Beer Birthday: Fritz Maytag

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Fritz Maytag, who bought the failing Anchor Brewery in 1965 and turned it into a model for the microbrewery revolution, celebrates his 79th birthday today. It’s no stretch to call Fritz the father of craft beer, he introduced so many innovations that are common today and influenced countless brewers working today. A few years ago, Maytag sold Anchor Brewery and Distillery to Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio of the Griffin Group, but continues to make his York Creek wine and consult with Anchor as Chairman Emeritus. I was happy to see him again earlier this year when I was invited to introduce him to receive an award from the Northern California Brewers Guild in Sacramento. Join me in wishing Fritz a very happy birthday.

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Fritz Maytag at the Anchor Christmas party in 2006 with fellow Anchor-ites John Dannerbeck and Mark Carpenter.

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Fritz with the organizers of SF Beer Week at our inaugural opening event at Anchor in 2009.

Speakers at the Symposium: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie Bamforth
Fritz with fellow speakers at the Herbst Museum Symposium a couple of years ago, from left: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie Bamforth.

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Ken Grossman, me and Fritz at a beer dinner at Anchor celebrating Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary.

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Me and Fritz at the Anchor Christmas Party a few years ago.

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Me and Fritz at the California Beer Summit this September.

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Jack McAuliffe and Fritz in Sacramento earlier this year to accept an award from the Northern California Brewers Guild.

Beer In Ads #2119: The ‘A’ And Eagle Has Learned To Fly


Thursday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1943. In this ad, featuring the Bald Eagle soaring with U.S. war planes in a nakedly patriotic ad (it was mid-WW2 after all), you’ll be surprised to learn what the ad is actually about. Despite the all-American imagery, the ad is about refrigeration, and gliders, and how A-B converted their refrigeration division to make gliders for the military to help the war effort. And if you look at the bottom, A-B was doing a lot for the war effort, and wasn’t shy about letting people now, probably still smarting from the prohibition years and trying to get back in their customers’ and especially the teetotalers good graces.

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Order Of Cistercians Of The Strict Observance

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Today, December 8, 1892, the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or O.C.S.O. (Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae), was formally decreed, though you may know them by another name: Trappists. Pope Leo XIII called a plenary general chapter in Rome, and with Cardinal Mazzella as president, the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars negotiated and created the new order, and the decree was titled the “General of the Order of the Reformed Cistercians of Our Lady of La Trappe.”

Essentially, it’s “a Roman Catholic religious order of cloistered contemplative monastics who follow the Rule of St. Benedict. A branch of the Order of Cistercians, they have communities of both monks and nuns, commonly referred to as Trappists and Trappistines, respectively.” The Cistercians began around 1098, but the Trappist subgroup within them is only 124 years old.

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The monastery at Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval.

Here’s their basic history:

The order takes its name from La Trappe Abbey or La Grande Trappe, located in the French province of Normandy. A reform movement began there in 1664, in reaction to the relaxation of practices in many Cistercian monasteries. Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, originally the commendatory abbot of La Trappe, led the reform. As commendatory abbot, de Rancé was a layman who obtained income from the monastery but had no religious obligations. After a conversion of life between 1660 and 1662, de Rancé formally joined the abbey and became its regular abbot in 1663. In 1892 the reformed “Trappists” broke away from the Cistercian order and formed an independent monastic order with the approval of the pope.

As of the beginning of this year, there were 102 Trappist monasteries worldwide, including seventeen in the United States. Within the order, there are 681 priests and 1,693 total persons living and working at the monasteries. Of those monasteries, about twenty of them are regulated by the International Trappist Association, which provides a protected trademark for products made and sold by Trappist monasteries. Product made by Trappists vary widely, and just in the category of food include bread, mushrooms, chocolates, jam, pea soup, honey, cheese, biscuits, liquors, olive oil, wine, and, of course, beer.

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The brewery at the Abbey of Saint-Remy in Rochefort.

