Beer Birthday: Tom Peters

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My good friend Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk’s Cafe and Belgian Beer Emporium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, turns 61 today. His enthusiasm for and promotion of Belgian beer has few equals. A couple of years ago, I was privileged to travel through France and Belgium with Tom, which was amazing. And he throws perhaps the best late night parties of anyone I’ve ever known. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.

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Tom Peters with Dave Keene, owners of the best two Belgian beer bars on both coasts.

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Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment, Fergie Carey, co-owner of Monk’s, Lucy Saunders, the beer cook, and Tom Peters.

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Tom Peters, with Rob Tod from Allagash in Portland, Maine, at GABF.

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Me and Tom after the Great Lambic Summit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology during last year’s Philly Beer Week.

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In Belgium, with a perfectly poured Orval, with Daniel Neuner, William Reed and Justin Low.

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Also in Belgium, with a Fanta and Frites sandwich.

Patent No. 2477222A: Beer Dispenser With Coil Cleaning Means

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Today in 1949, US Patent 2477222 A was issued, an invention of Frederick J. Warcup, for his “Beer Dispenser with Coil Cleaning Means.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

This invention relates to beer distributing systems such as are used in taverns and saloons for conducting beer from kegs, in which the beer is delivered from the brewery, to taps located behind the bar. The length of piping between a keg and the tap includes a cooling coil through which the beer flows.

One object of the invention is to provide an improved beer distributing system in which water can be conveniently introduced into the beer lines and accurately controlled so as to avoid the loss of beer that results from having beer stand in the pipes, from draining of the lines for cleaning, and the loss that occurs when an empty keg is replaced with a full one.

It is another object of this invention to provide means by which tavern operators can clean their own lines without having to connect or disconnect any unions or fittings, and in the preferred embodiment of the invention the system is constructed so that the beer lines can be cleaned without even leaving the bar. The tavern operator can fill his beer lines with water preparatory to cleaning them and all of the usual loss of beer incident to cleaning line is avoided.

Another important saving is effected by this invention when a keg becomes empty and it is necessary to tap a new keg. Whenever the contents of one keg become exhausted, the beer line fills with foam and the first beer from a new keg surges into the line and foams to such an extent that the first glasses drawn after a new keg has been tapped cannot be used because of excessive foam. With this invention the line is filled with water before tapping a new keg and there is no surge of beer into the line.

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Patent No. 2287500A: Sanitary Beer Comb And Cocktail Mixer Receptacle

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Today in 1942, US Patent 2287500 A was issued, an invention of Peter Solinas, for his “Sanitary Beer Comb And Cocktail Mixer Receptacle.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

My invention relates to receptacles for cleansing beer combs and cocktail mixers.

Heretofore in the art where beer has been served over a bar it has been customary for the bartender to use a. beer comb to scoop off the excess top foam of a glass or stein of beer. The bartender by custom then places the beer comb in a glass of stationary water until he needs to use the beer comb again for another service. It is apparent that where a glass is used that the water is stationary and in a comparatively short time becomes stale and mixed with some of the beer leavings which have been introduced into the glass from time to time. It is obvious that very soon after the glass has first been used that the water will be so sour and distasteful that it will not properly clean the beer comb but will on the other hand leave the beer comb in such a condition that when the comb is next used to scoop out the top of a beer glass that the comb will leave stale drippings on top of the latest glass of beer to the distaste of a patron.

It is an object of my invention to provide a device whereby the beer comb may be conveniently held and entirely cleansed before each serving of a glass or stein of beer.

It is a further object of the invention to provide such a device in an accessible position and in which the beer combs may be easily placed.

