Historic Beer Birthday: Pierre Celis

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A true brewing legend, who was treated like a rock star in Belgium where they care about their national beers, Pierre Celis would have been 92 today. Celis single-handedly revived the style witbier in the 1960s when he was a brewer at Hoegaarden. He later moved to Texas to start a microbrewery with his daughter Christine, which was sold to Miller in 1995. More recently, he was making three cave-aged beers under the label Grottenbier at St. Bernardus in Belgium. Unfortunately, Pierre passed away almost six years ago in April. Pierre was a terrific person and his absence is still deeply felt. The last I heard, his daughter Christine was working on a great-sounding project that will honor her father’s memory and also produce some terrific beers, too. That project is now closer to opening. Join me in drinking a toast to the memory of Pierre Celis.

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With Pierre at the Craft Brewers Conference in New Orleans quite a few years ago.

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At GABF in 2006.

Historic Beer Birthday: Sampson Salter

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Today is the birthday of Sampson Salter (March 21, 1692-April 6, 1778) who in the early 18th century operated one of the most popular breweries in Boston. Considering it was apparently so popular, there’s very little specific information about either Salter or his brewery. Most histories seem to only mention him in passing. For example, “Historic Taverns of Boston” by Gavin Nathan, says only this:

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Boston in 1722.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick August Poth

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Today is the birthday of Frederick August Poth (March 20, 1841-January 21, 1905). Some accounts give his birth date as March 15, and others say the year was 1840. It’s hard to know which is correct, so I’m going with the account that appears to be the most reasonably accurate, one that was provided by his family. He was born in Walhaben, part of the Rheinpfalz region of what today is the Rhenish Palatinate or Palatinate in modern Germany. He came to American when he was 20, in 1861, started working in Philadelphia breweries and by 1870 had bought the Jacob Bentz Brewery, renaming it the Frederick A. Poth Brewery. When he later incorporated in 1893, and his sons were working with him, it became known as the F. A. Poth & Sons Brewery. It reopened after prohibition briefly as the Poth Brewing Co. Inc., but closed for good three years later, in 1936.

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The Poth brewery, from an illustration done in the early 1890s.

While not too surprising from the 19th century, I couldn’t find any photographs of him, and even many websites use the photo of his son, Frederick J. Poth,

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His really short biography at Find-a-Grave consists of three sentences, one of them one word long.”Brewer. By 1875, F. A. Poth and Sons was the largest brewery in the US. Poth was also active in real estate.”

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This lengthy biography is from the “Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography,” published in 1921:

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The Poth & Sons Brewery around 1900.

From a Poth family biography pamphlet:

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Historic Beer Birthday: Robert Portner

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Today is the birthday of Robert Portner (March 20, 1837-May 28, 1906). He was born in Rahden, Westphalia, in what today is Germany. He emigrated to America when he was 16, in 1853. He worked at several professions before becoming a successful grocer in Washington, D.C. area, and then bought a brewery in Alexandria, naming it the Robert Portner Brewing Co., though it later traded under the name “Tivoli Brewery.” By the 1890s, it was the largest brewery in the south, but closed down because of prohibition in 1916. There were also branches in Roanoke, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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

Beer brewer, inventor, and businessman in Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D.C. His brewery was considered to be one of the largest in the south prior to Prohibition. He also invented two machines for his brewery, and later combined them to form an early form of air conditioning for his summer estate, Annaburg, in Manassas. He was survived by his wife Anna and ten of his thirteen children.

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And this is his obituary, from an unknown source:

MR. PORTNER DEAD

He Passes Away at Annaburg, his Beloved Country Home.

Mr. Robert Portner, a retired merchant and capitalist of Washington and Manassas died Monday after noon at 4:45 o’clock at “Annaburg,” his country home here. Mr. Portner had been in ill health for more than a year, and death came as the result of bronchial trouble.

He left his city home, 1410 Sixteenth street, Northwest, Sunday, May 20, for Manassas and was taken ill here the following Tuesday and died on the 28th inst.

Robert Portner was born March 20, 1837, at Rahden, Westphalia, Prussia. His military education was received in the Prussian school of Annaburg, Saxony. He came to this country in 1853 and held various clerical positions and was also engaged in the manufacture of tobacco, inventing a new cigarette paper. At the beginning of the war he moved to Washington to establish a wholesale grocery business but not finding the field a likely one he moved to Alexandria, Va., where he established a grocery business. Later he became the owner of a small brewery, and sold supplies to the sutlers of both armies. The brewery industry [?] until, in 1883, he incorporated the Robert Portner Brewing Company of Alexandria. The National Capital Brewing Company of Washington was later organized, and Mr. Portner became vice president.

Mr. Portner always took an active interest in the growth and development of Manassas and was a liberal contributor in all beneficent undertakings. The magnificent hotel here, The Prince William, is an illustration of his kind interest in the town and the people of this section.

The first successful machine for artificial refrigeration with direct ammonia expansion was invented by him in 1873. He was the founder of three building and loan associations in Alexandria, of the Alexandria ship yard, and of the German Banking Company of which he was president.

Among the other institutions in which he was interested are the National Bank of Washington, the American Security and Trust Company, the Riggs Fire Insurance Company, the Virginia Midland Railway, the National Bank of Manassas, Va., and the Capital Construction Company of Washington. In 1880-1881 he was president of the United States Brewers’ Association. He removed to Washington in 1881, and among his large holdings of real estate are the Portner flats, the first apartment house to be erected in that city.

