Beer Birthday: Don Feinberg

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Today is Don Feinberg’s 61st birthday, along with his wife Wendy Littlefield, ran the Belgian export company Vanberg & DeWulf. Their portfolio included such great beer lines as Dupont, Castelain and Dubuisson (Bush). They were also the original founders of Brewery Ommegang. Five years ago they celebrated their 30th anniversary of being involved in the beer industry and bringing great beer to America. Plus, they’re great fun to hang out and drink with. Unfortunately, a little over a year ago they sold Vanberg & DeWulf, and are taking some time off, before deciding on their next project. Hopefully, we’ll learn something soon. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.

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Don, along with the Dubuisson brewmaster, being poured Lambrucha in Chicago in 2010.

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Wendy and Don at a dinner in Belgium last year.

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Wendy Littlefield, Don and Greg Engert at a Vanberg & DeWulf tasting in Washington, D.C. (photo by Chuck Cook)

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Wendy and Don in 1979.

Beer Birthday: Jen Garris

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Originally a sculptor, Jen Garris, has been involved in San Francisco’s beer scene as long as anyone I know. She’s worked for Magnolia and New Belgium, as well as many others in the Bay Area. A few years ago she opened the Pi Bar in San Francisco, along with boyfriend Rich Rosen, who also co-owns Chenery Park. I absolutely love Pi’s white bacon pizza. More recently, they opened Bel, a Belgian-themed bar/restaurant on Mission St. in Bernal Heights. Today is Jen’s 29th or so birthday. Join me in wishing her a very happy birthday.

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Jen and Matt Salie, from Big Sky Brewing, at the 18th Celebrator Anniversary Party.

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Looking lovely at the Anchor Christmas Party.

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Jen and Brian Hunt at the Urthel Beer Dinner.

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Jen illustrates again how easy it is to be featured on the Bulletin.

Historic Beer Birthday: Johan Kjeldahl

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Today is the birthday of Johan Gustav Christoffer Thorsager Kjeldahl (August 16, 1849-July 18, 1900) He was a Danish chemist who developed a method for determining the amount of nitrogen in certain organic compounds using a laboratory technique which was named the Kjeldahl method after him.

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Kjeldahl worked in Copenhagen at the Carlsberg Laboratory, associated with Carlsberg Brewery, where he was head of the Chemistry department from 1876 to 1900.

He was given the job to determine the amount of protein in the grain used in the malt industry. Less protein meant more beer. Kjeldahl found the answer was in developing a technique to determine nitrogen with accuracy but existing methods in analytical chemistry related to proteins and biochemistry at the time were far from accurate.

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A painting by Otto Haslund of Johan Kjeldahl.

His discovery became known as the Kjeldahl Method

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The method consists of heating a substance with sulphuric acid, which decomposes the organic substance by oxidation to liberate the reduced nitrogen as ammonium sulphate. In this step potassium sulphate is added to increase the boiling point of the medium (from 337 °C to 373 °C) . Chemical decomposition of the sample is complete when the initially very dark-coloured medium has become clear and colourless.

The solution is then distilled with a small quantity of sodium hydroxide, which converts the ammonium salt to ammonia. The amount of ammonia present, and thus the amount of nitrogen present in the sample, is determined by back titration. The end of the condenser is dipped into a solution of boric acid. The ammonia reacts with the acid and the remainder of the acid is then titrated with a sodium carbonate solution by way of a methyl orange pH indicator.

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In practice, this analysis is largely automated; specific catalysts accelerate the decomposition. Originally, the catalyst of choice was mercuric oxide. However, while it was very effective, health concerns resulted in it being replaced by cupric sulfate. Cupric sulfate was not as efficient as mercuric oxide, and yielded lower protein results. It was soon supplemented with titanium dioxide, which is currently the approved catalyst in all of the methods of analysis for protein in the Official Methods and Recommended Practices of AOAC International.

And Velp Scientifica also has an explanation of his method, which is still in use today.

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Kjeldahl (center) in his laboratory.

Historic Beer Birthday: Emile A.H. Seipgens

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Today is the birthday of Emile Anton Hubert Seipgens (August 16, 1837-June 25, 1896). Seipgens was born in Roermond, the Netherlands. He was the son of a brewer, and after school and some failed jobs, joined his father at the brewery in 1856. By 1859, he was running the brewery along with his brother. But apparently he wasn’t happy there, and in 1874 decided to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. Throughout his life, he wrote poetry, novels, plays and much more.