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Patent No. 2043856A: Apparatus For Dispensing Beer

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Today in 1936, US Patent 2043856 A was issued, an invention of Ray Knapp, for his “Apparatus For Dispensing Beer.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it states that the “invention relates to a method and apparatus for dispensing beer, and has for its principal object to afford a structure that employs a cooling chamber made of glass or glass lined material, the beer being retained in the glass cooling chamber and conducted therefrom directly to the dispensing faucet.”
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Patent No. D135747S: Design For A Holder For Beer Foam Scrapers

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Today in 1943, US Patent D135747 S was issued, an invention of Joseph Austin, assigned to the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company, for his “Design for a Holder for Beer Foam Scrapers.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described incredibly simply in the application, stating only that it’s an “ornamental design for a holder for beer foam scrapers, substantially as shown and described.” Which is funny, because that’s about the only description there is.
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Patent No. 3321861A: Beer Tap Handle

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Today in 1967, US Patent 3321861 A was issued, an invention of Charles G. Tate Jr., for his “Beer Tap Handle.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described this way in the application:

Because of competition most beer companies provide bars with fancy tap handles carrying the name of the particular brew. These handles are changed frequently to attract attention and are made in all materials in numerous shapes and sizes. Attempts have been made to provide such handles with electrically operated devices such as lights and other moving parts. However, most communities are provided with safety regulations which prohibit the use of electric lines to beer tap handles be cause of the danger involved, the bartender normally having wet hands and handling a wet product. Battery power has also been suggested for such purpose but these are expensive because the batteries must be frequently replaced. Furthermore, a busy bartender will often forget to turn the switch and turn on the device when he comes in in the morning. The present invention is designed to provide an electrically powered beer tap handle utilizing rechargeable batteries. The device of the present invention operates with a novel switching arrangement so that the batteries are being charged only overnight when the de vice is not in use. Also, removal of the charging device turns on the beer tap handle.

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Patent No. 3091366A: Beer Dispenser

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Today in 1963, US Patent 3091366 A was issued, an invention of Thomas A. Hutsell, for his “Beer Dispenser.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described this way in the application:

This present device relates to the general art of devices intended for the measuring and dispensing of effervescent beverages. More particularly this invention relates to a beer dispensing device for dispensing draught beer. Means are provided in this present device to automatically dispense a measured amount of beer and the device is further capable for adjustment so that the desired amount of head of foam can be supplied as a part of the measured amount even though the beer in the dispensing keg may have physical properties quite different from that of the beer in the keg to which the device was previously connected.

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Patent No. 401406A: Construction Of Beer Engines

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Today in 1889, US Patent 401406 A was issued, an invention of James Amasa Bigelow, for his “Construction Of Beer Engines.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states the following. “My invention relates to apparatus for drawing beer or other liquids from a receptacle in a cellar or adjacent store-room and delivering the same to other receptacles upon a bar counter; and its objects are to provide a simple and efficient apparatus of this character in which the beer or liquids may be cooled or warmed, as desired, and in which also several kinds of beer may be mixed before delivery, and which apparatus may be readily put in order by an unskilled person should any oi` its parts become disarranged during its operation.”
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The World’s Oldest Bars

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Several years ago, prompted by another website’s relatively poor attempt to create a list of the oldest bars in America, I took their list of ten apart and created my own list of America’s Oldest Bars. That original list in the intervening years has taken on a life of it’s own, and continues to be updated as new entries are discovered by people all over the country. The current list of The Oldest Bars In America is now on a separate page and has 122 American bars on the list, all dating from before 1900, which became my arbitrary cut-off date.

Bucket List Bars, the website for a book of historic American bars, recently posted their choices for the 5 Oldest Bars in the World. Here’s their original list:

  1. Sean’s Bar; Athlone, Ireland (900 CE)
  2. The Bingley Arms; Bardsey, North Leeds, England (953 CE)
  3. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem; Nottingham, England (1189 CE)
  4. Brazen Head; Dublin, Ireland (1198 CE)
  5. Ye Olde Man & Scythe; Bolton, England (1251 CE)

This time around, I had no reason to disagree with the list, but having been working on an American version off and on for the last seven years did make me curious. So I figured I’d start doing a little research of my own and see what I might find. One thing I’m finding with my initial searches is that even more than with strictly American bars, is that how you define a bar is very important in determining whether it should be on the list. Go back far enough in history, and how we think of a bar changes quite a bit, with the earliest examples of what became known as bars being inns or taverns along well-traveled trade routes. Some were monasteries where people stopped on their journeys, and others might have been simply common gathering places. Many more may not have started as bars, and some even were things totally different from anything to do with serving alcohol, such as private homes, or buildings housing completely different businesses, even for a time. Still others had the original building destroyed and rebuilt, in some cases multiple times. Should they still be on this list? Is being a bar consistently the entire time a requirement, or should it be? Some started as bars, were converted to other uses, only to be bars again in the present.

