Historic Beer Birthday: Michael Joseph Owens

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Today is the birthday of Michael Joseph Owens (January 1, 1859–December 27, 1923). He “was an inventor of machines that could automate the production of glass bottles.”

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If you’ve ever opened a beer bottle, you’ve probably held something he had a hand in developing, because he made beer bottles cheap and affordable for breweries, and his company has continued to improve upon his designs. Based on his patents, in 1903 he founded the Owens Bottle Company, which in 1929 merged with the Illinois Glass Company in 1929 to become Owens-Illinois, Inc. Today, O-I is an international company with 80 plants in 23 countries, joint ventures in China, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, the United States and Vietnam, with 27,000 employees worldwide and 2,100-plus worldwide patents.

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Michael J. Owens in front of one of his bottling machines from a film shot in 1910.

Here’s a short biography of Owens:

Michael Joseph Owens was an inventor of machines that could automate the production of glass bottles.

Michael J. Owens was born on January 1, 1859, in Mason County, West Virginia. As a teenager, he went to work for a glass manufacturer in Newark, Ohio.

During the late 1800s, Toledo, Ohio was the site of large supplies of natural gas and high silica-content sandstone — two items necessary for glass manufacturing. Numerous companies either formed in or relocated to Toledo, including the New England Glass Company, which relocated to Toledo in 1888. This same year, the company’s owner, Edward Drummond Libbey, hired Owens.

Within a short time, Owens had become a plant manager for Libbey in Findlay, Ohio. At this point in time, glass manufacturers in the United States had to blow glass to produce the bottles. This was a slow and tedious process. Owens sought to invent a machine that could manufacture glass bottles, rather than having to rely on skilled laborers, greatly speeding up the manufacturing process. On August 2, 1904, Owens patented a machine that could automatically manufacture glass bottles. This machine could produce four bottles per second. Owens’s invention revolutionized the glass industry. His machine also caused tremendous growth in the soft drink and beer industries, as these firms now had a less expensive way of packaging their products.

In 1903, after Owens had invented his bottle machine but before he had patented the invention, Owens formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in Toledo. Libbey helped finance Owens’s company. This firm initially manufactured Owens’s bottle machine. By 1919, the firm had begun to manufacture bottles, and the company changed its name to the Owens Bottle Company. The company grew quickly, acquiring the Illinois Glass Company in 1929. The Owens Bottle Company became known as the Owens-Illinois Glass Company this same year. In 1965, the company changed its name one final time. It became and remains known as Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Owens retired in 1919. He did not live to see his company grow into such an important manufacturer of glass. He died on December 27, 1923, in Toledo, Ohio. Over the course of his life, Owens secured forty-five patents.

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Here’s his biography from his Wikipedia page:

He was born in Mason County, West Virginia on January 1, 1859. He left school at the age of 10 to start a glassware apprenticeship at J. H. Hobbs, Brockunier and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia.

In 1888 he moved to Toledo, Ohio and worked for the Toledo Glass Factory owned by Edward Drummond Libbey. He was later promoted to foreman and then to supervisor. He formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903. His machines could produce glass bottles at a rate of 240 per minute, and reduce labor costs by 80%.

Owens and Libbey entered into a partnership and the company was renamed the Owens Bottle Company in 1919. In 1929 the company merged with the Illinois Glass Company to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

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To read more about Owens’ contributions, check out Michael Owens’ Glass Bottles Changed The World, by Scott S. Smith, Owens the Innovator at the University of Toledo, Today in Science, and the West Virginia Encyclopedia has a history of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

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Patent No. 5077061A: Method Of Making Alcohol-Free Beer

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Today in 1991, US Patent 5077061 A was issued, an invention of Christian Zurcher and Rudiger Gruss, assigned to Binding-Brauerei Ag, for their “Method of Making Alcohol-Free or Nearly Alcohol-Free Beer.” Here’s the Abstract:

A method of producing an alcohol-free or low alcohol beer comprising thermally breaking malt draff to obtain a malt draff mash from a substrate selected from the group consisting of a full- or a high-alcohol content beer brewing base or a protein fraction obtained from malt draff by digesting, boiling or autoclaving during the production of edible draff meal in a draff mash. The method homogenizes, extrudes and mechanically removes insoluble chaff from the brewing base prior to thermally breaking up the malt draff, cooling the malt draff mash to about 72° C., emzymatically breaking up the malt draff mash by adding coarsely ground malt, heating the mash to 80°-85° C., adding thereto coarsely ground malt premashed in cold water to produce a wort with a final fermentation degree of at most 60% and a temperature of 70°-74° C., which is maintained until iodine normality is attained and subjecting the iodine normal mash to mashing.

