Beer Birthday: Michael Jackson

jackson
Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 74th birthday. I first met Michael in the early 1990s, shortly after my first beer book was published. He is all but single-handedly responsible for the culture of better beer that exists today. He began writing about good beer in the 1960s and 70s and his writing has influenced (and continues to influence) generations of homebrewers and commercial brewers, many of whom were inspired to start their own breweries by his words. There are few others, if any, that have been so doggedly persistent and passionate about spreading the word about great beer. I know some of my earliest knowledge and appreciation of beer, and especially its history and heritage, came from Michael’s writings. Michael passed away in August 2007, eight years ago. I still miss him, and I suspect I’m not the only one. A couple of years ago, J.R. Richards’ new documentary film about Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter: The Movie, debuted, which I helped a tiny bit with as a pioneer sponsor.

I did an article four years ago for Beer Connoisseur, for their Innovator’s Series, entitled Michael Jackson: The King of Beer Writers, A personal look back at the man who made hunting for beer a career. I reached out to a number of people who also knew Michael for their remembrances as well as my own, and as a result I’m pretty pleased with the results (although the original draft was almost twice as long).

I’ll again be playing some jazz and having a pint of something yummy in his honor, which has become my tradition for March 27, which I’ve also started declaring to be “Beer Writers Day.” Join me in drinking a toast to Michael Jackson, the most influential modern beer writer who’s ever lived.

mj-gdivide
At the Great Divide Brewing’s media party in Denver over fifteen years ago.

m-jackson-2
On stage accepting the first beer writing awards from the Brewers Association with Jim Cline, GM of Rogue, Stan Hieronymus, who writes Real Beer’s Beer Therapy among much else, and Ray Daniels, formerly of the Brewers Association.

m-jackson-3
At GABF in 2006, still wearing the same glasses. But my, oh my, have I changed. Sheesh.

mj-bf
With Carolyn Smagalski receiving an award at Pilsner Urquell.

Beer Birthday: Jeff Bell

finborough-arms
Today is the 37th birthday of Jeff Bell, whose alter ego was, until a few years ago, Stonch, one of England’s best bloggers. He had retired from blogging to concentrate on his new job as landlord of a London pub, The Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, a village in the heart of London. I stopped by to meet Jeff on my way back from a trip to Burton-on-Trent a few years ago. And four years back, I saw Jeff several times during GBBF week. But a couple of years back, the blogging started up again, and he moved on from that pub, and last I heard he was the landlord of the Finborough Arms in Earl’s Court, next to the Finborough Theatre. I hope I’ll get a chance to visit his new place on my next trip to London. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.

stonch-1
Jeff Bell, a.k.a. Stonch, at The Gunmakers Pub in central London.

P1150769
With a Gunmaker’s bartender at the British Beer Writers Guild event before the start of the Great British Beer Festival in 2009.

P1150880
In front of Gunmaker’s in the summer of 2009.

Historic Beer Birthday: Robert Neame

shepherd-neame
Today is the birthday of Robert Harry Beale Neame, though he was generally known as Bobby (February 25, 1934- ). He joined his family’s company, Shephard Neame in 1956, and in 1971 became the chairman of the company, a position he held until retiring in 2005, when he was named president.

bobby-neame

Shepherd Neame is an English independent regional brewery founded in 1698 in Faversham, Kent. Evidence has been uncovered showing brewing has taken place continuously on the current site since at least 1573. It is the oldest brewer in Great Britain and has been family-owned since 1864. The brewery produces a range of cask ales and filtered beers. Production is around 281,000 brewers’ barrels a year. It owns 338 pubs & hotels predominantly in Kent, London and South East England.

Shepherd-Neame-brewery-3

From the Neame Family Research:

The next generation faced the same difficulties in the 1960s. Bobby Neame came to work at the Brewery in 1956. In September 1957 he became a director when Madeleine Finn, due to retire, decided to step down. Jasper, his father was ill at the time, but Bobby was back at work in the following January. By the September 1969 AGM he had widened his range considerably and it was said that he was helping in the Brewery, and was in charge of the free trade, advertising etc.

Laurie’s son, Colin Roger Beale Neame joined the company in October 1959, to help his father in the bottled beer department, a month after Rex Neame had joined in Managing ‘Queen Court’. At the September 1961 AGM after serving a probationary period on the Board, they both became full members. As the production director, he was in charge of the more technical side of the brewing business, making improvements in the bottling plant and keg beer, by utilizing many labour saving techniques. He also introduced a small biochemical laboratory employing a laboratory technician.