Mr. Portner’s summer home, “Annaburg,” a part of which is in the corporation of Manassas, consists of an estate of 2,500 acres, formerly a celebrated battle ground for both armies. On this tract he had erected a castle similar to those found along the Rhine of his native country. He is survived by a wife and ten children , all of whom were at his bed side during his last hours. The children are as follows: Edward, Alvin, Paul, Oscar, Hermann, Etta, Anna, Elsa, Hildegard and Mrs. Alma Koehler.

The funeral was held privately at his home here at 3:30 o’clock, Wednesday and was conducted by the chaplain of Manasseh lodge, A. F. & A. M. Julius Koehler, a son in law of Mr. Portner, and five sons, Edward, Alvin, Paul, Oscar and Hermann, acted as pallbearers. His remains were laid to rest with masonic ceremonies in the cemetery, near town, where rest two of his children.

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In 1890, Portner, along with the combined efforts of some brewing partners, established the National Capital Brewery Company in D.C.:

The National Capital Brewery Company is a combination of the firms of Albert Carry, Robert Portner and the Robert Portner Brewing Company, the latter selling out the Washington branch of the business. The capital stock of the company is $500,000, all paid up. The company has been in operation since last November [1890], but has been supplying from its new brewery only since June. The officers of the company are as follows: Albert Carry, president; C. A. Strangmann, secretary and treasurer. Directors: Albert Carry, Robert Portner, John L. Vogt, John D. Bartlett, Charles Carry, C. A. Strangmann, Frank P.Madigan.

A brewery that turns out 100,000 barrels of first-class pure beer every year for local consumption solely is a big institution for any city, and yet Washington has recently had just such an addition made to its business enterprises in the National Capital Brewery. Organized by Washington men, officered by Washington men, and with every share of its stock owned here at home, it would seem to be a local enterprise first last and all the time.

This business is the result of the combination of two of the oldest and most successful breweries in this part of the country, and that the new firm will be even more successful is a foregone conclusion. People who have had occasion recently to traverse D street southeast have noticed a splendid new building on the south side of the street between 13th and 14th streets. This is the new home of the National Capital Brewing Company, and it is by long odds one of the most substantial and imposing buildings of the sort to be found anywhere. Although it has been completed hardly more than a month, it has about it already that well-kept appearance and air of bustling activity that always denote prosperity following upon enterprise.

This fine new building, standing as it does in a very desirable location for such a business, with almost an entire block of ground about it, is a five-story structure of brick with handsome stone trimmings and surrounded by a graceful cupola. It covers a plot of ground 94 by 136 feet, and owing to the unusual height of the several stories the building itself is quite as high as an ordinary seven or eight-story building. Attached to the main building are several roomy and substantial outbuildings, including an engine house, stable and cooperage shop, all pleasing in appearance and forming a handsome group.

To make a good pure quality of beer for local use so that it can be drawn from wood and not adulterated with any chemical whatsoever in order to make of it a “beer that keeps well,” this is the purpose of the National Capital Brewing Company. They do not make beer for shipment, and hence their beer is not treated with any salicylic acid or deleterious substances that are sometimes used with bottled beer to keep it clear and lively.

Pure beer is generally considered a healthful drink. The president of the National Capital Brewing Company told a STAR reporter that any person with a proper interest in the matter might take the keys of the entire establishment at any time, go through it thoroughly, and if he found anything at all used in the making of their beer that was not pure and wholesome the company would give him $1,000.

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Beer drawn from the wood is almost certain to be a purer and better quality of beer than the bottled. The National Capital Brewing Company does not bottle. It serves its customers fresh every day with beer that has reached its prime in the immense cooling rooms of the brewery. F. H. Finley & Son, the bottlers, however, have a contract with the company for 20,000 barrels a year of their pale extra beer, and this they bottle and serve to customers in Washington. They get their beer early every morning, as needed, so that people who buy the bottled variety of the National Capital Company’s beer are using beer that left the huge casks at the brewery that very day. J. F. Hermann & Son, Wm. H Brinkley and Jas. A Bailey also acts as agent for the company.

A STAR reporter, accompanied by Mr. Albert Carry, president of the brewing company, recently made a complete inspection of the buildings of the brewery, spending several hours seeing how beer is manufactured from the time it comes in in the form of malt and the raw materials until it leaves the building a clear, cool, foaming beverage inclosed in stout kegs and casks. How much beer there is that leaves the building may be judged when the statement is made that the company uses 10,000 kegs and barrels of all sizes simply in supplying the Washington trade. Nine huge wagons and thirty big horses are used steadily in carrying beer from the brewery to the consumers.

In truth this is no small business. But what strikes the visitor, be he a casual or an interested one, first and most forcibly of all is the absolute cleanliness and neatness that prevails everywhere. The walls and stairways, for the most part of stone and iron – for the building is fireproof throughout – and the floors are all of iron or concrete and immaculate. On all sides there is hot and cold running water, and indeed the wards of a hospital could scarcely be cleaner or more orderly than the various departments of this brewery. There are no secret chambers into which one may not go. Everything is open and above board, and the fact that the company has no objections to the beer consumer examining every branch of its manufacture is a pretty good sign that they know that everything is honest and fair.

As a proof of this the company intends giving a public tour Tuesday, July 28, from 8 to 8 p.m., when everything will be in running order and everybody is invited to visit the brewery and inspect it thoroughly from cellar to roof. A handsome luncheon, consisting of all the delicacies of the season, will be spread. Everything will be free, and the National Capital Brewing Company intend to prove that they are as liberal in their hospitality as they are enterprising in their business. It is needless to say that beer will be plentiful and none need to go to bed thirsty Tuesday night.

