Historic Beer Birthday: Matthew Vassar

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Today is the birthday of Matthew Vassar (April 29, 1792-June 23, 1868). Vassar was born in England, specifically in East Dereham, Norfolk. While he’s best know for having founded one of the first women’s colleges in America, Vassar College, the money came from operating his brewery, M. Vassar & Co., which when he first built it in Poughkeepsie it was the largest brewery in the Americas.
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Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Business Magnate. Self-made man with only a very basic formal education. When his father’s brewery burned in 1811 and he discontinued business, Matthew Vassar started his own brewery independently. As business increased he became involved in many things. Among others, in 1842 he became President of the Hudson River Railroad. In 1861, inspired by a niece, he endowed the first women’s college in the United States, with $408,000 and 200 acres of land east of Poughkeepsie which is where present-day Vassar College still stands. A lasting legacy for him which is also humorously embodied in an old song, “And so you see, to old V.C. Our love shall never fail. Full well we know that all we owe To Matthew Vassar’s ale.”

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For much more thorough biographies, there’s Wikipedia, the Vassar Encyclopedia, and the Vassar Quarterly has a long article about the brewery, The Brew that Built Vassar.

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There’s also another piece in a blog concentrating on the Hudson Valley, The Rise and Fall of M. Vassar and Co..

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This is the larger brick brewery on the waterfront Vassar built in 1836, just above the Main Street Landing. The waterfront facility had a brewing capacity of 60,000 barrels annually.

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Portrait of Matthew Vassar, by Charles Loring Elliott.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Bramah

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Today is the birthday of Joseph Bramah (April 13, 1748-December 9, 1814). Bramah was an English engineer, and inventor, whose most famous invention was the hydraulic press. But he also made improvements and created a practical beer engine, creating his beer pump and engine inventions between 1785 and 1797.

Joseph Bramah- portrait in oils

Another summary of his achievements is quite flattering:

English engineer and inventor whose lock manufacturing shop was the cradle of the British machine-tool industry. Central in early Victorian lockmaking and manufacturing, he influenced almost every mechanical trade of the time. Like Henry Ford, his influence was probably greater for the manufacturing processes he developed, than the product itself. He took out his first patent on a safety lock (1784) and in 1795 he patented his hydraulic press, known as the Bramah press, used for heavy forging. He devised a numerical printing machine for bank notes and was one of the first to suggest the practicability of screw propellers and of hydraulic transmission. He invented milling and planing machines and other machine tools, a beer-engine (1797), and a water-closet.

As for the actual patents, there were two of them. The first was in 1785 and was for what he called a “beer pump.” Then, in 1793 he was granted Patent No. 2196 for his improved version, now referred to as a “beer engine.” It was actually a Dutchman, John Lofting, who had first invented the beer pump in 1688, but Bramah’s were more refined and practical, and more importantly, patented. Curiously, Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History lists the patent dates as 1787 and 1797, so it’s unclear which are the correct dates.

In this engraving, entitled Men of Science Living in 1807-8, Bramah is on the left side, the tenth one in the back from the left. He’s the one with the wide sash across his chest and the star-shaped badge on his jacket. Others include Joseph Banks, Henry Cavendish and James Watt.

NPG 1075a; Engraving after 'Men of Science Living in 1807-8'

There’s even a J.D. Wetherspoon’s pub in his home town of Bramley called The Joseph Bramah

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Historic Beer Birthday: Ralph Thrale

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Today is the birthday of Ralph Thrale (1698-April 9, 1758). Thrale’s exact date of birth is not known, but he died today in 1758, so that’s why I’m celebrating his birthday today. He was born in Offley, Hertfordshire, England, the son of Ralph Thrale, a Cottager originally from Sandridge who moved to Offley. His uncle brought him to London around 1711 after his father died (when he was only 13) to work at his Anchor Brewery, in Southwark, in the central part of the city, and eventually he became the Master of The Brewers Company, having bought the brewery after his uncle’s death. He was also a Member of Parliament from 1741-1747 and also High Sheriff for Surrey from 1733-34.

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Portrait of Ralph Thrale by Thomas Hudson.

This is his short biography from the History of Parliament:

The son of ‘a hardworking man at Offley’, Thrale was brought to London by his uncle, Edmund Halsey, the owner of the Anchor brewery at Southwark, who ‘said he would make a man of him, and did so but … treated him very roughly’, making him work ‘at six shillings a week for twenty years’. He soon ‘made himself so useful … that the weight of the business fell entirely on him’, and he was expected to succeed to the brewery.1 But he fell out with his uncle by marrying ‘a wench that Halsey wanted to have for his own pleasure’, and was cut off.2On Halsey’s death in 1729, the Anchor brewery was put up for sale. According to Mrs. Piozzi, Thrale’s daughter-in-law,

to find a purchaser for so large a property was a difficult matter, and after some time, it was suggested that it would be advisable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active, honest man, who had been long employed in the house, and to transfer the whole to him for £30,000, security being taken upon the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years Thrale paid the purchase money. He acquired a large fortune. But what was most remarkable was the liberality with which he used his riches.