Jasper died on 18 Jan 1961 at the early age of 56, Laurie then becoming sole managing director. He survived his brother for another nine years and continued his interest in production.

Following is his father’s footsteps, Bobby took particular interest in the sales side of the business. This became especially important once the larger brewers started investing heavily in advertising, especially on commercial television. Bobby then became marketing manager in charge of “improving the image of the Company in the eyes of the public”, showing greater attention to publicity, with advertising on Southern Television in 1970.

robert-neame

In 1968 the Cobb brewing company in Margate (with its family connection) again came on the market, together with 38 licensed premises. The Cobbs found it increasingly difficult to survive independently after the increasing success of the Butlins hotels group took over much of its trade. It was taken over by the Whitbreads in Januray 1968 and ceased to brew in the following October. This now left Shepherd Neame as ‘the last independent brewery in Kent.’

On 19 Dec 1970, Laurie died suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of the day, after all the excitement when his second son, Stuart, was married. In March 1971 Bobby became chairman and Colin managing director.

Shepherd-Neame-brewery-2

I love the stained glass windows showing the brewery’s history.

Millenium Brewhouse window I Millenium Brewhouse window II

Martyn Cornell has a nice photo tour of the Shepherd Neame Brewery. And on YouTube there’s an interesting tour of the brewery.

Beer Birthday: Mark Dredge

pencil-and-spoon
Today is the 31st birthday of Mark Dredge, who writes the beer blog Pencil and Spoon from his home in Kent, England. I’ve had the pleasure of drinking with Mark on his last few trips across the pond. The first time, at the opening gala for SF Beer Week, four years ago at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder, Colorado, and more recently judging at GABF. By day, he works in digital marketing and social media, most recently for Pilsner Urquell, and by night, he’s “a beer writer and blogger.” The last two times I saw him, a few months ago in Belgium, and last week in San Francisco, it was working for Pilsner Urquell. In December 2009, he won the British Guild of Beer Writers New Media Writer of the Year for Pencil and Spoon. If you don’t read his stuff, you should. Join me in wishing Mark a very happy birthday.

IMG_2266
With Mark at Central Kitchen in San Francisco on the anniversary of the 1st tapping of Pilsner Urquell, November 9, 1842.

P1010703
Mark, at left, having lunch at Mountain Sun in Boulder, Colorado during the Beer Bloggers Conference a few years ago.

mark-dredge-2
Raising a toast. (Note: This last photo was purloined from Facebook.)

Patent No. EP0138341B1: Beer And Other Beverages And Their Manufacture

patent-logo
Today in 1988, US Patent EP 0138341 B1 was issued, an invention of Charles William Bamforth and Roy Cope, assigned to the Bass Public Limited Company, for their “Beer and Other Beverages and Their Manufacture.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

This invention relates to beer and other beverages and to their manufacture. In particular the invention is concerned with the incorporation into a beverage of an additive enabling the beverage to have a head formed on it or to improve the quality of the head that can be formed on it.

The invention is primarily applicable to beer, and the term beer is used herein to designate generally any of a variety of alcoholic beverages made by the fermentation of hopped malt wort; it thus includes within its scope ales, lagers and stouts. Beer itself is normally dispensed with a head, but there are also other beer-like beverages that are, like beer, bright and without haze and that are normally dispensed with a head to which the invention is also particularly applicable, these including beverages which include little or no alcohol but otherwise resemble beer quite closely.

bass-bottle-and-glass

Their claims for the patent are also listed as follows:

1. A method of modifying or improving beer or other beverage, the beverage being bright and without haze, which method comprises the step of incorporating in the beverage concerned an additive enabling the beverage to have a head formed on it or to improve the quality of the head that can be formed on it, the additive comprising protein fragments made by the partial hydrolysis of protein material, and the method being characterised in that the protein material comprises egg albumen and is added in an effective amount to improve or cause head formation without inducing haze formation.

2. A method according to claim 1 characterised in that the additive is formed as an aqueous solution.

3. A method according to claim 2 characterised in that the additive also contains a minor addition of ethyl alcohol.

4. A method according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the additive comprises fragments of protein material separated from any remaining unsevered protein material.

5. A method according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the beverage is made by a process including a fermentation stage and in which the additive is added at a stage later than the fermentation stage.