There used to be fewer, but with a number of recent additions, there are now a dozen Trappist breweries listed on the ITA website from six countries. Belgium still has the most, with Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren. The Netherlands has two, with La Trappe and Zundert. Then there’s one a piece from Austria (Stift Engelszell), France (Mont des Cats), Italy (Tre Fontane) and the United States (Spencer).

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The Abbey of Saint-Remy in Rochefort.

Here’s another short description of them, from the Free Dictionary:

Trappists, popular name for an order of Roman Catholic monks, officially (since 1892) the Reformed Cistercians or Cistercians of the Stricter Observance. They perpetuate the reform begun at La Trappe, Orne dept., France, by Armand de Rancé (c.1660). The reformer’s aim was to restore primitive Cistercian (hence also primitive Benedictine) life; actually the Trappists surpassed both St. Benedict and St. Bernard in austerity. The reform was acclaimed in the world, but many Cistercians resisted it. The whole order was affected, but some abbeys never accepted the reform as such. The life of Trappists is one of strict seclusion from the world. Working hours are devoted to common and private worship, labor (often manual), and study; there is no recreation, meat is eaten only by the sick, and silence is observed except under unusual circumstances, but not by vow. Lay brothers do much of the farming, a peculiarly Cistercian practice. In the 19th and 20th cent. the Trappists shared in the revival of monasticism and expanded greatly. There are 12 abbeys in the United States. The head of the order, the abbot general of Cîteaux, lives in Rome.

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The gate at the Saint-Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren, where you can pick up beer by the case.

And finally, here’s a more thorough overview, from “An Introductory History of The Cistercians,” by M. Basil Pennington, OCSO:

Beginnings

On 21 March 1098, the saintly abbot of the thriving Benedictine Abbey of Molesme, Robert, led twenty-one of his monks into the inhospitable thickets of Citeaux to establish a new monastery where they hoped to follow Benedict of Nursia’s Rule for Monasteries in all its fullness. The unhappy monks of Molesme, grieved at the loss of their holy leader, soon obtained a papal command for his return. The new struggling community continued until 1109 under the leadership of Alberic, who introduced the idea of lay brothers being accepted as full members of the monastic family, making it possible for the monks to be free to follow all the demands of the Benedictine Rule. Stephen Harding, who succeeded Alberic at the helm of the community, welcomed the dynamic Bernard of Fontaines, who came in 1112 with thirty relatives in tow. Thus began the saga of Citeaux.

The Charter of Charity

Before Bernard died in 1153 he had not only founded the great Abbey of Clairvaux which would become a focal point for all of Christendom but he personally sent forth men to start sixty-five other houses while his brother abbots started another 235. Stephen and the other founders were determined to keep alive the pristine observance of the Rule which they had come to Citeaux to establish. To this purpose they created a Charta caritatis, a constitution which bound all Cistercian abbots to come to Citeaux annually for a general chapter. It also bound all the houses to a common observance and set up a system of visitation which respected the autonomy of each house but assured its fidelity.

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Expansion and Decline

The order continued to expand: by 1200 there were over 500 houses; on the eve of the Reformation, the records showed 742. In time geography began to defeat these model means of regularity which were eventfully adopted by all other religious orders. The decline in the number of recruits had its effect. But most destructive was the practice of the ecclesiastical and secular powers to give the abbatial office to clerics who had no interest in the well-being of the monastery, only in its revenues, leaving the monks without guidance and financial means. In some instances secular powers required the monks to take on active ministries, in others the monks did this on their own. There were repeated attempts at reform, most notably in the century after the Council of Trent.

The Trappist Reform

In 1664 Pope Alexander VII recognized within the Cistercian Order two observances, the Common and the Strict, sometimes called the “abstinents” for their fidelity to Benedict’s prohibition of the use of flesh meat in the monastic diet. Among these latter arose Armand Jean de Rancé, a commendatory abbot who underwent a conversion and brought about in his Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe a renewal in the practice of monastic enclosure, silence, and manual labor, expressing a spirit of apartness from all worldliness and a dedication to prayer and penance. By the disposition of Divine Providence his was the one community that escaped complete destruction and dispersion at the hands of the French Revolution.