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Here’s a translated biography of his literary career, from Literary Zutphen:

Emile (Anton Hubert) Seipgens, born August 16, 1837 in Roermond, from 1876 until 1883 teacher of German at the Rijks HBS in Zutphen. He founded a literary reading companion for his disciples and was a member of the “Circle of scientific maintenance. He lived Nieuwstad A128-2. Seipgens was an outspoken Limburg author. His work – theater, novels and novellas village – is invariably located in Limburg, and sometimes – his songs – even written in Limburg dialect. Some of his best known and most read titles he wrote in his Zutphense period: The chaplain Bardelo (1880), from Limburg. Novellas and Sketches (1881). In this period made ​​Seipgens, who was first trained to be a priest, then was brewer, then teacher, to eventually become a writer, definitively separated from the Catholic Church. He started on the assembly line to write stories, which he published in magazines such as The Guide , Netherlands and Elsevier . One of those stories, Rooien Hannes , had worked to folk drama and staged by the Netherlands Tooneel great success. Later titles are: In and around the small town (1887), along Maas and Trench (1890), The Killer Star (1892), Jean, ‘t Stumpke, Hawioe-Ho (1893), The Zûpers of Bliënbèèk (1894) and A wild Rosary (1894). In 1892 Seipgens secretary of the Society of Dutch Literature in Leiden, and in that place he died 1896. Posthumously published yet his novel on June 25, Daniel (1897) and the beam A Immortellenkrans (1897). Seipgens, which is one of the earliest naturalists of the Netherlands became completely into oblivion, until the late 70s of the last century actually was a small revival. Which among other things led to reprint the novel The chaplain Bardelo and stories in and around the small town , and to the publication of his biography, written by Peter Nissen: Emile Anton Hubert Seipgens (1837-1896). Of brewer’s son to literary (1987), and the placing of a memorial stone at Seipgens birthplace. But this revival was short-lived. If Emile Seipgens remembered voortleeft, it will have to be on the legend of the rovershoofdman Johann Bückler based ‘operabouffe’ Schinderhannes (1864), which to this day in Roermond is staged!

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And here’s another account from “The Humour of Holland,” published in 1894.

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Beer Birthday: John Pinkerton

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Today is also the 47th birthday of John Pinkerton, founder and brewmaster of Moon River Brewing in Savannah, Georgia. John is also involved in Beer America TV. He also brews some terrific beers and is great fun to drink a beer or three with. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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At All About Beer’s “World Beer Festival” in Durham, North Carolina in 2008.

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John getting showered with hops at the “Me So Hoppy Lupulin Slam” at the Falling Rock during GABF in 2005.

Beer Birthday: Dann Paquette

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Today is the 48th birthday of Dann Paquette, who along with his wife Martha Holley-Paquette, founded the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. It’s a fairly unique idea. They don’t own a brewery but they don’t contract brew either. They rent the brewery and Dann does all the work brewing the beer. Certainly other contract beers are similar, but I like that Pretty Things makes such a point of the distinction that it’s essentially beyond reproach. Oh, and did I mention he makes some of the best beers I’ve tasted? He does, or did. They recently decided to wind up the business and stop brewing while they decides what the next chapter of their lives will be. From the several philosophical discussions I’ve had with Dann, I consider him a kindred spirit, so hopefully it will be something amazing, and still in brewing. Join me in wishing Dann a very happy birthday.

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Dann with Andy Couch and Todd Alström showing off Pretty Things’ Baby Tree at the Hungry Mother, in Boston.

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Dann doing his Snidely Whiplash impersonation.

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Tomme Arthur, Will Meyers, Dann, Patrick Rue and Rob Tod.

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Dann with his business partner and wife Martha at (I think) Beer Advocate’s Craft Beer Festival.

Note: Last three photos purloined from both Dann and Martha’s Facebook pages.

Charles Bukowski’s “Beer”

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Today is the birthday of American poet, novelist, and short story writer Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920-March 9, 1994). Bukowski was a hard-living individual, as well as a hard drinker. Wikipedia gives a summary of his life, albeit a very brief one.

His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in the LA underground newspaper Open City.

