Today is also beer blogger extraordinaire Alan McLeod’s 53rd birthday. Alan runs a good beer blog, called — curiously enough — A Good Beer Blog. I’m not sure what came first, the goodness or the blog. Anyway, though I’ve yet to meet Alan in person I feel as if he’s already a great, not just good, friend through our many conversations via e-mail and commenting on one another’s blogs. If you haven’t read his essay in the book Beer & Philosophy yet, rush right out and buy yourself a copy. He also published The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer, with Max Bahnson, available as a Kindle single on Amazon, and last year co-wrote both Upper Hudson Valley Beer and Ontario Beer: A Heady History of Brewing from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. Join me in wishing Alan the very merriest of birthdays. Cheers, mate.
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.
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.
Biner with his sisters Julia and Mary Cecelia and his children Betty and Billy, c. 1925.
A label from his first brewery job, which he may also have designed.
William Dow in 1860.
Here’s a short biography from his Wikipedia page:
Born at Muthill, Perthshire, he was the eldest son of Dr William Dow (1765-1844), Brewmaster, and Anne Mason. Since 1652, his family had been brewing in Perthshire. Having gained an extensive experience in brewing under his father, he emigrated to Montreal from Scotland in about 1818. He was employed as foreman of Thomas Dunn’s brewery in Montreal and quickly became a partner. His younger brother, Andrew, who had also trained as a brewer, joined him, and on the death of Dunn, the company became known as William Dow and Company, later known as Dow Breweries. It soon was a strong competitor to Molson’s, the biggest brewery in the city. Dow was also a financier and in 1860 he built his home, Strathearn House, in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile.
Dow in 1868.
And here’s a longer biography from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:
The son of a brewmaster, William Dow emigrated to Canada in 1818 or 1819 with substantial experience in brewing. He was employed as foreman at Thomas Dunn’s brewery, one of the few in Montreal at that time; by November 1829 Dow was a partner and was joined by his younger brother, Andrew, who had also trained as a brewer. Known as William Dow and Company after 1834, the year of Dunn’s death, the firm prospered and became one of the principal competitors in Montreal to Molson’s, the largest brewery in the city. Like some of his competitors William Dow was also engaged in distilling and in this business too he was a major local supplier. By 1863 his plant was producing some 700,000 gallons of beer in comparison to the Molson’s 142,000 gallons. As his business grew, Dow took in other partners besides his brother (who died in 1853). During the early 1860s he was joined by a group of associates, headed by Gilbert Scott, to whom he eventually sold the business for £77,877 in 1864; it kept his name.
By that time Dow was already a wealthy man with a number of highly remunerative investments in other enterprises besides brewing and distilling. Through the 1840s he put considerable sums into Montreal real estate: in one transaction in 1844 he paid £5,580, mostly in cash, for four pieces of property. Investing also in railways and banks, Dow became important in this expanding sector of Montreal’s economic life. He was a director of the Montreal and New York Railroad Company (which had a line between Montreal and Plattsburg, N.Y.) from 1847 to 1852 and invested nearly £10,000 in its shares, an unusually large sum for anyone to put into a single joint stock company in that era. Dow was one of the Montreal promoters who merged this railway with its major competitor, the Champlain and St Lawrence, in 1855, after a vicious rate war threatened to bankrupt both companies. He also had a small investment in the St Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad and served briefly on its board of directors (1852–53). A shareholder in the City Bank, he was also a director of the Bank of British North America and the Montreal Provident and Savings Bank. Although a determined rival of the Molsons in the beer and whisky business, he was their associate in 1854 in the formation of still another Montreal bank, Molsons Bank [see William Molson*], which was later incorporated into the Bank of Montreal. Compartmentalization of their lives, especially in business, was characteristic of most Montreal businessmen and, indeed, was probably essential for success in this era of constantly expanding frontiers of enterprise.
Dow was a director of the Montreal Insurance Company between 1839 and 1852 and a member of the group which formed the Sun Life Insurance Company in 1865. His many other local corporate ventures included the abortive company organized in 1849 by John Young* to build a canal between the St Lawrence River and Lake Champlain, the Montreal Steam Elevating and Warehousing Company founded in 1857, the City Passenger Railway Company in 1861, and the Montreal Stock Exchange in 1852. Though not himself a shipowner, he invested in shipping companies and was one of the pioneer investors in the Atlantic Telegraph Company. In 1854 he and Hugh* and Andrew Allan*, William Edmonstone, and Robert Anderson of Montreal formed the Montreal Ocean Steamship Company with a capital of £500,000 to provide regular steamer connections between Great Britain and Canada.
Although a bachelor, Dow lived in baronial style in an immense, richly decorated stone mansion named Strathearn House at the top of Beaver Hall Hill in Montreal and also nearby in the country on his estate at Côte Saint-Paul. At his death, on 7 Dec. 1868, the house and the bulk of his estate, estimated to be in excess of (300,000, were left to his brother’s widow and her four daughters.