Returned as an opposition Whig for Southwark, the brewers’ constituency, he voted against the Government on the chairman of the elections committee in 1741 and on the Hanoverians in 1744, was absent from other recorded divisions, did not stand again, and died 8 Apr. 1758.

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Thrale’s Anchor Brewery around 1785.

This mention of Ralph Thrale’s involvement in the Anchor Brewery is from “A History of Beer and Brewing,” by Ian Spencer Hornsey:

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This is the entry for Barclay, Perkins & Co. Ltd, which at one time had been Thrale’s Anchor Brewery, from “The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records,” edited by Lesley Richmond, Alison Turton, published in 1990:

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The Anchor Brewery around 1820.

And finally, the famous English writer Charles Dickens, during the period when he was writing many of his major works, “he was also the publisher, editor, and a major contributor to the journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1858–1870). In “Volume V, from March 30, 1861 to September 21, 1861,” in a piece entitled “Queen of the Blue Stockings,” from April 20, 1861, Ralph Thrale is mentioned in a history of the Barclay Perkins brewery to give context to his tale:

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A marker where Thrale’s brewery once stood in central London.

Historic Beer Birthday: Thomas Fowell Buxton

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Today is the birthday of Thomas Fowell Buxton (April 1, 1786–February 19, 1845). He was “an English Member of Parliament, brewer, abolitionist and social reformer.” While he’s best remembered today for his role in abolishing slavery in England, he was also involved in the brewing business. “In 1808, Buxton’s Hanbury family connections led to an appointment to work at the brewery of Truman, Hanbury & Company, in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London. In 1811 he was made a partner in the business, renamed Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Later he became sole owner.”

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Naturally, Martyn Cornell has written about Buxton and his brewery in a post entitled When Brick Lane was home to the biggest brewery in the world. Here’s the part that mentions Fowell Buxton:

In 1808 [Sampson] Hanbury’s nephew, Thomas Fowell Buxton, son of Thomas Fowell Buxton of Earl’s Colne, Essex, and Anna Hanbury, joined the brewery, aged 21 or 22. Buxton (who was not a Quaker, though his wife was) became a partner in 1811, at the age of 25, with a 1/12th share, bringing the last element to what would eventually, by 1827, be called Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Company. By now the Black Eagle brewery was making 142,179 barrels of beer a year, some 20,000 barrels more than Whitbread, but a long way behind the number two London brewer, Meux Reid in Liquorpond Street, near Clerkenwell, on 220,000 barrels, and trailing Barclay Perkins in Southwark, on 264,405 barrels a year, by a large margin.

Buxton’s wife was one of the Gurneys of the Norwich bank, and a cousin of Sampson’s wife Agatha. A few years after he became a partner, in 1815, the shares in the brewery were redivided into 41 slices, and Buxton, evidently after bringing in some extra capital to the firm, increased his share to 8/41ths. His greatest gift to the brewery was sorting out the management of a concern that, by 1815, owned 200 pubs outright and financed another 300 landlords. But he also successfully intervened to prevent a disaster that might have destroyed the business.

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And here’s the account from the Wikipedia page on the Black Eagle Brewery:

Sir Benjamin died in March 1780 and, without a son to take on the business, it passed to his grandsons. In 1789, the brewery was taken over by Sampson Hanbury (Hanbury had been a partner since 1780; the Truman family became ‘sleeping partners’). Hanbury’s nephew, Thomas Fowell Buxton, joined the company in 1808, improved the brewing process, converted the works to steam power and, with the rapid expansion and improvement of Britain’s road and rail transport networks, the Black Eagle label soon became famous across Britain (by 1835, when Buxton took over the business upon Hanbury’s death, the brewery was producing some 200,000 barrels (32,000 m3) of porter a year).

The Brick Lane brewery – now known as Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co – took on new partners in 1816, the Pryor brothers (the company’s owners were renowned for their good treatment of their workers – providing free schooling – and for their support of abolitionism). By 1853 the brewery was the largest in the world, producing 400,000 barrels of beer each year, with a site covering six acres.

However, the company also faced competition from breweries based outside London – notably in Burton upon Trent, where the water was particularly suitable for brewing – and in 1873 the company acquired a brewery (Phillips) in Burton and began to build a major new brewery, named the Black Eagle after the original London site.

In 1888, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co became a public company with shareholders, but the balance of production was now shifting to Burton.

The Brick Lane brewery site covered six acres by 1898.

The Brick Lane facility remained active through a take-over by the Grand Metropolitan Group in 1971 and a merger with Watney Mann in 1972, but it was in terminal decline. It eventually closed in 1989.