I’ve visited the brewery in Frankfurt, and done several blind panel tastings of N/A beer, and Clausthaler consistently comes in at our near the top. Also, it was our best-selling non-alcoholic when I was the chain beer buyer at BevMo. too.
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Patent No. 2818185A: Dispenser Truck Body For Beer Kegs

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Today in 1957, US Patent 2818185 A was issued, an invention of Carl F. Mickey and Lawrence E. Mickey, for their “Dispenser Truck Body For Beer Kegs.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The primary object of the present invention resides in the provision of a dispenser truck body for beer kegs to facilitate loading and unloading of beer kegs by loading and unloading from the outside by means of racks and a chain to control and release the beer kegs.

A further object of the invention resides in the provision of a truck body which is so arranged as to enable beer kegs to be placed in the truck body through a raised opening and which will permit the dispensing of the beer kegs in a convenient manner with complete control so that the beer kegs may be removed or replaced with a minimum possibility of accidents which may result in injuries to persons loading or unloading the beer kegs.

An additional object of the present invention resides in the provision of means for lowering either full or empty beer kegs whereby the empty beer kegs may be quickly lowered by means of a spring mechanism yet which includes a shock absorbing means for slowly and safely lowering full beer kegs.

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Patent No. 3486512A: Fluid Transport Line Cleaning Device And System

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Today in 1969, US Patent 3486512 A was issued, an invention of Anthony Marino, for his “Fluid Transport Line Cleaning Device and System.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Fluid transport line cleaning device and system inclusive of upright container having inlets for passing cleaning material and water into container for mixing in container and outlet for delivering mixture from container under pressure. Pipe having valve controlled outlets and line couplings for selectively passing mixture from container through fluid transport lines coupled thereto such as syrup lines and beer lines having tap rods and associated faucets at bar counter locations. Portion of pipe for beer lines being rigid and arranged for wall mounting at bar counter for supporting a portion of pipe and container in upright position.

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Patent No. 2919193A: Process Of Preventing Haze Formation In Beverages

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Today in 1959, US Patent 2919193 A was issued, an invention of Harry J. Sandell, for his “Process of Preventing Haze Formation in Beverages.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The present invention relates to a method of reducing or preventing formation of hazes in fermented or unfermented beverages produced from cereals, fruits, other vegetable materials or parts thereof, and especially in malt beverages, e.g. beer, and in fruit juices and wines.

The present invention is based upon the surprising discovery that it is possible to prevent the formation of a haze in beverages such as, for instance, malt beverages, fruit juices and wines, by the addition of polyvinyl pyrrolidone or a homologue thereof in an excess over the above-mentioned quantity, i.e. 0 to 8 g. per hectolitre, which is necessary for maximum precipitation of the haze forming constituents. The process of the instant invention thus comprises adding polyvinyl pyrrolidone in a total quantity of at least 1 g. per hectolitre and in any case in an excess quantity of at least 50% over that needed for maximum precipitation. The stated lower limit 0 g. per hectolitre for the quantity of PVP that is needed for maximum precipitation either refers to the case (1) in which PVP having an average molecular weight of below about 15,000 is used and thus cannot form any precipitate or refers to the case (2) in which the kind or quality of beverage, e.g. beer, used does not give any precipitate with PVP even if the average molecular weight of the PVP used is above about 15,000. In the first-mentioned case, i.e. WhenP having a lower average molecular weight than 15,000 is used, it has been found, that a good result is obtained if the treatment with PVP is carried out according to the above-mentioned invention, i.e. by adding at least 1 g. of PVP per hectolitre. In the second case there is also obtained a good result if to the beverage there is added at least 1 g. of’PVP independent of its average molecular weight. While thus an excess of’P-VP of 1 g. per hectolitre might be considered as usable it has been found that when using PVP of an average molecular weight below about 15,000 or above about 15,000 it is suitable to add totally at least 5 grams of PVP per hectolitre provided that there is added at least 50% in excess over the quantity of PVP of’O to 8 grams per hectolitre that is needed for maximum precipitation of the haze forming-constituents with the PVP in question.

