Beer Birthday: Tom Acitelli

Today is the 37th birthday of Tom Acitelli, author of the wonderful history of craft beer, The Audacity of Hops. Tom reached out to me while he was working on his book, and we’ve been friends ever since. He’s a great new addition to the cadre of writers chronicling the beer industry these days. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.

Tom reading selections from his book at Anchor Brewery.

Tom and Vinnie Cilurzo during a visit to the Russian River production brewery.

At Lagunitas for Tom’s book release party last year, with Joe Tucker, Jeremy Marshall, me, Tom and Ken Weaver.

Beer Birthday: Todd Alstrom

Today is the 45th birthday of Todd Alström, co-founder of Beer Advocate. With his brother Jason, Todd has created one of the killer apps of the beer world online and the only monthly beer magazine. Though we only run into one another from time to time, we always have a good time. We also shared a week in Bavaria on a press junket in 2007, and had a terrific fry crawl in Boston a number of years ago, before he relocated to Denver last year. Join me in wishing Todd a very happy birthday.

Todd (at right), with brother Jason and Jaime Jurado, head brewer from Gambrinus, at the 2008 GABF.

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 Alström and Todd Alström.

Todd with Rhonda Kallman at the Blue Palm in L.A., after the premiere of Beer Wars.

Me, Todd, Jason Alström, Joe Tucker and Greg Koch showing off our sample bottles of Enjoy By 12.21.12 in San Diego two Decembers ago.

First American Trappist Brewery

While it’s been a rumor for a number of years — I first learned about it at least four years back, but like a monk was sworn to silence — finally it’s out in the public. America is getting its first officially sanctioned Trappist brewery. St. Joseph’s Abbey of Spencer, Massachusetts will be adding brewing to its daily routine, and selling under the name Spencer Brewing Co.


The abbey was established in upstate New York in 1950, and is part of the Catholic Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), better known as “Trappists.” Many reports have indicated there’s 180 of them worldwide, but I count 175 at the list on the order’s official website.


The abbey already sells preserves, and has done so for a long time, since around 1954. They also sell “liturgical vestments, and run a farm” to fund the abbey. Apparently the Scourmont Abbey, which makes Chimay, is helping the monks of St. Joseph’s in some capacity, whether through education, logistical support or just consultation I’m not sure. I also know that Dann Paquette from Pretty Things had been helping out, at least in the early stages, as he’d befriended a couple of the monks there as they gathered information and were considering the project of opening a brewery. Records indicate the building for brewing will be 50,000 square feet and their goal to brew 10,000 bbl per year. The first beer will be a Pater, a type of beer made by several Belgian breweries. Here’s how the back label describes the beer:

“Inspired by traditional refectory ales brewed by monks for the monks’ table, Spencer is a full-bodied, golden-hued Trappist ale with fruity accents, a dry finish and light hop bitterness.”

The brewery website is still empty, with just a Go Daddy holding page, and there’s no word on when the beer might be available. With the now Belgian-owned Anheuser-Busch InBev, Sierra Nevada working with Ovila, Moortgat buying Boulevard Brewing, and now this, there’s going to be a lot more Belgian-inspired, and Belgian-made, beer in the U.S. in coming years. But it’s hard not to be excited about this development.


And the hexagonal Trappist logo is on the back label.


Beer Birthday: Jason Alstrom

Today is the 42nd 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. Started as a hobby, Beer Advocate has gone on to be one of the internet’s kipper 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.

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. Join me in wishing Will a very happy birthday.

Will Meyers, with Kevin & Megan, from Cambridge Brewing
Will, with Kevin and Megan, 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 last year when it was in Boston.

Will with his lovely bride Cindy Lou.

Will shortly before he began his career as a brewer.

Beer Birthday: Dann Paquette

Today is the 45th 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. From the several philosophical discussions I’ve had with Dann, I consider him a kindred spirit. 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 the birthday of Aaron Mateychuk, brewmaster of Watch City Brewing in Waltham, Massachusetts. He also blogs at What’s Doin’ at the Watch. 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. 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 64th 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 two years ago.

Beer In Ads #890: Enjoy Yourself, Enjoy Yourself

Friday’s ad is for Hampden Mild Ale, from the 1950s. Hamden Brewery was located in Massachusetts. I’m not sure that troubadour singing “Enjoy Yourself, Enjoy Yourself” from atop a beer barrel would make anyone want to drink their beer, but who knows. The tagline at the bottom is pretty interesting. “The First Truly Mild Ale in America.” I wonder who true that was?