In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife.” Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

If you haven’t read his work, you’re definitely missing out. I think my favorite quote by him is from an interview he did in Life magazine, in December of 1988. “We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” A collection of his poems, entitled “Love Is a Dog From Hell,” was published in 1977, and includes the poem “Beer.” A few months ago, an Italian animation studio, NERDO, created a short animated film of that poem, and it’s pretty awesome.

Beer Birthday: Brandon Hernández

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Today is the 40th (maybe) birthday of Brandon Hernández, who is the Marketing Manager for AleSmith Brewing, but was a beer writer long before joining AleSmith, and continues to write for the San Diego Reader and the West Coaster, as well as other publications. And he’s published the Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries. For a time, he was the Senior Communications Specialist for Stone Brewing, but left to join AleSmith. I run into Brandon fairly regularly at beer functions and he’s become one of my favorite people to hang out with. Join me in wishing Brandon a very happy birthday.

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Nice towering press photo of Brandon.

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With fellow writers at the opening event for the CBC in Washington, DC in 2013. From left, Stephen Beaumont, me, Steve Shapiro, Gail Williams, Brandon and Chuck Cook.

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At Churchill’s in San Diego with Tomme Arthur in 2012.

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With a bevy of Celebrator writers in Chico for Beer Camp #93 in late 2012, to make a beer celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Celebrator Beer News. That’s Brandon sporting blond hair fourth from the left.

[Note: photos 1 and 3 were purloined from Facebook.]

Historic Beer Birthday: Lilly Anheuser

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Today is the birthday of Lilly Anheuser (August 13, 1844-February 25, 1928). She was born in Mainz-Bingener Landkreis, in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, one of three daughters of Eberhard Anheuser. Eberhard was originally a soap and candle maker, but had had also invested in the Bavarian Brewery Company, in St. Louis, Missouri. When it went through financial troubles in 1860, he took over control of it, buying out the other creditors, and renaming it Eberhard Anheuser and Company. “Lilly married Adolphus Busch, a brewery supply salesman, in a double wedding with Anna Anheuser (Lilly’s older sister) and Ulrich Busch (Adolphus’ brother) in 1861.” Her husband was running the brewery even before her father died in 1880, and the year before, 1879, the corporation was renamed the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association to reflect the reality of Busch’s leadership role.

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

Lilly was one of six children of Eberhard and Dorothea Anheuser. She and her family lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for a time before moving to St Louis, Missouri.

Lilly, who was blonde and called “curly Head” was courted by and married to Adolphus Busch, who sold brewery supplies at the time, to her father at the E. Anheuser Brewing Company. She was married to Adolphus in a double wedding; her sister Anna married Ulrich Busch on March 11, 1861. Anna was dark and known for her sophistication.
Lilly was the mother of thirteen children. Nine lived to adulthood. Along with her social life, Lilly cooked for her husband and to an extent remained a “house wife.”

With the success of the Brewery, She and her husband and children traveled extensively. They owned Villas in Germany. Both were confiscated by Hitler. They traveled by private train car. A favorite group of homes for them was Ivy Wall, and The Blossoms, Busch Gardens in Pasadena,CA. They had an estate in Cooperstown, NY, and Germany.

Upon reaching their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Lilly and Adolphus presented a home to each of their children.
One was given a French chateau manner on a farm near St. Louis once owned by General U.S. Grant. It is now known as Grant’s Farm and is open to the public. Other Children were given homes in St Louis, New York, Berlin, Germany, Chicago,IL,and Stuttgart, Germany.

It was reported Lilly was given a gold Crown by her husband to commemorate their golden Anniversary. Amidst the celebration was sadness because the health of her husband was failing. He passed away at Villa Lilly, in Germany with Lilly at his side.

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The Anheuser-Busch website gives this account:

Eberhard Anheuser, who left Germany in 1843, settling first in Cincinnati and before moving to St. Louis. Trained as a soap manufacturer, he eventually went on to own the largest soap and candle company in St. Louis. Although he had no brewing experience, he became part owner of the Bavarian Brewery, which had first opened its doors in 1852. By 1860, Anheuser had bought out the other investors and the brewery’s name was changed to E. Anheuser & Co.

Adolphus Busch was born in 1839, the second youngest of 22 children. At age 18, he made his way to St. Louis via New Orleans and the Mississippi River. Adolphus began working as a clerk on the riverfront and by the time he was 21, he had a partnership in a brewing supply business.