Another problem is that record-keeping was nearly non-existent when you go back far enough, and even what records do exist are not exactly persuasive. Suffice it to say there are massive problems in compiling such a list, because no matter what is listed, some one could easily take issue with it, depending on how they decide to look at it, or define what is a bar. Is it a bar, pub (public house), ale house, beer house, inn, tavern, saloon, lounge, canteen, rathskeller, watering hole or what have you?

So for now, at least, I’ve been very loose with what belongs, and what might not, just to get things started. While some think the Cave Bar in Jordan may be the oldest, it’s hard to know. Was it really always a bar? When it first started being a gathering place for people in the first century, would we think of that as a bar? And if not, when would we start considering it to be a bar, as it undoubtedly is today? I’ve tried to restrict the list to bars that opened before 1800, though for some countries where there are a lot even for those dates, I’ve only listed the oldest examples, or ones that were for other reasons I found interesting or controversial. Some are listed with newer dates only because those were the oldest I could find for that country, and I wanted to list one, at least eventually, for most nations. And obviously, I’m using where they’re located today, and not worrying about what their geographic area’s political affiliation was when they opened, just to keep such a complicated question a little bit simpler.

As before, if you know of any others that should be on this list, please do let me know by posting a comment or sending me an e-mail. Please understand that this is the beginning of a work in progress and try to keep the astonished “how could you have missed …” shock and admonishments to a minimum. I have just one rule: don’t be a dick. I know this is a hornet’s nest, but it’s meant to be fun. This is just the starting place. My American list has grown and been whittled down countless times in the seven years I’ve maintained it, so I expect this will be no different. Please, enjoy responsibly.

