Beer Birthday: Jim Crooks

firestone-walker-long-cask
Today is the 44th birthday of Jim Crooks, who is currently the Master Blender at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton. But before that, Jim was the QC manager, and was one of the original brewers there when it was still SLO Brewing when Adam Firestone and David Walker bought the brewery. When I wrote an Innovator’s Series piece for Beer Connoisseur magazine on Matt Brynildson, naturally, Jim came up when re-telling the story of the transition:

But Matt and another SLO brewer, Jim Crooks, weren’t ready to give up quite so easily. What happened next is local legend. The bank didn’t lock the doors or turn off the power. Maybe it was an oversight, maybe not. So Brynildson and Crooks came in and kept making beer while the brewery was still in receivership, and continued filling orders. The idea, they thought, was to just hang on. They both loved the area and the brewery that they’d poured so much of themselves into. The pair hoped that if they kept it alive, that someone would come to the rescue, buy the brewery and give them both jobs. The gamble paid off and their harebrained idea actually worked. Both Matt and Jim Crooks continue to work there to this day, with Jim leading the Barrelworks production in Buellton.

I’ve run to Jim several times over the years, and since heading up Barrelworks in 2013, he’s been knocking it out of the park. Join me in wishing Jim a very happy birthday.

SAM_6332
Jim, Chuck Silva and me at the Firestone Walker Invitational in 2016.

gabf08-52

At the 2008 GABF, Eric and Lauren Salazar, both from New Belgium Brewing, sandwiched by Jim, and Chris Swersey, Competition Manager for GABF judging.

Matt-and-JimMatt and Jim at the Firestone Walker Invitational [photo by Sean Paxton].

crooks-2016-fwibf
A happy Jim, also at last year’s Firestone Walker Invitational [photo purloined from Facebook].

Beer Birthday: Lee Chase

Automatic Blind-Lady
Today is the 44th birthday of Lee Chase, co-owner of Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego, and brewer at Automatic Brewing, located in the Blind Lady’s back room, and brewery consultant to the stars. Chase was also the head brewer at Stone Brewing for nearly a decade and oversaw the building and installation of the new brewery in Escondido. Lee’s a terrific brewer and a great beer ambassador, and also great fun to hang out with a share a pint, which I was able to do a few Decembers ago at the Stone Vertical Epic Tasting. Please join me in wishing Lee a very happy birthday.

lee-chase-2
Lee at Beer School for CitySearch San Diego in 2008.

lee-chase-1
Lee, with Meg Gill, Garrett Marrero and Matthew Brynildson at CBC in San Diego a few years ago.

lee-chase-green
Greg Koch and Lee at the Stone 5th Anniversary Open House Celebration, which later became the “Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.”

stone-first-12oz
Lee with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner on April 14, 1999 celebrating their first bottling run on their then new Maheen bottler. [Note: photos purloined from Facebook & Stone Brewing.]

Stone-1996
Lee, and several other Stone employees, along with some other beer people, around 1996.

Beer Birthday: Jason Chavez

kelseyville
Today is the 49th birthday of Jason Chavez, who was the brewmaster at Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz for a number of years. Chavez started homebrewing while still in high school on his family’s kitchen stove. He’s a graduate of the American Brewers Guild, and had been brewing at Seabright since 1999. I believe I first met Jason many years ago at the Rock Bottom in Denver during a GABF week, but I still run into him occasionally at events. Seabright celebrated their 25th anniversary two years ago, when I spent the day at the brewery to do a story on their silver anniversary. But last year, he made a big change, moving closer to home to take over the Kelsey Creek Brewing Co. in Kelseyville. I still haven’t made up to see the brewery since he took over the reigns, but hopefully one day soon. Join me in wishing Jason a very happy birthday.

PA020032
Jason with Dave Heist, from HopTown Brewing, and Gene and Cindy Acevedo, from El Toro Brewing, during the Brewer’s Reception at GABF in 2002.

P1020197
Jason at the helm of the brewery when I visited him in early 2013 to wrote about Seabright’s 25th anniversary.

jason-chavez-1
Here’s a great shot by Dan Coyro, from an article in Santa Cruz Sentinnel.

jason-chavez-3
Jason, in the center, surrounded by Seabright folks at the 10th annual Stumptown Russian River Revival and BBQ Cook-Off.

jason-chavez-2
Jason, again in the center, at GABF (Note: last two photos purloined from Seabright’s website).

