Beer Birthday: Jason Alström

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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: Megan Parisi

Today is the birthday of Megan Parisi, who’s currently a brewery for the Boston Beer Company. Before that she brewed at Wormtown Brewery, Bluejacket and Cambridge Brewing. And coincidentally, we both once played clarinet in a military band, Megan for the US Navy, whereas I was in an Army band. Megan’s a terrific brewer and a great addition to the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston. Join me in wishing Megan a very happy birthday.

John Harris, from Ecliptic Brewing, Megan, and John Holl, from All About Beer magazine at the GABF judges’ reception at Epic Brewing in 2015.

Megan at her new job at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston a few Julys ago when I was there judging the finals for the Longshot Homebrew Competition.

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

Legend & Bluejacket
During CBC in Washington, D.C. in 2013. Bobby Bump: assistant brewer, at Bluejacket, Megan, when she was lead brewer at Bluejacket and John Wampler, brewmaster at Legend Brewing in Richmond, Virginia. [Photo by Thomas Cizauskas.]

Beer Birthday: Will Meyers

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.

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

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

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

Will with his lovely bride Cindy Lou.

Will shortly before he began his career as a brewer.

Historic Beer Birthday: Jacob Gimlich

Today is the birthday of Jacob Gimlich (October 4, 1845-January 21, 1912). He was born in Weisenheim, Bavaria, but came to Massachusetts and bought the M. Benson Brewery of Pittsfield, with business partner John White, in 1868, only one year after it opened. They renamed it the unimaginative Jacob Gimlich & John White Brewery. In 1891, they changed its name to the Berkshire Brewing Association, and that remained its name until it closed due to prohibition in 1918 or 1919. “The brewery produced beers such as Greylock Ale, Mannheimer Lager, Lenox Half Stock Ale, Berkshire Lager, Berkshire Ale, and Superior Old Porter. In addition to beer, Mineral Water, Soda, and Malt Extracts were also produced. The brewery was a great success producing 75,000 barrels a year and distributed all over the northeast and as far south as the Carolinas.”


Here’s a history of Gimlich, from “Historic homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Berkshire County, Massachusetts,” published in 1906:



Here’s a story of the brewery

One can only wonder what John White and Jacob Gimlich would have thought as federal officers poured 15,000 gallons of locally crafted beer into the sewer on an early May morning in 1922.

Gimlich and his brother-in-law White had first purchased a small brewery on Columbus Street in 1868 from Michael Benson. First called simply “Jacob Gimlich & John White,” the business began at an output of just six barrels a day, but would grow to be a major manufacturer in the West Side Pittsfield neighborhood.

Both men had immigrated to the country from Germany in their youth, and both served tours in the Civil War. Gimlich worked briefly for the Taconic Woolen Mills before going into the beer business with his sister Rachel’s husband.

By 1880, operating as Gimlich, White & Co., the brewers erected a much larger facility in a five-story brick building measuring 40 by 80 feet. The expanded plant employed from 15 to 20 men and was shipping about 16,000 barrels a year.

Gimlich and White built houses directly across the road from their plant on John Street, and as their fortunes grew became increasingly prominent members of the community. Gimlich in particular became enmeshed in a variety of financial and civic affairs. From 1884-1885, he served as the city’s representative in the Legislature, and was one of the organizers and directors of City Savings Bank. Gimlich likewise served on the board of the Berkshire Loan and Trust Co. and of the Co-Operative Bank, was a past chancellor of the local lodge, Knights of Pythias, and member of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and of the local Sons of Veterans.

“Pittsfield has been pleased with the success of Gimlich & White and they are counted among the town’s leading, liberal, and most public spirited citizens,” states one Pittsfield Sun editorial of the time.

By the early 1890s the torch was being passed to the next generation, with sons David Gimlich along with Fred and George White taking on more leadership of the company when it reincorporated as Berkshire Brewing Association in 1892. An additional four-story building was added, with the brewing complex now taking up the full block along Columbus Avenue between Onota and John Street to Gilbert Avenue.


Among Berkshire Brewing’s most popular products were Mannheimer Lager Beer, Berkshire Pure Malt Extract, Lenox Half Stock Ale, and Berkshire Pale Ale, considered to be one of the finest India pale ales then on the market. The plant also churned out bottled mineral waters, ginger ale and other soft drinks.