Trappist Expansion

In the course of many and varied travels under the leadership of Augustine de Lestrange the community was able to establish foundations in Spain, Belgium, England, Italy and the United States. When the monks returned to re-establish La Trappe after the downfall of Napoleon, Vincent de Paul Merle remained in America to establish the first permanent Cistercian community in the New World which today flourishes in Spencer, Massachusetts: Saint Joseph’s Abbey. Monasteries of the Common Observance continued in eastern Europe in many cases operating schools and pastoring parishes.

The Order of Citeaux

In 1892 Pope Leo sought to bring all the Cistercian houses back together into one order but pastoral responsibilities and national loyalties made it impossible for the Common Observance houses who were divided into many national congregations to unite with the Strict Observance who were at that time largely French and who had opted for the strict monastic heritage of the Cistercian founders. Thus the Pope recognized two Cistercian Orders, called today the Order of Citeaux and the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, popularly known as the Trappists. The Order of Citeaux suffered greatly under the communist onslaught, not only in eastern Europe but also in Vietnam, where it had a congregation of five houses. On the other hand, the Strict Observance began to flower on the eve of the Second World War and continued to grow until it had over a hundred houses located on all six continents. Only in Yugoslavia and China did its houses suffer at the hands of communism. With the renewal of the Second Vatican Council both orders have written new constitutions which retain the reforming features of Saint Stephen Harding, the general chapter (though no longer annual, usually every three years) and visitations by the superior of the founding abbey.

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Though not a Trappist brewery, the closest O.C.S.O. monastery to me is the Abbey of New Clairvaux, which is a short drive from Chico. For a few years now, they’ve partnered with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to create the Ovila line of beers.

Patent No. 572708A: Beer Bottling Apparatus

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Today in 1896, US Patent 572708 A was issued, an invention of Charles Meldrum, for his “Beer Bottling Apparatus.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Prior to my invention it has been the usual custom to fill bottles with beer from the keg by employing flexible rubber tubes which are passed down through the open bung-hole into the beer and siphoning the beer through these tubes into the bottles. The disadvantages in bottling beer in this manner are that too much air is admitted through the open bung-hole and the beer is subjected to unnecessary agitation in being siphoned over, all of which results in the liberation and escape of sufficient gas to materially effect the life of the beer. Then, too, any sediment or impurities which may be present in the beer in the keg are carried over into the bottles, which is also a serious objection.

-The object of my present invention is to overcome these defects in a simple and effective manner; and to that end it consists of a passage or conductor one end of which is adapted for tight insertion and removable retention in the bung-hole on the lower side of the keg and provided with a vent-tube which passes up through the beer and into the air-space above, the other end having a chamber across which is placed a strainer and a series of outlet-passages arranged in the wall of the straining-chamber and adapted for engagement with a series of flexible tubes, through which the strained beer passes by gravity into the bottles.

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Anchor Christmas Ale 1999

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It’s day twenty-five of my seasonal scamper to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

1999 was the twenty-fifth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and this year marked another year that Anchor’s Our Special Ale included spices. Like the previous year’s, a spiced brown ale was created for the year’s Christmas Ale. This twenty-fifth label was a “Desert Ironwood,” or “Olneya tesota.”

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Beer Birthday: Peter Licht

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Today is the 50th birthday — the Big 5-0 — of Peter Licht, brewmaster at Hermitage Brewing. Peter grew up in Rochester, New York but came to California to attend the master brewers program at U.C. Davis in 1994, and ended up staying in the Bay Area. When I first met him, he was brewing at Coast Range Brewing in the South Bay. When that brewery folded, he joined the San Jose Tied House, and moved with the equipment to when they closed to the brewpub to create the Hermitage Brewery at a new location and he’s been there ever since. Peter made some great contract beer for me at Coast Range (when I was at BevMo) and I was happy to see him land at Hermitage, where he’s continued to brew a wide range of great beers. Join me in wishing Peter a very happy birthday.

