Historic Beer Birthday: William Copeland

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Today is the birthday of William Copeland (January 10, 1834-February 11, 1902). He “was a Norwegian-American brewer. In 1869 he established the Spring Valley Brewery in Yamate, Yokohama, Japan. Spring Valley Brewery was one of Japan’s first beer breweries, and in 1907 became the founding production facility of Kirin Brewery Company, one of Japan’s largest domestic beer producers.”

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Here’s his basic biography, from his Wikipedia page:

Copeland was born Johan Martinius Thoresen in Arendal in Norway. In the 1840s, Copeland worked for five years as an apprentice to a German brewmaster a few blocks from his home before immigrating to the United States and changing his name to William Copeland.

Moving to Yokohama, Japan in 1864, Copeland first worked in the dairy business and then set himself up as a brewer in 1869 with the Spring Valley Brewery, which was located at the site of a natural spring next to the Amanuma Pond below the Yamate foreign residential neighborhood, where he dug a 210-meter cave into the side of a hill and used its low fixed temperature to help the beer mature. After Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization, Copeland was quick to adopt the new technique in his factory. Copeland produced three varieties of beer: a lager beer, a Bavarian beer, and a Bavarian Bock beer. His beer was principally sold in casks to local Yokohama taverns with a small amount of bottled beer being made available to foreign residents in Yokohama, and then was shipped to Tokyo and Nagasaki. He went back to Norway and married Anne Kristine Olsen in 1872. They lived in Japan but she became sick and died seven years later. Although Copeland showed talent as a beer brewer, he was a poor manager, and in 1884 Spring Valley Brewery was put up for public auction.

With the assistance of Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover, the Spring Valley Brewery was sold in early 1885 to a group of Japanese investors and renamed The Japan Brewery. German brewmaster Hermann Heckert was hired to oversee production. Glover was also instrumental in establishing a sales agency contract with Meidi-ya for the relaunched brewery, Kirin Beer, which was launched in May 1888.

William Copeland’s grave, maintained by Kirin Brewery Company, is located in the Foreigner’s Cemetery in Yamate, Yokohama. The site of the former Spring Valley Brewery is now occupied by Kitagata Elementary School. Monuments and water wells visible at the edge of the school grounds attest to the site’s history.

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The tourist website Japan Travel has an article, Yokohama Beer Pub, Spring Valley, which gives some additional details about Copeland:

Copeland was born in Arendal Norway in 1834. His original name was Johan Bartinius Thoresen. There was a beer brewery near his house and he was apprenticed to the brewery for five years. After working there, he immigrated to America and changed his name to William Copeland. In 1864 he came to Japan and invested in some companies for a few years. He saved some money and eventually established his own beer brewery, Spring Valley Brewery, in 1870. He came up with various ideas on how to brew delicious beer; He dug a 210-meter cave into the side of a hill and used its low fixed temperature to help the beer mature. After Pasteur invented pasteurization, Copeland soon adopted the new technique in his factory. His beer rose in popularity among foreign residents in Yokohama and then was shipped to Tokyo and Nagasaki as well. He went back to Norway and married Anne Kristine Olsen in 1872. They lived in Japan but she became sick and died seven years later. Although Copeland showed talent as a beer brewer, he wasn’t a good manager. In 1884 Spring Valley Brewery was put up for public auction.

Kirin took over Copeland’s brewery and eventually expanded the business worldwide. The place where Spring Valley Brewery used to stand is now called Kirin-en Park. There is a big monument there to commemorate the brewery.

Copeland remarried a Japanese woman, Umeko Katsumata, in 1889 and took trips to Hawaii and then Guatemala, trying to establish new businesses but chronic heart disease and arthritis, as well as financial difficulties, prevented him from doing so. Finally the couple came back to Yokohama in January 1902, and Copeland passed away the following month at the age of 68.

By the way, his wife Umeko was the second daughter of the proprietors of Ise-ya—a famous, long-established inn in Hakone’s Ashino-yu district. These days, Ise-ya is called Kakumei-kan and is still doing very well.

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William, his Japanese wife Umeko and her parents.

In 2014, the Kirin Brewery reopened a new Spring Valley Brewery as a brewpub, and there are currently two locations, one in Tokyo and another in Yokohama, which is near where the original brewery was built.

The new Spring Valley Brewery website has this history of Our Brewer’s Passion:

150 years ago, one beer brewer stepped foot on a newly opened seaport of Yokohama. His name William Copeland, a Norwegian-born American, founded the Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama located far from his homeland.

