Daguerreotypes Of Beer

Today is the birthday of Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype process of photography, one of the earliest successful methods of creating photographs. He was French, an artist as well as a photographer, and “became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre.” When I took some photography classes in college, my great aunt gave me some daguerreotypes taken by my great-grandfather along with some glass plates that I was able to develop in a dark room. There were even a few showing the construction of the clock tower at Kutztown University (his alma mater and near where I grew up in Pennsylvania), which was finished in 1910. Sadly, none of my family daguerreotypes involve beer, since they were for the most part teetotaling mennonites for a majority of the time they worked the farm after arriving here in 1745 from Berne, Switzerland, fleeing religious persecution. I, on the other hand, am such a disappointment (not really, the farm was sold before I was born and they even drove cars and had the occasional beer by the time I was born).

But first, what is a daguerreotype?

Here’s the basics from the Wikipedia entry:

The daguerreotype process, or daguerreotypy, was the first publicly announced photographic process, and for nearly twenty years, it was the one most commonly used. It was invented by Louis-Jaques-Mandé Daguerre and introduced worldwide in 1839. By 1860, new processes which were less expensive and produced more easily viewed images had almost completely replaced it. During the past few decades, there has been a small-scale revival of daguerreotypy among photographers interested in making artistic use of early photographic processes.

To make a daguerreotype, the daguerreotypist polished a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish; treated it with fumes that made its surface light-sensitive; exposed it in a camera for as long as was judged to be necessary, which could be as little as a few seconds for brightly sunlit subjects or much longer with less intense lighting; made the resulting latent image on it visible by fuming it with mercury vapor; removed its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment; rinsed and dried it; then sealed the easily marred result behind glass in a protective enclosure.

Viewing a daguerreotype is unlike looking at any other type of photograph. The image does not sit on the surface of the metal, but appears to be floating in space, and the illusion of reality, especially with examples that are sharp and well exposed is unique to the process.

The image is on a mirror-like silver surface, normally kept under glass, and will appear either positive or negative, depending on the angle at which it is viewed, how it is lit and whether a light or dark background is being reflected in the metal. The darkest areas of the image are simply bare silver; lighter areas have a microscopically fine light-scattering texture. The surface is very delicate, and even the lightest wiping can permanently scuff it. Some tarnish around the edges is normal, and any treatment to remove it should be done only by a specialized restorer.

Several types of antique photographs, most often ambrotypes and tintypes, but sometimes even old prints on paper, are very commonly misidentified as daguerreotypes, especially if they are in the small, ornamented cases in which daguerreotypes made in the US and UK were usually housed. The name “daguerreotype” correctly refers only to one very specific image type and medium, the product of a process that was in wide use only from the early 1840s to the late 1850s.


So while I don’t have any daguerreotypes of my own that involve beer, there are a few of them out there, and I’ve selected some of the best ones I came across. A lot of early photographs, as mentioned above, are mis-identified as daguerreotypes when in fact they might be another early photographic process. So the ones I found are identified as daguerreotypes, but of course it’s hard, if not impossible, to be sure. At any rate, this is just for fun, so if you have evidence that one is not strictly speaking, a daguerreotype, let me know, and if you know of one I missed, send me a link to it or as as an attachment.

Munchen Hoffbrau Interior, c. 1896-1905, by Robert L. Bracklow (New York Historical Society).

Man with Beer, 1899.

Four men posing with mugs of beer, c. late 1850s.

Four [More] Guys and Their Mugs of Beer, c. 1880.

St. Louis Park Beer Garden, South Broadway, c. 1860. Daguerreotype by Thomas M. Easterly.

Self-portrait of Frances Benjamin Johnston, from 1896. “Fannie” was one of the earliest American female photographers and photojournalists.


Paper Moon, c. 1910. Paper moon backgrounds appear to be a popular backdrop from photographs at events.


Another paper moon, date unknown.

Thomas Coffin Doane, taken at the Molson family brewery after the fire, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1858.