Connecting the main building with the engine house is a handsome arched gateway leading into the big court yard, where the wagons stand while they are being loaded. The entrance to the offices is through this gateway. The offices consist of a number of connecting rooms on the main floor in the northwest corner of the building. They are handsomely finished in oak, and are fitted with the most improved office furniture for the convenience of the officers of the company and the corps of bookkeepers and clerks required to transact such an immense volume of business. Opening from the main office and adjoining it is the ice machine room, containing an ice machine with a refrigerating capacity of fifty tons and an eighty-horse-power steam engine, used for grinding and mashing malt and for general hoisting purposes. The ice machine on that hot summer day was almost covered in with ice and snow, and in fact the temperature of the larger part of the brewery is kept down in the neighborhood of freezing point all the time. On the second floor is an immense refrigerating room, and separated from it by an iron door is a room for cleaning and automatically weighing malt, and arranged on the principle of a grain elevator is a store room for malt with a capacity of 20,000 tons. On the third floor is a great copper kettle holding 300 barrels of new boiling beer. The fourth floor is used for hot and cold water tanks and above is a tank for fire purposes. After boiling in the kettle for seven hours the beer is pumped up, strained and left to cool in a big tank under the roof, where a cool current of air blows constantly. To the rear and on the fourth floor is a big store room and a patent cooler. The beer from the tanks above runs down over coils and is cooled to 40 degrees. This and the rooms below are all 76×94 feet and feel like a cold day in midwinter. On the floor below is the fermenting room, and here the beer stays for two weeks in sixty-five tubs, each holding seventy barrels.

After the beer is through fermenting it is piped down below into huge vats, each of a 240-barrel capacity, and here it stays in the rest casks for three or four months, beer four months old being about the best. On the floor below a little new beer is added to give the necessary foam, and after being given about three weeks to clarify it is sent by air pressure into the filling room, where it is run into barrels and kegs ready to be loaded onto the wagons. In neighboring rooms a dozen men are busy all the time cleaning, washing and scouring the kegs so there is no chance for any impurities to mar the flavor of the Golden Eagle and the Capuciner beers.

A few years later, in 1893, he opened a branch of the Robert Portner Brewery in Roanoke, Virginia.

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And this thorough history is from Boundary Stones, WETA’s Local History Blog:

The history of brewing beer in the United States is a rich and storied one. Cities like St. Louis, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin resonate with most beer drinkers across the country as centers for American brewing. For Virginia residents, you might not realize how close Alexandria, Virginia came to being one of those brewing capitals. From the closing years of the Civil War until prohibition turned Virginia into a dry state, the Robert Portner Brewing Company was the leading brewery and distributor in the southeastern United States. Led by its visionary namesake, the Portner Brewing Company became the largest business in Alexandria and remains a fascinating tale of innovation.

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In 1853, Robert Portner immigrated to America from Westphalia, Prussia. A natural businessman from the start, Portner spent eight years in business ventures before opening a small grocery store in 1861 with his friend and fellow immigrant Frederick Recker. Within a year, Portner & Recker’s Grocery Store earned over $10,000 and became the largest grocery in Alexandria. At the time, Portner showed no signs of interest in starting a brewing company. Unfortunately, it would take the violence of the Civil War to bring him into his famous business.

With the quartering of Union troops in Alexandria during the course of the war, demands for alcohol grew. Portner recognized this trend, gathering three other investors to design plans around their own small brewery. This business venture came at an advantageous time for Portner. In 1862, sales of alcohol were banned in Alexandria by the military governor of the city, mainly due to the public drunkenness and general sloppiness of the Union troops stationed there. Portner mentions some of the conditions in his memoirs:

“Soldiers who had consumed their quota of drink tumbled onto the streets and into the hands of guards, who marched them to the slave pen. On February 3, more than 125 men were arrested. The following night, 100 other rowdies sobered behind bars. Authorities policed the city as best they could by putting prostrated men in wheelbarrows and pushing them over rutted streets…”
Though businesses who sold hard liquors suffered under these new regulations, the beer industry thrived, as beer was thought to be less intoxicating and generally harmless to consume.

Another factor that contributed to the rise of beer consumption was the growing popularity of lager beer. Lagers were native to Germany and Austria before being brought to the United States with the wave of German immigrants in the nineteenth-century. Lagers were lighter and more refreshing than American ales, making them a natural fit for the hot and humid summer months. Unfortunately, the yeast used to make lagers requires cooler temperatures, limiting the brewing of lagers to the cooler months of the year.

As sales continued to grow, Portner sold his share in his grocery business and bought out the shares of his three brewing investors, becoming the sole owner of the newly named Robert Portner Brewing Company in 1865—it could not have been a worse time.

By the summer of 1865, the Civil War was over and federal troops began evacuating Alexandria. Suddenly, demand for alcoholic beverages within the city plummeted. Portner’s factory was now filled with barrels of unsold beer and thousands of dollars of raw materials waiting to be used. To make matters worse, Portner’s brew master left the company to pursue his own business ventures. While Portner was a successful businessman, he knew very little about the brewing process in these early years. Determined to never be beholden to a brew master again, Portner taught himself as much as he could about the brewing process. He gained insight into brewing theory from Carl Wolters, who Portner would soon hire as his new brew master. The two men would spend ten to twelve hours a day for months testing and experimenting in order to produce the perfect lager beer.