During the time, Japan was in the midst of cultural enlightenment and supplies of ingredients and equipment for brewing beer was scarce. However, he exercised his ingenuity to overcome these struggles by installing a naturally powered water wheel to mill malt and prepared wort during the winter season to keep it cool.

His beer attracted the interest of many foreigners who lived in Yokohama’s foreign settlement, which eventually caught on to the Japanese locals. This popularity made Spring Valley Brewery become the first brewery in Japan to achieve commercial success.

Copeland devoted his life to his passion for beer, not just as a brewer, but also by making Japan’s first beer garden in his own yard, later passed down to Japan Brewery, the forerunner of Kirin Brewery.

Brewers who studied under Copeland found their own paths to cultivate the production of domestic beer, thus often, William Copeland is referred to as the father of Japanese beer.

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Beer In Ads #2135: Damsleth’s Julöl


Saturday’s holiday ad is for a Norwegian beer, from 1940. It was created by well-known Norwegian cartoonist, illustrator and ad-man Harald Damsleth. It depicts a young girl flying in a red boat filled with at least five kegs and two dragon’s heads at either end. The word “Julöl” is in the snow below, and the “J” is a broom. Maybe it’s from some Norwegian folktale I’m unfamiliar with, but it looks like it’s from an odd dream. Although the girls is smiling, and there are birds flitting about nearby, so it can’t be all bad.

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Beer Birthday: Knut Albert

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Today, it’ also the 56th birthday of Knut Albert Solem from Oslo, Norway, who has one of the premiere beer blogs in Scandinavia, Knut Albert’s Beer Blog. Though I’ve never met him in person, we have corresponded a time or two through blog comments or e-mail and I certainly enjoy his perspective on beer. Join me in wishing Knut a very happy birthday.

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Hoisting a pint (photo nicked from Knut’s Facebook page).

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Knut near water, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland actually (ditto).

Beer In Ads #1626: Vårt Brygg!


Thursday’s ad is for Brigg beer, a brand from Norway. From the 1970s, with the simple tagline “Vårt Brygg!,” which translates as “Our Brew.” You’ve got to love the trio of serious sweater monkeys. They look like the original reporters from Anchorman that they based the movies on, especially since the dude in the ascot on the right is a dead ringer for Will Ferrell.

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Norway’s E.C. Dahls Joins Brooklyn Brewery Family

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The Brooklyn Brewery announced today that E.C. Dahls Joins the Brooklyn Brewery Family. E.C. Dahls Brewery was originally founded in 1856 (there’s more history at Wikipedia) and today is owned by the Carlsberg Group. Here’s the press release from the Brooklyn Brewery:

Welcome to the Continuing International Adventures of Brooklyn Brewery. In our last episode, just over a year ago, we teamed up with our friends and importers at Carlsberg to open Nya Carnegiebryggeriet (NCB) in Stockholm, Sweden. NCB is our first sister brewery and its launch was the first time any American craft brewery ever entered into such a venture abroad. Today we’re proud to announce that we’re getting the gang back together once again to welcome E.C. Dahls Brewery in Trondheim, Norway into the Brooklyn Brewery family.

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We’re excited to be part of a new era in brewing at E.C. Dahls. Founded in 1856, Dahls has been a treasured presence in Trondheim for generations, and its traditional pilsner is a household name there. We’re dedicating ourselves to preserving this storied history while infusing the new venture with the spirit of brewing creativity and innovation that have become hallmarks of Brooklyn Brewery around the world. The new E.C. Dahls will blend American and Norwegian culinary cultures to create new beers that we’ll enjoy brewing and we believe Norwegian beer fans will enjoy drinking.

This is far from our first journey to Trondheim, of course. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver has regularly gone out of his way to visit during his many travels. Between the streetscapes of the seaside city, the thriving Scandinavian food scene that Garrett has followed for more than a decade, and the wonderful local appreciation of Brooklyn beer, it was always pretty easy to be enthralled with Trondheim. A couple years ago, Garrett hosted a beer dinner with local restaurateur Roar Hildonen, and the two quickly bonded over Roar’s great food and stellar Cognac collection. Roar became a fast friend and will now join us in leading the kitchen of the planned E.C. Dahl’s Tasting Room.

“The new E.C. Dahls will celebrate the great tradition of Dahls and bring the brewery and its portfolio into the thriving world of craft beer,” said Garrett. “Norway already has a great beer scene, and we’re really excited to become an even more active part of it.” As in Stockholm at NCB, there will be no Brooklyn brewed in Norway but visitors will be able to have some Brooklyn in the Tasting Room.