Union House Bar, Bidwell, California. “A fire destroyed the first Union House (also known as Fitzgerald House) August 2, 1854 along with most of the town. Upon careful study of the dark sign on the right, these are the words: “OFFICE FEATHER RIVER & OPHIR WATER CO”. This company was incorporated Feb. 6 1855. Apparently the second Union House was constructed during the winter and spring of 1855. I believe this daguerreotype was taken in the summer of 1855 after the Union House had been resurrected.”

GABF Awards With Photographs 2015

On Saturday, September 26, the winners of the 34th Great American Beer Festival were announced. A record 6,647 beers were judged in 92 categories by 242 judges, of which I was again privileged to be one. I was on hand at the awards ceremony and thought I’d share the results again, this time along with some of the photographs I took during the awards.

Inside the back of the theater, about an hour before the award ceremony began.

Justin Crossley, from The Brewing Network, on stage getting ready to simulcast the awards.

After the theater filled up.

A partial panorama view of the theater.

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Session #102: A Beery Landscape

For our 102nd Session, our host is Allen Huerta, who writes Active Brewer. For his topic, he’s asking us to look at the big picture, the entire landscape of beer; yesterday, today, and/or tomorrow, or as he more fully explains what he has in mind for the August Session in his announcement, “The Landscape of Beer:”

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The Landscape of Beer in America is changing. It has even begun influencing beer in countries all around the world. Everyone has their opinion on Local vs Global, Craft vs Macro, and Love vs Business. Those who were at the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Asheville this past weekend had a brief talk about how “Small and Independent Matters”. Something that quite a few people say matters to them, but where is the upper limit? Does a purchase of another brewery still allow a brewery to fall into the Small and Independent camp?

Our topic this month is, “The Landscape of Beer“. How do you see that landscape now? What about in 5, 10, or even 20 years? A current goal in the American Craft Beer Industry is 20% market share by the year 2020. How can we get there? Can we get there?

Whether your view is realistic or whimsical, what do you see in our future? Is it something you want or something that is happening? Let us know and maybe we can help paint the future together.


Because the weekend’s all but over, I decided — as usual — not to follow instructions per se, and instead found four literal landscapes of beer’s constituent parts in my library of photographs.

The River Trent, in Burton upon Trent, although the brewing water actually comes from an aquifer deep below the town (but the photo of the aquifer is pretty dull).

Barley growing in the San Luis Valley of southwest Colorado.

Hops in the Yakima Valley, Washington.

Yeast bubbling at White Labs in San Diego.

Beer Shower at the World Series

This was too funny not to share. Today, October 2, in 1959, during the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, White Sox left fielder Al Smith had something of an unpleasant time. In the fifth inning, an excited fan in the outfield leapt to his feet, and in the process accidentally knocked over the beer that had been resting on the top of the outfield wall.

The spilled beer and cup rained down on Smith, hitting him square on the head, and dousing him pretty thoroughly. At first he thought it was intentional, but the field umpire assured him it had been accidental. After the game, they learned that the fan was “Melvin Piehl, a motor oil company executive, who later stated that he was trying to catch the ball so it would not hit his boss’s wife.” The White Sox went on to lose this second game at Comiskey Park, and ultimately the Dodgers won the 1959 series, four games to two. Luckily, Ray Gora of the Chicago Tribune snapped a picture at precisely the right moment and captured a piece of history.


Beer In Film #83: Microbrewers 1981-1996: A Photo History

Today’s beer film is really just a slideshow to music, but it’s such a great collection of photographs that it’s worthwhile anyway. The book, MICROBREWERS: 1981-1996: A Photo History, features a wealth of historic photographs of many of the pioneers of the craft beer industry taken by David Bjorkman, who co-founded New Brewer magazine in 1983 with Victoria Thomas and Charlie Papazian, and documented the nascent beer industry from 1981 to 1996 before moving to Mexico. The handmade book includes “over 300 photos of the first microbrewers in the United States” and can be purchased from Blurb. I bought it when it first came out in 2009, and despite its high price tag, it’s an awesome collection of photos. The song, by the way, is the traditional Irish song “Beer, Beer, Beer” performed by The Clancy Brothers.

