, where he spent several years. More recently he moved to Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, where he the’s Director of Brewing. Zambo’s been a welcome addition to the Bay Area brewing scene, and he’s a terrific brewer. Join me wishing Zambo a very happy birthday.

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Luke Nicholas, from New Zealand’s Epic Beer, with Zambo during a visit to 21A.

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John Tucci (from Gordon Biersch), Aron Deorsey (from Beach Chalet) and Zambo at a release party for Anchor’s California Lager.

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Brendan Dobbel, Rich Higgins, Aron Deorsey and Zambo at a Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp a couple of years ago.

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At the Anchor Christmas Party a few years ago: Zambo, Rich Rosen (Pi Bar, Chenery Park), Jen Garris (Pi Bar), my wife Sarah, Lloyd Knight (21A), Dave Suurballe (everywhere), James Renfrew (formerly with Potrero Hill Brewing) and Shaun O’Sullivan (21A).