It was through this enterprise that Adolphus Busch met Eberhard Anheuser, and soon Adolphus was introduced to Eberhard’s daughter, Lilly. In 1861, Adolphus Busch and Lilly Anheuser were married, and shortly after that, Adolphus went to work for his father-in-law. He later purchased half ownership in the brewery, becoming a partner.

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Lilly Anheuser later in life.

In 1897, famed Swedish artist Anders Zorn painted portraits of Lilly Anheuser and her husband Adolphus Busch. They were recently sold through the auction house Christie’s. The winning bid for Busch’s portrait was $207,750 and Lilly’s went for $123,750.

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A portrait of Lily Anheuser, painted by Anders Zorn in 1897.

Historic Beer Birthday: William Blackall Simonds

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Today is the birthday of William Blackall Simonds (August 13, 1761-January 13, 1834). Simonds “was a brewer and banker in the English town of Reading. He founded both Simonds’ Brewery, a component of today’s Wells & Young’s Brewery business, and J & C Simonds Bank, one of the precursors to Barclays bank.”

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Here’s his entry from Wikipedia:

Simonds came from a family with estates at Arborfield to the south-east of Reading, but his father, William Simonds senior, had moved to Reading to set up a malting business that later grew to include brewing. William senior married Mary Blackall, and William Blackall Simonds was their only son. He was probably born in Reading, with records showing that he was baptised at the Broad Street Independent Chapel in Reading on 13 August 1761.

When William senior died in 1782, William Blackall Simonds inherited his business. He married Elizabeth May, who was the heiress of Daniel May, the miller of Pangbourne, and the ward of Thomas May, the miller of Brimpton and founder of a brewery in Basingstoke. In 1789 Simonds acquired a site on the banks of the River Kennet, and commissioned the architect Sir John Soane to build a brewery and house on the site. The riverside site permitted transport of raw materials and finished product by barge, and was to continue to serve as a brewery until 1980.

In 1791, Simonds was co-founder of a bank in Reading’s Market Place, in partnership with local businessmen Robert Micklem, John Stephens, and Robert Harris. His motivation in doing this was to help the brewery grow and to offer its output to a wider customer base. However this proved difficult, largely because local magistrates refused to issue licences for new public houses to sell his beer. As a consequence, Simonds decided to concentrate on his banking activities, and in 1814 he dissolved the original partnership and established a new family-run bank in partnership with his younger son Henry Simonds, and his cousins John Simonds and Charles Simonds. This bank was located in Reading’s King Street and later became known as John Simonds, Charles Simonds & Co., Reading Bank.

Simonds served as mayor of Reading in 1816. He retired to London and then to Pangbourne, where he died on 13 January 1834 and was buried in the family plot in Hurst churchyard.

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The Simonds family maintains a website chronicling their brewery and members of the family through history, which includes a biography of William Blackall Simonds.

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“The Simonds brewery was founded in Broad Street in Reading by William Blackall Simonds in 1785 (although his father had a brewing arm of his malting business as early as 1760). The company moved to Bridge Street, where it remained until 1978. The site is now occupied by The Oracle shopping centre. Simonds became a very early limited company in 1885, taking the name of H & G Simonds from William’s two sons, Henry and George. The latter was the father of a later director, George Blackall Simonds, a sculptor.”

“The company amalgamated with Courage & Barclay in 1960 and dropped the Simonds name after ten years. Eventually the firm became part of Scottish & Newcastle who sold the brands to Wells & Young’s Brewery in 2007 and closed the Reading brewery three years later.”

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David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History has an even fuller account of Simonds’ life, “based largely on the research of TAB Corley,” in 1976:

William Blackall Simonds was the son of William Simonds Senior and his wife, Mary Blackall. The Simonds family owned extensive estates in the Hurst-Arborfield-Wokingham area of Berkshire, but William Senior, being a second son, left the land and set up a small malting, and later a brewing, business in Reading. Upon his death in 1782, this business passed to his only son.