California BrewMasters Coffee Table Book

This looks like a fun project. Photographer Nick Gingold is creating a portrait of California brewers, a coffee table book, that’s entitled California BrewMasters. He’s photographed at least 45 California brewers and each profile will include an interview.
Logo - full color
The book is expected to be published in June of this year, and the brewers featured are a veritable who’s who of California’s beer scene.


I first met Nick at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival last summer, when he was showing off some of the great photographs that will be in the finished book. He’s been working on the book for over two years. To complete the book, he’s turned to Kickstarter to raise the remaining funds to get it printed. Pre-order it through Kickstarter, and you’ll both get it for less than retail plus be one of the first to have it shipped directly to your home. There’s also additional levels at Kickstarter, with more schwag including bottle openers, growlers, t-shirts, a poster and even signed copies of the book.

Here’s how the book is described at the Kickstarter page:

California BrewMasters is a collection of interviews and photographic portraits of some of California’s best brewers. I’ve traveled to over 45 breweries around every corner of the state talking to the men and women responsible for the golden state’s most delicious brews. I’m launching this Kickstarter to create a beautiful, 200 page, 10″x10″ hard cover coffee table book to share this project with the world. We plan to have it ready for distribution by June.

As a photographer and craft beer fan, I wanted to create a project that hadn’t been done before. I noticed that while a lot of books were written about the beer itself, or as a guide book to which breweries to visit, no one had really been paying attention to the men and women responsible for all this delicious beer we have. What’s going on in the mind of Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman’s? How does Mitch Steele from Stone brew such delicious IPAs? Why not talk to them and find out, and better yet bring their faces out of the brewery and onto the page in, so you can really get a connection to the guy spending countless hours bringing you a fresh, delicious, well crafted product to sip on?

So a little over two years ago I set out to do just that, and today we have the project you see before you. I photographed these brewers in their natural environments, in the brewery and in the communities in which they work and live. We would then interviewed them, having an open conversation about their history, their philosophy to brewing, what they look for in a good beer, their thoughts on the current state of the craft beer industry, you name it – we tried to ask it. These interviews will be transcribed and edited to go hand in hand with each portrait.

And finally, here’s a few examples from the book, to give you a flavor of the portraits:

Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing.

Ben Cook of Hangar 24 Brewing

Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing

Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes from Pizza Port Carlsbad

History’s First Photo Of People Drinking Beer

Twitter lit up last night with tweets of an old photograph taken in 1844. It was Boak & Bailey who I saw tweet it, so h/t to them, although it appears to have been bouncing around the interwebs since at least July of 2012. Although neither the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where one of the originals is located, the National Portrait Gallery, where there’s another, or on Wikipedia, confirms or denies it, many sources posting it have indicated that it’s the first photograph taken depicting people drinking beer, in this case Edinburgh Ale. According to the museum, the photographers were David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. The people in the photo are identified as James Ballantine, Dr. George Bell, and D.O. Hill. It was printed on salted paper from a paper negative. I like the idea that it is the first photographic record of people enjoying a beer, but I’d prefer to see more proof. It seems likely, of course, since according to one account it was taken just six years after the very first photograph of a human. But I suppose until someone shows me one that’s earlier, I’m going to take their word for it.

This is the photograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:


Whereas the photo that’s at the National Portrait Gallery is more grey than brown, and is identified as an Calotype print.


It also includes the following caption.

The skills involved in producing calotypes were not only of a technical nature. Hill’s sociability, humour and his capacity to gauge the sitters’ characters all played a crucial part in his photography. He is shown here on the right, apparently sharing a drink and a joke with James Ballantine and Dr George Bell. Bell, in the middle, was one of the commissioners of the Poor Law of 1845, which reformed poor relief in Scotland. Ballantine was a writer and stained-glass artist, and the son of an Edinburgh brewer. On the table are three glasses of ale. According to a contemporary account, Edinburgh ale was “a potent fluid, which almost glued the lips of the drinker together”.

“Glued the lips of the drinker together,” that’s one of the oddest descriptions of how a beer tastes I’ve ever read. It makes me want to try an Edinburgh Ale. I’ve get to working on that time machine.