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Patent No. 2065949A: Beer Cooling And Dispensing System

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Today in 1936, US Patent 2065949 A was issued, an invention of Harry J. Sandell, for his “Beer Cooling and Dispensing System.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The invention relates to a beer cooling and dispensing system, and has for its object to simplify and improve the efficiency of drawing beer from a storage refrigerator at one point and a dispensing 5 outlet at another.

The chief object of the invention is to provide a combination of devices adapted to contain an enclosed circulating and cooling medium, for the purpose of maintaining a uniform low temperature along a dispensing pipe contained therein.

Explanation In beer cooling and dispensing, the beer storage refrigerator is usually placed in the basement or some other convenient place that requires considerable piping and a coil to carry the beer and cool it from the storage refrigerator to the counter dispensing coil box. When this system is used, the beer leaves the cold refrigerator and runs exposed, then enters the iced coil, but due to the different go and uneven temperatures along the line of draught the beer cannot be drawn or controlled at the faucet without considerable waste.

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Patent No. WO2000078665A1: Beer Container

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Today in 2000, US Patent WO 2000078665 A1 was issued, an invention of William Field Warwick, assigned to Carlton and United Breweries, for his “Beer Container.” Here’s the Abstract:

A beer container comprises an inner hollow shell (11) of blow moulded PET to hold beer, an outer hollow shell (12) of moulded high density polyethylene enclosing and supporting the inner shell and a spear structure (13) including a dispenser tube (14) extending from a bottom interior region of the inner shell (11) through to a dispensing outlet (16) at the top of the outer shell (12). Spear structure (13) incorporates valves (25, 26) for supply of pressurising gas into the interior of inner shell (11) and for dispensing beer through the dispensing outlet (16), both valves being formed of PET. When the container has been emptied of beer, the outer shell (12) can readily be separated from the inner shell (11) and spear structure (13) to allow separate recycling of the high density polyethylene material and the PET material.

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Patent No. 596366A: Stopper Fastener

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Today in 1897, US Patent 596366 A was issued, an invention of Robert S. Graham, for his “Stopper Fastener.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to a new and useful improvement in devices for holding corks in bottles, the object being to utilize the expansion of the contents of a bottle as an active medium to lock the fastener in position.

The object of my invention is to provide a non-expansible fastener, which is to be inserted loosely in position on the cork in the neck of the bottle manually or by machine, as desired, after which no further manipulation thereof is required, the contents of the bottle expanding and forcing the cork outwardly and locking the fastener and the cork in place. When the fastener has been locked in place, it willy firmly hold the cork against further outward movement, and by providing a hole in the fastener a corkscrew may be inserted to remove the cork, which can easily be done, or the fastener may be first pulled out of place by the introduction of the end of a corkscrew or other instrument thereunder and the cork subsequently removed.

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Patent No. 2141221A: Beer Drawing And Cooling System

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Today in 1938, US Patent 2141221 A was issued, an invention of John Panagopoulos, for his “Beer Drawing and Cooling System.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to a beer drawing and cooling system.

The principal object of this invention is the provision a beer drawing and cooling system formed in a compact unit.

A further object of this invention is the provision of refrigeration coils formed as a part of the beer drawing and cooling system.

A further object is the provision of a beer drawing and cooling system provided with means for circulating a cooling agent through a plurality of beer kegs each having a heat exchanging device incorporated therein.

A still further object is the provision of a beer drawing and cooling system designed to convey beer or similar beverages from the keg to the dispensing spigot, and cool it at the same time.

The beer drawing and cooling system shown and described in this application has been designed so as to form as simple and compact a unit as possible, the entire system being self contained, with of course the exception of a refrigerant compressor which can be readily positioned along side of the unit when in operation. The unit has been designed to cool and dispense beer or similar beverages from one or more kegs as desired, and is particularly adapted for multiple keg installations utilizing kegs of the kind described above.

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Patent No. 616696A: Hose Cleaner

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Today in 1898, US Patent 616696 A was issued, an invention of John R. Cochran, for his “Hose Cleaner.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

My invention relates to methods of cleaning and cleaners for the interior of hose or pipe, and more especially such hose or pipes as are used by brewers in racking off beer. During the process of racking off beer the hose or pipes used as conveyers become fouled or dirty in the interior and it becomes necessary to clean the hose or pipe. Inasmuch as the dirt or foreign matter generally adheres firmly to the wall of the hose or pipe, it is not an easy matter to dissolve, loosen, or discharge it. By the use of my method and devices the dirt collected in the tubes is thoroughly loosened or dissolved and carried off or discharged, leaving the interior of the tubing or hose clean and sweet.

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