Beer Birthday: Jim Koch

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Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Co., known primarily for their Samuel Adams beers, is celebrating his 68th birthday today. Jim was instrumental, of course, in spreading the word about craft beer, especially in the early days when Samuel Adams was often the first one to be available in many pockets of the country. Join me in wishing Jim a very happy birthday.

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Daniel Bradford and Amy Dalton, both with All About Beer, sandwiching Jim Koch, and flanked by drinks writer Rick Lyke, who writes online at Lyke 2 Drink.

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Jim and me at the annual media brunch and Longshot winner announcement at GABF in 2009.

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After judging the finals for the Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason Alstrom (from Beer Advocate), Tony Forder (from Ale Street News), Bob Townsend (a food & drinks columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly (on assignment for Celebrator Beer News), Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Todd Alstrom (also from Beer Advocate).

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Jack McAuliffe and Jim at Boston Beer’s annual media brunch during GABF week four years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: James W. Kenney

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Today is the birthday of James W. Kenney (January 2, 1845-). He was born in Ireland, but followed his older brother to Boston when he was eighteen, in 1863. He was involved in starting and running several different breweries in Boston over the span of his life, starting with the Armory Brewery in 1877. Then he opened the Park Brewery, the Union Brewing Co. and finally was involved in the American Brewing Co., plus he bought the Rockland Brewery at one point. It also seems like he was involved in the Kenney & Ballou Brewery, but I wasn’t able to confirm that one. Suffice it to say, he was an busy, industrious person, involved in a lot of Boston breweries.

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Here’s a short biography from “Important Men of 1913″

Kenney, James W., born near Derry, Ireland, Jan. 2, 1845, and educated in the national schools of his native land. Came to Boston, 1863, and was placed in charge of a large grocery conducted by his brother. Became master brewer in a large brewery. In 1877 started Amory Brewery; 1881 Park Brewery; 1893 organized Union Brewing Co. Was mainly instrumental in organizing the American Brewing Co.; member of directors’ board two years. Large owner and operator in real estate, with interests in railroads, gas companies, banks, newspapers, etc. President, director and vice-president of Federal Trust Co.; director Mass. Bonding and Insurance Co. and Fauntleroy Hall Association of Roxbury; member of American Irish Historical Society and of numerous social and benevolent organizations. Married, April 24, 1876, Ellen Frances Rorke, of Roxbury. Residence: 234 Seaver St., Roxbury, Mass.

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Norman Miller’s “Boston Beer: A History of Brewing in the Hub,” has a few paragraphs on several of Kenney’s businesses.

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Here’s a rundown of his breweries:

Armory Brewing Co., 71 Amory Street: 1877-1902

This was his first brewery, but it was only known by that name until 1880, and I think he may have then sold it to a Mr. Robinson, who called it the Robinson Brewing Co., although some accounts indicate it was called the Rockland Brewery, which was his nickname. Their flagship was Elmo Ale, named for Robinson’s son, and not for the beloved Sesame Street Muppet. Other sources seem to suggest it was then bought back by Kenney at some point.

Park Brewery, 94 Terrace Street: 1881-1918

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Four years later he opened the Park Brewery, which apparently produced only Irish Ales.

American Brewing Co., 249-249A Heath Street: 1891-1918

This was a larger brewery than his other ventures, and he was merely one of the investors in the business, and was on the Board of Directors, though he did hired all Jamaica Plain brewmasters. Apparently it survived the dry years by operating a “laundry” (wink, wink). After repeal, the Haffenreffer family bought it and used it briefly as a second brewery, before closing for good in 1934.

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The Jamaica Plain Gazette described their neighborhood American Brewing Co.:

The most “handsome” of all the remaining Boston breweries, the American Brewing Company was active from 1891 to 1918, and then again from 1933-34. Owned by James W. Kenney, who also owned the nearby Park and Union breweries, the Queen Anne style building stands out architecturally with beautiful granite arches and a distinctive rounded corner, topped by a turret.

Historically, one of the most unique features of this brewery was the “customer” room in the basement. Customers were entertained here in a room with walls, ceiling and floor painted with German drinking slogans, flowers and other reminders of the source of the Lager recipes.