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Glenn Payne wrote the Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. entry for the Oxford Companion to Beer:

Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. was a venerable British brewery that operated for more than 3 centuries before it closed its doors in 1988. The original brewery was built on Lolsworth Field, Spitalhope, London, by Thomas Bucknall in 1669. He was soon joined by Joseph Truman, who became brewery manager in 1694. Joseph Truman brought Joseph Truman Jr into the company in 1716 and his executor, Sir Benjamin Truman, who took ownership of the business in 1722. Two years later a new brewery, The Black Eagle, was built on nearby Brick Lane, which grew to become Britain’s second largest brewery, employing some 1,000 people. Sir Benjamin died in 1780 without a direct male heir and left the brewery to his grandsons. In the same year, Sampson Hanbury became a partner and took over control in 1789. His nephew, Thomas Fowler Buxton, joined in 1808. He improved the brewing process by adopting innovations in brewing technology brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Outside his activities in the brewery, Buxton was a renowned philanthropist, and he was elected a member of Parliament in 1818. He was associated with William Wilberforce, a leader in the fight to end the British slave trade. By the time of his death in 1845, the brewery produced about 305,000 hl of porter annually. The brewery is even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1850). Seizing upon the growing influence of Burton as a brewing center in the 19th century, the company acquired the Phillips brewery there in 1887 and 2 years later became a public company. But its fortunes declined with the shift in popular taste away from porter toward pale ale near the end of the 19th century. In 1971, the brewery was acquired by the Grand Metropolitan Group, which, in turn, was merged into Watney Mann 1 year later. Thomas, Hanbury, and Buxton ceased production in 1988 but its brewery still stands on its site in Brick Lane, London, where it has been redeveloped into a complex of residential housing, offices, restaurants, galleries, and shops.

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And here’s an account of his entire life, from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet, (born April 1, 1786, Castle Hedingham, Essex, England—died February 19, 1845, near Cromer, Norfolk), British philanthropist and politician who, in 1822, succeeded William Wilberforce as leader of the campaign in the House of Commons for the abolition of slavery in the British colonies and thus was partly responsible for the Abolition Act of August 28, 1833.

A brother-in-law of the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, Buxton, in 1818, published his own Inquiry into Prison Discipline, based on his inspection of Newgate Prison, London. In 1823 he joined Wilberforce and others in founding the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. The ideas he expressed in The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy (1839) inspired the British government to send an expedition to the Niger River Delta in 1841. Intended to make anti-slave-trade treaties with the peoples of the area, to engage in other kinds of trade, and to establish a missionary headquarters, the expedition suffered many deaths from fever and was soon recalled. Although Buxton did not accompany the group, his own health was permanently affected by the shock of the failure of the project. He was made a baronet in 1840.

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And this is from the Abolition Project:

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton was born in Essex in 1786. He was privately educated and went to Trinty College, Dublin. He became a close friend of Joseph Gurney after his mother (a Quaker) introduced him to the Norfolk based family.

He started to attend Quaker meetings with the Gurney family and married Joseph’s sister, Hannah, in 1807. He became a partner in a brewing company and became involved in several campaigns for social reform. Another of Joseph’s sisters was Elizabeth Fry and Buxton became involved in her campaign for prison reform.

In 1818, Buxton was elected MP for Weymouth, a position he held until 1837. He was a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies. In 1823, he formed the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade, the committee that co-ordinated the campaign for total abolition. In 1824, he succeeded William Wilberforce as head of the anti-slavery party in Parliament, continuing the struggle until the Slavery Abolition Act, in 1833, freed all enslaved people in the British Empire.

In 1838, Buxton published The African Slave Trade and Its Remedy. In this book, he told the British government to make treaties with rulers in Africa. An expedition was sent in 1841 to put the plan into action but it failed, mainly because of the large number of deaths among the expedition members from yellow fever and malaria.

You can read an account of this expedition in White Dreams, Black Africa: Antislavery Expedition to the Niger, 1841-42 by Howard Temperley, 1991.

Thomas Fowell Buxton was made a Baron in 1840 and is famous for

saying. “With Ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.”

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Historic Beer Birthday: Gilbert Greenall

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Today is the birthday of Gilbert Greenall (March 30, 1867-October 24, 1938). He “was the son of Sir Gilbert Greenall, 1st Baronet. The family’s wealth was based on the brewing business established by Greenall’s great-grandfather Thomas Greenall in 1762 (which later became the Greenall’s Group PLC) [and which now is part of the De Vere hotel operator]. His father also had large interests in canals and banking. Greenall succeeded his father in the baronetcy in 1894 and notably served as High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1907, being appointed a deputy lieutenant the same year. In 1927 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Daresbury, of Walton in the County of Chester.

Lord Daresbury married Frances Eliza, daughter of Captain Edward Wynne Griffith, in 1900. He died in October 1938, aged 71, and was succeeded in his titles by his son Edward. Lady Daresbury died in 1953.”

