Today is the 37th birthday of John Holl, who’s a journalist that came over to the dark side full time; dark beer, that is. Originally on the staff of the Gray Lady — the New York Times — he’s now writing exclusively about beer from his home in northern New Jersey, and more recently he’s become the editor of All About Beer magazine. Online, he’s at Beer Briefing and his latest book is the American Craft Beer Cookbook. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know John during some travel over the last few years, from Denver to Boston, and even in Chile. He’s a great addition to the fraternity of beer writers. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of William Peter Jr. (December 11, 1860-January 7, 1937). His father, William Peter Sr., founded the William Peter Brewing Company of Union City, New Jersey. When the brewery was incorporated in 1890, Junior was thirty. He became a shareholder and was also vice-president at that time. Presumably, when his father died in 1918, William Peter Jr. became president and soldiered on until his own death in 1937. After that, the brewery remained in business until 1949, when it was sold to George Ehret and renamed the George Ehret Brewery, but only remained open for one more year, closing for good in 1950. Unfortunately, I can’t find very much information about William Peter Jr. directly, not even a portrait.
William Peter Jr. with his father and one of his three wives, taken in 1910.
Here’s a biography of William Peter Jr. from “Schlegel’s American Families of German Ancestry,” by Carl Schlegel:
Today is the birthday of Christian William Feigenspan (December 7, 1876-February 7, 1939). His father, Christian Benjamin Feigenspan, was born in Thuringia, Germany but moved his family to New Jersey and founded the C. Feigenspan Brewing Company of Newark in 1875, though at least one source says 1868. When his father died in 1899, Christian William took over management of the brewery, which remained in business through prohibition, but was bought by Ballantine in 1943. He was also “president of Feigenspan Brewing Company, president of Federal Trust Company, and president of the United States Brewers’ Association.”
Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:
Businessman. He took over Newark, New Jersey’s Feigenspan Brewery Company, founded by his father in 1868, when his father died in 1899. He then transformed the company into one of the best known breweries up until and after prohibition. Today it’s labels are the among the most sought after by collectors.
Here’s another biography from “Legendary Locals of Rumson,” written by Roberta H. Van Anda:
And here’s his obituary from his local newspaper:
Today is the birthday of Peter Ballantine (November 16, 1791–January 23, 1883). He “was the founder of Patterson & Ballantine Brewing Company in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey,” which is better known by its later name, the P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company.
He was born on November 16, 1791 in Dundee, Scotland. He emigrated to Albany, New York in 1820 and learned brewing. By 1830 he had established his own brewery there. In 1840 he moved to Newark, New Jersey and partnered with Erastus Patterson and leased the old High Street Brewery that had been built in 1805 by John R. Cumming. In 1845 Ballantine pulled out of the partnership. In 1850 Ballantine built his own brewery on the Passaic River and in 1857 took on his sons as partners.
Here’s a short bio of Ballantine from Find-a-Grave:
Businessman. He founded the Ballantine Brewing Company in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey. Born in Scotland, he emigrated to the United States in 1820, and learned the beer brewing craft in New York City, New York. He acquired a brewery with a partner and moved its operations to New Jersey. He became the sole proprietor in 1847, and the P. Ballantine and Sons Brewery would produce beer under that name until 1972. At the height of its operations it would be the 3rd largest brewer in the United States. Today the Ballantine Beer brand is owned and produced by the Pabst Brewing Company.
This is from “America’s Successful Men of Affairs: The United States at Large,” published in 1896
And here’s a history of the Ballantine brewery from “A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860,” by John Leander Bishop, Edwin Troxell Freedley, Edward Young, published in 1868:
Today is the birthday of Gretchen Schmidhausler. She recently opened her own small brewery, Little Dog Brewing in Neptune City, New Jersey. I first met Gretchen, I believe, when she was brewing at Basil T’s Brewery & Italian Grill, where she brewed for over a dozen years, although she’s been in the industry longer than that. Coincidently, Basil T’s will close for good tomorrow. Gretchen also is a beer writer, and wrote the book Making Craft Beer at Home, which was published in 2014. Join me wishing Gretchen a very happy birthday.