Hamm’s In San Francisco

A friend and regular reader sent me this old photograph of the Hamm’s brewery sign at night, taken in San Francisco around 1954, the year the Hamm’s Brewery opened. It’s a nighttime shot of the iconic Hamm’s sign on the roof of the brewery that was located at 1550 Bryant Street. When it was built, “it was the largest commercial sign on the West Coast.” The brewery closed in 1972, and sign taken down three years later, in 1975. According to Wikipedia, it was a “20-by-80 foot sign, with a 3-dimensional 13-foot beer chalice on top, [and] appeared in the first Dirty Harry film. In the early 1980s, the beer vats were first squatted and then rented out to punk rock bands. Known as “The Vats,” the brewery was a center of San Francisco punk rock culture with about 200 bands using individual vats as music studios. The building was renovated in the mid 1980s and converted into offices and showroom space.” In 2012, the Chronicle did a piece about the sign’s fate, What happened to the Hamm’s Brewery sign?, that included additional photos taken during the day, but the sign looks most impressive at night, and it was even animated, with neon rings of beer turning on and off in sequence, so the glass of beer looked like it was emptying and then filling up again.


A Little Love From Philly Beer Week

A native of Pennsylvania, Philly Beer Week is my second favorite beer week (after our own SF Beer Week, of course). Since attending the very first PBW, I’ve tried to come back every other year, which should have been this year. Alas, I have a book due at the end of next month, and I didn’t feel I could spare the time to frolic (ahem, I mean work) in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton, is out there right now doing a beer dinner, and my good friend, fellow beer blogger Bryan Kolesar — who writes the Brew Lounge, sent me the photo below (taken by the incomparable Jennie Hatton) of Sean, Bryan and the Hammer of Glory. Thanks to Bryan’s keen fashion sense, at least I can be there in spirit. Thanks guys, I sure wish I could be there with you.


Fun With Beer Cans & Photography

In honor of today being “Beer Can Day,” the anniversary of the first beer can’s introduction by the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. of Newark, New Jersey on January 24, 1935, here’s an amazing use of a beer can. Now this is recycling, or perhaps more correctly repurposing.

For many years, people having been making what are called “pinhole cameras” out of a variety of materials, really anything that keeps out light can be used. Essentially, they’re a very simple, homemade camera. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition. “A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box.” But they’ve become very popular again in the last ten or so years, a kind of backlash as a result of the rise of digital photography. There’s as simple and low-tech as possible, yet still create interesting images.

At least two photographers have been in the news lately, making time-lapse photographs with pinhole cameras made from beer cans. The first, a student at the University of Hertfordshire — Regina Valkenborgh — put her beer can camera “next to the university’s radio telescope at its Bayfordbury Observatory.” According to the Daily Mail, the pinhole camera recorded the sun’s movements over a six-month period of time, “[f]rom solstice to solstice, this six month long exposure compresses time from the 21st of June till the 21st of December, 2011, into a single point of view.” How cool is that?


The second, photographer Justin Quinnell, was featured on the Discovery Channel’s website. He’s captured a variety of time-lapse pinhole images using “emptied beer cans and about 50 cents worth of other supplies, such as duct tape and regular photography paper. While the cameras only took about five minutes to build, they had to withstand six months of ‘wind, rain, hail, and being thrown in the trash.'”

When asked which beer cans he preferred, Quinnell responded. “My choice would be lager or Guinness although often, when I teach larger groups, I have to rely on what is left in my neighbors recycling boxes.”

This photo is of Saint Mary Redcliffe Church, in Bristol, England, from December, 19 2007 to June 21, 2008.

This one is of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, also in Bristol, from December 17, 2007 through June 21, 2008.

And this last one was taken by the gravestones of Blance, Grace and Dorcus, over three months in the spring 2008 in the Eastville Cemetery, Bristol, England.

You can many more of Justin Quinnell’s work at his website, pinholephotography.org, including a galley of more from the Slow Light Collection, which is where the above photos came from.

Now that’s a pretty cool use of beer cans. Happy Beer Can Day!