Beer Birthday: Charles Finkel

Today is the 72nd birthday of Charles Finkel, one of the pioneers of the better beer movement. He founded Merchant du Vin in 1978, the company responsible for importing a number of word-class beers to the U.S., including a a few favorites of mind: Traquair, Ayinger, Westmalle, Rochefort and Orval. He also started the Seattle brewpub, Pike Brewing , in 1989, where Fal Allen was head brewer there from 1990-96. I first met Charlie around 1996 during a visit to Seattle. The following year, the Finkels sold both Pike Brewing and Merchant du Vin. In 2006, they bought back Pike Brewing. In Chicago for CBC a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend an evening out and about town with the Finkels, and recently I wrote a profile of them for Beer Connoisseur. Charlie and his wife Rose Ann are some of my favorite people in the industry. Join me in wishing Charlie a very happy birthday.

Charlie at CBC in Chicago a few years ago, with Mark Blasingame, owner of the Map Room.

Charlie at Pints for Prostates’ Rare Beer Tasting at Wynkoop during GABF.

Charlie and Rose Ann Finkel behind their Pike Brewing booth at GABF a few years ago.

Charlie and Rose Ann Finkel with past and present Pike brewers during the 2006 CBC in Seattle.

Beer Birthday: Will Kemper

Today is the 67th birthday of Will Kemper, who’s the brewmaster of Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen in Bellingham, Washington. Will was the “Kemper” in the early brewery “Thomas Kemper,” which was an early lager brewery first in Poulsbo, and later nearby on Bainbridge Island in Washington. I first visited the brewery on my honeymoon in 1996, after it had been sold to Pyramid (then Hart Brewery) in 1992. After Thomas Kemper, Will became a brewery consultant, helping launch such breweries as Philadelphia’s Dock Street, Seattle’s Aviator Ales, Capital City Brewing in D.C. and Denver’s Mile High Brewing. Later, he and his wife Mari moved to Turkey, building a brewery in Istanbul called Taps. After the Taps project was completed they returned to their home in Bellingham, Washington and opened Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen. Within a year of opening, Chuckanut and Kemper were named small brewery and brewmaster of the year at GABF in 2009. Needless to say, Will’s a terrific brewer. I reconnected with Will when CBC was in Chicago when I ran into Will and Mari, along with Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, and ended up spending the evening bar hopping with them. Join me in wishing Will a very happy birthday.

Will accepting a medal at the 2011 GABF awards.

Mari (next to Charlie on the left) and Will (far right) with the Chuckanut crew winning small brewery of the year in 2009.

Thomas and Sabine from Weyerman’s with Will and Mari during a visit to Chuckanut.

Matt Brynildson and Will at GABF in 2011.

[Note: last two photos purloined from Facebook.]

Historic Beer Birthday: Samuel Simon Loeb

milwaukee-tacoma independent-wash
Today is the birthday of Samuel Simon Loeb (September 4, 1862-January 22, 1947). He was born in Indiana, but settled in Tacoma, Washington as a young man, and was involved in several area breweries there, first the Milwaukee Brewery (which merged to form the Pacific Brewing & Malting Company) and then the Independent Brewery, before being bought by the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. After his brewery was acquired, Loeb remained in charge, and after retiring, he and his wife moved to Los Angeles.


This short description of Loeb is from Brewing in Seattle, by Kurt Stream:



Here’s an account of Loeb from “An Illustrated History of the State of Washington” by H. K. Hines, published in 1893

S. S. Loeb is president of the Milwaukee Brewing Company of Tacoma, incorporated with a capital stock of $35,000, all paid up. The present officers of the company are S. S. Loeb, president, and A. Weinberg, secretary and treasurer. The brewery was formerly called the United States Brewery, and was organized by D. Stegman and M. Karcsecte. The latter sold out to John Frazier, who continued in the business till May, 1891, when the present firm bought out the concern, reincorporated and formed the Milwaukee Brewing Company. The plant was a small one when they first bought it, the output being only forty-two barrels per day. The capacity has been increased until it is now 125 barrels per day. Their trade extends throughout the Sound country.

Mr. Loeb, the president, was born in Ligonier, Indiana, on the 4th of September, 1862. He was the son of Simon Loeb, who was a prominent brewer. The subject of this sketch was reared in Chicago, where he went when a child. He became concerned in the cigar business with Ruhe Bros. (Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Chicago), and later traveled for the same firm, with whom he continued for four years. He then worked four years for Schloss, Ochs & Co., wholesale gentlemen’s furnishers. In 1889 he came to Tacoma and engaged in the wholesale liquor business, which he continued for three years, when he closed out that business, and has since given his attention to the brewing business.