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Hermitage assistant brewer, Steve Donohue (now at Santa Clara Valley Brewing), Peter and me during a visit to the Hermitage Brewery in San Jose a few years ago.

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Peter in front of Hermitage’s foeder.

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An arty shot on Hermitage’s old brewhouse, which used to be at the San Jose Tied House. My favorite wedding photo is Sarah and me on this same brewhouse during our reception there twenty years ago.

Patent No. 331873A: Baling Press

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Today in 1885, US Patent 331873 A was issued, an invention of Murray H. Durst, for his “Baling Press.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

My invention relates to certain improvements in balling-presses; and it consists in certain details of construction, power, and means of application, all of which will be more fully described by reference to the accompanying drawings, in which- Figure 1 is a general view of the press. Fig. 2 shows the lower part of the press with the door closed. Fig. 3 is a view of the mechanism for raising and lowering the follower. Fig. 4 is a section of the same. Fig. 5 is a vertical section of the press.

This press is especially designed for the pressing of hops, and is preferably so built that the upper end of the vertical case or box A will be on a level with or under the floor upon which the hops are contained, while the lower end, having discharge-doors B, communicates with the floor below. The follower C fits the press-box A, and has arms D extend ing Vertically upward from it and hinged to a crossbar, E, the ends of which are strongly secured to the vertical timbers F. These timbers move in vertical guides G, as shown, and when drawn down will force the follower down to the bottom of the press-box, and when raised will elevate it, so that when it arrives at a point just above the top of the box and the level of the floor with which it communicates the follower will be swung to one side about the hinges by which its supporting-timbers D are connected with the transverse bar E, before described.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Theodor Schwann

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Today is the birthday of Theodor Schwann (December 7, 1810–January 11, 1882). He “was a German physiologist. His many contributions to biology include the development of cell theory, the discovery of Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system, the discovery and study of pepsin, the discovery of the organic nature of yeast, and the invention of the term metabolism.”

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So Schwann appears to have made several important contributions to science, but his most important one, for my purposes, is that his discovery of the organic nature of yeast influenced Pasteur.

Schwann was the first of Johannes Peter Müller’s pupils to break with vitalism and work towards a physico-chemical explanation of life. Schwann also examined the question of spontaneous generation, which led to its eventual disconfirmation. In the early 1840s, Schwann went beyond others who had noted simply the multiplication of yeast during alcoholic fermentation, as Schwann assigned the yeast the role of primary causal factor, and then went further and claimed it was alive. Embattled controversy ensued as eminent chemists alleged that Schwann was undoing scientific progress by reverting to vitalism.

After publishing anonymous mockery in a journal of their own editorship, they published a purely physicochemical if also hypothetical explanation of the interaction resulting in fermentation. As both the rival perspectives were hypothetical, and there was not even an empirical definition of ‘life’ to hold as a reference frame, the controversy—as well as interest itself—fell into obscurity unresolved. Pasteur began fermentation researches in 1857 by approximately just repeating and confirming Schwann’s, yet Pasteur accepted that yeast were alive, thus dissolving the controversy over their living status, and then Pasteur took fermentation researches further.

In retrospect, the germ theory of Pasteur, as well as its antiseptic applications by Lister, can be traced to Schwann’s influence.

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In his biography on Famous Scientists, under the section entitled “Microbes, Yeast and Fermentation” it discusses his influence on Pasteur’s work on yeast in fermentation:

Schwann identified the role that microorganisms played in alcohol fermentation and putrefaction. He carried out a variety of fermentation experiments and by 1836 had gathered enough evidence to convince himself that the conversion of sugar to alcohol during fermentation was a biological process that required the action of a living substance (yeast) rather than a chemical process of sugar oxidation.

Unfortunately, Schwann’s explanation of fermentation was ridiculed by other scientists. Acceptance only came with Louis Pasteur’s work over a decade later. Pasteur later wrote in a letter to Schwann:

“For twenty years past I have been travelling along some of the paths opened up by you.”

