Ballantine’s Literary Ads: Ellery Queen

Between 1951 and 1953, P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company, or simply Ballentine Beer, created a series of ads with at least thirteen different writers. They asked each one “How would you put a glass of Ballantine Ale into words?” Each author wrote a page that included reference to their beer, and in most cases not subtly. One of them was Ellery Queen, who’s best known for writing a series of mystery stories.

Ellery Queen is not actually one person, but two: Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee. They “were American cousins from Brooklyn, New York who wrote, edited, and anthologized detective fiction under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen. The writers’ main fictional character, whom they also named Ellery Queen, is a mystery writer and amateur detective who helps his father, Richard Queen, a New York City police inspector, solve baffling murders.” Today is the birthday of Frederic Dannay (October 20, 1905–September 3, 1982), and his co-writer, Manfred Bennington Lee, was born the same year (January 11, 1905–April 3, 1971).


Their piece for Ballantine was done as if it was one of their cases, but it was less a mystery and more a simple contrast of two unrelated events that both took place the same year. It seems a bit forced, actually, and comes across like pure propaganda, even more so than the other ads in this series.


1840: Edgar A. Poe was preparing to give the world its first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” an all-time classic marked by three great qualities: Purity of conception, full-bodied plot, and a style and technique of matchless flavor.

1840: Peter Ballantine created his unique ale and sampled his first brew. Setting down his glass, he exclaimed, “Purity!” A second sip made him exclaim, “Body!” a third, “Flavor!”

Edgar Allen Poe’s Tale, Peter Ballantine’s Ale — American classics with the same three great qualities. Even the Ballantine Ale trade-mark carries out the coincidence of “threes.” For the triple overlapping rings made when Peter Ballantine set down his moist glass on the table top created his 3-ring trade-mark. To this day it sets the standard for Purity, Body and Flavor to connoisseurs of ale everywhere.


Historic Beer Birthday: Johann Georg Sohn

Today is the birthday of Johann Georg Sohn (October 20, 1817-October 24, 1876). He was born in Bavaria, but settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1845, he co-founded the Hamilton Brewery, which was later known as the J.G. Sohn & Company Brewery. It was also known as the Clyffside Brewing Co., and used the trade name Feldsbrau. Johann’s sons took over after his death, and it was sold in 1907 and became known as the William G. Sohn Brewing Co. and later the Mohawk Brewing Co. After prohibition, it reopened as the Clyffside Brewing. After World War 2, it was renamed the Red Top Brewing before closing for good in 1958. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find very much biographical information about Sohn, and only a little about his brewery.


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

Clyffside Brewing Company is a defunct brewery in Cincinnati, located on the site of Hamilton Brewery, founded in 1845 by Johann Sohn and George Klotter as the Hamilton Brewery. By 1853, the company becane known as the Klotter, Sohn and Company. In 1866, Sohn bought out Klotter, and Klotter went on to establish his own brewery on Klotter Street. Sohn renamed the brewery the J.G. Sohn & Company Brewery, and it became the tenth largest of its type in Cincinnati. In November 1900, the company was reorganized as the William S. Sohn Brewing Company when Sohn sold out his interest. In 1907, Sohn was purchased by Mohawk Brewery, and was known for its Zinzinnati Beer.


Cincinnati Brewing History has the following to say about the brewery:

George Klotter left the Klotter, Sohn, & Co. Brewery partnership to pursue his own proprietorship, at which point Johann George Sohn brought in Louis Sohngen and Heinrich Schlosser as partners. The new partnership would operate under the name of J.G. Sohn & Co. Brewery. Sohn ran the business until his death in 1876.

After Sohn’s death, leadership of the company was assumed by his sons, J.G. Sohn Jr., William, and J. Edward. J.G. Sohn Jr. died in 1880 and the other two brothers continued to operate the brewery together until 1900, at which time J. Edward left to join the Schaller Brothers Brewery. Shortly thereafter William would rename the brewery as the William S. Sohn Brewery, however he died in 1902. After William’s death his wife, Lena Jung Sohn ran the brewery until 1907, as she was intimately familiar with the industry by way of her father, another Cincinnati brewer.