The elder Gimlich and White passed away in 1912 and 1916, respectively, but the enterprise they founded continued to see steady growth. The only brewery of the kind within 50 miles of Pittsfield, Berkshire Brewing Association had something of a monopoly in the region, along with a thriving distribution throughout the east coast as far south as the Carolinas. At its peak, it employed 150 workers and put out 75,000 to 100,000 barrels worth of beer annually. Records indicate between 1910 and 1920, Berkshire Brewing Association paid $1 million in federal taxes, in addition to state and local taxes and fees, including $1,200 a year for a brewer’s license and $800 for an annual bottling license.

The company was not without its occasional hiccups, such as a lengthy strike in the fall of 1911 by the Pittsfield Brewers Union, culminating in the reinstatement of a dismissed employee.

Real crisis came at the end of the decade, as increasing restrictions on alcohol grew into total national prohibition. They first ceased brewing beer temporarily in December 1918, after a directive from the National Food Administration following the passage of the the Wartime Prohibition Act. Even after the passage of the Volstead Act the following fall, BBA voted to remain in business, focusing on bottled soft drinks while hoping the ban to be a brief legislative phase.

They also continued to brew beer, as did several major brewers throughout the country at first, seeing the government’s lack of resources tasked to enforce the rule. Finally in spring 1922, federal officers arrived to turn off the taps, disposing of 15,000 gallons worth and estimated $15,000 to $20,000 at the time.

Ironically, the company waited it out until nearly the end of the failed domestic policy, the board of directors voting to close down in January 1929.

The brewery building was dismantled soon after; for a time, the Siegel Furniture Co. operated out of the former bottling building, which later became the Warehouse Furniture Co. In 1975, this, too, was cleared as the land passed to the Pittsfield Housing Authority, which developed the Christopher Arms housing project that occupies the former site of the brewery today.

A brewery delivery truck around 1905.

And here’s Gimlich’s obituary:





Historic Beer Birthday: Samuel Adams

Today is the birthday of Samuel Adams (September 27, 1722-October 2, 1803). He “was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States. He was a second cousin to President John Adams.” He was also at least a maltster, and possibly a brewer.

A portrait of Samuel Adams by John Singleton Copley.

Copely was one of the most famous early American painters, especially of portraits. He also did paintings of John Hancock, John Adams and Paul Revere, as well. The painting hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, and I had a change to see the original in 2009, when the CBC was in Boston. It was smaller than I expected at 49 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. and is believed to have been painted around 1772. Its first owner, after the artist, was none other than John Hancock. His wife later gave it to Adams’ grandson and in 1876 it was given to the City of Boston. In the painting, he’s pointing at the Massachusetts Charter, which Adams believed was a constitution that protected peoples’ rights.

An engraving of Samuel Adams, by Alonzo Chappel, from 1858.

Whether or not Adams was in fact a brewer is open to some debate. Stanley Baron’s Brewing in America suggests that he may have been involved in his father’s malting business, making him a Malster. In the footnote in the Wikipedia entry on Samuel Adams, it tells the following story.

Baron, Brewed in America, 74–75; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 231. However, Stoll (Samuel Adams, 275n16) notes that James Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, reports having seen a receipt for hops signed by Adams, which indicates that Adams may have done some brewing.

It seems to me we might rarely hear of Sam Adams’ connection to the world of beer were it not for the Boston Beer Co. Historically, it doesn’t seem like that was a driving force in his life. What does seem clear, is that his father, Samuel Adams Sr., was most certainly a maltster, and also probably a brewer.

Here’s Michael Burgan, author of Samuel Adams: Patriot and Statesman, discussing Samuel Adams Sr., Samuel Adams’ father.



On the New England Historical Society’s website, on a page about Samuel Adams, entitled Sam Adams Walked Into a Tavern and Started a Revolution. Part of that has the heading “Sam the Maltster.”

Sam the Maltster

Sam’s Adams’ father, Deacon Samuel Adams, was a man of wealth and respect. He made his living selling malt to beer makers from a malt house in his backyard. Deacon Adams was a leader of the populist political party known as the Boston Caucus, whose members met in taverns.