6. A method according to claim 5 characterised in that the beverage is beer.

bass-pint-glass

I Know What I Love

camra-blk
Although I was blissfully ignorant of CAMRA in its earliest days — drinking American beer in Pennsylvania while in junior high and high school — my understanding is that it was not always as popular as it later became. And it certainly wasn’t universally beloved by many breweries, since they were moving toward keg beer which was much cheaper to produce and away from cask-conditioned beer, or real ale. It took a small dedicated group to convince brewers, and many ambivalent consumers, that real ale was worth preserving so British beer didn’t end up tasting like America of the 1970s. But there were critics of CAMRA almost from the get go, as recently detailed in a post by Boak & Bailey entitled A Brief History of CAMRA Bashing.

I didn’t follow all of Boak & Bailey’s thread on Twitter this morning, apart from finding part of a script from what they believed was a “c.1978 anti-‘real ale’ propaganda film starring Bernard Cribbins.” They were fishing to see if anybody might have more information about the movie.

real-ale-script

It turned out the film was from 1973, and a follower (thanks Cliff) found the actual film online, courtesy of the East Anglican Film Archive . The film is titled “I Know What I Love,” which is curiously very close to the title of a song from the Genesis album Selling England By the Pound, also released in 1973. That was “I Know What I Like,” but still, it was my first thought since I was a big fan of the band back then.

It’s a fairly goofy film, but also very interesting the way beer and brewing is presented. Bernard Cribbins, a reasonably well-known British character actor plays all of the major parts, explaining how beer is made. If you watch a lot of British TV or films, you’ve probably seen him. He’s made appearances in “The Avengers,” “Fawlty Towers,” “Doctor Who” and “Coronation Street,” and was in the films “The Railway Children,” “Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River,” the 1967 Bond film “Casino Royale” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy.”

cribbins-1973-6

Here’s the description from the film’s webpage at the EAFA:

Presented by The Brewers’ Society and featuring Bernard Cribbins in multiple roles, the documentary explains the process of brewing beer, from the pasture to the pint.

After ordering a pint at his local and taking a sip, the actor Bernard Cribbins sets out to explain the brewing process, with a little help from some of his ‘relatives’ in the industry, all played by Cribbins himself. One ‘cousin’ explains the malting process, where barley is germinated and malted, whilst another talks about hops, which contribute to the flavour of beer. His ‘uncle’, who works in a traditional brewery, explains the process, from the spurging of barley in mush tuns to the addition of hops, followed by yeast to aid fermentation, before the beer is conditioned and siphoned into casks.

Brewing on an industrial scale is also explained by Cribbins, with the help of one ‘relative’ who grows large amounts of barley, and a ‘distant relative’ who works as a technician at a large brewer. The film concludes with a glimpse at pub life, with a variety of environments catering for a range of tastes, but linked together by one thing: beer. With the process explained, Cribbins heads back to the bar for another pint, which is pulled by the governor, his ‘father’.

cribbins-1973-3

It was created by the Rank Short Films Group and sponsored by the Brewers’ Society. The director was James Allen from a script by Michael Barnes and the only actor credited is Bernard Cribbins. It doesn’t strike me as particularly anti-real ale, but maybe there’s some nuance I’m missing. They certainly try to allay fears that stainless steel, and modern brewing methods didn’t change the beer they produced. The humor seems a little forced, and not particularly witty, more mildly amusing than funny.

Unfortunately, the archive doesn’t allow their films to be embedded but you can go to their website and watch it online, which I highly recommend. It runs around seventeen minutes, and is certainly an interesting look at brewing at a particular time in recent history.

cribbins-1973-2

Beer Birthday: Melissa Cole

melissa-cole
Today is the 40th birthday of Melissa Cole, UK beer writer extraordinaire. I’d met Melissa first online and then in person at the Rake in London a few years ago. She’s also been coming over to our side of the pond to judge at both GABF and the World Beer Cup. She’s a great advocate for beer generally, but especially for women, and is great fun to hang out and drink with. She also writes online at Taking the Beard Out of Beer! which is subtitled “A Girl’s Guide To Beer.” Her first book, Let Me Tell You About Beer, was published a couple of years ago. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.

P1150822
At the Great British Beer Festival three years ago, with Roger Protz.

Greg Koch & Melissa Cole Again
Melissa with Greg Koch, from Stone Brewing, at GABF in 2009.

Tomme Arthur and Melissa Cole
The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur with a blushing Melissa at the World Beer Cup dinner in Chicago a few years ago.

P1120175
A couple of years ago at the Rake in London, Melissa and Matt Brynildson, from Firestone Walker.

melissa-cole-93-97
With friends at University sometime between 1993-97 (photo purloined from Facebook).