This is not, strictly speaking, a beer birthday, which is why I called it a “beerish” one, but my wife and I are both Browncoats, fans of the criminally short-lived television show Firefly. Like many Browncoats, we’ve continued to follow its cast members, especially the star of Firefly, and its companion film Serenity, Nathan Fillion. Today is Nathan Fillion’s 45th birthday.
Fillion is currently one of the stars of the hit TV show on ABC: Castle, which is now in its seventh season. He was also Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog (in fact a few years ago in All About Beer magazine’s “It’s My Round” when I wrote Living In The Silver Age, the photo showed me wearing a Captain Hammer t-shirt). Some of Fillion’s films include Waitress and Slither, and he was the “wrong” Ryan in Saving Private Ryan. Some of his television appearances include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Drive and Desperate Housewives, and he got his start on the soap opera One Life To Live.
Before he’d had a hit TV series, my wife attended a Firefly convention in Los Angeles and Fillion not only attended it but was at one of the after parties that she was involved in. Thanks to me, she brought the beer — a collection of whatever I could part with from the cellar at that time. Sarah snapped a photo of Fillion drinking one of those beers, Drake’s IPA, through a curly straw. Join me in wishing Nathan a very happy birthday. And if you aren’t watching Castle or haven’t seen Firefly, you owe it to yourself to right that wrong.
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.”
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.
Friday’s ad is for Oland’s Schooner Lager Beer, from 1967. The Oland Brewery is from Nova Scotia, Canada, though today it’s owned by Labatt Brewing, and ultimately ABI. The tagline, “putting a Schooner in a bottle is skilled work,” plays nicely on the beer’s name and follows through with the punchline at the bottom, “taking it out is pure pleasure.”
Friday’s ad is for Labatt’s ’50’ Ale, from 1956. This is another example of my theory that beer in the Fifties was much more “friendly” than today. I keep finding examples of beer companies at that time describing their beer as “friendly” in advertising, but this is the first Canadian example I’ve come across. I do love the backyard party scene, such a happy-looking gathering. How friendly, just like the beer.
Tuesday’s ad is for Moosehead, from 1955. With a moose up a tree, perched above them, two hunters are stumped as to what happened to the animal they were tracking. “You’d Almost Think It Flew Away ….” The footprints just stopped. These are apparently not the smartest hunters in the Maritimes. One too many Mooseheads, I suspect.
From the press release:
Labatt Breweries of Canada today announced that it has purchased Mill Street Brewery, an award-winning craft brewer based in Toronto. The deal will allow Mill Street to deepen its traction with consumers in the fast growing craft beer segment, where it has an extraordinary variety of unique beers, as well as brew pubs in both Toronto and Ottawa. To help achieve this, Labatt will immediately invest $10 million in Mill Street’s Toronto brewery, which includes a state-of-the-art brewhouse and packaging capabilities.
“Mill Street has continually distinguished itself with its energy and success in innovation, and powerful commitment to great-tasting quality beer,” said Labatt president Jan Craps. “Our partnership and investment will accelerate its growth in one of the most dynamic beer segments, while fully preserving Mill Street’s creative character and pioneering spirit.”
“With the success of Mill Street has come the challenge of serving a growing demand for our brands,” said Irvine Weitzman, Mill Street CEO, who will continue with Mill Street along with co-founder Steve Abrams and famed brewmaster Joel Manning. “Our partnership with Labatt is a natural evolution in our growth that will allow more Canadians to enjoy our beer and secure the legacy of our brands by allowing us to remain focused on the authentic characteristics that have made Mill Street what it is today.”
Founded in Toronto’s Distillery District in 2002, Mill Street is an award-winning craft brewery and the largest producer of certified organic beer in Canada. It has won numerous beer quality awards including the Canadian Brewery of the Year Award in three consecutive years. Core brands include Ontario’s first organic beer, Mill Street Original Organic Lager, along with 100th Meridian, Tankhouse Ale, and Cobblestone Stout. The brewer is also renowned for permanent specialties including a strong golden ale Betelgeuse, an Irish-style red ale Bob’s Bearded Red and nitrogen-charged Vanilla Porter, as well as for several small-batch specialty beers.
“Throughout our history, our dedication to our craft and our passion for pushing the envelope have allowed Mill Street to make waves in Canada’s craft beer segment,” said Abrams. “We are excited about the prospect of working with Labatt to build even further on our successes and sharing our brands with more beer lovers across Canada.”
Mill Street brands will continue to be brewed under the expertise of brewmaster Joel Manning.
“This investment in a state-of-the-art brewhouse that Mill Street will run on a stand-alone basis positions us to reach the very top of our craft,” added Manning. “We couldn’t be more pleased by this fantastic opportunity to further entrench our reputation for innovation and quality, and bring more great brands to more consumers.”
From left to right: Irvine Weitzman, Mill Street CEO, Jan Craps, President of Labatt, Joel Manning, Brewmaster at Mill Street, and Steve Abrams, Co-Founder of Mill Street. (CNW Group/Labatt Breweries of Canada)