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Here’s a history of the brewery, from Wikipedia:

Greenall’s Brewery was founded by Thomas Greenall in 1762. Initially based in St Helens, the company relocated to Warrington in 1787.

It bought the Groves & Whitnall Brewery in Salford in 1961, Shipstone’s Brewery in Nottingham in 1978 and Davenport’s Brewery in Birmingham in 1986. For much of the 20th century, the company traded as Greenall Whitley & Co Limited. The St Helens brewery was demolished in the 1970s to make way for a new shopping centre. The Warrington brewery on the edge of Stockton Heath was bought by Bruntwood, renamed Wilderspool Business Park and is now let to office occupiers.

The company ceased brewing in 1991 to concentrate on running pubs and hotels.

In 1999, the tenanted wing of the Greenall’s operation was sold to the Japanese bank, Nomura for £370 million[7] and the main Greenall’s operation, involving 770 pubs and 69 budget lodges, was sold to Scottish and Newcastle for £1.1billion. Greenalls started to focus its resources on its De Vere and Village Leisure hotel branding at that time.

In February 2005, Greenalls sold The Belfry to The Quinn Group for £186 million.

The Greenall family connection remained as Lord Daresbury, the descendant of the original founder, remained the non-executive chairman. This tie was severed in 2006 when Daresbury stepped down from the post and much of the family’s interest was sold.

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The Greenall, Whitley & Co. Ltd. Brewery, in St. Helens, in 1902.

And this is from Funding Universe:

Patriarch Thomas Greenall learned the brewing trade from his wife’s family in the 1750s and founded his own brewery in northwestern England at St. Helens in 1762. Brewing was a highly competitive business, with rivals ranging from the lone homebrewer to inns and pubs that brewed their own ales to wholesale brew masters like Greenall. Though the founder dabbled in nail making, coal mining, and yarn spinning throughout the late 18th century, brewing remained the family’s core interest. By the turn of the century, Thomas had brought sons Edward, William, and Peter into the business. The Greenalls began to purchase their own pubs and inns as early as 1800, helping to accelerate a gradual elimination of their competition. In Britain, it was customary for bars owned by breweries to carry only the beers brewed by the parent company. For nearly two centuries, these “tied houses” were a profitable segment of Greenall’s business.

In 1788, Greenall formed a separate partnership with William Orrett and Thomas Lyon to purchase the Saracen’s Head Brewery in nearby Wilderspool. Business was so good that within just three years the three partners undertook a £4,400 expansion of the operation.

The family business interests endured a rapid succession of generations in the first two decades of the 19th century. In 1805, both Thomas Greenall and William Orrett died. By 1817, the passing of William and Peter Greenall left only Edward to operate the growing St. Helens brewery. Just a year later, Thomas Lyon died. His nephew and heir, also Thomas, was interested in the Wilderspool brewery only as an investment. In 1818, 60-year-old Edward assigned eldest son Thomas to manage the family’s half interest in Wilderspool and charged younger son Peter with management of the family brewery at St. Helens.

While Peter pursued politics, eventually winning election to Parliament, Thomas proved to be the brewer of his generation. By this time, the family businesses had grown to the point that the Greenalls served as chairmen, guiding the overall direction of the company but leaving daily management concerns to other top executives. Throughout this period, ownership of the pubs and inns through which Greenall’s porters, sparkling ales, and bitters were dispensed was a key to maintaining a strong competitive position.

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And this is Greenall Whitley & Co’s., Wilderspool Brewery, in Warrington in 1887.

And continuing Funding Universe’s history, this portion, entitled “Consolidation of Family Holdings in Mid-19th Century” is where Gilbert comes in and runs the company:

When both Peter and Thomas died in the late 1840s, their younger brother, Parliamentarian Gilbert Greenall, inherited the family’s St. Helens and Wilderspool holdings. Gilbert appointed his nephew, John Whitley, to manage the Wilderspool brewery in 1853 and set out himself to rebuild, retool, and enlarge the St. Helens operation mid-decade.

Longtime silent partner Thomas Lyon died in 1859 and his estate sold his stake in the Wilderspool brewery to Gilbert Greenall, making the Greenall family the sole owners of both the St. Helens and the Wilderspool operations. Gilbert marked the occasion by changing the unified firm’s name to Greenall & Company. Not long thereafter, Greenalls eliminated its last major local competitor by acquiring the Dentons Green Brewery in St. Helens. In 1880, Gilbert (who was made a baronet in 1876 by Queen Victoria) merged the St. Helens and Wilderspool breweries as Greenall Whitley & Company Limited and installed himself as the corporation’s first chairman. Though operating under the same corporate umbrella, the two houses retained their separate identities and brands. By 1882, Greenall’s annual sales volume totaled nearly 90,000 barrels of beer and the company owned about 200 pubs.

