Historic Beer Birthday: Morton Coutts

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Today is the birthday of Morton W. Coutts (February 7, 1904-June 25, 2004) who was a “New Zealand inventor who revolutionized the science of brewing beer,” and “is best known for the continuous fermentation method.”

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Here’s a basic biography from the DB Breweries website:

Morton Coutts (1904-2004) was the inheritor of a rich brewing tradition dating back to the 19th century. Like his father, W. Joseph Coutts and grandfather, Joseph Friedrich Kühtze, Morton Coutts was more an innovator and scientific brewer than a businessman. He was foundation head brewer of Dominion Breweries Ltd under (Sir) Henry Kelliher and became a director of the company after his father’s death in 1946. He and Kelliher formed a formidable team-Coutts, the boffin-like heir to a rich brewing heritage, obsessed with quality control and production innovation, and Kelliher, a confident, entrepreneurial businessman, able to hold his own with politicians and competitors.

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Morton Coutts’ most important contribution was the development in the 1950s of the system of continuous fermentation, patented in 1956, to give greater beer consistency and product control. The continuous fermentation process was so named because it allows a continuous flow of ingredients in the brewing, eliminating variables to produce the ideal beer continuously. The system achieved this by scrapping open vats-the weak link in the old system-and replacing them with enclosed sealed tanks. Continuous fermentation allows the brew to flow from tank to tank, fermenting under pressure, and never coming into contact with the atmosphere, even when bottled. Coutts’ research showed that his process could produce consistent, more palatable beer with a longer shelf life than under batch brewing. A London newspaper described it as a “brewer’s dream and yours too”. Coutts patented the process, and subsequently the patent rights were sold worldwide as other brewers recognised the inherent benefits of continuous processes. Although many attempted to implement the technology, most failed due to their inability to apply the rigorous hygiene techniques developed and applied by Coutts. Eventually, in 1983, Coutts’ contribution to the industry was honoured in New Zealand.

And DB Breweries also has a timeline with key events in the brewery’s history, including dates from Coutts’ life.

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The Waitemata Brewery in 1933, after it became part of DB Breweries.

As for his most influential invention, continuous fermentation, here are some resources, one from New Zealand’s Science Trust Roadshow with Morton Coutts — Continuous Fermentation System. And after I visited New Zealand, I wrote a sidebar on it for an article I did for All About Beer, and also later when a German university announced something very similar a few years ago in Everything Old Is New Again: Non-Stop Fermentation.

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Coutts later in life.

Also, here’s the story of him creating DB Export The Untold Story, featuring this fun video.

Historic Beer Birthday: Adolph Coors

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Today is the birthday of Adolph Coors (February 4, 1847-June 5, 1929) whose full name was Adolph Hermann Josef Coors, although it’s probable that the Coors surname was originally spelled Kuhrs, or something like that. Coors was born in what today is Germany, in the town of Barmen, part of Rhenish Prussia, or Rhineland. After being orphaned as a fifteen-year old boy, he continued the apprenticeship he’d begun earlier at the Wenker Brewery in Dortmund, and later on was a paid employee. When he was 21, he stowed aboard a ship in Hamburg and made his way to New York City, where he changed the family name to its present spelling. By spring he’d moved to Chicago, and shortly thereafter became a foreman of John Stenger’s brewery in nearby Napierville, where he worked for the next four years.

At the beginning of 1872, he resigned and headed west, to Denver, Colorado. Coors took a few odd jobs, and then he purchased a partnership in the bottling firm of John Staderman, buying out his partner later the same year, assuming control of the entire business. But it was the following year, on November 14, 1873, that the Coors empire really began. On that day, Adolph Coors, along with Denver confectioner Jacob Schueler, bought the Golden City Tannery, which had been abandoned, in Golden, Colorado, and transformed it into the Golden Brewery. “By February 1874 they were producing beer for sale. In 1880 Coors purchased Schueler’s interest, and the brewery was renamed Adolph Coors Golden Brewery.”

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And here’s a short biography from the Colorado Encyclopedia:

Adolph Coors (1847–1929) immigrated to the United States in 1868 after serving as a brewery apprentice in western Germany and then in the Kingdom of Prussia. After working in Chicago breweries, he moved to Colorado in 1872 and purchased a bottling company. He transformed it into the Coors Brewing Company and became one of Colorado’s wealthiest and most influential men during the early twentieth century.