Young Sam Adams entered Harvard in 1736 at 14, graduated in 1740 and received a master’s degree in 1743. He didn’t want to be a lawyer or a minister, so he tried working in Thomas Cushing’s counting house. He hated it. He ended up living at home on the income from his father’s malt house.

sam-adams-green-dragon He haunted the taverns of Boston, honing his political skills and making his political connections. His cousin John Adams noted taverns were where ‘bastards, and legislators, are frequently begotten.’

Sam didn’t become a legislator. First he was elected clerk of the market, then town scavenger, then tax collector, a position he held for nearly a decade. Later he became clerk of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, delegate to the Continental Congress, president of the Massachusetts Senate, lieutenant governor and governor.

When Sam was 24, his father died. The next year, British naval officers kidnapped 50 men on the Boston waterfront to impress them into service. A riot ensued, the prisoners were released and Sam Adams became a journalist. He started a newspaper, The Independent Advertiser, in which he portrayed the rioters as an assembly of people defending their natural right to life and liberty.

He also organized the Sons of Liberty, which flourished in Boston’s tavern-based political culture.

In 1769, Sam Adams, James Otis, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Benjamin Edes and 350 Sons of Liberty celebrated the fourth anniversary of resistance to the Stamp Act at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Dorchester. They dined in a tent set up for the occasion and drank 45 toasts. John Adams, who was there, noted that no one got drunk (beer could be pretty weak) and grudgingly approved of the affair. “Otis and Adams are politick, in promoting these Festivals, for they tinge the Minds of the People, they impregnate them with the sentiments of Liberty.”

Samuel Adams in 1795 when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

Most accounts of Samuel Adams focus on his political activities and rarely mention his association with brewing at all. Here, for example, is a short biography from U.S., one of the 56 on the website done for each of the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Samuel and John Adams’ names are almost synonymous in all accounts of the Revolution that grew, largely, out of Boston. Though they were cousins and not brothers, they were often referred to as the Adams’ brothers, or simply as the Adams’. Samuel Adams was born in Boston, son of a merchant and brewer. He was an excellent politician, an unsuccessful brewer, and a poor businessman. His early public office as a tax collector might have made him suspect as an agent of British authority, however he made good use of his understanding of the tax codes and wide acquaintance with the merchants of Boston. Samuel was a very visible popular leader who, along with John, spent a great deal of time in the public eye agitating for resistance. In 1765 he was elected to the Massachusetts Assembly where he served as clerk for many years. It was there that he was the first to propose a continental congress. He was a leading advocate of republicanism and a good friend of Tom Paine. In 1774, he was chosen to be a member of the provincial council during the crisis in Boston. He was then appointed as a representative to the Continental Congress, where he was most noted for his oratory skills, and as a passionate advocate of independence from Britain. In 1776, as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence. Adams retired from the Congress in 1781 and returned to Massachusetts to become a leading member of that state’s convention to form a constitution. In 1789 he was appointed lieutenant governor of the state. In 1794 he was elected Governor, and was re-elected annually until 1797 when he retired for health reasons. He died in the morning of October 2, 1803, in his home town of Boston.

Finally, an article on the History Channel’s website, The Sudsy History of Samuel Adams, comes to pretty much the same conclusion, that Samuel Adams did inherit his father’s malting business, but if he was involved at all, his heart wasn’t in it. While it’s possible he also did brew, most likely for his household as was common in his day, there’s little, if any, compelling evidence for it. But thanks to Jim Koch, for the foreseeable future at least, his name will be inextricably linked to beer.


Beer Birthday: Dann Paquette

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.

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

Dann doing his Snidely Whiplash impersonation.

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

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 Birthday: Aaron Mateychuk

Today is also the birthday of Aaron Mateychuk, apparently former brewmaster of Watch City Brewing in Waltham, Massachusetts. A little over a year ago, the brewing equipment was sold at auction and the brewery closed, though there were rumors another brewery may be moving into the same space. I met Aaron during CBC week when the Craft Brewers Conference was in Boston in 2009, and we almost got together when he was in San Francisco a couple of years ago, but kept crossing paths instead. Hopefully, Aaron has landed on his feet and found another brewing gig, but I haven’t heard. Maybe somebody knows? Join me in wishing Aaron a very happy birthday.

