Historic Beer Birthday: William H. Biner

east-idaho
Today is the birthday of William H. “Billy” Biner (April 16, 1889-January 5, 1953). Biner was a journeyman brewer who worked for numerous breweries over his

He was born in the Montana territory to Swiss immigrant parents. His father, Theophil Biner, knoew Leopold Schmidt and even worked at his Olympia Brewery. Biner sent two of his sons, including Billy once he’s finished with a career as a boxer, to brewing school in Milwaukee. Biner’s first brewing job was at the Phoenix Brewery in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1912. He then worked as brewmaster at at least eight more breweries, from Los Angeles to Canada. The breweries he worked at included the Mexicali Brewery; the Orange Crush Bottling Company in L.A.; the Mexicali Brewing Company again after it was rebuilt following an earthquake; then the Kootenay Breweries, Ltd. in both Nelson and Trail, in BC, Canada; followed by the Ellensburg Brewing Co. in Washington, and then in 1937 he founded his own brewery, the Mutual Brewing Company. But it didn’t last thanks to World War II and supply issues, and it folded. Afterwards, he moved on to both Sicks’ Century Brewery in Seattle and the Silver Springs Brewery in Port Orchard, Washington. Finally, he ran the East Idaho Brewing Co. in Pocatello, Idaho until 1946, when he retired from brewing and bought his own bar, the Leipzig Tavern in Portland, Oregon. He stayed there until a year before he died, which was in 1953.

William-H-Biner

Here’s his biography from Find a Grave:

William Henry “Billy” Biner was born in Boulder, Montana Territory, on April 16, 1889. He was the fifth of nine children for Theophil Biner and Juliana Truffer, immigrants from Randa, Switzerland.

Theophil Biner was a builder and an acquaintance of Leopold Schmidt, founder of Olympia Brewery. He worked briefly for Schmidt in Tumwater, Washington from 1903-1905. Later in 1905 he purchased the Phoenix Brewery in the copper boomtown of Phoenix, British Columbia. Theophil became president of the company and his sons Albert and Dan ran it.

Younger son Billy became a boxer, eventually earning the title of welterweight champion of British Columbia. In 1911 Theo Biner sent his sons Billy and Gustave to the Hantke Brewery School in Milwaukie, Wisconsin where they graduated in 1912. Billy then became the brewmaster for the Phoenix Brewery and as an aspiring artist he also designed all of the beer labels. During this time he gave up boxing for curling where he found similar success.

Billy Biner married Harriet Lynch, the daughter of diamond drilling supervisor Dan Lynch in 1914. As prohibition approached Billy wrote articles for the local paper espousing the benefits of beer. But business declined in Phoenix and he moved south to Los Angeles in 1919 to work for the Canadian Club Bottling-Orange Crush Bottling Co.

From 1924 through 1929 he served as the brewmaster for the Mexicali Brewing Company in Mexicali, Mexico. In 1929 he returned to Canada and was a brewer in the towns of Merritt and Princeton, BC. From 1929 through 1936 he served as brewmaster for the Kootenay Brewing Company in both Nelson and Trail, BC.

In 1936 Biner moved to Ellensburg, Washington where he became brewmaster at the Ellensburg Brewery through 1942. After the Ellensburg Brewery closed Biner worked as a brewer at both Sick”s Select Brewery in Seattle and Silver Spring’s Brewery in Port Orchard, WA before moving on to Pocatello, where he ran the Aero Club Brewery until 1946.

He purchased the Leipzig Tavern in Portland, Oregon in 1946 and operated it until 1952 when he moved to Los Angeles to work for the North American Aircraft Company. He died of a heart attack on January 5, 1953.

Billy and Harriet Biner had four children; Betty, Bill, Bob and Fredericka (Fritzi). Bill and Bob Biner both worked for their father in Ellensburg before becoming members of the US Air Corps during WW II. Together they flew over 100 missions and are the subjects of the book The Brewmaster’s Bombardier and Belly Gunner.

Although none of Billy’s children or grandchildren became professional brewers, his great-grandson, Charlton Fulton, is the brewer at McMenamins Mill Creek Brewery near Seattle, Washington.

Binder-and-family
Biner with his sisters Julia and Mary Cecelia and his children Betty and Billy, c. 1925.

Phoenix Export Lager beer label
A label from his first brewery job, which he may also have designed.

Old-Style-Pilsener-Beer-Labels-Mutual-Brewing-Company

Silver-Springs-Table-Beer-Labels-Interstate-Brewery-Company

Aero-Club-Pale-Select-Beer-Labels-East-Idaho-Brewing-Company

Storm Brewing Releases $1,000 Beer Bottle

storm
I suspect that by the time you read this, all ten bottles of the newest release from Storm Brewing, of East Vancouver in British Columbia, will already have been sold, despite the hefty $1,000 per bottle price tag. The new beer is Glacial Mammoth Extinction, and is described on Storm’s website. Essentially it’s a sour beer that, according to brewer James Walton, was frozen “into one big, solid ice cube at -30 degrees Celsius, a process that took him about a month to complete.” Then the water was removed, and the remaining liquid was “aged in French oak barrels for two years until it was ready.”

Part of the expense of the beer is the packaging, with a hand-blown glass bottle fashioned by a local artist, using a 14K gold clasp and 35,000-year-old ivory for the pendant hanging from the neck of the bottle. The beer weighs in at almost 25% a.b.v. and is described as “quite sweet, almost like a port.”

Glacial-Mammoth-Extinction
The Beer: The Glacial Mammoth Extinction is the first beer of its kind (in the world!!) and the result of freezing a strong sour beer to -30C in two stages over a one month period. The sweet alcoholic liquid was separated from the extinct ice glacier that was left in the tank and then aged in French oak barrels for two years until it was ready. The final product is a rich, complex, and viscous 100% malt beverage that resembles Port more than beer.

ALCOHOL – 25% ABV
RESIDUAL SUGAR – 80grams per litre
VOLUME PRODUCED – 400 litres

The Brewery: For over 20 years brewer James Walton and the Storm Brewing team have been bringing Vancouverites innovative and unpretentious craft beer. James is hailed as a craft beer pioneer by both media and trade and is proud to be one of the very first brewers in North America to brew sour beer. The brewery sits at the corner of Commercial Drive and Franklin Street in gritty East Vancouver and is considered a “must-visit” destination by craft beer fans worldwide.

The $1000 Bottles: A total of ten bottles were designed and made of hand blown glass by Terminal City Glass Co-op’s Brad Turner. Adorning these bottles are one of a kind prehistoric mammoth ivory pendants made by local sculptor Richard Marcus. The ivory used for these pendants is from a tusk estimated to be 35,000 years old and they are complimented with a 14K gold clasp. Both of these East Vancouver artists are renowned for their craft and their studios are located within walking distance from the brewery.

Storm-Glacial-Mammoth-Extinction

Beer In Art #104: Alida’s Still Life With Beer

art-beer
This week’s work of art is by Canadian artist Alida and is a still life she did of several beer bottles while on a trip to a family cabin over a long weekend in September of this year. As she tells it. “I had good intentions of painting outdoors, but in my opinion it was too cold so instead I chose to do a still-life.” The painting has no title, so I’m calling it Still Life With Beer Bottles.

Alida_still-life-beer

Originally from the Yukon, Alida now lives in British Columbia. She points out the bottle at the far left is Ice Fog IPA from my friends at Yukon Brewing, with “artwork by fantastic Yukon artist Emma Barr.”

For more about Alida, check out her blog Alida’s Art. She also has a blog featuring her photography, Alida’s FSJ Photos.