Abandoned, the story of a forgotten America, also has a page about the Clyffside Brewing Company




Patent No. 7604147B2: Keg With An Inner Bag

Today in 2009, US Patent 7604147 B2 was issued, an invention of Ian Anderson, assigned to Anheuser-Busch InBev S.A., for his “Keg with an Inner Bag.” Here’s the Abstract:

An interlocking collar (72) secures a bag neck (46) in a keg aperture (42) of an alcohol beverage keg container (22). The interlocking collar is mounted in press fit surrounding relation with a peripheral wall portion of the bag neck. The collar has an outer peripheral wall portion sized larger than that of a keg aperture. The collar (72) has a recessed groove (76) in the collar outer peripheral wall portion for receiving in press fitting and sealing relation a keg flange (40) that defines the keg aperture. The collar outer peripheral wall portion has a resilient edge portion (78) adjacent the recessed groove that deflects to permit the interlocking collar to pass through the keg aperture and receive the keg flange in the recessed groove. The interlocking collar has a plurality of locking passageways (80) placed around the interlocking collar and axially extending through the interlocking collar between the neck and recessed groove. A latch member (82) has a plurality of locking fingers (84) that extend axially through the locking passageways to prevent deflection of the resilient edge portion of the interlocking collar after the collar is placed in the keg aperture.




Patent No. 3613954A: Dispensing Apparatus

Today in 1971, US Patent 3613954 A was issued, an invention of Peter D. Bayne, assigned to Schlitz Brewing Co., for his “Dispensing Apparatus.” Here’s the Abstract:

The invention relates to a dispensing unit for dispensing a beverage containing dissolved carbon dioxide and which utilizes a liquified fluorocarbon gas as a pressurizing medium. The unit includes a closed container containing a beverage having dissolved carbon dioxide. The liquified fluorocarbon gas is contained i a separate reservoir which communicates directly with the headspace of the container above the liquid level. As the beverage is drawn from the container, the volume of the headspace of the container increases, thereby decreasing the pressure in the headspace and resulting in the vaporization of additional quantities of the liquified fluorocarbon gas which act to maintain the desired counterbalancing pressure within the headspace to keep the carbon dioxide in solution in the beverage.


Patent No. 2096088A: Method And Apparatus For Conditioning And Dispensing Beer

Today in 1937, US Patent 2096088 A was issued, an invention of Lioyd G. Copeman, for his “Method and Apparatus For Conditioning and Dispensing Beer.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to a method and apparatus for conditioning and dispensing beer, and has to do particularly with beer conditioning and dispensing apparatus of the portable type.

One of the main objects of the present invention resides in the use of solidified CO2 as a cooling and conditioning medium. A further feature of the invention has to do with the immersion of beer conditioning and dispensing means directly in the beer itself, but in such a manner that the beer is not cooled below normal palatable temperature; in the preferred form the beer is even pre-cooled before being placed in the container whereby the main function of the-immersed means is to condition the beer and to some extent maintain the same in its cooled condition.

Other features have to do with wall structure for separating the solid CO2 from the liquid and having a predetermined insulating effect whereby heat transfer will be so retarded as to keep the beer above its minimum palatable temperature.

Other features include the general structure of the portable container and also details of regulable conducting means for varying temperature of the liquid, as-will be more clearly set forth in the specification and claims.


Patent No. 772888A: Cork Extractor

Today in 1904, US Patent 772888 A was issued, an invention of Joseph Kaiser, for his “Cork Extractor.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

My invention relates to improvements in devices for extracting corks from bottles. Its which object is to provide a simple inexpensive compact means accompanying every bottle for removing the cork entire.

It consists of the parts and the construction and combination of parts hereinafter more fully described, having reference to the accompanying drawings, in which Figure l is a front elevation of metal strip. Fig. 2 is a side elevation of metal strip, showing projections for engaging cork. Fig. 3 is a modification of the device. Fig. 4 is a partial section showing method of extracting cork. Fig. 5 shows the device used as a cork protector and Wired down, as for shipment.