The Carlsberg Group also released their own press release, where they characterize the deal as a “collaboration.”

With the aim of creating the premier beer experience in Norway, the collaboration will see a new brewery with pub, restaurant, conference facilities and visitor center established at the existing Ringnes E.C. Dahls brewery site in Trondheim, Norway. The brewery will produce both popular local Dahls beer, as well as new craft beers that take inspiration from both Norwegian and US craft brewing traditions.

The brewery will welcome beer and food enthusiasts from around the world and become a laboratory for new ideas and experimentation. E.C. Dahls will have a top-class restaurant operated by local restaurateur Roar Hildonen.

“This is great news for the E.C. Dahls brewery, and great news for beer lovers in Norway and beyond”, says Jørn Tolstrup Rohde, Senior Vice President for Western Europe at Carlsberg Group. “Carlsberg’s collaboration with Brooklyn continues to explore new possibilities in craft brewing. Carlsberg started its life as a small brewery in Copenhagen back in 1847, and thanks to the resurgence of craft brewing in recent times, more and more people are getting interested in the world of beer. We think that’s very positive.”

Another interesting international development as American beer spreads its reach globally.

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Time For An Utepils

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The trivia website Dose recently had a list they posted of 21 Words That Don’t Exist In English, But Should. Essentially they’re words in other languages for which there’s no English equivalent, which Dose argues should be added to our dictionaries. Given our history of liberal “borrowing” of foreign words, I can’t see why not. The one word that caught my attention was Utepils (pronounced “oot-er-pillss”), a noun meaning “to sit outside on a sunny day enjoying a beer.”

According to the book “The untranslatables’,” by C. J. Moore, “you have to live through the long dark months of a Norwegian winter to appreciate the annual Norwegian rite of utepils. Literally it means ‘the first drink of the year taken out of doors.’ Easter is barely past, with its tradition of hyttepåske — your Easter visit to your remote cabin — and the days are at last getting longer. Although it’s still practically freezing, everyone is queueing up to invite you to a first utepils get-together ar their favourite bar.

Apparently that’s not exactly correct, and a native Norwegian writing a blog entitled An Enthusiast’s Lexicon, describes utepils more fully:

Actually, utepils simply means any beer enjoyed outside, at any time of the year, but it is true that the first one of the season is a much anticipated ritual. You know spring is on its way when norwegians brave the chilling temperatures and gather around their pints, sometimes even wrapped in blankets. The practice continues throughout the year though – nothing says summer like utepils.

The word itself is made up of two words, ute (‘outside’) and pils, which is simply short for Pilsner, the type of lager beer most commonly consumed in Norway. Interestingly, pils is also used as a slang verb (‘å pilse’), meaning simply ‘to drink beer’. So when you are getting together for an utepils you are pilsing.

Anyway, as our weather in Northern California has been decidedly warm the last few days, I think it’s time I sat out on our back deck, basking in the sunshine with a beer in hand, and enjoyed me a good old-fashioned Utepils. Who’s with me?

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Beer In Ads #1074: Pinch-Hitting For Norway


Friday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1942. The wartime ad is a curious one. It’s all about Vitamin D and other industries that Anheuser-Busch is involved with. As far as I can tell, the title of the ad, “Pinch-Hitting For Norway,” refers to A-B producing the vitamin from yeast, apparently important because it’s impossible to get the fish oil it’s usually made from due to World War 2. I also love the Viking imagery juxtaposed with the kids and their toy boat.

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Stone To Release Collaboration Video

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Stone Brewing, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time, will be releasing their latest video project, Stone Skips Across the Pond, a record of their collaborations with two breweries. [NOTE: the video, once released at 1:00 p.m. PST, will be available at Stone’s Blog.] If you just can’t wait to see some of it, check out the trailer.

The first collaboration is with Nøgne Ø, the Norwegian craft brewery. After brewing there, the Stone team heads to Scotland to brew yet another collaboration with BrewDog.

I had an opportunity to screen the video last night, and it’s a fun short film at just under 30 minutes. It was filmed again by Redtail Media, the same team that created I Am A Craftbrewer. The production values are amazing. The film stars not just Greg Koch, but also his business partner Steve Wagner and head brewer Mitch Steele, some amazing landscapes, terrific looking food, some beer you’ll be jealous you didn’t have along with the brew crews at both Nøgne Ø and BrewDog. Looks like it was a fun time. It’s a great window into the camaraderie among brewers, regardless of national boundaries, in the craft beer world

Next Thursday, Part 2 will be released, followed by parts three and four on each subsequent Thursday. For now, enjoy part one.