The following year, young William Blackall Simonds married Elizabeth May, co-heiress of the late Daniel May, the miller of Pangbourne whose sister had married William’s uncle, Thomas Simonds. She was the ward of a third sibling, Thomas May, the miller of Brimpton, who had founded the May Brewery in Basingstoke some thirty years before. As well as such excellent business contacts, this match brought William a dowry of £2,000. This, added to the £1,000 he had inherited from his maternal grandfather in 1781, meant that he had a tidy sum of money available to him. Fortunately, he also had the youth, vigour and entrepreneurial skill to put it to good use in increasing his brewing capacity

Tradition has it that William opened his first permanent brewery in Broad Street in Reading in 1785. Unfortunately, the site allowed no room for expansion though and, business being swift, four years later, he purchased a larger and more flexible plot of land in Seven Bridges Street. It has been taken as a measure of his self-assurance that, at the age of only twenty-eight, William commissioned Sir John Soane, the foremost architect of the day, to design him both a new brewery and a grand Georgian family home on the site. Although, as Soane was educated in Reading, one wonders if they knew each other from their youth.

William had to borrow heavily to cover the £6,400 which his new brewing complex had cost him. But he was well aware of the need to turn a tidy profit and had a counting house erected next to his study. By 1790, the malthouses and 25-quarter plant were fully operational and an annual output of 6,000 barrels can be assumed. The house – complete with a tablet above the entrance and wall-paper in the drawing room showing the hop-leaf design which was to make the brewery famous – was not finished for a further four years, but, in 1794, Elizabeth and their seven children (one had died in infancy but one more was to follow) were able to move in.

An added advantage of the new brewery site was that it immediately adjoined the River Kennet, so it had its own wharves for the import of barley for malting and for secondary trades, often associated with brewing, like timber and vinegar production. In 1799, demand for Simonds beer had increased so much that William had a two horse-power Boulton and Watt steam engine replace his old horse-driven power system; and the offices were extended a few years later. He was also able to purchase for himself the lease on a fine country estate, across the River Thames, at Caversham Court, where he exploited the chalk pits on his land in order to sell chalk and flint to the glass works of Bristol.

William was by now recognised as a stylish man of substance in Reading. In 1791, he had been appointed Receiver-General of Taxes for West Berkshire and he subsequently contributed £1,000 to enter into a partnership which formed Messrs Micklem, Stephens, Simonds and Harris’s Bank in Reading’s Market Place. This was a natural expansion of his business interests. As Receiver-General, William could use his tax receipts for up to six months before remitting them to London, while, as a brewer and maltster, he held very large cash balances for certain periods of the year. He was also Reading’s Town Treasurer in 1793 and various years thereafter. Even in the financial crisis year of 1797, William’s share of the bank’s profits was £150 and he soon came to regard the bank as a better long-term prospect than the brewery.

Although the War with France had produced a financial boom in the brewing trade, the Simonds’ Brewery saw little of the benefits, for it was a relative latecomer to the industry. Older breweries kept a tight hold on existing retail outlets for beer and strict licensing laws meant few new ones were created. By 1805, William had managed to acquire ten public houses in Reading and seven in the traditional Simonds areas of Hurst, Wokingham, Arborfield and Pangbourne. But, by 1834, this had only expanded by three further inns and output at the brewery had increased by no more than 70%. William insisted on high quality beer to counteract the poor quality price-fixed products of his rivals and, in 1813, managed to secure the contract to supply the newly opened Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Despite this triumph, however, the following year, he was so pessimistic about his brewery’s future that he decided he would sell up in order to concentrate more fully on banking.

Though his eldest son, Blackall, persuaded William to retain the brewery under his own management, the father withdrew from his original banking business and founded a family-based partnership of his own in King Street in Reading. His partners were his second son, Henry, his cousins, John and Charles, and his friend, Ralph Nicholson, and they had a working capital of some £25,000. This bank traded as J & C Simonds for about a century until it was absorbed by Barclays in 1912.

In 1816, as soon as William considered both the brewery and the bank to be in secure hands, he stepped down from involvement in business matters; though not totally from public life as he served as Mayor of Reading that year He arranged that he should be paid an annuity and divested himself of all other wealth, retiring first to 40 York Place in London and then to Pangbourne. He lived the quiet life for twenty years until his death on 13th January 1834, at which time his estate was worth less than £1,000. He was buried in the family plot in Hurst churchyard. His wife, Elizabeth, survived him by eight years.

The brewery survived in the name of William’s two sons, H & G Simonds, until 1960 when it merged with Courage & Barclay. Courage moved the brewery to the edge of Pingewood in 1985 and it is now the largest in Europe.

The Royal Berkshire History also has a short history of H & G Simonds’ Seven Bridges Brewery and also another page with A Description from 1891.

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