In carrying out my invention I employ two flexible metal strips, each comprising a shank portion A and a head 2. The shank is provided with a series of spurs 3 on one side or other suitable means for engaging the periphery of the cork. These spurs are preferably formed by indenting the opposite sides of the shank with a prick-punch. The head 2 is preferably round and of a size not to exceed the exposed end of the cork and is perforated,


Patent No. 3279493A: Valve Assembly For Kegs

Today in 1966, US Patent 3279493 A was issued, an invention of David Zurit and Michael J. Parisi, assigned to the Tap Rite Products Corp., for their “Valve Assembly For Kegs.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to apparatus for tapping liquid containing vessels, such as beer kegs. The invention will be described as embodied in beer-tapping apparatus, but some features are not so limited within the scope of the appended claims. More particularly, the invention relates to apparatus that fits into the tapping hole of a keg and that has a valve which seals the opening when in one position and which leaves the interior of the keg in communication with a beer line or faucet when in another position.

It is an object of the invention to provide tapping apparatus of the character indicated with an improved vertically extending inlet that can be made long enough for withdrawing the contents of the keg down to the last few ounces of liquid within the keg.

It is a more specific object of the invention to provide a valve of the character indicated with an inlet fitting that turns with the valve and that moves into a position where it is exposed to the free flow of cleaning fluid in the keg when the valve is closed and the keg is in position for Washing.

It is another object of the invention to provide an improved valve construction with a static sealing disk having a novel structure for preventing rotation of the seal and having a shape that forms with the other parts of the apparatus a channel for unobstructed drainage of cleaning fluid from the inlet fitting of the value.


Patent No. 1930492A: Combination Bottle Opener, Jar Top Remover, And Corkscrew

Today in 1933, US Patent 1930492 A was issued, an invention of Henry G. Thompson, for his “Combination Bottle Opener, Jar Top Remover, and Corkscrew.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to a combined bottle cap opener, jar-top remover, and cork-screw. A primary object of the invention is to provide a simple and efficient device of this character, which may be mounted on a suitable support and which maybe used either for removing bottle caps, jar covers generally found on olive jars, jam jars, etc., and also for withdrawing corks.

A further object of the invention is to provide a-combination jar top remover, bottle cap remover and cork screw of a minimum number of parts, which parts will be very simple in construction, easily and economically assembled and which will result in a very rigid structure.


The London Beer Flood Of 1814

Today was a dark day in a certain part of London, known as the Parish of St. Giles. On October 17, 1814, an incident which became known as the London Beer Flood took place. Here’s the basic account, from Wikipedia:

At the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, a huge vat containing over 135,000 imperial gallons (610,000 L) of beer ruptured, causing other vats in the same building to succumb in a domino effect. As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons (1,470,000 L) of beer burst out and gushed into the streets. The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub, trapping teenage employee Eleanor Cooper under the rubble. Within minutes neighbouring George Street and New Street were swamped with alcohol, killing a mother and daughter who were taking tea, and surging through a room of people gathered for a wake.

One source claimed this engraving appeared shortly after the incident, an artists rendition, so to speak, but I’ve since learned it very recent, created by a London artist, Chris Bianchi, for Completely London, and given the title “It’ll All End in Beer.”


The flood occurred at Meux’s Brewery Co Ltd., which was established in 1764, It was a London brewery owned by Sir Henry Meux. Meux, like many modern brewers, bought out smaller breweries. One of the breweries it acquired was the Horse Shoe Brewery (founded by a Mr Blackburn, and famous for its ‘black beer’), located on the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, London. Atop the Horse Shoe stood several large vats of beer. The largest was the porter vat – a 22-foot-high monstrosity that held 511,920 litres of beer, in turn held together by a total of 29 large iron hoops. For some idea of its vastness, The Times report of 1 April, 1785 read:

There is a cask now building at Messrs. Meux & Co.’s brewery…the size of which exceeds all credibility, being designed to hold 20,000 barrels of porter; the whole expense attending the same will be upwards of £10,000.

Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery, c. 1830.

The following account of the incident is from Historic UK:

On Monday 17th October 1814, a terrible disaster claimed the lives of at least 8 people in St Giles, London. A bizarre industrial accident resulted in the release of a beer tsunami onto the streets around Tottenham Court Road.

The Horse Shoe Brewery stood at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. In 1810 the brewery, Meux and Company, had had a 22 foot high wooden fermentation tank installed on the premises. Held together with massive iron rings, this huge vat held the equivalent of over 3,500 barrels of brown porter ale, a beer not unlike stout.

On the afternoon of October 17th 1814 one of the iron rings around the tank snapped. About an hour later the whole tank ruptured, releasing the hot fermenting ale with such force that the back wall of the brewery collapsed. The force also blasted open several more vats, adding their contents to the flood which now burst forth onto the street. More than 320,000 gallons of beer were released into the area. This was St Giles Rookery, a densely populated London slum of cheap housing and tenements inhabited by the poor, the destitute, prostitutes and criminals.

The flood reached George Street and New Street within minutes, swamping them with a tide of alcohol. The 15 foot high wave of beer and debris inundated the basements of two houses, causing them to collapse. In one of the houses, Mary Banfield and her daughter Hannah were taking tea when the flood hit; both were killed.
In the basement of the other house, an Irish wake was being held for a 2 year old boy who had died the previous day. The four mourners were all killed. The wave also took out the wall of the Tavistock Arms pub, trapping the teenage barmaid Eleanor Cooper in the rubble. In all, eight people were killed. Three brewery workers were rescued from the waist-high flood and another was pulled alive from the rubble.

All this ‘free’ beer led to hundreds of people scooping up the liquid in whatever containers they could. Some resorted to just drinking it, leading to reports of the death of a ninth victim some days later from alcoholic poisoning.

‘The bursting of the brew-house walls, and the fall of heavy timber, materially contributed to aggravate the mischief, by forcing the roofs and walls of the adjoining houses.’ The Times, 19th October 1814.
Some relatives exhibited the corpses of the victims for money. In one house, the macabre exhibition resulted in the collapse of the floor under the weight of all the visitors, plunging everyone waist-high into a beer-flooded cellar.

The stench of beer in the area persisted for months afterwards. The brewery was taken to court over the accident but the disaster was ruled to be an Act of God, leaving no one responsible.

The flood cost the brewery around £23000 (approx. £1.25 million today). However the company were able to reclaim the excise duty paid on the beer, which saved them from bankruptcy. They were also granted ₤7,250 (₤400,000 today) as compensation for the barrels of lost beer.

This unique disaster was responsible for the gradual phasing out of wooden fermentation casks to be replaced by lined concrete vats. The Horse Shoe Brewery was demolished in 1922; the Dominion Theatre now sits partly on its site.

Toten Hall house in Tottenham Court Road, destroyed by the beer flood.

This is from h2g2 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition.

Come October of 1814, the beer had been fermenting atop the brewery for months (as was the need with porter), and the metal and wood of this huge vat was, unbeknownst to the majority of the brewery workers3, beginning to show the strain of holding back the thousands of litres. Suddenly, at about 6.00pm, one of the heavy metal hoops snapped and the contents of the porter vat exploded out – quite literally – causing a chain reaction with the surrounding vats. The resulting noise was apparently heard as far away as five miles!

A total of 1,224,000 litres of beer under pressure smashed through the twenty-five foot high brick wall of the building, and gushed out into the surrounding area – the slum of St Giles. Many people lived in crowded conditions here, and some were caught by the waves of beer completely unaware. The torrent flooded through houses, demolishing two in its wake, and the nearby Tavistock Arms pub in Great Russell Street suffered too, its 14-year-old barmaid Eleanor Cooper buried under the rubble. The Times reported on 19 October of the flood:

The bursting of the brew-house walls, and the fall of heavy timber, materially contributed to aggravate the mischief, by forcing the roofs and walls of the adjoining houses.