Sir Gilbert guided the expansion and modernization of the Wilderspool brewery as well as a flurry of acquisitions in the waning years of the 19th century. His four-year, £6,750 modernization program brought in state-of-the-art brewing and bottling equipment, upgraded the company’s railway access, and expanded the operation’s office space. Acquisitions included the Halewood, Richardson’s, and Spring breweries, bringing with them more than two dozen pubs. A rapid series of untimely deaths accelerated the family’s succession plans when in the space of just two years both Sir Gilbert and his second-in-command, Peter Whitley, died, propelling the chairman’s son, also Gilbert, into the leadership of two growing breweries at the young age of 27.

The new chairman suffered a trial by fire in the first two decades of the 20th century. He began the transition from horse-drawn transportation to gasoline-driven vehicles as early as 1908, adopting some of the first vehicles of their type. World War I brought extreme deprivation to the United Kingdom. Rationing of all foods–including brewing ingredients–and manpower shortages made this period a difficult one for Greenall Whitley, but the company emerged from the conflict unscathed.

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The St. Helens brewery in the 1930s.

Greenall Whitley resumed its acquisition strategy in the period between the World Wars, purchasing nine pubs in 1919 alone. Four years later, the brewery diversified into wine and liquors through the acquisition of Gilbert & John Greenall Limited, a distillery owned by another branch of the family. Though the business remained concentrated in the northwest region of Britain, acquisitions gave Greenall Whitley a growing share of the area’s breweries and pubs in the early 1930s. The purchase of three operations in as many years added nearly 90 ale houses and inns to the company roster.

After four decades as chairman, Lord Gilbert Greenall (who had been given the hereditary title First Baron Daresbury of Walton by King George V in 1927) died in 1938, passing leadership of Greenall Whitley to his son Edward. In his nine years of service to the company, Edward made a special effort to restore and preserve the company’s historic pubs, as well as maintain high standards of quality in the breweries.

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Beer Birthday: Michael Jackson

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Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 75th birthday. I first met Michael in the early 1990s, shortly after my first beer book was published. He is all but single-handedly responsible for the culture of better beer that exists today. He began writing about good beer in the 1960s and 70s and his writing has influenced (and continues to influence) generations of homebrewers and commercial brewers, many of whom were inspired to start their own breweries by his words. There are few others, if any, that have been so doggedly persistent and passionate about spreading the word about great beer. I know some of my earliest knowledge and appreciation of beer, and especially its history and heritage, came from Michael’s writings. Michael passed away in August 2007, ten years ago. I still miss him, and I suspect I’m not the only one. A few years ago, J.R. Richards’ new documentary film about Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter: The Movie, debuted, which I helped a tiny bit with as a pioneer sponsor.

I did an article a few years ago for Beer Connoisseur, for their Innovator’s Series, entitled Michael Jackson: The King of Beer Writers, A personal look back at the man who made hunting for beer a career. I reached out to a number of people who also knew Michael for their remembrances as well as my own, and as a result I’m pretty pleased with the results (although the original draft was almost twice as long).

I’ll again be playing some jazz and having a pint of something yummy in his honor, which has become my tradition for March 27, which I’ve also started declaring to be “Beer Writers Day.” Join me in drinking a toast to Michael Jackson, the most influential modern beer writer who’s ever lived.

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At the Great Divide Brewing’s media party in Denver over fifteen years ago.

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On stage accepting the first beer writing awards from the Brewers Association with Jim Cline, GM of Rogue, Stan Hieronymus, who writes Real Beer’s Beer Therapy among much else, and Ray Daniels, formerly of the Brewers Association.

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At GABF in 2006, still wearing the same glasses. But my, oh my, have I changed. Sheesh.

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With Carolyn Smagalski receiving an award at Pilsner Urquell.

Historic Beer Birthday: Benjamin Truman

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Today is the birthday of Benjamin Truman (1699 or 1700-March 20, 1780). He “was a notable English entrepreneur and brewer during the 18th century. He is notable for the expansion of the Truman Brewery in the Spitalfields area of east London.” His exact birth date is unknown, so I’ll use the day he passed away in 1780.

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Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, painted between 1770-74.

This is biography from his Wikipedia page:

Truman followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both named Joseph Truman. Joseph Truman the elder inherited the Lolsworth Field brewery, William Bucknall’s Brewhouse, in 1694, and took his son into partnership in 1716 before dying in 1719. Benjamin Truman joined the firm in 1722, and proved himself a shrewd businessman:

“On the birth of the Duchess of Brunswick, granddaughter of George II, in August 1737, the Prince of Wales ordered four loads of faggots and a number of tar barrels to be burnt before Carlton House to celebrate the event, and directed the brewer of his household to place four barrels of beer near the bonfire for the use of those who chose to partake of the beverage. The beer proved to be of inferior quality and the people threw it into each other’s faces and the barrels into the fire. The prince remedied the matter on the following night by ordering a fresh quantity of beer from another brewer. This was supplied by Truman, who took care that it should be of the best, thus earning for himself considerable popularity.”