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Letter to Schwann, 1878

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In a deeper dive about the history of yeast on Think Write Publish, entitled “For the Love of Yeast: A little cell at the cutting edge of big science,” by Molly Bain and Niki Vermeulen, in Chapter 2, they discuss Schwann, Pasteur and others unlocking the secrets of yeast’s role in fermentation:

People had been using yeast—spooning off its loamy, foamy scum from one bread bowl or wine vat and inserting it in another—for thousands of years before they understood what this seething substance was or what, exactly, it was doing. Hieroglyphs from ancient Egypt already suggested yeast as an essential sidekick for the baker and brewer, but they didn’t delineate its magic—that people had identified and isolated yeast to make bread rise and grape juice spirited was magic enough. As the great anatomist and evolutionary theory advocate Thomas Henry Huxley declared in an 1871 lecture, “It is highly creditable to the ingenuity of our ancestors that the peculiar property of fermented liquids, in virtue of which they ‘make glad the heart of man,’ seems to have been known in the remotest periods of which we have any record.”

All the different linguistic iterations of yeast—gäscht, gischt, gest, gist, yst, barm, beorm, bären, hefe—refer to the same descriptive action and event: to raise, to rise, to bear up with, as Huxley put it, “‘yeasty’ waves and ‘gusty’ breezes.” This predictable, if chaotic and muddy, pulpy process—fermentation—was also known to purify the original grain down to its liquid essence—its “spirit”—which, as Huxley described it, “possesses a very wonderful influence on the nervous system; so that in small doses it exhilarates, while in larger it stupefies.”

Though beer and wine were staples of everyday living for thousands and thousands of years, wine- and beer-making were tough trades—precisely because what the gift of yeast was, exactly, was not clear. Until about 150 years ago, mass spoilage of both commercial and homemade alcoholic consumables was incredibly common. Imagine your livelihood or daily gratification dependent on your own handcrafted concoctions. Now, imagine stumbling down to your cellar on a damp night to fetch a nip or a barrel for yourself, your neighbors, or the local tavern. Instead you’re assaulted by a putrid smell wafting from half of your wooden drums. You ladle into one of your casks and discover an intensely sour or sulfurous brew. In the meantime, some drink has sloshed onto your floor, and the broth’s so rancid, it’s slick with its own nasty turn. What caused this quick slippage into spoilage? This question enticed many an early scientist to the lab bench—in part because funding was at the ready.

In a 2003 article on yeast research in the journal Microbiology, James A. Barnett explains that because fermentation was so important to daily life and whole economies, scientific investigations of yeast began in the seventeenth century and were formalized in the eighteenth century, by chemists—not “natural historians” (as early biologists were called)—who were originally interested in the fermentation process as a series of chemical reactions.

In late eighteenth-century Florence, Giovanni Valentino Fabbroni was part of the first wave of yeast research. Fabbroni—a true Renaissance man who dabbled in politics and electro-chemistry, wrote tomes on farming practices, and helped Italy adapt the metric system—determined that in order for fermentation to begin, yeast must be present. But he also concluded his work by doing something remarkable: Fabbroni categorized yeast as a “vegeto-animal”—something akin to a living organism—responsible for the fermentation process.

Two years later, in 1789 and in France, Antoine Lavoisier focused on fermentation in winemaking, again regarding it as a chemical process. As Barnett explains, “he seem[ed] to be the first person to describe a chemical reaction by means of an equation, writing ‘grape must = carbonic acid + alcohol.’” Lavoisier, who was born into the aristocracy, became a lawyer while pursuing everything from botany to meteorology on the side. At twenty-six, he was elected to the Academy of Sciences, bought part of a law firm specializing in tax collection for the state, and, while working on his own theory of combustion, eventually came to be considered France’s “father of modern chemistry.” The French government, then the world’s top supplier of wine (today, it ranks second, after Italy), needed Lavoisier’s discoveries—and badly, too: France had to stem the literal and figurative spoiling of its top-grossing industry. But as the revolution took hold, Lavoisier’s fame and wealth implicated him as a soldier of the regime. Arrested for his role as a tax collector, Lavoisier was tried and convicted as a traitor and decapitated in 1794. The Italian mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Louis Lagrange publicly mourned: “It took them only an instant to cut off his head, and one hundred years might not suffice to reproduce its like.”