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society has even more information on it in their piece about Boston’s Lost Breweries:

The brewmasters were Gottlieb, Gustav and Gottlieb F. Rothfuss, all of Jamaica Plain.

This is undoubtedly the most handsome of all the remaining breweries in Boston and once can see at a glance the pride the owners had in the place, the process and the product. The architect was Frederick Footman of Cambridge. It was built in three phases, with the oldest part on the left, the second one with the American Brewing Company name came next and then the third wing with the beautiful granite arches and terra cotta heads which was the office complex emblazoned with the initials ABC. The granite was probably either Chelmsford or the slightly grayer Quincy.

Still visible in the main, or brewing, building is the large overhead access shaft where the malted barley and water were lifted to the top floor with hoists and pumps. The barley was stored in cedar-lined rooms in the top two stories of the main building to prevent insect infestation. The brewing process was started there as the grain was cooked. The cooked mash then flowed to the floor below where the grain was removed as waste and hops and other ingredients were added to the residual brew, along with the yeast that triggered the fermentation that produced the alcohol. The final product was then stored in temperature-controlled areas at the lowest level. Also still visible in the lower level is the capped wellhead that had delivered countless thousands of gallons of pure Mission Hill spring water to the process.

A wonderful touch of the spirit of the times is the “customer” room in the basement. Customers were entertained here in a room with walls, ceiling and floor painted with German drinking slogans, flowers and other reminders of the source of the Lager recipes. The offices had beautiful arched, semi-circular windows with stained glass. The tower is rounded and has a clock fixed at seven and five, the workers’ starting and quitting times. It also has granite carriage blocks to protect carriage wheels from breaking if too tight a turn were attempted when entering or exiting.

During Prohibition it was used as a laundry. After 1934, Mr. Haffenreffer used it for a time as a second brewery. Most recently it was used by a fine arts crating and shipping company, the Fine Arts Express Co. It is presently being converted to housing units.

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The American Brewing Co.

Union Brewery, 103 Terrace Street: 1893-1911

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Next was the Union Brewery, this time to brew German Lager beer exclusively. Here’s a brief description of the Union Brewery from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society, detailing it in Boston’s Lost Breweries:

The Stony Brook culvert sits very close to the surface of Terrace Street, the home of two very productive breweries. The Union Brewery, active from 1893 to 1911, was located at 103 Terrace Street. It produced only German Lager beer. It had a large six story, arched, main building and two smaller buildings housing a stable and a powerhouse. The two smaller buildings and the mural-decorated smokestack, which now also does duty as a cell phone tower remain. The former stable is now Mississippi’s Restaurant.

While for those breweries, it’s certain they were owned by James Kenney, I’m less sure about a couple of others. From either 1878-1880 or 1898-1903 (sources differ) there was a Kenney & Ballou Brewery. It’s seems at least like that James Kenney may have been the Kenney in the name, although it could have been his older brother Neil Kenney, who James worked for when he first arrive in America. That seems even more plausible when you look another brewery founded in 1874, the Shawmont Brewery. In 1877, it became known as the Neil Kenney Brewery, but in 1884 it changed names again, this time to the James W. Kenney Brewery. It apparently closed in 1888, but it appears pretty clear that he and his brother worked together on one, if not both of these breweries. Unfortunately, except for listings in Breweriana databases, I couldn’t find any information whatsoever about either brewery, and they’re not mentioned in any accounts I found of Kenney, either.

Historic Beer Birthday: Henry H. Rueter

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Today is the birthday of Henry Hermann Rueter (December 9, 1832-November 27, 1899). He was born in Westphalia, Germany, but moved to Boston, Massachusetts. In 1867, along with Irishman John R. Alley, founded the Highland Spring Brewery. By 1885, they had moved to Heath & 165 Terrace Streets, but was known after that as Rueter & Co., Inc., although their trade name continued to be the Highland Spring Brewery. After prohibition ended, they were known as the The Croft Brewing Co., but in 1952 were bought by the Narragansett Brewing Co., who closed them for good the following year.

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Here is a biography from the Boston Landmarks Commission when the property where the brewery was located applied for historic status, researched by Angelica Coleman and Marcia Butman:

Henry Rueter was born in 1832 I the province of Westphalia, Germany. He immigrated to the US in 1851 and after a short stay in New York came to Boston and worked for the Roxbury brewer G. F Burkhardt. With John D. Alley he established Highland Springs Brewery. After Alley withdrew to form his own company, the firm reorganized as Rueter and Co. After Rueter’s death (1899) his sons retained control of the company.