Under Truman’s management, the Black Eagle brewery increased substantially in prosperity and size, and Truman divided his time between the brewery’s Directors’ House and a home, Popes, in Hertfordshire.

Truman was knighted by George III on his accession in 1760 in recognition of his loyalty in contributing to the voluntary loans raised to carry on the various foreign wars. His portrait was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1773-1774); the latter has been part of the Tate Gallery collection since 1978.

Truman died on 20 March 1780, and left a daughter, his only child, whose two grandsons (Sir Benjamin’s great-grandchildren), John Freeman Villebois and Henry Villebois, succeeded to his interest in the business.

Truman was buried in the Churchyard of St Mary’s, Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire. Together with his memorial is that of his wife Dame Frances Truman who died 10 June 1766 aged 66 and James Truman Esq., died 11 November 1766 aged 42.

Truman’s wife, Frances, was a matrilineal descendant of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and the mitochondrial DNA descent through which the remains of Richard III of England were identified in 2013 passes through her and their daughter, also Frances:

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Another portrait of Truman, this one by George Romney.

This history of the brewery, which mentions Benjamin Truman, is from British History Online:

The Black Eagle Brewery at Spitalfields of Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co., Ltd., is one of the oldest in London and covers an area of over 6 acres. The founder was one Thomas Bucknall, who in 1669 erected a brewhouse on ‘Lolsworth Field at Spittlehope,’ an estate then belonging to Sir William Wheler, bart. The business passed in 1694 into the hands of Joseph Truman the elder, the property consisting of six messuages and one brewhouse. The remainder of the Wheler estate was built upon and covered with streets, and part of this property has since been acquired by the firm for the extension of their premises. Joseph Truman was a successful business man, and in 1716 took into partnership Joseph Truman, jun., Alud Denne, and others. He died in 1719, and a curious document of that date is in the firm’s possession described as ‘An inventory of the goods, chattels, and credits of Joseph Truman, which since his death have come into the hands, possession and knowledge of Benjamin Truman, Daniel Cooper, and the executors named in the will of Joseph Truman.’ Benjamin Truman who was an executor of Joseph Truman, sen., joined the firm in 1722. An anecdote which exhibits his shrewdness as a business man is told by J. P. Malcolm. On the birth of the Duchess of Brunswick, granddaughter of George II, in August 1737, the Prince of Wales ordered four loads of faggots and a number of tar barrels to be burnt before Carlton House to celebrate the event, and directed the brewer of his household to place four barrels of beer near the bonfire for the use of those who chose to partake of the beverage. The beer proved to be of inferior quality and the people threw it into each other’s faces and the barrels into the fire. The prince remedied the matter on the following night by ordering a fresh quantity of beer from another brewer. This was supplied by Truman, who took care that it should be of the best, thus earning for himself considerable popularity.

¶Another early document possessed by the firm, dated 1739, is endorsed, ‘A “rest” taken and general account stated of all debts and credits, and also of the malt, hoppes, coales, beer in the several store cellers and brewhouse, with all the other goods, utensells as affixt, used and employ’d in the brewing trade carried on by Benjamin Truman, John Denne, Francis Cooper, and the surviving executors of Alud Denne, at their brewhouse and several warehouses, situated in Brick Lane, in the parish of Christchurch, in the county of Middlesex.’ At this time the brewery was very extensive, and had on its books 296 publicans, one of whom was the second partner in the firm, Alud Denne. The business greatly prospered under the management of Benjamin Truman, who was knighted by George III on his accession in recognition of his loyalty in contributing to the voluntary loans raised to carry on the various foreign wars. Sir Benjamin was a man of refined taste and a lover of the arts; his portrait by Gainsborough is preserved in the board-room, formerly the drawing-room, of the house in Brick Lane. Sir Benjamin Truman died 20 March 1780, and left a daughter, his only child, whose two grandsons (Sir Benjamin’s great-grandchildren), John Freeman Villebois and Henry Villebois, succeeded to his interest in the business.

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The brewery on Brick Lane in London.

The original brewery was probably established by the Bucknall family, who leased the site in the seventeenth century. The site’s first associations with brewing can be traced back to 1666 when a Joseph Truman is recorded as joining William Bucknall’s Brewhouse in Brick Lane. Part of the site was located on Black Eagle Street, hence the brewery’s name. Truman appears to have acquired the lease of the brewery in 1679, upon the death of William Bucknell. Through the Truman family’s efforts – not least those of Sir Benjamin Truman (who joined the firm in 1722) – the business expanded rapidly over the following 200 years. By 1748 the Black Eagle Brewery was the third largest brewery in London, and likely the world, with 40,000 barrels produced annually.