Fearful that all the beer should go to waste, though, hundreds of people ran outside carrying pots, pans, and kettles to scoop it up – while some simply stooped low and lapped at the liquid washing through the streets. However, the tide was too strong for many, and as injured people began arriving at the nearby Middlesex Hospital there was almost a riot as other patients demanded to know why they weren’t being supplied with beer too – they could smell it on the flood survivors, and were insistent that they were missing out on a party! Calm was quickly restored at the hospital, but out in the streets was a different matter.

Back at the brewery, one man managed to save his brother from going under the vast wave, but as the tide receded the true damage could be discovered. The beer tsunami left nine people dead4; many had drowned (like Mary Mulvey and her 3-year-old son Thomas), others were swept away in the flood and died of the injuries they sustained (two young children: Hannah Banfield, 4, and Sarah Bates, 3), and the final victim actually succumbed some days later of alcohol poisoning – such was his heroic attempt to stem the tide by drinking as much beer as he humanly could.

Because of the poverty of the area, relatives of the drowned took to exhibiting their families’ corpses in their homes and charging a fee for viewing. In one house, though, too many people crowded in and the floor gave out, plunging them all into a cellar half full of beer. This morbid exhibition moved locations, attracting more custom – and eventually the police, who closed the doors on the horrible circus. Later, the funerals of the dead were paid for by the St Giles population, coins left on their coffins. The stench of the beer apparently lasted for months, and after the initial excitement, many found both their homes and livelihoods swept away with the flood. In amongst the misery of clearing away the dead and cleaning up the streets, though, there was compassion. The Times concluded:

The emotion and humanity with which the labourers proceeded in their distressing task excited a strong interest, and deserves warm approbation.

The Meux Brewery Company was taken to court over the accident, but the judge ruled that although devastating, the flood was an ‘Act of God’ and the deaths6 were simply by ‘casualty’. In other words, no party was to blame, and the company continued working despite the incident. Up until 1961 that is, when it was sold to Friary, Holroyd and Healy’s Brewery Ltd of Guildford. The firm became Friary Meux Ltd for only three years, before being bought outright by Ind Coope (& Allsop) of Burton-on-Trent.

Apparently the only eyewitness account to the flood was from an American tourist who chose the wrong shortcut:

All at once, I found myself borne onward with great velocity by a torrent which burst upon me so suddenly as almost to deprive me of breath. A roar as of falling buildings at a distance, and suffocating fumes, were in my ears and nostrils. I was rescued with great difficulty by the people who immediately collected around me, and from whom I learned the nature of the disaster which had befallen me. An immense vat belonging to a brew house situated in Banbury street [sic – now Bainbridge Street], Saint Giles, and containing four or five thousand barrels of strong beer, had suddenly burst and swept every thing before it. Whole dwellings were literally riddled by the flood; numbers were killed; and from among the crowds which filled the narrow passages in every direction came the groans of sufferers.


There are quite a few more accounts, such as History Nuggets, Damn Interesting, the History Channel, and The Independent. But naturally, the best account os from Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, in So what REALLY happened on October 17 1814?

Meux’s Horseshoe Brewery, around 1906.

This version of the story, a bit altered from reality, appeared in the comic book “Doctor Who #4″ (December 2012), with a script by Brandon Seifert, pencils by Philip Bond, inks by Ilias Kyriazis, colors by Charlie Kirchoff, and letters by Tom B. Long:



Layout 1

Layout 1

And here’s a short video on the flood, from American Adventure Survival Science (and please note, the host is wearing a Bagby Beer Co. shirt):

Patent No. 266126A: Beer Pump

Today in 1882, US Patent 266126 A was issued, an invention of John Fowler, for his “Beer Pump.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention has relation to beer-pumps used in distilleries for pumping beer and mash; and it consists in the novel construction and arrangement of parts, as will be hereinafter fully described, and particularly pointed out in the claims.