[Note: photos purloined from Facebook and her brewery website.]
Today is the 61st birthday of Tony Forder, publisher of Ale Street News. Tony’s been putting out Ale Street News for over 20 years now, and was kind enough to give me a column when I first came back to freelancing when my son Porter was doing well enough so that I could return to work. I still run into Tony at a variety of beer events throughout the year, and he’s a great person to share a pint with or take a press junket with. Join me in wishing Tony a very happy birthday.
After judging the finals for the 2009 Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason Alström, Tony, 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.
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.
I somehow missed this news, which seems to have come out without too much fanfare a few days ago. Maybe we’re becoming desensitized to brewery M&A? Certainly Twitter wasn’t abuzz with the news. Flying Fish Brewing, one of New Jersey’s earliest small brewers, was bought by the Lynett and Haggerty families, who own Times-Shamrock Communications. They own a dozen newspapers and eleven radio stations. On April 8, they announced that they’d bought a controlling interest in the Somerdale, New Jersey brewery, though the deal was quietly done a month earlier, on March 11.
Flying Fish was founded in 1995 by Gene Muller. They started in Cherry Hill, but moved to larger quarters in Sommerville four years ago.
According to the Scranton Times-Tribune (one of the papers owned by the family), this is how it went down.
The family’s expertise in marketing, events and promotions will help the brewery continue to grow and expand its footprint, said Bobby Lynett, manager of L&H Brewing Partners, the entity that now holds a majority interest in Flying Fish. They declined to disclose the cost of their acquisition.
“Flying Fish is a nice brewery with good people and a great product,” said Mr. Lynett, a publisher of The Times-Tribune. “We want to help it grow.”
Flying Fish currently employs 33 people who produce about 24,000 barrels of beer each year.
Gene Muller, founder of Flying Fish, said he began looking for new partners when some initial investors began to cash out on their investment in the company. He joked that the Scranton family emerged as a good fit “because they are Irish.”
Mr. Muller, 61, believes Flying Fish will benefit from events and other business interests of the Lynett-Haggerty families, whom he refers to as “The Scranton Guys.”
“There are obvious synergies,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to inject some enthusiasm into the company and take care of our initial investors. The Scranton Guys are part of a 100-year-old company. They understand the long-term horizon.”
The capital for L&H Brewing Partners came from some individual family members and Elk Lake Capital, set up by the family to invest in non-media companies to add diversity to the family’s holdings beyond Times-Shamrock’s media holdings of newspapers, radio stations and outdoor advertising. Elk Lake already owns a land-surveying company and water-testing company.
Today is the birthday of William Peter Sr. (March 16, 1832-June 10, 1918) who was born Wilhelm Jacob Peter in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, but anglicized his first name after coming to America in 1850. He worked at other breweries in both New York and Cincinnati before opening his own brewery in 1859, in what was then Union Hill, New Jersey, but today is Union City.
Here’s his obituary from the Western Brewer from January 1918:
And here’s another obituary from Find-a-Grave:
William Peter, founder of the great beer brewing plant of The William Peter Brewing Company Incorporated, of Union Hill now Union City, New Jersey, fled from Achern, Baden, Germany, where he was born, March 16, 1832, to escape the persecution he would have been subjected to as the son of one of the leaders of the Revolution of 1848-1849, against Prussian domination. He fled from Germany while serving his apprenticeship in the brewing trade. He then set sail to America with his mother Maria Antonia (Hof)Peter, four sisters and brother-in-law Max Frech, on the sailing vessel Gallia and arrived in New York on September 14, 1850. He then started a brewery in 1859 in West New York, New Jersey then moved to Union Hill, New Jersey. He developed his business rapidly and became the “best by test” beer in the country. He also had talent for painting, hundreds of landscapes and pictures in still life adorned his studio and the picture gallery of his home. The artist Max Eglau was his master, he had seen sketches and urged Mr. Peter to take up the brush in place of the pencil. William Peter died in 1918 and at that time had the largest funeral in New Jersey history, every famous brewer attended. William Peter married three times, his third wife having been Mrs. Sophia (Vogel) Bertram. Her daughter by her first husband married August Peter his son, his second wife was Mrs. Caroline (Appeli) Ohlenschlager and his first wife was Magdalena (Jaeger).