Beer Birthday: Alexandra Nowell

three-weavers
Today is the birthday of Alexandra Nowell, brewmaster of the recently opened Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, southwest of L.A. She’s brewed previously at a variety of Bay Area breweries, including Moylan’s and Drakes, before moving south to Kinetic Brewing a few years ago. More recently, she joined Three Weavers, located in Inglewood. Join me in wishing Alexandra a very happy birthday.

nowell-03
The Drake’s/Stone Quarter Century of Issues Celebrator 25th Anniversary Pale Ale brew crew (from left to right): Drake’s owner John Martin, Stone Northern California regional brewery rep. Dave Hopwood, Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele, Stone San Francisco regional brewery rep Michael “Zippo” Parzick and, obviously the only one doing any real work, then-Drake’s brewmaster Alexandra (on the brew deck).

nowell-01
Alexandra scooping out spent grain at Drake’s.

nowell-04
With Jesse Houck, who also worked at Drake’s, and for a time brewed at Golden Road. in L.A., but more recently moved to Hawaii to brew on Maui with Maui Brewing.

nowell-02
Alexandra with Mike “Tasty” McDole (purloined, er … borrowed from the Weekly Pint)

Beer Birthday: Joe Tucker

rate-beer
Today is the 49th birthday of Joe Tucker, the “Boss” — a.k.a. Executive Director — at Rate Beer. He runs the website from his Vineyard bunker in Sonoma, California, although very soon he’ll be relocating the Rose city of Portland. Because I’m in the Bay Area, I run into Joe from time to time, and usually at the annual hop picking day at Moonlight Brewing, though we flew to San Diego together a few Decembers ago to visit Stone Brewing, too. More recently, he asked me to be the Emcee for the Rate Beer Best awards held in late January in Santa Rosa, which was great fun, and I look forward to doing it again a third time next year. Join me in wishing Joe a very happy birthday.

Vinnie, me and Joe Tucker, from Rate Beer
Vinnie Cilurzo, me and Joe at the Pliny the Elder release a few years ago at Russian River Brewing.

Rate Beer's Hop Press staff
Joe with some of the Hop Press staff — Ken, Ashley, Mario and Mark — at Triple Rock’s Sour Fest 2010.

P1010448
At Fred Abercrombie’s Craft Beerd’s book launch party at Taps. Left to right; Fred Abercrombie, Ken Weaver, Anneliese Schmidt, Joe and Ron Lindenbusch, from Lagunitas.

P1000220
The day after we tried all of Stone’s Vertical Epic’s in San Diego; with Steve Wagner, me, Joe, Jason and Todd Alstrom and Greg Koch.

joe-and-me-2017
Joe and me at this year’s RateBeer Best festival in Santa Rosa.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick “Fritz” Breckle

san-francisco
Today is the birthday of Frederick “Fritz” Breckle (March 5, 1849-?). I can find almost nothing about Breckle, apart from he opened the Frederick Breckle Brewery in 1896, but it closed just one year later, in 1897. It was located at Point Lobos Road and Boice (or Boyce) Street. Given how close his last name is to Gottlieb Brekle, who started in 1871 what would become the Anchor Brewery in 1896, it would seem odd that they’re not related. In searching through old records, it appears that the two spelling are interchangeable, which frankly makes that more plausible. Also, a page from the 1880 census lists his father as “G. Breckle,” but with no more information that that. Still, it seems reasonable that both father and son could have been brewers. Although I have to say that’s pure speculation and guesswork, there’s nothing I can find that’s definitive or proves any connection.

San-Francisco-1897
San Francisco in 1897.

Historic Beer Birthday: Gottlieb Brekle

anchor-retro
Today is the birthday of Gottlieb Brekle (February 23, 1821-1888). He was born somewhere in Germany, most likely Württemberg, though possibly Ludwigsburg or Hamburg, arriving in America on July 31, 1852, along with his wife Marie and young son Frederick. In 1871, according to Anchor, “Brekle bought an old beer-and-billiards saloon on Pacific Street near Russian Hill for $3,500, transforming it into the American brewery that, twenty-five years later, would be renamed Anchor” when it it was bought by “German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr.” Given how long ago Brekle was born, not to mention all of the records lost due to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, little is known about Brekle’s life, and I don’t know of any pictures of him. Even the spelling of his name seems uncertain, with records existing where it’s spelled Breckle, Breckel, and Breckels, too, making trying to find information a lot harder.

Anchor-Breckle

After Gottlieb, or George, as he took calling himself later, died, his son Frederick took over the business. Since we know the brewery was sold in 1896, we can be pretty sure Gottlieb died before then, but it could have been in 1888, or some other year, nobody seems sure. Anchor wrote on their blog, in a piece entitled Under the Crown: A Brewery is Born, which I assume was written by Anchor’s historian Dave Burkhart (who I consider a friend) that Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers indicate he became a citizen in 1854, and they display a small image of those papers.

1854-Brekle-Naturalization-Papers

But as much as it pains me, I’m not sure that’s right. Look at the paper blown up a bit, so it’s a little easier to read.