To aid in this process, Portner created what would become the first practical artificial cooling and ice-making machines in July of 1880. Prior to this, natural ice and cooling cellars were the only way to provide refrigeration on a large scale. Portner’s cooling device worked by direct ammonia expansion, where a solution of liquefied ammonia and water ran through pipes along walls and ceilings. As this solution rapidly changed into gas it drew heat and moisture from the surrounding air, cooling it. Smaller-scale cooling and ice-making machines existed prior to Portner’s, but his contributions worked on a large scale and were heralded as the first practical designs by trade magazines. His designs would later contribute to modern day air-conditioning technology. With Portner’s innovation, the brewing and transport of lager beer no longer remained limited to the cooler months—it now became a year-long process. So while cooling off indoors during the hot and humid summers of the Washington area with a cool glass or bottle of lager, tip your hat to the memory of Robert Portner.

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Together, Portner and Wolters would test and reformulate different brews for taste and consistency. Their experiments with lager beers paid off with two of Portner’s most famous blends, the Tivoli Hofbrau and Tivoli Cabinet (Tivoli being “I Lov It” spelled backwards). Within ten years, Portner Brewing Company’s sales tripled. With a majority of demand coming from southern states, Portner opened branch offices and bottling plants throughout Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Beers shipped in refrigerated train cars with ice created from the Alexandria plant’s thirty-ton capacity ice maker, reaching great distances without spoilage. Soon nearly every restaurant and hotel across the South and the Mid-Atlantic served Robert Portner beers in their establishments. In 1890, plans were underway to build a new brewery and distribution center in Washington, D.C., at the southeast corner of Thirteenth Street and Maryland Avenue southwest. The Robert Portner Brewing Company was on its way to becoming one of the nation’s leading beer distributors.

All good things eventually come to an end, and the Robert Portner Brewing Company faced two big challenges in the early twentieth-century that it couldn’t recover from: the growing movement of prohibition in Virginia and the death of Robert Portner in 1906. Prohibition movements were strong in Virginia in the years following the Civil War, with local churches and numerous “temperance” conventions denouncing peddlers of alcohol. Early movements called for the enforcement of “Sunday laws” to prevent the sale of alcohol on the Sabbath. Statewide efforts to license and regulate saloons began springing up in the early twentieth century, causing high prices on alcohol and large licensing fees barring entry to prospective distributors and saloon owners.

With the death of Robert Portner in 1906, the weight of external pressures began to mount on the company. To combat the negative campaigns against alcohol and alcohol distributors, Robert Portner Brewing, along with many other brewers, began extolling the good qualities of their beer. Portner beers were “the best of tonics” and recommended “by physicians to all sufferers from nervous and weakening ailments.” It was claimed that the contents of one bottle of Tivoli Hofbrau would “frequently produce the most refreshing sleep, even in severe cases of insomnia.” Portner Brewing also began experimenting with non-alcoholic beverages or “near beers” and opening soda-only distribution lines in Virginia.

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The movement towards prohibition couldn’t be stopped, and a petition drive called for a statewide referendum on the banning of alcoholic beverages. Held on September 22nd, 1914, the referendum passed by nearly 35,000 votes. With this, Virginia would become a dry state on November 1st, 1916. With nowhere left to turn, the Robert Portner Brewing Company ended their production of alcoholic beverages and converted their warehouse space over to a wholesale feed business, handling stock for dairy and poultry feed. Though there was talk of a Robert Portner Brewing revival when the prohibition of alcohol sales ended in 1933, nothing came of it. The two main brewing houses in Alexandria and Washington were demolished and the Robert Portner Corporation dissolved in 1936.

A century after its doors closed in 1916, the Portner beer legacy in Alexandria may yet return. Robert Portner’s great-great grandchildren Catherine and Margaret Portner look to revive their namesake’s vision when they open the Portner Brewhouse in the Van Dorn neighborhood of Alexandria in the summer of 2016. Not only serving as a brewery and restaurant, the Portner sisters look to create a testing kitchen for aspiring brewers, allowing them to “work on a recipe, see it sold and collect feedback and sales data on their own creation.” Much like how Robert Portner and Carl Wolters labored over their creations, the Portner sisters are offering that same opportunity to hopeful brewers. With this revival, Alexandria and the surrounding area will be able to relive the legacy of Robert Portner and Alexandria’s history as a pre-prohibition brewing capital.

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More recently, Robert Portner’s great-granddaughter, Catherine Porter, along with two siblings, has opened a new brewery with the family name, the Portner Brewhouse, a modern brewpub in Alexandria, Virginia. Before opening, graduate business education website Poets & Quants featured her in My Story: From A Brewing Legacy to A Babson MBA:

Even though I never met my great-great grandfather, his legacy is alive in our family and his success well-documented. As a grocery store owner in Alexandria, Virginia, he provided provisions to the Union troops during the Civil War. Beer and other alcoholic beverages were profitable and in great demand by the soldiers and local citizens since lack of transport, restrictions, and guards at the Potomac River crossings made these commodities hard to come by.

Robert Portner paid close attention to what his customers wanted and seized the opportunity to open his first brewery. It was not long before he left the grocery business and focused all of his energy on expanding the brewery operations, creating outposts that stretched from Virginia to Florida.