Another source discusses the family background. “The family was founded in this country by the late Henry H. Rueter, who came to Boston in 1831, at 18, from Gutersloh, Westphalia, his birthplace. He was of honorable ancestry, uniting the blood of the Rueters and the Von Eickens.”

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From “The Men of Boston and New England, The Boston American,” 1913

Henry H. Rueter founded the Highland Spring Brewery in 1869, and in three years had made it the largest brewery in the United States and today it still maintains its place as the greatest ale brewery of America.

The present head of the family is Henry A. Rueter, born in Boston, educated in Germany, and now in his fifty-fourth year. He is president of Rueter & Company; and of its affiliated lager beer interest the A J. Houghton Companv; and is a director in the National Rockland Bank, the American Trust Co., the Roxbury Institution for Savings, and the Mass. Bonding and Ins. Co. He was one of the incorporators ot the Mass. Automobile Club, and has served it in various capacities. The Country Club and the Algonquin Club count him among their members as does the Boston Chamber of Commerce. Mrs. Rueter was Miss Bertha Glover, only daughter of the late William H. Glover of Rockland, Me. They have two children,-William G. Rueter, now in his final year at Harvard, and Miss Martha Von Eicken Rueter.

A graduate of Harvard, and later a student at Boston Univ. Law School and Bonn University, Germany, Conrad J. Rueter is a recognized authority on the technical and practical application of the liquor law. He has served his city for upwards of seventeen years as trustee of the Boston City Hospital having been reappointed in 1913 for another five vear term. He belongs to the Boston Art Club, the Puritan Club, and the Harvard Club; and is a member of the Liederkrantz Club of New York. In his fiftieth year, his pleasure in outdoor sport is evidenced bv his membership in the Mass. Automobile Club, the Brae Burn Country Club and the Wollaston Golf Club Mrs. Conrad J. Rueter was Miss Ramseyer. There is one son.-John Conrad Rueter.

At the head of the sales staff is Frederick T. Rueter. and the brewing department itself is in direct charge of Ernest L Rueter. youngest of the four brothers, as general manager and master-brewer. Both names appear on the rolls of the Boston Athletic Assn. Ernest L. Rueter is also a member of the Country Club. Frederick T. Rueter is unmarried. Mrs. Ernest L. Rueter was Miss Myra Chevalier, and there is one daughter-Miss Jeanette.

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And here’s another short history of the brewery from the Wikipedia page about the Highland Spring Brewery Bottling and Storage Buildings:

The Highland Spring Brewery was founded in 1867 by a pair of immigrants, one Irish and the other German. The enterprise was a significant success, producing lagers, ales, and porters, and eventually gaining a nationwide reputation. In part for legal reasons, the two buildings built by the company (one for production, the other for storage and bottling) were connected by a tunnel and piping. The brewer ceased operations when Prohibition began in 1920. One of the company’s brewmasters opened the Croft Brewery in the 1892 building in 1933 after Prohibition ended, the storage building having been sold to the Ditson Company and significantly altered for its use. Croft was acquired by Narragansett Brewing Company in the 1952, and operated on the premises for just one year before closing the plant and moving production to their Rhode Island Brewery until 1981 when it too closed.

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The Highland Spring Brewery around 1920.

Beer Birthday: Jason Alström

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Today is the 45th birthday of Jason Alström, co-founder of Beer Advocate headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, but found worldwide over that series of tubes known as the interwebs. Though Started as a hobby, Beer Advocate has gone on to be one of the internet’s killer apps of beer, which has successfully branched out into publishing and putting on beer festivals. Join me in wishing Jason a very happy birthday.

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Jason with Jaime Jurado, then-Director of Brewing Operations for the Gambrinus Company, and his brother Todd at GABF in 2008.

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After judging the finals for the 2009 Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason, Tony Forder (from Ale Street News), Bob Townsend, Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly, Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Jason’s brother Todd Alström.

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Jason, standing far left, toasting at Munich’s Hofbrauhaus.