Mr. Loeb was married November 18, 1890, to Miss Blanch Moses, a native of Gallipolis, Ohio. They have one child, Sidney.


Garry Flynn, on his remarkable Brewery Gems website, picks up the story of Loeb after the “Illustrated History of the State of Washington:”

In 1897, four years after the foregoing was written, Samuel sold the Milwaukee Brewery and merged it with the Anton Huth’s Puget Sound Brewery, forming a new enterprise – the Pacific Brewing & Malting Company.

In 1899, Pacific purchased the Donau Brewery and closed the Milwaukee plant. Loeb continued with his other business interests in Tacoma, as well as holding a minority interest in Pacific. As late as 1901 he was still secretary of the company. But by 1902 he and his partners from the Milwaukee Brewery decided to actively re-enter the brewing business.

They organized an investment company to build a brewery in Seattle. They named the new venture the Independent Brewing Co. By mid-September of ’02, construction was well underway when a fire broke out. Despite the efforts of the Rainier Volunteer Fire Brigade it could not be contained and the frame structure burned to the ground. While this was a major setback the investors regrouped and the plant was rebuilt.

By early 1904 they were in production and that October the investors incorporated the company. The principals in the new company were Samuel Loeb, Herman Klaber, and Benjamin Moyses. Albert Weinberg, Samuel’s brother-in-law, was also a part of the company, just as he had been in the Milwaukee Brewery.

The brewery flourished in spite of the major competition with Seattle Brewing & Malting’s popular “Rainier Beer.” But Loeb’s “Old German Lager” was well received in the Seattle area and even found a market in San Francisco.

By now, Samuel’s numerous enterprises and real estate holdings had made him a millionaire. A cartoon from a 1905 Seattle publication (below) reflects the image that Samuel projected.

In 1906, the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., purchased controlling interest in Samuel Loeb’s brewery, but he remained in the management position. The brewery had become second in sales behind SB&M so became a target for the takeover.

The Loebs decided to build a home in keeping with their wealth and social status. They erected an imposing Tudor Revival, brick and half-timbered Mansion on Millionaires’ Row. It was completed in 1914 but as it turned out, they would not be able to enjoy their new home¹.

While the brewing business was booming, it was not to last. In November of 1914, state-wide prohibition was approved by the voters, to take effect January 1, 1916, giving the brewers one year to dispose of their stock and cease production. Some attempted to shift production to other products, but Samuel chose to close his Independent Brewery.

Loeb decided to relocate to San Francisco, as did the parent company, Seattle Brewing & Malting, in the belief that Prohibition would never be approved nationally. A new Rainier plant was built, but Samuel decided to skip the production phase in favor of marketing his beer.

In 1915, the Old German Lager Brewing Co. was in business. Loeb contracted for the brewing and bottling of his “Old German Lager,” a beer already familiar to San Franciscans. He was assisted by his son, Sidney, who served as the company’s vice-president, while Samuel assumed the position of president.

By 1918 Loeb dropped the word “German” from the firm’s name, no doubt due to the anti-German sentiment from the war in Europe. So it was now the Old Lager Brewing Co., and their beer became “Old Original Lager” but with an identical brown label.

Of course national Prohibition was voted in, and to keep their plants operating many brewers shifted production to either soft drinks or near-beer. Samuel chose the later. He struggled along with this product for four years, but in 1924 he closed the business for good.

Samuel retired, and he and Blanche moved to the warmer climes of Los Angeles, where Samuel became a real estate broker.

On 22 January, 1947, Samuel Simon Loeb died at the age of 85.


Beer Birthday: Alan Moen

Today is the birthday of Alan Moen, who used to be the editor-in-chief of the Northwest Brewing News, and also did drawings for them and others, before he retired from that gig that a few years ago. Although he still writes for American Brewer, Market Watch, The New Brewer, and other beer publications. He also owns and operates the Snowgrass Winery in Entiat, Washington. still has an amusing biography of Alan from who knows how many years ago. Join me in wishing Alan a very happy birthday.

Alan at Oktoberfest, in the Paulaner tent.

Bill Metzger, Alan and John Norton in 2013.

At dba in NYC.

Alan in 1995.

[Note: all photos purloined from Facebook.]

Beer Birthday: John Bryant

Today is my good friend John Bryant’s 50th birthday. I first met John when he was with Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. Several years ago he migrated to Odell Brewing in Fort Collins to work his magic on them, and then a few years ago he joined Dale at Oskar Blues. He then left Oskar Blues and disappeared for a time, finally re-emerging in Spokane, Washington with the newly rebranded No-Li Brewing. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

At the Brewer’s Reception before GABF in 2006. From left: Bob Pease (Brewers Association), Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River Brewing), John and his wife Cindy, Banjo (Real Beer) and Tom McCormick (California Craft Brewers Association).