Like a true entrepreneur, he was also an innovator. The beer needed to stay cold, so my great-great grandfather invented a way to keep it at the right temperature during shipping and transport. He devised a unique system of refrigerated rail cars which became an early prototype for air conditioning, something unheard-of at the time.

My great-great grandfather’s business was based entirely on the production and sale of beer. Together with two of my siblings, I hope to duplicate his success, but with a modern twist: a brewery restaurant set to open by early 2014. At Portner Brewhouse, we will brew original recipes from The Robert Portner Brewing Company with a few small adjustments for today’s palette. In addition to the old favorites, we will brew five other beers including house seasonal recipes and recipes from our Craft Beer Test Kitchen (CBTK).

The CBTK provides brewers at all stages the opportunity to rapid-prototype beer recipes in a live test market. The recipes will be brewed and served at Portner Brewhouse, then our staff will collect feedback and sales data from the brewpub patrons and provide the data back to the brewer. Just as Robert Portner was able to achieve the “American Dream,” we hope that we can assist others in the industry with similar aspirations.

The restaurant’s food and décor will contain a mix of American and German influences plus Robert Portner Brewing Company artifacts such as bottles, cork screws, and advertisements that ran in local newspapers.

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Beer Birthday: Lee Chase

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Today is the 44th birthday of Lee Chase, co-owner of Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego, and brewer at Automatic Brewing, located in the Blind Lady’s back room, and brewery consultant to the stars. Chase was also the head brewer at Stone Brewing for nearly a decade and oversaw the building and installation of the new brewery in Escondido. Lee’s a terrific brewer and a great beer ambassador, and also great fun to hang out with a share a pint, which I was able to do a few Decembers ago at the Stone Vertical Epic Tasting. Please join me in wishing Lee a very happy birthday.

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Lee at Beer School for CitySearch San Diego in 2008.

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Lee, with Meg Gill, Garrett Marrero and Matthew Brynildson at CBC in San Diego a few years ago.

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Greg Koch and Lee at the Stone 5th Anniversary Open House Celebration, which later became the “Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.”

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Lee with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner on April 14, 1999 celebrating their first bottling run on their then new Maheen bottler. [Note: photos purloined from Facebook & Stone Brewing.]

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Lee, and several other Stone employees, along with some other beer people, around 1996.

Historic Beer Birthday: Benjamin Truman

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Today is the birthday of Benjamin Truman (1699 or 1700-March 20, 1780). He “was a notable English entrepreneur and brewer during the 18th century. He is notable for the expansion of the Truman Brewery in the Spitalfields area of east London.” His exact birth date is unknown, so I’ll use the day he passed away in 1780.

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Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, painted between 1770-74.

This is biography from his Wikipedia page:

Truman followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both named Joseph Truman. Joseph Truman the elder inherited the Lolsworth Field brewery, William Bucknall’s Brewhouse, in 1694, and took his son into partnership in 1716 before dying in 1719. Benjamin Truman joined the firm in 1722, and proved himself a shrewd businessman:

“On the birth of the Duchess of Brunswick, granddaughter of George II, in August 1737, the Prince of Wales ordered four loads of faggots and a number of tar barrels to be burnt before Carlton House to celebrate the event, and directed the brewer of his household to place four barrels of beer near the bonfire for the use of those who chose to partake of the beverage. The beer proved to be of inferior quality and the people threw it into each other’s faces and the barrels into the fire. The prince remedied the matter on the following night by ordering a fresh quantity of beer from another brewer. This was supplied by Truman, who took care that it should be of the best, thus earning for himself considerable popularity.”

Under Truman’s management, the Black Eagle brewery increased substantially in prosperity and size, and Truman divided his time between the brewery’s Directors’ House and a home, Popes, in Hertfordshire.

Truman was knighted by George III on his accession in 1760 in recognition of his loyalty in contributing to the voluntary loans raised to carry on the various foreign wars. His portrait was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1773-1774); the latter has been part of the Tate Gallery collection since 1978.

Truman died on 20 March 1780, and left a daughter, his only child, whose two grandsons (Sir Benjamin’s great-grandchildren), John Freeman Villebois and Henry Villebois, succeeded to his interest in the business.

Truman was buried in the Churchyard of St Mary’s, Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire. Together with his memorial is that of his wife Dame Frances Truman who died 10 June 1766 aged 66 and James Truman Esq., died 11 November 1766 aged 42.

Truman’s wife, Frances, was a matrilineal descendant of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and the mitochondrial DNA descent through which the remains of Richard III of England were identified in 2013 passes through her and their daughter, also Frances:

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Another portrait of Truman, this one by George Romney.

This history of the brewery, which mentions Benjamin Truman, is from British History Online:

The Black Eagle Brewery at Spitalfields of Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co., Ltd., is one of the oldest in London and covers an area of over 6 acres. The founder was one Thomas Bucknall, who in 1669 erected a brewhouse on ‘Lolsworth Field at Spittlehope,’ an estate then belonging to Sir William Wheler, bart. The business passed in 1694 into the hands of Joseph Truman the elder, the property consisting of six messuages and one brewhouse. The remainder of the Wheler estate was built upon and covered with streets, and part of this property has since been acquired by the firm for the extension of their premises. Joseph Truman was a successful business man, and in 1716 took into partnership Joseph Truman, jun., Alud Denne, and others. He died in 1719, and a curious document of that date is in the firm’s possession described as ‘An inventory of the goods, chattels, and credits of Joseph Truman, which since his death have come into the hands, possession and knowledge of Benjamin Truman, Daniel Cooper, and the executors named in the will of Joseph Truman.’ Benjamin Truman who was an executor of Joseph Truman, sen., joined the firm in 1722. An anecdote which exhibits his shrewdness as a business man is told by J. P. Malcolm. On the birth of the Duchess of Brunswick, granddaughter of George II, in August 1737, the Prince of Wales ordered four loads of faggots and a number of tar barrels to be burnt before Carlton House to celebrate the event, and directed the brewer of his household to place four barrels of beer near the bonfire for the use of those who chose to partake of the beverage. The beer proved to be of inferior quality and the people threw it into each other’s faces and the barrels into the fire. The prince remedied the matter on the following night by ordering a fresh quantity of beer from another brewer. This was supplied by Truman, who took care that it should be of the best, thus earning for himself considerable popularity.