In the mid-18th century Huguenot immigrants introduced a new beverage flavoured with hops, which proved very popular. Initially, Truman’s imported hops from Belgium, but Kent farmers were soon encouraged to grow hops to help the brewery meet growing demand.

Sir Benjamin died in March 1780 and, without a son to take on the business, it passed to his grandsons. In 1789, the brewery was taken over by Sampson Hanbury (Hanbury had been a partner since 1780; the Truman family became ‘sleeping partners’). Hanbury’s nephew, Thomas Fowell Buxton, joined the company in 1808, improved the brewing process, converted the works to steam power and, with the rapid expansion and improvement of Britain’s road and rail transport networks, the Black Eagle label soon became famous across Britain (by 1835, when Buxton took over the business upon Hanbury’s death, the brewery was producing some 200,000 barrels (32,000 m3) of porter a year).

The Brick Lane brewery – now known as Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co – took on new partners in 1816, the Pryor brothers (the company’s owners were renowned for their good treatment of their workers – providing free schooling – and for their support of abolitionism). By 1853 the brewery was the largest in the world, producing 400,000 barrels of beer each year, with a site covering six acres.

However, the company also faced competition from breweries based outside London – notably in Burton upon Trent, where the water was particularly suitable for brewing – and in 1873 the company acquired a brewery (Phillips) in Burton and began to build a major new brewery, named the Black Eagle after the original London site.

In 1888, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co became a public company with shareholders, but the balance of production was now shifting to Burton. The Brick Lane facility remained active through a take-over by the Grand Metropolitan Group in 1971 and a merger with Watney Mann in 1972, but it was in terminal decline. It eventually closed in 1989.

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Glenn Payne wrote the Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. entry for the Oxford Companion to Beer:

Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. was a venerable British brewery that operated for more than 3 centuries before it closed its doors in 1988. The original brewery was built on Lolsworth Field, Spitalhope, London, by Thomas Bucknall in 1669. He was soon joined by Joseph Truman, who became brewery manager in 1694. Joseph Truman brought Joseph Truman Jr into the company in 1716 and his executor, Sir Benjamin Truman, who took ownership of the business in 1722. Two years later a new brewery, The Black Eagle, was built on nearby Brick Lane, which grew to become Britain’s second largest brewery, employing some 1,000 people. Sir Benjamin died in 1780 without a direct male heir and left the brewery to his grandsons. In the same year, Sampson Hanbury became a partner and took over control in 1789. His nephew, Thomas Fowler Buxton, joined in 1808. He improved the brewing process by adopting innovations in brewing technology brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Outside his activities in the brewery, Buxton was a renowned philanthropist, and he was elected a member of Parliament in 1818. He was associated with William Wilberforce, a leader in the fight to end the British slave trade. By the time of his death in 1845, the brewery produced about 305,000 hl of porter annually. The brewery is even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1850). Seizing upon the growing influence of Burton as a brewing center in the 19th century, the company acquired the Phillips brewery there in 1887 and 2 years later became a public company. But its fortunes declined with the shift in popular taste away from porter toward pale ale near the end of the 19th century. In 1971, the brewery was acquired by the Grand Metropolitan Group, which, in turn, was merged into Watney Mann 1 year later. Thomas, Hanbury, and Buxton ceased production in 1988 but its brewery still stands on its site in Brick Lane, London, where it has been redeveloped into a complex of residential housing, offices, restaurants, galleries, and shops.

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They also later built a Black Eagle Brewery in Burton. As you’d expect, Martyn Cornell has an amazingly thorough account of Trumans, which he refers to as When Brick Lane was home to the biggest brewery in the world.

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Historic Beer Birthday: John Smith

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Today is the birthday of John Smith (March 18, 1824-September 9, 1879). He was born in Leeds, and founded John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England in 1852, when “purchased the Backhouse & Hartley brewery” with a “loan” from his wealthy father.

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Here’s a short history of how the brewery got started and became John Smith’s.

Stephen Hartley began brewing in Tadcaster in 1758. In 1845 Jane Hartley mortgaged the brewery to David Backhouse and John Hartley. In 1847, Samuel Smith of Leeds arranged for his son John to enter the business. Jane Hartley died in 1852, and John Smith acquired the business, enlisting his brother William to help him. The timing was to prove fortuitous; pale ales were displacing porter as the beer of choice, and Tadcaster’s hard water proved to be well-suited for brewing the new style. The prosperity of the 1850s and 1860s, together with the arrival of the railways, realised greater opportunities for brewers, and by 1861 John Smith employed eight men in his brewing and malting enterprise.