Giving a tour in 2009 during the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston.

Aaron with his wife Jennifer, in a Toronado t-shirt.

And at the Toronado.

Note: The last two photos purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday: Jim Koch

Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Co., known primarily for their Samuel Adams beers, is celebrating his 67th 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.

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.

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

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).

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

Historic Beer Birthday: Sampson Salter

Today is the birthday of Sampson Salter (March 21, 1692-April 6, 1778) who in the early 18th century operated one of the most popular breweries in Boston. Considering it was apparently so popular, there’s very little specific information about either Salter or his brewery. Most histories seem to only mention him in passing. For example, “Historic Taverns of Boston” by Gavin Nathan, says only this:


Boston in 1722.

Cigar City Bought By Fireman Capital

cigar-city oskar-blues-blue
In an exclusive this morning, Brewbound is reporting that Fireman Capital to Purchase Cigar City. According to Brewbound, “Cigar City, a leading independent brewery based in Tampa, Fla., has agreed to sell controlling interest to Boston-based private equity firm Fireman Capital Partners, which already owns majority stakes in Oskar Blues, Perrin Brewing and the Utah Brewers Cooperative outfit that includes the Wasatch and Squatters brands.”

The overall entity created by Fireman Capital for their brewery acquisitions is United Craft Brews LLC, incorporated in Delaware. The SEC Form D lists Fireman Capital’s address is Waltham, Massachusetts, but information on OpenLEIs lists a registered address in Delaware, but Oskar Blues’ Longmont address as Headquarters for United Craft Brews. Last year, Westwood was still asking Does Oskar Blues Still Own Oskar Blues? This will undoubtedly continue to muddy the waters surrounding the answer to that question.

Rumors had been swirling that ABI was considering Cigar City as their next target for acquisition, and founder Joey Redner confirmed that he’d gotten as far as signing an LOI. But ABI let their exclusivity period pass without executing a formal purchase agreement, leaving Cigar City free to entertain other potential buyers.


Cigar City’s website posted a joint press release about the transaction:

Oskar Blues Brewery Rolls up a Cigar City Blunt

Longmont, CO, & Tampa Bay, FL — Oskar Blues Brewery announced the acquisition of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing. Putting months of acquirement rumors to rest, the decision is driven by mutual irreverence, respect and desire to stay true to craft beer roots.

The combination stems from the want to take risks, sniff out bullsh*t and grow against-the-grain in an era of increasing competition within craft beer. The collaboration will match years of large-scale growth, expansion expertise and resources of Oskar Blues with the strength of Cigar City’s local following to help both breweries strengthen their future position. Similarly to Oskar Blues, Cigar City’s award-winning brews are well known and respected within the craft community.

“Cigar City is facing next-level challenges and we needed to develop next-level skills and resources to meet them. But, we got into beer out of passion and an unwavering desire to travel our own path. We didn’t want to just shove our round peg into some f*cking square hole and hope for the best. Florida craft beer drinkers want something they can proudly stand behind. These guys get that. They wrote the book on keeping it real,” says Joey, founder of Cigar City Brewing. Joey will remain as CEO of Cigar City following the transaction.

Since 2009, Cigar City Brewing achieved a near constant growth pattern reaching nearly 60,000 barrels in 2015, placing the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida on the craft beer map. The partnership will provide additional investment for Cigar City’s infrastructure growth within Florida.

“What Cigar City has done for the community of Florida craft beer is impressive. It’s important for our culture to do business with people we want to hang out with and Joey and the gang fit,” Dale Katechis, Soul Founder of Oskar Blues, stated about the new partnership.

Oskar Blues Brewery is the funky brewpub that started brewing beer in 1999 in the small town of Lyons, CO and is responsible for starting the craft beer in-a-can movement in 2002 with Dale’s Pale Ale. In 2008, the brewery expanded down the street to Longmont, CO. and added an additional brewery in Brevard, NC in 2012. Oskar Blues brewed 192,000 barrels in 2015 and announced another brewery in Austin, TX scheduled to open in May of 2016.

Terms of the acquisition are not disclosed.