Our Victuals Being Much Spent, Especially Our Beere

Today is the birthday of William Bradford, who was born March 19, 1590 and was aboard the Mayflower on its journey to found Plymouth Colony in today what is part of Massachusetts. Although not initially a leader, he became governor of the colony, a post he held for thirty years, and is generally credited with creating the first Thanksgiving.
Bradford kept a journal covering the years 1620 to 1647, which was later published in a variety of forms, including in Of Plymouth Plantation and Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Within the world of beer, Bradford is best known for his diary entry suggesting that the colonists dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay because they’d run out of beer, though he put it quite a bit more elegantly; “we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.”

In context, of course, the meaning is changed somewhat:

That night we returned againe a ship board with resolution the next morning to settle on some of those places. So in the morning, after we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution, to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places which we thought most fitting for us; for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our Beere, and it being now the 19. [new style 29th] of December. After our landing and viewing of the place, so well as we could, we came to a conclusion, by most voyces, to set on the maine Land, on the first place, on an high ground where there is a great deale of Land cleared, and hath beene planted with Corne three or four yeares agoe, and there is a very sweet brooke runnes under the hill side, and many delicate springs of as good water as can be drunke, and where we may harbour our Shallops and Boates exceeding well, and in this brooke much good fish in their season: on the further side of the river also much Corne ground cleared: in one field is a great hill, on which wee poynt to make a platiforme, and plant our Ordnance, which will command all round about; from thence we may see into the Bay, and farre into the Sea, and we may see thence Cape Cod.

Author and beer historian Bob Skilnik has pointed out that the myth of beer being the sole catalyst for the Pilgrims has been well documented, though still it persists. (BTW, anyone heard from Bob lately?) I’ve written about this before (but the link to the newspaper article is down) and also Don Russell wrote one of his columns about it, Don’t believe the Pilgrims’ beer myth, a few years ago, saying “it’s absurd to believe the Pilgrims anchored simply because they had run out of beer. Aside from making them sound like drunken frat boys on a transatlantic beer cruise, historical documents indicate they had other priorities. ‘In actuality, there was plenty of beer still on board for crew members who had to make the return passage to England,’ said Skilnik, author of “Beer & Food: An American History.’” As Skilnik discovered.

Expeditionary crews sent from the anchored ship had been checking the lay of the land for weeks, looking for a suitable place to build homes. Yes, food and supplies had run low. But more importantly, Skilnik noted, the cold was brutal, passengers were dying and the ship’s crew wanted to return to Europe. Meanwhile, there was fowl and fresh water waiting on shore. It wasn’t the shortage of beer that finally prompted the Pilgrims to give up the ship, Skilnik said. It was plain common sense.

The fault, Skilnik contends, begins with a full page ad in the Washington Post from January 8, 1908 taken out by Anheuser-Busch for Budweiser. This was just as the forces for prohibition were intensifying their efforts, and the breweries were finally starting to recognize the threat. Damage control was initiated, but most historians see it it now as “too little, too late,” and this ad was most likely a part of that effort to show beer in a better light. The fake newspaper page contains stories about beer through history, including the pilgrim’s tale.


The pilgrims appear in the story in the second column from the left, at the top.


That was the beginning. Before, and after Prohibition, advertising continued to make the connection, in fact tried to make it even stronger. As Russell continues, “After Prohibition, the message grew even slicker, with an annual Thanksgiving publicity campaign from the U.S. Brewers Association. Each Thanksgiving throughout the 1930s and ’40s, newspaper readers were treated to features with headlines like, ‘Beer, Not Turkey, Lured Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock.’”

Bradford may have written it, but hundreds of years later, it’s not quite the smoking gun we’ve been let to believe.

Statue of William Bradford in Plymouth Rock State Park, Massachusetts.

But Bradford’s journals also contain additional references to beer. Here’s a few more Bradford quotes with beer in them.

November 15:

In the morning so soon as we could see the trace, we proceeded on our journey, and had the track until we had compassed the head of a long creek, and there they took into another wood, and we after them, supposing to find some of their dwellings, but we marched through boughs and bushes, and under hills and valleys, which tore our very armor in pieces, and yet could meet with none of them, nor their houses, nor find any fresh water, which we greatly desired, and stood in need of, for we brought neither beer nor water with us, and our victuals was only biscuit and Holland cheese, and a little bottle of aquavitae, so as we were sore athirst.


Again, we had yet some beer, butter, flesh, and other such victuals left, which would quickly be all gone, and then we should have nothing to comfort us in the great labor and toil we were like to undergo at the first. It was also conceived, whilst we had competent victuals, that the ship would stay with us, but when that grew low, they would be gone and let us shift as we could.

Christmas Day:

Monday, the 25th day, we went on shore, some to fell drink water aboard, but at night the master caused us to have some beer, and so on board we had divers times now and then some beer, but on shore none at all.