¶Another early document possessed by the firm, dated 1739, is endorsed, ‘A “rest” taken and general account stated of all debts and credits, and also of the malt, hoppes, coales, beer in the several store cellers and brewhouse, with all the other goods, utensells as affixt, used and employ’d in the brewing trade carried on by Benjamin Truman, John Denne, Francis Cooper, and the surviving executors of Alud Denne, at their brewhouse and several warehouses, situated in Brick Lane, in the parish of Christchurch, in the county of Middlesex.’ At this time the brewery was very extensive, and had on its books 296 publicans, one of whom was the second partner in the firm, Alud Denne. The business greatly prospered under the management of Benjamin Truman, who was knighted by George III on his accession in recognition of his loyalty in contributing to the voluntary loans raised to carry on the various foreign wars. Sir Benjamin was a man of refined taste and a lover of the arts; his portrait by Gainsborough is preserved in the board-room, formerly the drawing-room, of the house in Brick Lane. Sir Benjamin Truman died 20 March 1780, and left a daughter, his only child, whose two grandsons (Sir Benjamin’s great-grandchildren), John Freeman Villebois and Henry Villebois, succeeded to his interest in the business.

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The brewery on Brick Lane in London.

The original brewery was probably established by the Bucknall family, who leased the site in the seventeenth century. The site’s first associations with brewing can be traced back to 1666 when a Joseph Truman is recorded as joining William Bucknall’s Brewhouse in Brick Lane. Part of the site was located on Black Eagle Street, hence the brewery’s name. Truman appears to have acquired the lease of the brewery in 1679, upon the death of William Bucknell. Through the Truman family’s efforts – not least those of Sir Benjamin Truman (who joined the firm in 1722) – the business expanded rapidly over the following 200 years. By 1748 the Black Eagle Brewery was the third largest brewery in London, and likely the world, with 40,000 barrels produced annually.

In the mid-18th century Huguenot immigrants introduced a new beverage flavoured with hops, which proved very popular. Initially, Truman’s imported hops from Belgium, but Kent farmers were soon encouraged to grow hops to help the brewery meet growing demand.

Sir Benjamin died in March 1780 and, without a son to take on the business, it passed to his grandsons. In 1789, the brewery was taken over by Sampson Hanbury (Hanbury had been a partner since 1780; the Truman family became ‘sleeping partners’). Hanbury’s nephew, Thomas Fowell Buxton, joined the company in 1808, improved the brewing process, converted the works to steam power and, with the rapid expansion and improvement of Britain’s road and rail transport networks, the Black Eagle label soon became famous across Britain (by 1835, when Buxton took over the business upon Hanbury’s death, the brewery was producing some 200,000 barrels (32,000 m3) of porter a year).

The Brick Lane brewery – now known as Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co – took on new partners in 1816, the Pryor brothers (the company’s owners were renowned for their good treatment of their workers – providing free schooling – and for their support of abolitionism). By 1853 the brewery was the largest in the world, producing 400,000 barrels of beer each year, with a site covering six acres.

However, the company also faced competition from breweries based outside London – notably in Burton upon Trent, where the water was particularly suitable for brewing – and in 1873 the company acquired a brewery (Phillips) in Burton and began to build a major new brewery, named the Black Eagle after the original London site.

In 1888, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co became a public company with shareholders, but the balance of production was now shifting to Burton. The Brick Lane facility remained active through a take-over by the Grand Metropolitan Group in 1971 and a merger with Watney Mann in 1972, but it was in terminal decline. It eventually closed in 1989.

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Glenn Payne wrote the Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. entry for the Oxford Companion to Beer:

Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. was a venerable British brewery that operated for more than 3 centuries before it closed its doors in 1988. The original brewery was built on Lolsworth Field, Spitalhope, London, by Thomas Bucknall in 1669. He was soon joined by Joseph Truman, who became brewery manager in 1694. Joseph Truman brought Joseph Truman Jr into the company in 1716 and his executor, Sir Benjamin Truman, who took ownership of the business in 1722. Two years later a new brewery, The Black Eagle, was built on nearby Brick Lane, which grew to become Britain’s second largest brewery, employing some 1,000 people. Sir Benjamin died in 1780 without a direct male heir and left the brewery to his grandsons. In the same year, Sampson Hanbury became a partner and took over control in 1789. His nephew, Thomas Fowler Buxton, joined in 1808. He improved the brewing process by adopting innovations in brewing technology brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Outside his activities in the brewery, Buxton was a renowned philanthropist, and he was elected a member of Parliament in 1818. He was associated with William Wilberforce, a leader in the fight to end the British slave trade. By the time of his death in 1845, the brewery produced about 305,000 hl of porter annually. The brewery is even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1850). Seizing upon the growing influence of Burton as a brewing center in the 19th century, the company acquired the Phillips brewery there in 1887 and 2 years later became a public company. But its fortunes declined with the shift in popular taste away from porter toward pale ale near the end of the 19th century. In 1971, the brewery was acquired by the Grand Metropolitan Group, which, in turn, was merged into Watney Mann 1 year later. Thomas, Hanbury, and Buxton ceased production in 1988 but its brewery still stands on its site in Brick Lane, London, where it has been redeveloped into a complex of residential housing, offices, restaurants, galleries, and shops.

