Beer Birthday: Rich Higgins

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Today is the 38th birthday of Rich Higgins, who wears many hats in the San Francisco beer scene. He left his job as the brewmaster at San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery a few years ago, and was also the President of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and Director of SF Beer Week for a time. He’s currently focusing his attention on his consulting, Rich Higgins Consultant à la Bière, and most recently has been brewing at San Francisco’s Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar. Rich is also one of only six people to have earned the title “Master Cicerone.” I’ve gotten to know Rich working on SF Beer Week over the last few years, and he’s a great person, as well as a terrific brewer. Join me in wishing Rich a very happy birthday.

Rich Higgins at the Social Kitchen Brewery
Rich at the Social Kitchen Brewery.

Dave McLean & Rich Higgins at Magnolia
Dave McLean owner of Magnolia, and Rich, at the brewpub during SF Beer Week two years ago.

Rich Higgins, me and Hop-Meisters hop farmer Marty Kuchinski
Rich, me and Hop-Meisters hop farmer Marty Kuchinski.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
Rich, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with 4 bottles of dessert at the end of a Sierra Nevada beer dinner in Chico two Decembers back.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick “Fritz” Breckle

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Today is the birthday of Frederick “Fritz” Breckle (March 5, 1849-?). I can find almost nothing about Breckle, apart from he opened the Frederick Breckle Brewery in 1896, but it closed just one year later, in 1897. It was located at Point Lobos Road and Boice (or Boyce) Street. Given how close his last name is to Gottlieb Brekle, who started in 1871 what would become the Anchor Brewery in 1896, it would seem odd that they’re not related. In searching through old records, it appears that the two spelling are interchangeable, which frankly makes that more plausible. Also, a page from the 1880 census lists his father as “G. Breckle,” but with no more information that that. Still, it seems reasonable that both father and son could have been brewers. Although I have to say that’s pure speculation and guesswork, there’s nothing I can find that’s definitive or proves any connection.

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San Francisco in 1897.

Beer Birthday: Bruce Joseph

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Bruce Joseph, who’s been at Anchor Brewery for many, many years turns 60, the Big 6-0 today. There’s a big picture of him when he was very young in the stairwell at the brewery that I see every time I’m there. He’s been doing the distilling for Anchor’s whiskey and gin for a long while now and plays bass with the Hysters (Anchor’s big band) along with the Rolling Boil Blues Band (the Celebrator beer band that’s all industry musicians). If there’s a nicer person in the beer industry, I’ve yet to meet him. Join me in wishing Bruce a very happy birthday.

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On stage at the Northern California Rhythm & Blues Festival several years ago.

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A self-portrait of Bruce and me at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2006.

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With Melissa Myers at the Falling Rock during GABF 2007.

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With Garrett Oliver at an industry event during GABF years ago.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joe Allen

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Today is the birthday of Joe Allen (February 9, 1888-April 24, 1976). Allen’s parents were Irish and came to America, settling in Minnesota, in 1883. At some point, Joe made his way to San Francisco and was working as a brewer at the Anchor Brewery when it reopened after the end of prohibition in 1933 at 1610 Harrison Street. Unfortunately, less than a year later, in February of 1934, the brewery burned to the ground. Owner Joe Kraus then partnered with his brewmaster, Joe Allen, and they re-built the brewery in an old brick building at 398 Kansas Street, by 1st Street.

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Here, I’ll let Anchor Brewery’s website take up the story from The Era of Mass Production.

Kraus and Allen valiantly and lovingly kept Anchor afloat until Kraus’s death in 1952. By late 1959, America’s—even San Francisco’s—new-found “taste” for mass-produced, heavily marketed lighter beers had taken its toll on Anchor’s already declining sales. In July of that year, at the age of 71, Joe Allen shut Anchor down for what would, thankfully, be a brief period.

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Again, Anchor Brewing picks up the story, Surviving Another Challenge from 1960.

Lawrence Steese bought and re-opened Anchor in 1960 at yet another nearby location, retaining Joe Allen to carry Anchor’s craft brewing tradition forward. But one of Anchor’s oldest accounts, the Crystal Palace Market had already closed its doors. And Steese had an increasingly difficult time convincing loyal Bay Area establishments to continue serving Anchor Steam. By 1965, Steese—like Allen six years before—was ready to shut Anchor down.

The next year, 1961, the brewery moved to 541 8th Street, where it remained until 1977. Of course, in 1965, another owner invested in the brewery, eventually buying out the remaining partners. That, you probably already know, was Fritz Maytag. There’s not much I could find on Allen’s life before and after he worked at, and then owned, the Anchor Brewery, not even the year of his death. If anyone has any more information, please leave a comment below or contact me directly.

Beer Birthday: Aron Deorsey

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Today is the birthday of Aron Deorsey, brewmaster at the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant in San Francisco, along with the Park Chalet and the Lake Chalet in Oakland. I got to know Aron much better a few years back when we roomed together attending Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp for SF Beer Week. He’s been making great beer at the beachside brewpub for a number of years now, and is great fun to hang out with. Join me in wishing Aron a very happy birthday.

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Brendan Dobbel, from Thirsty Bear, Rich Higgins, from Social Kitchen, Aron and Zambo, from 21st Amendment at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp a few years ago.

Aron Derosey, from Beach Chalet, and his friend Maggie
Aron and his friend Maggie at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2009.

Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron Deorsey with the 4 bottles of dessert
At a Sierra Nevada beer dinner at the Chico brewery in 2010. Clockwise from Left: Rich Higgins, John Tucci, Brenden Dobbel & Aron with the 4 bottles of dessert.

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Aron (in the center) at the Thirsty Bear Oktoberfest in 2002.

Beer Birthday: Ron Silberstein

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Today is the 55th birthday of Ron Silberstein, the founder, and original brewer, of Thirsty Bear Brewing in San Francisco. I’ve known Ron for a number of years but have gotten to know him better over the last several years working on SF Beer Week. We also spent a weekend together at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp, which was an awesome experience for everybody who attended. Join me in wishing Ron a very happy birthday.

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Ron and me at Brews by the Bay a few years back, the San Francisco Brewers Guild’s annual beer festival. (photo by Steve Shapiro)

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Ron and Beer Camp head brewer Scott Jennings.

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Ron and his twin sons. (photo purloined from Facebook)

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Jesse Friedman and Fraggle with Ron at the Anchor Holiday Party in 2012.

Beer Birthday: Fritz Maytag

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Fritz Maytag, who bought the failing Anchor Brewery in 1965 and turned it into a model for the microbrewery revolution, celebrates his 78th birthday today. It’s no stretch to call Fritz the father of craft beer, he introduced so many innovations that are common today and influenced countless brewers working today. In the last few years, Maytag sold Anchor Brewery and Distillery to Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio of the Griffin Group, but continues to make his York Creek wine and consult with Anchor as Chairman Emeritus. I was happy to see him again recently at the CCBA’s California Beer Summit in September of this year. Join me in wishing Fritz a very happy birthday.

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Fritz Maytag at the Anchor Christmas party in 2006 with fellow Anchor-ites John Dannerbeck and Mark Carpenter.

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Fritz with the organizers of SF Beer Week at our inaugural opening event at Anchor in 2009.

Speakers at the Symposium: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie Bamforth
Fritz with fellow speakers at the Herbst Museum Symposium a couple of years ago, from left: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie Bamforth.

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Ken Grossman, me and Fritz at a beer dinner at Anchor celebrating Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary.

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Me and Fritz at the Anchor Christmas Party a few years ago.

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Me and Fritz at the California Beer Summit this September.

Beer Birthday: Bob Brewer

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Today is the 67th birthday of Bob Brewer, longtime brewery rep. for Anchor Brewing. For many years, he worked from southern California, circling the country with the entire nation his territory (the only exception being the Bay Area) representing Anchor beers. More recently, he moved back to the Bay Area, but you could find him at every nook and cranny of the beer world. Earlier this year, Bob retired from Anchor, although he still occasionally works a festival or does other work, like giving a great talk at my class this past spring. Join me in wishing Bob a very happy birthday.

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Bob serving a festival-goer at the Mammoth Lakes Bluesapalooza in 2007.

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Bob giving a tour at Anchor.

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Bob serves up the then-new Anchor Bock to Portland beer sage Fred Eckhardt.

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Me, brewer Mike Lee and Bob at the 2011 Anchor Christmas party.

Beer Birthday: Richard Brewer-Hay

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Today is the 40th birthday of Richard Brewer-Hay, co-founder (with his wife Allie) and brewer of San Francisco’s smallest almost brewery: the Elizabeth Street Brewery. Despite its size (it’s really more of a nanobrewery or even a picobrewery) and intermittent schedule, it was named three years ago by SF Weekly as San Francisco’s Best Microbrewery 2010. I thought I had a photo of Richard and Allie from when I ran into them at the Map Room in Chicago during CBC a few years ago, but I guess not. Instead, I purloined the photos below from Facebook. Join me in wishing Richard a very happy birthday.

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Given it was Richard’s tweet from the World Series that reminded me it was his birthday, here’s him at the first game of the World Series two years ago.

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A self-portrait with his wife, Allie, in the Cascades in Washington a few years ago.

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With Jabber the Parrot at eBay On Location in San Jose.

Below is a very, very short video I captured of Richard and Nico Freccia, from 21st Amendment, accepting their World Beer Cup award for the beer Richard and Shaun O’Sullivan made at 21A in Chicago.

Beer Birthday: John Tucci

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Today is also the 48th birthday of John Tucci, who until it closed a few years ago, was the brewmaster for the San Francisco Gordon Biersch brewpub. John was one of Gordon Biersch’s best and most senior brewers, and especially with his one-offs that he brewed at that location. He’s also a great champion for beer in San Francisco and was very active with the local brewers guild and SF Beer Week. Since the San Francisco location’s closing, he’s been brewing at their Palo Alto brewpub, but after 16 years, recently left as he’s getting closer to opening his own new brewery, 47 Hills Brewing, which will be located at 137 South Linden Avenue in South San Francisco. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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John behind the bar pouring some of his beer. (Note: this photo by Winnie Hsu and purloined from Facebook.)

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At the Slow Beer Festival 2008, Ian Marks (from Hog Island Oyster Co.), Taylor Boetticher (from the Fatted Calf), Dave, John and Shaun O’Sullivan (from 21st Amendment).

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John when I visited him last year at the Palo Alto Gordon Biersch.

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Taking delivery of new brewing equipment at 47 Hills.