The Oldest Bars in the World

  1. Cave Bar; Wadi Musa, Petra, Jordan (c. 1st century BCE)
  2. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks; St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (c. 793 CE) [ Wikipedia ] [Note: A sign on the pub also states that the building was originally a monastery, then a Medieval Pigeon house, before being rebuilt in 1600 after the flood of 1599]
  3. St. Peter Stiftskeller; Salzburg, Austria (803 CE) [considered oldest restaurant in Europe]
  4. Sean’s Bar; Athlone, Ireland (900 CE)
  5. The Porch House; Stow-on-the-Wold, England (947 CE) [Note: Considered an Inn, rather than a bar]
  6. The Bingley Arms; Bardsey, North Leeds, England (953 CE; at least once source claims 905 CE)
  7. Zum Riesen; Miltenberg, Germany (est. c. 1150; other sources say 1314 or 1411) [ Wikipedia ]
  8. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem; Nottingham, England (1189) [ Wikipedia ]
  9. Brazen Head; Dublin, Ireland (1198)
  10. La Reserve de Quasimodo; Paris, France (c. 1200s)
  11. Café Den Turk; Ghent, Belgium (1228)
  12. Ye Olde Salutation Inn; Nottingham, England (1240) [ Wikipedia ]
  13. Adam and Eve; Norwich, England (1241 or 1249)
  14. The Bear Inn; Oxford, England (1242)
  15. Ye Olde Man & Scythe; Bolton, England (1251) [ Wikipedia ]
  16. Piwnica Swidnicka; Wroclaw, Poland (1275)
  17. Bratwursthäusle Nürnberg; Nürnberg, Germany (1313)
  18. Brauhaus Sion; Cologne, Germany (1318)
  19. Kyteler’s Inn; Kilkenny, Ireland (1324)
  20. Haus zum Rüden Zürich; Zurich, Switzerland (1348)
  21. Zum Weinberg ; Wismar, Germany (1354)
  22. De Draak; Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands (c. 1397)
  23. Old Ferry Boat; Holywell, St. Ives, England (c. 1400)
  24. Zum Franziskaner; Stockholm, Sweden (1421)
  25. The Red Lion (f.k.a. Hopping Hall); Westminster, London, England (c. 1434; current pub dates to 1733, remodeled in 1896)
  26. Al Brindisi; Ferrara, Italy (1435)
  27. Zice Gastuz; Loce, Slovenia (1467)
  28. De Waag; Doesburg, The Netherlands (1478)
  29. U Fleku; Prague, Czech Republic (1499)
  30. The Nags Head; Burntwood, England (c. 16th century)
  31. Herberg Vlissinghe; Bruges, Belgium (1515)
  32. The Prospect of Whitby (f.k.a. the Devil’s Tavern); Wapping, London, England (1520)
  33. Sternbräu; Salzburg, Austria (1542)
  34. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern; Holborn, England (1546)
  35. The Mayflower; Rotherhithe Village, London, England (1550)
  36. Quinten Matsijs; Antwerp, Belgium (1565)
  37. Na Slamniku; Prague, Czech Republic (1570)
  38. The Grapes; Limehouse, London, England (1583)
  39. Spaniards Inn; Hampstead, London, England (1585)
  40. Hofbräuhaus; Munich, Germany (1589)
  41. Seven Stars; Holborn, London, England (1602; though more likely 1680)
  42. Café Karpershoek; Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1606)
  43. Hatchet Inn; Bristol, England (1606)
  44. Anchor Bankside; Southwark, London, England (c. 1665; rebuilt after fires in 1750 & 1876)
  45. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; London, England (1667)
  46. Ye Olde Watling; London, England (1668)
  47. El Rinconcillo; Seville, Spain (1670)
  48. Ye Olde Bell Tavern; London, England (1670)
  49. White Horse Tavern; Newport, Rhode Island, USA (1673)
  50. The George Inn; Southwark, London, England (1677)
  51. The Split Crow; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (1749) [Note: The bar has moved a couple of times & also changed names, so depending on definitions may not count as Canada’s oldest]
  52. Antico Caffe Greco; Rome, Italy (1760)
  53. L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel; Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1769)
  54. Lamb & Flag; Covent Garden, London, England (1772)
  55. Olde Angel Inn; Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (1789)
  56. Prince George Hotel; Kingston, Ontario, Canada (c. 1809; though more likely 1820)
  57. Mitre Tavern; Melbourne, Australia (1835)
  58. Kamiya Bar; Tokyo, Japan (1880) [billed as oldest Western-style bar]
  59. Bar Luiz; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1887)
  60. Hussong’s Cantina; Ensenada, Baja, Mexico (1892) [ Wikipedia ]

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The Cave Bar in Petra, Jordan. The world’s oldest bar? Or not.

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Sean’s Bar in Atholone, Ireland, may have a better case, dating from 900 CE.

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Then there’s the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which looks promising until you discover that it was originally a monastery, then was used as a Medieval Pigeon house, before being rebuilt in 1600 after being destroyed in the flood of 1599.

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And while Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is probably not, as is claimed on the side of the building, “The Oldest Inn In England,” I love the way it looks. It just has the I’m-really-old look that you want in an ancient bar.

Patent No. 1578627A: Bottle Opener

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Today in 1926, US Patent 1578627 A was issued, an invention of John C. Baumgarten, for his “Bottle Opener.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states that the “invention relates to bottle capping implements.” It’s essentially a ring with bottle opener. I always thought those were a pretty recent invention, but this is from 1926. Here’s how it’s explained:

Since bottles containing soda water, and the like, are generally closed by crimped on caps a special implement must be used for removing these caps. There are two types of these implements generally used. One of these is a device which is applied by hand. Since this device is readily laid down in one place, when required in another, it is not always handy during the rush of customers. The other type is a device located at some station to which the bottle must be taken, and hence unless several of this type of device be installed it would necessitate considerable running back and forth.

So the object of my invention is to provide a simple, inexpensive implement to pry off said caps, and its construct such implement in the form of a ring which may be carried about for instant use. A further object of my invention is so to construct my implement so that it will not impose undue strain on; or tend to bruise the finger in removing said caps.

So he’s proposing that all bartenders where one his opener rings while working, making it part of the uniform of a barkeep.
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