Indeed, Lagrange was onto something: the new government’s leaders were very quickly in want of scientific help for the wine and spirits industries. In 1803, the Institut de France offered up a medal of pure gold for any scientist who could specify the key agent in the fermenting process. Another thirty years passed before the scientific community had much of a clue—and its discovery tore the community apart.

By the 1830s, with the help of new microscope magnification, Friedrich Kützing and Theodor Schwann, both Germans, and Charles Cagniard-Latour, a Frenchman, independently concluded that yeast was responsible for fermenting grains. And much more than that: these yeasts, the scientists nervously hemmed, um, they seemed to be alive.

Cagniard-Latour focused on the shapes of both beer and wine yeasts, describing their cellular bulbous contours as less like chemical substances and more resembling organisms in the vegetable kingdom. Schwann pushed the categorization even further: upon persistent and continued microscopic investigations, he declared that yeast looks like, acts like, and clearly is a member of the fungi family—“without doubt a plant.” He also argued that a yeast’s cell was essentially its body—meaning that each yeast cell was a complete organism, somewhat independent of the other yeast organisms. Kützing, a pharmacist’s assistant with limited formal training, published extensive illustrations of yeast and speculated that different types of yeast fermented differently; his speculation was confirmed three decades later. From their individual lab perches, each of the three scientists concluded the same thing: yeast is not only alive, but it also eats the sugars of grains or grapes, and this digestion, which creates acid and alcohol in the process, is, in effect, fermentation.

This abrupt reframing of fermentation as a feat of biology caused a stir. Some chemist giants in the field, like Justus von Liebig, found it flat out ridiculous. A preeminent chemistry teacher and theorist, von Liebig proclaimed that if yeast was alive, the growth and integrity of all science was at grave risk: “When we examine strictly the arguments by which this vitalist theory of fermentation is supported and defended, we feel ourselves carried back to the infancy of science.” Von Liebig went so far as to co-publish anonymously (with another famous and similarly offended chemist, Friedrich Wöhler) a satirical journal paper in which yeasts were depicted as little animals feasting on sugar and pissing and shitting carbonic acid and alcohol.

Though he himself did little experimental research on yeast and fermentation, von Liebig insisted that the yeasts were just the result of a chemical process. Chemical reactions could perhaps produce yeast, he allowed, but the yeasts themselves could never be alive, nor active, nor the agents of change.
Von Liebig stuck to this story even after Louis Pasteur, another famous chemist, took up yeast study and eventually became the world’s first famous microbiologist because of it.

These long-term investigations into and disciplinary disputes about the nature of yeast reordered the scientific landscape: the borders between chemistry and biology shifted, giving way to a new field: microbiology—the study of the smallest forms of life.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Christian William Feigenspan

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Today is the birthday of Christian William Feigenspan (December 7, 1876-February 7, 1939). His father, Christian Benjamin Feigenspan, was born in Thuringia, Germany but moved his family to New Jersey and founded the C. Feigenspan Brewing Company of Newark in 1875, though at least one source says 1868. When his father died in 1899, Christian William took over management of the brewery, which remained in business through prohibition, but was bought by Ballantine in 1943. He was also “president of Feigenspan Brewing Company, president of Federal Trust Company, and president of the United States Brewers’ Association.”

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

Businessman. He took over Newark, New Jersey’s Feigenspan Brewery Company, founded by his father in 1868, when his father died in 1899. He then transformed the company into one of the best known breweries up until and after prohibition. Today it’s labels are the among the most sought after by collectors.

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Here’s another biography from “Legendary Locals of Rumson,” written by Roberta H. Van Anda:

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And here’s his obituary from his local newspaper:

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