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During a trip to Bavaria in 2007, the gang of twelve plus three at the Faust Brauerei in Miltenberg, Germany. From left: Cornelius Faust, me, Lisa Morrison, Johannes Faust, Julie Bradford, Andy Crouch, Peter Reid, Horst Dornbusch, Jeannine Marois, Harry Schumacher, Tony Forder, Candice Alström, Don Russell, Jason and Todd Alström.

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The day after we tried all of Stone’s Vertical Epic’s in San Diego a few years ago; with Steve Wagner, me, Joe, Jason and Todd Alström and Greg Koch.

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At last year’s Longshot judging in Boston, Don Russell, Jim Koch, Tony Forder, John Holl, Bob Townsend, Lisa Morrison, Jason and me.

Beer Birthday: Will Meyers

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Today is the birthday of Will Meyers, brewmaster of Cambridge Brewing near Boston, Massachusetts. Will’s a great brewer and an even better human being, one of the nicest in the industry. We judged together again just last week, in an incredibly difficult medal round, that might have killed or injured a lesser person. But we made it through intact. Join me in wishing Will a very happy birthday.

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Will, with Kevin and Megan Parisi (whose birthday is also today), then also from Cambridge Brewing, at GABF in 2009.

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Accepting the award as Grand U.S. Champion from the Great British Beer Festival at GABF.

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Showing off his barrel room under the brewpub during CBC when it was in Boston.

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Will with his lovely bride Cindy Lou.

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Will shortly before he began his career as a brewer.

Beer Birthday: Dann Paquette

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

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

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Dann doing his Snidely Whiplash impersonation.

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

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

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

Beer In Film #32: The Chemistry Of Beer With Grant Wood

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Today’s beer video is all about the Chemistry of Beer and features Grant Wood, when he still brewmaster for Samuel Adams, at their Boston brewery. Grant recently left to open his own brewery, which is in Texas. His Revolver Brewery is also making some really terrific beers. The video is part of the Byte Science Science series, and provides a great overview of the chemical processes involved in brewing beer.

Beer In Ads #869: Straight From-the-Barrel Taste


Friday’s ad is for Narragansett, from 1961. After the tragedy in Boston and the swift capture/killing of the perpetrators last night and today, I thought an ad with the Red Sox was in order. This one shows Boston’s schedule for the 1961 season, and shows a cask of the Rhode Island beer emblazoned with the tagline “Straight from-the-Barrel Taste.” It’s hard to believe that was what they were going for in 1961, or that people would respond to such a claim.

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Harpoon To Can Their Beer

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Another regional brewery is joining the ranks of those who are canning craft beer. Harpoon Brewery is canning two of their beers, the I.P.A. and the Summer Beer.

From the press release:

The Harpoon Brewery is pleased to announce that your backpack will be a little easier to carry on hiking trips this summer; introducing Harpoon IPA and Harpoon Summer Beer in cans. Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the Harpoon Brewery will offer its flagship India Pale Ale and seasonal Summer Beer in 12-ounce aluminum cans. The beer, which was brewed at Harpoon’s Windsor, VT brewery, is being canned at FX Matt in Utica, NY today. The new cans will enable New England craft beer lovers to enjoy Harpoon beers during summer activities and at locales where glass bottles are not convenient.

It’s interesting to see more larger craft breweries turn to cans these days. I’m guessing we’ll see more and more of this size brewery adding cans to their line-up.

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Longshot Judging

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On Wednesday I flew to Boston to judge the finals of the Longshot American Homebrew Contest. This is the third year for the new contest, which Samuel Adams also did in the mid-1990s in a slightly different format. But the idea is the same. Homebrewers submit their beer, which is judged in regional competitions. The two big winners will then have their homebrew made commercially and bottled. There were 1300 entries this year which was whittled down to four, from which our job was to pick two. You can read more of the story at my post at Bottoms Up.


Jim Koch was at the head of the table, with six more of us there.


Tony Forder (Ale Street News), Bob Townsend (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and me.


Todd Alstrom showing off one of the homebrew beer bottles.


The seven of us, to break any ties, afterwards in the back garden picnic area. From left: Jason Alstrom (from Beer Advocate), Tony Forder (from Ale Street News), Bob Townsend (a food & drinks columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly (on assignment for Celebrator Beer News), Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Todd Alstrom (also from Beer Advocate).