And here are some labels from the brewery.
Outside the library in Weehawken, New Jersey there’s a historical marker for William Peter that was put up in 2010.
This is presumably Peter with his son, William Peter Jr., though I don’t which of his three wives this might be. It was taken in 1910.
And this clipping is from a book on New Jersey from around the turn of the last century.
And lastly, William Peter was also apparently a prolific fine artist who painted numerous oil paintings. This one he did in 1898 of his brewery.
Today is the 44th birthday of Jeff Cioletti, president of Drinkable Media and Editor-at-Large for Beverage World magazine. He’s been covering the business of beer for quite a long while. I run into Jeff at numerous industry events, and we’ve taken a press trip to Belgium. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.
Jeff (on the left just above Lew Bryson) at our table inside the barrel room at Samuel Adams in Boston during an anniversary dinner there last year, when we opened every vintage of Utopias, plus Triple Bock and Millennium Ale.
Just when you think things can’t get any stranger, beer drinkers in three states — California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — have filed a class action suit against Anheuser-Busch InBev. The L.A. Times is reporting in Beer drinkers accuse Anheuser-Busch of watering down brews, that the lawsuit alleges the following:
Ten Anheuser-Busch products were named in the lawsuits: Budweiser, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.
Former employees at the company’s 13 breweries — including some in high-level positions — are cooperating with the plaintiffs, said San Rafael, Calif., lawyer Josh Boxer, the lead attorney in the case.
“Our information comes from former employees at Anheuser-Busch, who have informed us that as a matter of corporate practice, all of their products [mentioned in the lawsuit] are watered down,” Boxer said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a simple cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.”
The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3% to 8%, he said.
ABI, naturally, is calling the lawsuit “groundless,” but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Cartoon by Tony Husband.
UPDATE: NBC News is also now reporting this story, in Budweiser waters down its beer, lawsuit alleges. Apparently, Bloomberg broke the story earlier today, and also the AP, the BBC and Business Day have all weighed in.
UPDATE 2: I’ve seen a lot of commentary on this story in the interwebs suggesting that since there appears to be no test results from the Plaintiffs in this case that perhaps they are simply confusing high-gravity brewing with actively lowering the final alcohol percentage, which is a reasonable assumption. But there may be another possibility. Thanks to Stan at Appellation Beer for pointing out a post from last October by Gary Spedding at his Alcohol Beverage Testing News. I’ve known Gary for a number of years. He runs a lab in Kentucky called Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC and also most years presents an orientation exercise for GABF judges the day before we start each year. It’s sort of a continuing education component of the judging experience. His presentations are always interesting and informative and, needless to say, Spedding’s expertise is unassailable.
Last October, he posted Gaining its airs and losing its graces — a Tale of Two Buds, which he wrote in response to a popular article last fall from Bloomberg Business Week entitled The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer. In addressing the suggestion in the article that Budweiser beer had changed after InBev took control of Anheuser-Busch, noted the following experiences he’d had with the beer in recent months.
Bud has been our control beer in our laboratory … for calibrating our alcohol instruments Bud goes in after calibration to see hopefully 5.00% abv. pretty much on the nose. Not so recently. Now as low as 4.94% after slipping from 4.98% earlier in the year. Losing it graces by higher airs it may be toppling from its top spot and is no longer our control beer of choice. But it is changing. A tale of two Buds (early and late) would reveal much more. Over the years the international bitterness content has declined from about 12 in the late 90’s to 7-8 today — another parameter to watch.
That original post also included a discussion of increasing oxygen levels, but Spedding had a lengthy discussion with Paul Cobet, who’s the Director of the Technical Center for ABI in St. Louis. The oxygen question is apparently now less of a concern and appears to be instrument-driven, and Gary updated that with a newer post, Regaining its Graces — Driving Oxygen Down — Good for Budweiser. So while the plaintiffs may not have tested the beer — still odd, admittedly — there is apparently some reason to think their case may hold water after all.