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They also later built a Black Eagle Brewery in Burton. As you’d expect, Martyn Cornell has an amazingly thorough account of Trumans, which he refers to as When Brick Lane was home to the biggest brewery in the world.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick J. Poth

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Today is the birthday of Frederick J. Poth (March 20, 1869-October 14, 1942). Though he spent most of his brewing career with his family’s brewery that his father founded in 1870, F. A. Poth & Sons’ Brewery, he interned at the Reading Brewing Co., near where I grew up.

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Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Brewer. He attended the Philadelphia public schools until fourteen years, after which he entered the Nazareth Hall Academy for two years. Lastly, he attended the Pierce Business College for two years. After his formal education, he worked for a year at the Reading Brewing Company in Reading, Pennsylvania. He next went to New York working in Ebling’s Brewing Company for a year. Returning to Philadelphia he began working for his father as foreman of the plant.

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The Poth brewery, from an illustration done in the early 1890s.

Here’s his obituary from the Chester Times, on October 19, 1942:

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The Poth & Sons Brewery around 1900.

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From a Poth family biography pamphlet:

He was born here March 20, i869, and is a son of Frederick A. and Helena M. Poth, whose sketch precedes this. Spending his youthful days in his parents’ home, Frederick J. Poth attended the public schools to the age of fourteen years, after which he entered the Nazareth Hall Academy, where he also spent two years. In further preparation for life’s practical and responsible duties he entered Pierce’s Business College, in which he remained as a student for two years, after which he went to Reading, Pennsylvania, where for one year he occupied a position with the Reading Brewing Company. He next went to New York and engaged with the Eblings Brewing Company for a year. Returning on the expiration of that period to Philadelphia he joined his father in the brewing business as foreman of the plant and also had charge of the office. After his father’s death he was elected president and has been very successful in the control and management of the business, which is now of large and profitable proportions, employment being furnished to one hundred and thirty-five men, while the capacity of the plant is five hundred thousand barrels per year. Mr. Poth was married in Philadelphia to Miss Mary C. Clarke, and they have two children. Frederick Clarke, two years of age; and Gilbert Leslie, who is in his first year. In his political views Mr. Poth is an earnest republican. He belongs to various German societies, in which he is popular, and he also holds membership with the Red Men and with the Masons. In the latter organization he has attained high rank, belonging to William G. Hamilton Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; Freeman Chapter, R. A. M.; Pennsylvania Commandery, K. T., and Lu Lu Temple of the Mystic Shrine. While he entered upon a business already established he has displayed an initiative spirit in further extending its interests and his life record proves that success is not a matter of genius, as held by some, but is rather the outcome of clear judgment, experience and indefatigable energy.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Edward Fitzgerald

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Today is the birthday of Edward Fitzgerald (March 19, 1820-March 19, 1896). He “was an Australian brewer and founder of the Castlemaine Brewery.” According to his short Wikipedia page. “Edward was born in 1820 in Galway to parents Francis Fitzgerald and Eleanor Joyes. His family owned and operated a distillery establishment at Nun’s Island, Galway. In 1854 Edward Fitzgerald migrated to Australia during the Victorian gold rush and established a brewery in the gold field town of Castlemaine.

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In 1859 his brother Nicholas Fitzgerald emigrated to Australia and joined him in the brewery business. By 1871 the name Castlemaine Brewery had been adopted, in 1875 the brothers opened a brewery in South Melbourne, and in 1885 the enterprise was turned into a public company. Breweries were opened right across the country and the brothers were involved in the establishment of the Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Brisbane which is home of the XXXX brand and is still brewing to this day.”

Unfortunately, while there are photos of his brother, I couldn’t find any of Edward, or any specific biographical information about him that wasn’t related to the brewery.

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And this short history is from the Castlemaine Perkins Wikipedia page:

In 1877, brothers Nicholas Fitzgerald and Edward Fitzgerald bought the site of a failing distillery and created a brewery, which they named after an existing brewery that they owned in Castlemaine, Victoria in the Victorian goldfields. They began to brew beer there in the following year and the brewery continues production to this day. The first beverage was called XXX Sparkling Ale.

In 1866, Patrick Perkins started the Perkins Brewery in Toowoomba. In 1872, he later extended his operations to Brisbane with the purchase of the City Brewery in 1872.

The company restricted its operations entirely to brewing by 1916. XXXX was introduced with new advertising campaign in 1924 after the brewery employed German brewer, Alhois William Leitner. The advertising included a depiction of a little man wearing a suit with a smile, a wink and a boater hat. The so-called ‘Fourex Man’ soon became one of the most recognised symbols in Queensland.

In 1928 (long after the death of Patrick Perkins in 1901), the Perkins brewing company was bought by the Castlemaine Brewery with new company being known as Castlemaine Perkins Limited.

Castlemaine Perkins was acquired in 1992 by drinks conglomerate Lion Nathan.