1854-Brekle-Naturalization-Papers-zoom

From what I can make out, he was a subject of the King of Württemberg on September 21, 1861, but became a U.S. citizen August 5, 1854, which I don’t quite understand, but then some of language is hard to read. But the name on that document appears to be “Carl Gottlieb Breckles,” so I’m wondering if it may be a different person?

cal-register-1880-1

I found this document on Ancestory.com, which is a voter “Register 7th Precinct, 4th Ward, San Francisco County, 1880.” Line 34, the third from the bottom, lists a Gottlieb Brekle, age 59 (which would make his birth year 1821 if he was 59 in 1880). It also lists his occupation as “Brewer” and his address as “1431 Pacific,” in San Francisco. But more telling is that last column, which lists the date he was naturalized. And for Gottlieb, what’s listed is August 4, 1879. And more confirmation is in the line below, where it lists a Frederick Brekle, also listed as a “Brewer” and living at the same address. Since we know that was his son’s name, it seems pretty clear that this document is referring to our Gottlieb Brekle.

anchor-brewery-early-1900s-lg
The Anchor Brewery in the early 1900s.

Sadly, there isn’t much more known, though Anchor also has some more information they found in researching newspapers at the time.

Fortunately for researchers of San Francisco history, most of its early newspapers survived. In early 1874, San Francisco’s largest brewery—the Philadelphia Brewery—took out an ad in an SF paper to brag that it had sold more beer than any of SF’s other 33 breweries the previous year. Anchor, then called the Golden City Brewery, ranked 29th out of 34, with sales of just 585 barrels, the equivalent of about 8,000 cases of beer. If that seems like a lot of beer, our brewery’s sales in 1873 were just .33% (not 33%, not 3.3%, but .33% or 33/100 of 1%!) of total sales in barrels by all SF breweries!

In 2011, Anchor Brewing released a beer named after their first brewmaster, Brekle’s Brown.

Brekles-logo

And here’s a short video Anchor released at the time.

Beer Birthday: J.J. Phair

ej-phair
Today is the birthday of J.J. Phair, co-founder of E.J. Phair Brewing. J.J. started homebrewing in 1990, and ten years later opened his brewery, which is named for his grandfather Ewart John Phair, who was an amateur winemaker and beer lover, as a way to honor E.J. The brewery’s grown since then, and today there’s a Concord Alehouse, a production brewery and taproom in Pittsburg. Join me in wishing J.J. a very happy birthday.

P1070555
J.J. and Craig Cauwels at the E.J. Phair brewery taproom in 2012.

babrew06-05
J.J. at the Bay Area Beer Festival in 2006.

Beer Birthday: Meg Gill

golden-road
Today is the birthday of Meg Gill, founder and owner, along with Tony Yanow, of Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles. Meg is also the former national sales manager for Speakeasy Ales & Lagers in San Francisco. When I first met Meg she was working for Oskar Blues, and later she organized the Opening Gala for SF Beer Week in years two and three, a Herculean undertaking. Golden Road made some waves two Septembers ago when they were acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev, and haven’t seen her since she went over to the “winning team,” and alienated us losers. Still, join me in wishing Meg a very happy birthday.

The Brewing Network's Justin Crossley interviewing Meg Gill from Speakeasy
Justin Crossley, from the Brewing Network, with Meg at the 22nd Celebrator Anniversary Party in 2010.

Forest Gray, Brian Lenzo and Meg Gill
Speakeasy owner Forest Gray, Brian Lenzo, from Blue Palms in L.A., and Meg at a Speakeasy Anniversary event several years ago.

P1020925
Faction’s (then Triple Rock’s) Rodger Davis, struggling to keep the sun out of his eyes, with Meg at the Sour Fest.

DSC_0458
Meg and me at SF Beer Week’s Opening Gala a few years ago. (Photo by Mike Condie.)

meg-and-dave
An older photo of Meg and Dave Hopwood, from Stone Brewing. (Photo purloined from Facebook.)

Beer Birthday: Grant Johnston

Argus
Today is the 63rd birthday of Grant Johnston. Grant was the original brewer at Marin Brewing when it opened in 1989, and spent a number of years at Black Diamond Brewing in Concord, California. Grant was very influential in the early days of Bay Area brewing, and he’s an incredibly talented brewer. A few years ago he moved to the midwest, and these days can be found working a few days a week at the Argus Brewery in Chicago. A couple of years back, I was in Belgium at the Cantillon Brewery when in walked Grant, quite by chance, so you never know when you’re going to run into him. Join me in wishing Grant a very happy birthday.

gabf06-thu-19
Grant and me at GABF in 2006.

bistro-judge-4
Grant (on the right) judging the 2006 Double IPA Festival in the cellar of The Bistro, with Tom Dalldorf, Vicky, our hard-working beer steward in the middle, and the Toronado’s Dave Keene in profile on the left.

First Beer In FV @ Marin Brewing 3:20:89
Brendan Moylan and Grant shortly before Marin Brewing opened in 1989.

Wild Rice Ale @ Marin's 25th
Grant and Arne Johnston brewing his Wild Rice Ale for Marin’s 25th Anniversary.

GABF Judges  1992
Grant, bottom left, among the GABF judges for the 10th anniversary of the festival in 1992.