Beer Birthday: Ron Pattinson

barclay-perkins
Today is the 59th birthday of Ron Pattinson, a brewing historian who writes online at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. Ron lives in Amsterdam but is obsessed with the British brewery Barclay Perkins, which is what the title of his blog refers to. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Ron in person, though we’ve corresponded several times, and we got close earlier this year when he was in Sonoma County. Lew Bryson had a chance to go drinking with Ron a few years ago. Join me in wishing Ron a very happy birthday.

ron-pattinson-lew
Ron while drinking with Lew Bryson.

ron-pattinson-dann
At Pretty Things 1901: Jim Barnes, Dann Paquette (Pretty Things), Jay Sullivan (Cambridge Brewing) and Ron Pattinson.

Watney’s Happy Families

playing-cards
The other night Boak & Bailey tweeted a photo of a UK eBay listing for a card game published in the 1930s by Watney Combe Reid & Co. LTD, brewers of Watney’s Red Barrel.

One of the many things I’m obsessed with is games. Since I was a kid, I’ve played them, collected them, and even created them. It’s just one more thing to add to the ever-growing list of things about which I’m particularly geeky. So I was already familiar with the card game Happy Families, which is a fairly simple game, and is somewhat similar to “Go Fish.” But I had no idea that a brewery had made their own version of the game.

watneys-happy-families-box watneys-happy-families-back

Based on the box, it was obviously a giveaway to advertise the Watney’s brand. Intrigued, I would have bought it on the spot, except that, as Boak & Bailey noted, the “Buy It Now” price was a hefty £64.95, or about $100. Beer writing, unfortunately, doesn’t pay well enough to indulge all of my whims. Still, I wanted to know more about the game, and set out to see what I could find.

It was apparently created in England in 1851, by John Jaques II, who was also responsible for inventing “Snakes and Ladders,” “Tiddlywinks,” “Ludo” and the pub favorite “Shove Ha’penny.” It often uses a custom deck of 32 cards, although the game can be played with a standard deck of 52 cards. Cartamundi has the rules online. In the Watney’s version, the rules are printed on the back of the cardboard box:

watneys-happy-families-4

In the Watney’s version, the families are the Barrels, the Cheerilads, the Combes, the Hops, the Malts, the Reids, the Stouts, and the Watneys. According to The World of Playing Cards:

Although the 1920s was a decade of optimism after the Great War, the Great Depression made the 1930s a difficult time. In Britain unemployment was widespread. As we see from these images, the woman was the homemaker and had a hairdo, and the man worked. The generation of children who grew up in the 1930s would go on to fight in World War II. They had their share of hardships and built strong values of hard work.

Below are the 32 cards from deck:

watneys-happy-families

For two of them, they apparently didn’t have a finished card, so here’s those cards taken from the eBay listing photos.

Mrs-Reid Miss-Watney

Hopefully, I can find a less expensive deck of these cards. Great, another item to add to my Wishlist.

Beer In Ads #1665: Welcome To The Inns Of Britain


Tuesday’s ad is from the English brewer’s “Beer is Best” campaign, from 1951. The campaign began in 1933, and ran for 30 years, and this one shows an idyllic country pub — The Axe and Compass — with a conspicuous church spire behind it. It almost appears that they’re trying to either suggest the pub as church or to associate the two as central to British life (both claims I agree with, BTW). But it looks so perfect one assumes it has to be a fictional, stylized version meant to invoke the romance of the country pub.

Beer-is-Best-1951-Inns-of-britain

But not so fast. The Axe and Compass is an actual country inn located in Hemingford Abbots, 3 miles from St Ives, 6 miles from Huntingdon, and 12 miles from Cambridge. According to their website, the pub dates “back to the 15th century.”

axe-and-compass

But perhaps the artist did take a few liberties with perspective. That church spire that looms so large in the ad’s illustration appears much less imposing in the photograph from the pub’s website. And even more revealing, placing the inn at roughly the same angle as the drawing using Google Maps Street View, you can barely make out just the tip of the spire above the edge of the end of the pub’s roof past the back chimney. You have to go down Church Lane to see the church, and it doesn’t look nearly as large as it does in the illustration. Still, it’s an awesome image and I suspect it may have been one in a series, which would be even cooler. I know I want to go there now, and if I’m ever in the area, I’d definitely try to have a pint of Timothy Taylor there.

axe-and-compass-google