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The Castlemaine or Milton Brewery was established at Milton, Brisbane, in 1878 by Fitzgerald Quinlan & Co. The brothers Nicholas and Edward Fitzgerald had established brewing interests at Castlemaine in Victoria, and then in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Newcastle. In Brisbane, Quinlan Gray & Co. had taken over the interests of the Milton Distillery that was established on the site at Milton in 1870. The first brew by the new Milton Brewery was called Castlemaine XXX Sparkling Ale and was made to the same formula as the beer brewed by Castlemaine Brewery in Victoria. (Information taken from: Public Affairs Department, Castlemaine Perkins Limited, comp., History of the Castlemaine Perkins Brewery, 1877 – 1993, 1993).
This drawing of the brewery depicts some laden wagons in the street in front of the three-storey building. A worker stands alongside. The signage reads: Castlemaine Brewery, Fitzgerald, Quinlan & Co.

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The Castlemaine Brewery at Milton, Brisbane, 1879, from the State Library of Queensland.

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Beer Birthday: Ray Deter

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Today would have been the 60th birthday of Publican extraordinaire Ray Deter, who passed away tragically six summers ago after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in New York City. Ray was the owner of the d.b.a. beer bars in New York City (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and also New Orleans. He is most definitely missed by those of us who knew him. Please join me in raising a toast today to the memory of Ray Deter. Happy birthday Ray.

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Ray in front of the New Orleans d.b.a. with Garrett Oliver several years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Schaller

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Today is the birthday of Joseph Schaller (March 19, 1812-June 25, 1888), Schaller was born in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, but appears to have emigrated to Cincinnti, Ohio in 1837. He was a co-owner on the Eagle Brewery in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was known by various names names, such as the Schaller & Schiff Brewery and later the Schaller-Gerke Brewery. In addition, before he retired from brewing, he helped his three sons start the Schaller Brothers Main Street Brewery.

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Accounts seem to vary about his involvement, and especially with the names of the brewery as they changed, but here’s the timeline from the Queen City Chapter’s page, entitled Cincinnati Brewing History-Preprohibition 1811-1919:

1829: William Lofthouse and William Attee operate THE EAGLE BREWERY located on Fourth Street from 1829 until 1843. William Lofthouse becomes the sole proprietor of the brewery after William Attee dies in 1843 and he operates the brewery until his own death in 1850. His widow leases the brewery to Joseph Schaller and Johann Schiff who continue to use the EAGLE BREWERY name and operate the facility from 1850 to 1857.

1854: Joseph Schaller and Johann Schiff purchased land on the Miami-Erie Canal near Plum Street and construct a new brewery which they operate from 1854 to 1866. They continued to use the EAGLE BREWERY name. In 1866 Schaller buys out Schiff and he becomes a partner with John Gerke. The brewery name becomes SCHALLER & GERKE, EAGLE BREWERY. They continue in business together until 1882.

1861: Joseph Schaller buys out his partner, Johann Schiff, and continues to operate THE EAGLE BREWERY. In 1866, John Gerke becomes a partner in the business and the brewery operates until 1882.

1882: After John Gerke‘s death, his son, George, takes his place in the brewery and the business is incorporated as THE GERKE BREWING CO. In 1904, a new building is erected but is soon sold to the French-Bauer Dairy and the Gerke Brewing Co. is out of business by 1912.

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For example, Lagering Cellar 1861 has some Gerke Brewery History that includes Schaller.

Joseph Schaller came to America as a young man. Working as a laborer in Cincinnati and on the Erie Canal, he saved his money to start a vinegar works. He purchased the old Lofthouse Brewery (located on 4th Street) with Johann Schiff in 1850. While not trained as a brewer, he hired well. They quickly grew the business and built the Eagle Brewery at the corner of Plum and Canal in 1854.

The brewery was located at the Plum Street bend of the Miami & Erie Canal, and had large arched windows unique to Cincinnati breweries. These windows are duplicated in the doors to the elevator room you came through. Partnering with John Gerke, he grew the brewery to be one of the largest and most modern in the city, producing about 140,000 barrels of beer a year. Before retiring, he helped his three sons start the Schaller Brothers Main Street Brewery. Gerke continued brewing until 1912. Brewery was replaced with the French Bauer Ice Cream Factory in 1917, which still exists as the Court Street Center building today.

Gerke continued brewing until 1912.

Schaller & Schiff, Eagle Brewery (4th Street) 1850 – 1857
Schaller & Schiff, Eagle Brewery 1854 – 1866
Schaller & Gerke, Eagle Brewery 1866 – 1882
Gerke Brewing Company 1882 – 1912

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The first brewery on this corner was the Eagle Brewery from 1854 to 1866, owned by Joseph Schaller and Johann Schiff. In 1866, Schiff left the company and John Gerke joined in. The name was changed to Schaller & Gerke, Eagle Brewery and they continued together until 1882. The Schallers left the business then to purchase the Main Street Brewery and after the death of his father John, George Gerke continued the business at Canal and Plum Streets.

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Founded in 1854 as the Eagle Brewery closer to the Ohio River, Joseph Schaller and John Gerke built a new brewery at the bend of the Miami and Erie Canal in 1866. Beer was brewed there until 1910. The brewery equipment was sold at auction October 15, 1913.

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But the Schaller Brothers Main Street Brewery continued long after Joseph passed away, and they kept the Main Street Brewery name until 1896, after which time it was called the Schaller Brewing Co. After closing for prohibition, it reopened in 1933 and remained in business until 1941.

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