After moving to Denver, Coors promptly bought into a bottling company and became the sole owner by the end of the year. In 1873 he started looking for a place to build a brewery with access to clean mountain water and found one at the abandoned Golden Tannery. He partnered with candy store owner and fellow German Jacob Scheuler to purchase the tannery and turned it into the Scheuler and Coors Brewing Company, one of the first breweries in the area. By 1874, even in the midst of economic crisis, the company was making 800 gallons of beer a day. Their beer was valued for its taste, consistency, and crispness.

Coors hired many German immigrants to run his beer factory, bottling plant, malt house, and icehouse. He invested heavily in new technology, such as metal bottle caps and increased automation. In 1879 he married Louisa Weber. The couple had six children – three daughters and three sons. That same year, he bought out Scheuler and became the sole owner of Coors Brewing. He allowed his workers to join the United Brewery Workmen of the United States and paid them well. The brewery famously provided free beer to its workers during breaks. By 1890, Coors was a millionaire, a US citizen, and a medal winner at the Chicago World’s Fair.

The movement to abolish alcohol began to gather momentum in the late nineteenth century. Coors correctly diversified his investments; beer may be recession-proof, but it would not weather Prohibition. In 1916, when Prohibition began in Colorado, Coors shifted his manufacturing from beer to milk products and porcelain. In 1933, with the repeal of Prohibition, Coors returned to his preferred product but continued to manufacture other goods.

Coors generally remained aloof from Denver high society, but he felt great kinship with his employees and identified with them as a craftsman. He instituted more breaks, better working conditions, and higher wages for his workers than did almost all other brewers. But Coors became disillusioned with his product in the early twentieth century, after pasteurization (the heating of beer to kill microbes) and mass marketing transformed the beer industry. Coors took his life in 1929 by jumping from his hotel balcony in Virginia Beach. In his will, he stipulated that his hotel bill be paid in its entirety; otherwise, he left no note and no reason for his action. Coors is remembered for his entrepreneurial spirit, his rags-to-riches immigrant story, and his dedication to the craft of brewing beer.

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A portrait of Adolph Coors by artist Bill Moomey

Coors was elected to the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 1990, who produced a short film of his life for the induction ceremony:

And here’s an early postcard depicting the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. It’s a remarkable place and you should definitely take the tour if you ever get near that part of the world.

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time To Drink Beer

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I first made Johann, the founder of Seef Bier, in San Francisco, when he was here to do a presentation with his importer and the Belgian Trade Delegation as he was beginning to import his beer to the U.S. And I quite like Seef, and have since I first tried it. I saw him most recently last month in Belgium, when he was on hand to pick up the gold medal for Seef he received at the Brussels Beer Challenge. At any rate, this morning he sent me this fun video of Christmas Wishes from Seefbier, a spoof of the popular Christmas carol recorded by Andy Williams, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. It really is the most wonderful time to drink beer. Enjoy.

Beer Birthday: Bryan Selders

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Today is the 41st birthday of Bryan Selders, who is the brewmaster at Post Brewing in Colorado. Up until March of 2011, he was lead brewer of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and one-half of the hip hop duo The Pain Relievaz, before leaving the industry temporarily to do web design at Inclind. But a few years ago, he came back to brewing, which was great new for everyone who love terrific beer. I first met Bryan at Hop School in Yakima, Washington years ago and he’s a terrifically talented and fun person. Join me in wishing Bryan a very happy birthday.

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Bryan with his boss Sam on picture day at the brewery.

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Bryan with some of his “fans.”

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The cover of the latest CD, Awesome = Yes, the Pain Relievaz Greatest Hits, available nowhere as far as I can tell. But below is Bryan and Sam in the video “Pinchin’ Pennies.”

Note: All photos purloined from Facebook.