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And the Town of Tadcaster, where the brewery is located, includes this:

John Smith’s Ltd. brings together some of the greatest names in British brewing. John Smith’s, Wm. Younger, Matthew Brown….. we draw on a rich heritage and brewing expertise that stretches back over 250 years. As part of Scottish Courage, the UK’s foremost brewing company, we also represent some of the world’s most famous beer brands. ‘Only the best is good enough.’ Our company bears the name of a remarkable man. Born the son of a tanner, John Smith built a brewing business based on his entrepreneurial skills and personal commitment to quality. His Tadcaster brewery, acquired in 1847, responded to the new market opportunities generated by rapid population growth in northern towns during the Industrial Revolution.The excellence of his ales paved the way for what has become Britain’s most popular ale brand. The success story continues: a recent major expansion program at Tadcaster has doubled capacity to keep in pace with growing demand. An alliance of proud traditions.John Smith’s Ltd. represents a coming together of many proud brewing traditions like an ex-girlfriend blog. Matthew Brown began his brewing career in Lancashire in 1830. Wm. Younger’s traces it’s roots right back to 1749 and William McEwan founded his brewery in 1856. The Younger’s and McEwan’s companies joined forces in 1931 to form Scottish Brewers, arguably Scotland’s most famous beer company. These traditions are now combined with the prestigious brands owned by Scottish Courage. Times have changed, but the guiding principles of service and quality adopted by John Smith over 150 years ago are still at the core of our business today.

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Historic Beer Birthday: John Taylor

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Today is the birthday of John Taylor (March 13, 1790-September 13, 1863). He was born in England, but came to American with his family when he was just three years old, settling eventually in Albany, New York. He initially went into the candle-making business with his father, but in 1822 switched to brewing and opened the Lancelot Fiddler Brewery, renaming the John Taylor Brewery a few years later, and adding “and Sons” around 1844, before closing for good in 1905.

Albany chronicles, a history of the city arranged chronologically.

Here’s a short biography from the History of the county of Albany, N. Y., published in 1886:

John Taylor, Mayor 1848-49, was born in Durham, England, March 1790 and died in Albany September 31, 1863. He migrated to Brooklyn with his father when a mere infant, and to Albany in 1793. He engaged in the business of a tallow-chandler with his father when he was seventeen years old, and before he was twenty-three he had been burned out four times. Then his fortunes changed. He began to make money about 1813 as an army contractor. In 1822 he became a brewer, and from this business realized an ample fortune. He had branches in Boston and New York later, conducted by his sons. He gave freely of his wealth to the poor, and to all objects that promised to benefit the city. He became a great reader, and accumulated a larger larger and more valuable than any in the city in his time. He gained great popularity and wealth at the same time by a steady course of industry, enterprise, integrity, philanthropy and virtue. Taylor’s Brewery is still occupied [1886] at 133 Broadway.

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And this portion of What Was Albany Ale? from the Albany Ale Project, by Alan McLeod and Craig Gravina, discussed John Taylor and his brewery:

Albany’s 150 years of Dutch family breweries established the city as a well-known brewing center. At this time, the first advertisements for “Albany Ale” began to appear as a euphemistic term for the best beer—of any kind—brewed in Albany. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 and an Albany brewer named John Taylor would soon change that perception.

John Taylor & Sons’ Taylor opened his first brewery in the early 1820s and second larger one in 1831. A savvy businessman, Taylor saw the opportunity to exploit New York’s new water highway. Albany’s access to the Hudson River and position at the terminus of the Erie Canal afforded it a monopoly on the distribution of beer. Raw materials for beer making could be brought east to Albany via the Canal, and Taylor, in-turn could export his beer south, down the Hudson River to the port of New York. From there the beer could shipped anywhere in the world. By the 1850s Taylor had built the largest brewery in the country in Albany, capable of producing 200,000 barrels of beer a year. Taylor began advertising a double X ale, which would become his flagship beer, that he dubbed “Imperial Albany XX Ale.” As the demand for this double X strength ale grew, so did the number of breweries in the city—seventeen by the mid-1860s—almost all of them producing some kind of XX strength Albany Ale. No longer was Albany Ale a euphemism; it had become a specific thing.

And Craig, for Session 56, wrote Thanks to John Taylor – the Original American Big Boy, which goes into more detail.

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Beer Birthday: Tim Webb

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Today is the birthday of British beer writer Tim Webb, who along with Stephen Beaumont published the World Atlas of Beer and the Pocket Beer Guide, along with the Good Beer Guide to Belgium, with Joe Stange. I love Tim’s dry wit and his unabashed disdain for America(ns). I like to think I’m tolerated because I know, and like, Canadians and the British. Then again, who knows? Join me in wishing Tim a very happy birthday.

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Me and Tim at the Falling Rock during an SF Beer Week promotional event during GABF in 2009.

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Tim with Stephen Beaumont and Michelle Wang, showing off the 2nd edition of the Pocket Beer Guide in Leuven.

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The British contingency, Adrian Tierney-Jones, Tim Hampson, Tim and Pete Brown.

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Stephen Beaumont and I, looking perfectly pleased, while Tim displays a distinct lack of enthusiasm at Brouwerij de Kroon.