Felix The Cat (& Beer Drinker)

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As if you needed further proof that cartoons weren’t always for kids — and still aren’t — here’s an interesting one from 1930. Today was the debut in 1919 of the popular cartoon character Felix the Cat. It was actually the third film using a similar-looking cat, but the Adventures of Felix, released today in 1919, was the first time the name Felix was attached to the character. Felix became very popular and remained so until sound was introduced, when he fell into cartoon obscurity when his transition to sound tanked. There was a much later cartoon version, from when I was a kid, that began in 1958 and was shown in television through at least the 1960s and 70s, and that’s probably the one you’re more familiar with.

But the earlier Felix was darker and less kid-friendly, for the simple reason they were aimed at adults going to see a movie in a theater.

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Woos Whoopee was one of Felix’s later cartoons (at least of the earlier black and white and largely silent ones), and takes place in a speakeasy (it was still Prohibition after all).

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Felix stays out late, drinking and dancing, while his wife paces at home angrily, watching the clock with a rolling pin in her hand. Finally, well after 3 AM, Felix begins to stumble home and begins to hallucinate. Finally, after a surreal journey, he makes it home around 6 AM. I thought sure he’d be in more trouble, but besides shooting the cuckoo in the clock, not much happens to him after he gets home. Oh, well, at least he had a few laughs and drank a few beers.

I Know What I Love

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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.

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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.”

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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’.

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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.

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Anderson Valley Featured In PG&E Commercial

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So I’m watching the Mets beating the Cubs in game 2 of the NLCS and happened to look up as the commercials came on between innings, as I heard something in the voiceover that I wasn’t expecting: Anderson Valley Brewing Company. People in the Bay Area know that PG&E has a P.R. problem after a pipe blew up in a San Bruno neighborhood (on the peninsula north of Silicon Valley and south of San Francisco). The blast registered 1.1 on the Richter scale when a segment of pipe 28 feet long blew out onto the street, thrown about 100 feet and creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide, killing eight people in the process. They stonewalled after the incident, but eventually the “Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $1.6 billion,” and there was civil litigation by many of the people directly effected by the explosion.

So for the last few years there’s been a lot of TV commercials portraying PG&E as a company that cares. A lot. A lot of ads, I mean. I don’t know if it’s been a successful campaign or not, certainly I’m not buying it and the fact that they’re still creating new ones and running them frequently suggests that not everyone has been convinced, either. Anyway, the ad I just saw during the baseball game featured Rod DeWitt, who’s the Director of Plant Engineering & Process Control for Anderson Valley Brewing, the drummer for Rolling Boil Blues Band, and an old friend. Here’s the commercial:

This is Rod giving me a tour of the brewery back in 2006

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This is the scene shown on every Anderson Valley beer label.

Buster Keaton For Simon Pure Beer

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Today is the birthday of American actor, vaudevillian, comedian, filmmaker, stunt performer, and writer Buster Keaton. He’s best known for his silent films, and especially The General, considerd by many to be one of the best films of all-time. In 1962, Keaton made a series of commercials for the William Simon Brewery of Buffalo, New York. The ads were done in a silent film style, employing many of Keaton’s best gags from his glory days on the 1920s.

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Initially, I only had these three gifs made from one of the commercials, but happily discovered that the whole ad has now been posted on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSf4ZKsv2HEYouTube:

And here’s another one Keaton did:

And a third:

And finally, a fourth ad Keaton did for Simon Pure Beer.

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Beer Birthday: Garrett Oliver

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Today is Garrett Oliver’s 53rd birthday. Garrett is the head brewer at Brooklyn Brewery and has done more for the craft beer industry to promote pairing food and beer than just about any other person alive. If you haven’t picked up a copy of his book, The Brewmaster’s Table, you should definitely do so. He was also tapped to be the editor of the Oxford Companion to Beer, which came out four years ago (and which I also contributed to). He’s the best-dressed brewer in the world and a great person. Join me in wishing Garrett a very happy birthday.

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Garrett and Bruce Joseph, from Anchor Brewery, at the Brewer’s Dinner before GABF a few years ago.

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Tom Dalldorf, published of the Celebrator, Garrett and me share a beer at d.b.a.

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Giving a cooking demonstration with beer chef Bruce Paton at GABF in 2005.

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A happy Garrett with Randy Mosher at the World Beer Cup dinner at last year’s CBC in Chicago.


Dancing with Jessica, formerly of the Brewers Association, late one night after GABF in 2004 at Falling Rock.