John, with Ray Daniels of the Brewers Association, who celebrated his own birthday last week.

John and me during a visit to the brewery a few summers ago, when we were in Colorado for my cousin’s wedding.

Historic Beer Birthday: Emil G. Sick

Today is the birthday of Emil George Sick (June 3, 1894-November 10, 1964). Sick was the “son of Canadian brewer Fritz Sick, who built Sick’s Lethbridge Brewery.”
“He was a brewing worker and industrialist in Canada and later the US. He is well known for his involvement as owner of baseball teams and stadiums in Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia from the 1930s until 1960.

He was chairman of the board of Sick’s Rainier Brewing Company and president of Sicks’ Brewery Enterprises, Inc., both of Seattle, and a director of three other firms, Molson’s Brewery, Ltd., and Sicks’ Breweries, Ltd., both of Canada, and the Peoples National Bank of Washington. He also was a director of the Seattle World’s Fair.”


Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Sportsman. Northwest baseball pioneer. Former owner of the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Rainiers. He constructed Sick’s Seattle Stadium which opened in June 1938 and served as home to the Seattle Rainiers, Seattle Angels and the 1969 major league Seattle Pilots. He rose to prominence in the brewing industry along with his father Fritz, operating breweries in Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Great Falls, Spokane and the Rainier Brewery in Seattle. Active in civic affairs, he served as president of both the Seattle Historical Society and Seattle Chamber of Commerce. He was also instrumental in the founding of the King County Blood Bank and as chairman of the Washington State March of Dimes.

“In 1934 the Sicks made their most important transaction. It would transform Emil Sick into one of Seattle’s most significant citizens and impact the game of baseball in the state for decades. They acquired exclusive rights to sell the Rainier brand in Washington and Alaska from the Rainier Brewing Company of San Francisco.”


And this is his obituary from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on November 11, 1964 edition, from his Brewery Gems.

Emil G. Sick, 70, long-time Seattle civic and business leader, died early yesterday morning in Swedish Hospital of a stroke following an operation. Mr. Sick had been in failing health recently but had continued to take an active part in his numerous and varied business interests in, the United States and Canada.

He was chairman of the board of Sick’s Rainier Brewing Co. and president of Sicks’ Brewery Enterprises, Inc., both of Seattle, and a director of three other firms, Molson’s Brewery, Ltd., and Sicks’ Breweries, Ltd., both of Canada, and the Peoples National Bank of Washington. He also was a director of the Seattle World’s Fair.

Mr. Sick was equally well known for his leadership in civic activities. He led two successful $100,000 fund raising drives. One played a leading role in saving St. Mark’s Cathedral. As chairman of the non – denominational committee, he saw $100,000 collected to wipe out the church’s debts and beautify the picturesque building.

As president of the Seattle Historical Society, Mr. Sick led the drive which collected $100,000 for construction of the Museum of History and Industry.

Mr. Sick was a long-time leader of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president in 1941. Thirteen, years later he was elected an honorary life-time member.

Mr. Sick entered the brewery business as a shipping clerk with Lethbridge Breweries, Ltd., in Alberta, Canada, which was founded and owned by his father.

In the following years he headed numerous corporations which operated breweries in Spokane; Salem, Ore.; Missoula and Great Falls, Mont.; Vancouver, B.C.; Edmonton and Lethbridge, Alta., and Prince Albert and Regina, Sask. Some of these later were closed or sold.

In 1937, Mr. Sick purchased the Seattle Rainier baseball club and a year later built the stadium which bears his name. The club was sold in 1960. He also was past state chairman of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and was a founder of the King County Central Blood Bank.

In 1949, Mr. Sick became the first Washingtonian to be named for the Disabled American’s Veteran’s award for outstanding civic leadership. And he was named Greater Seattle’s First Citizen in Sports for 1963.

Mr. Sick was born June 3, 1894, in Tacoma. He attended Western Canada College, Calgary, and Stanford University. He resided at 260-39th Ave. E.

He married Kathleen Thelma McPhee in 1918. She died in 1962, and last December he married Mrs. Martha Gardner, widow of a Seattle business leader.

Survivors include his wife, Martha; sister, Mrs. J. A. Blair, Vancouver, B.C.; three daughters, Mrs. Chandler Thomas, Guatemala City, Guatemala; Mrs. Robert Minton, Concord, Mass.; and Mrs. Winston Ingman, Mercer Island; a son, Timothy Sick, London, England; an adopted son, Alan Ferguson, Seattle, and 16 grandchildren.”



Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick Kirschner

Today is the birthday of Frederick Kirschner (May 21, 1856-June 29, 1897). Kirschner Frederick Kirschner, Jr., son of Frederick Kirschner and Maria Wick, joined his father-in-law, Andrew Hemrich in Seattle, Washington to work at the Hemrich brewery. He continued working for family, and later himself, in several brewing enterprises in the Seattle area throughout his life.


According to “An Illustrated History of the State of Washington,” by Rev. H.K. Hines, published in 1893, and taken from Brewery Gems page on Frederick Kirschner:

FRED KIRSCHNER, treasurer of the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 21, 1856. His parents, Frederick and Mary (Weicke) Kirschner, were natives of Germany, but emigrated to America in the early ’50s and located in Cincinnati, where Mr. Kirschner followed his trade of molder in an iron foundry. In 1856 he removed to Buffalo City, Wisconsin, and engaged in the draying business up to 1888, then in farming until 1888, when he removed to Seattle, where he now resides. Our subject was educated in the schools of Wisconsin, and remaining at home followed the avocations of the farm until April, 1878, when he was married at Alma, Wisconsin, to Miss Emma Hemrich.

He then located in Alma and was connected with the brewery of Mr. Hemrich for one year, then for three years was proprietor of the Union House. He then purchased a plant and engaged in the manufacture of soda water, which enterprise be continued until 1885, when he came to Seattle and purchased an interest in the Bay View brewery, assuming the duties of secretary and continuing in such capacity until April, 1892, when, upon the incorporation of the Bay View Brewing Company, he was made secretary and treasure, and so continued up to the spring of 1893, when the Bay View consolidated with the Albert Braun Brewing Company and the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company, under the incorporate name of the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, and Mr. Kirschner was elected treasurer of the new organization. He is also interested in valuable mining interests in the Cascade mountains, and now owns real estate in the city of Seattle.

Mr. and Mrs. Kirschner have three children: William, Andrew and Emily. Socially, Mr. Kirschner affiliates with the social and benevolent German societies of Seattle.


Brewery Gems continues with additional information obtained from Frederick’s great-grandson, Bradley W. Kirschner. In addition, in “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of the City of Seattle and County of King, Washington,” in a biography of Andrew Hemrich, there is also mention of Frederick’s role in the brewery businesses.


Historic Beer Birthday: Bert Grant

Today would have been Bert Grant’s 88th birthday, and he is still definitely missed. Bert opened the country’s first brewpub in 1982 in Yakima, Washington and was a fixture in the industry until his death in late July of 2001. Join me tonight in lifting a pint to Bert’s memory.

Bert Grant and me at OBF in the mid-1990s.

Historic Beer Birthday: Edward F. Sweeney

Today is the birthday of Edward F. Sweeney (May 10, 1860-1923). Although born in San Francisco, Sweeney was involved with founding the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, the makers of Rainier Beer, along with several other brewery and other businesses in the Seattle area.


Here’s a biography of Sweeney from “An Illustrated History of the State of Washington,” by Rev. H.K. Hines, published in 1893.

Edward F. Sweeney, Secretary of the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, is a native son of the Golden West, born in San Francisco, California, May 10, 1860.

His father, Morgan Sweeney, was a California pioneer of 1850, who made mining the occupation of his life. He (Morgan) was married in California to Miss Mary Nunan¹, whose father was also a pioneer of the State.

Edward F. Sweeney was educated at St. Mary’s College in San Francisco. His business career began at the age of seventeen, in the French Savings Bank, but shortly after be entered the office of the brewery² of M. Nunan and remained two years. He then went to the Fredericksburg Brewery at San Jose and entered practically into the study of the brewery business. After becoming thoroughly conversant with all details of manufacture and with methods of conducting such an enterprise, he returned to San Francisco as superintendent of Mr. Nunan’s plant, which turned out about 30,000 barrels of beer per year.

In 1882-84 (depending on the account), he came to Seattle, and, forming a co-partnership with W. J. Rule, built a small brewery south of town for the manufacture of steam beer. The firm of Rule & Sweeney continued about eighteen months (sic), when Mr. Rule retired and Mr. Sweeney continued operations alone, gradually increasing the extent of his plant as the conditions of the trade demanded.

In 1888 he organized a stock company known as the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company, with a capital of $80,000. The brewery was then rebuilt, and with improved machinery they entered exclusively into the manufacture of lager beer, with an annual output of 36,000 barrels, which was sold throughout the Northwest. In May, 1891, Mr. Claussen³ sold his interest to Mr. George F. Gund⁴, and the business was continued up to the spring of 1893, when the company consolidated with the Bay View Brewing Company and the Albert Braun Brewing Company, incorporating as the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company; capital stock, $1,000,000. Mr. Sweeney was elected secretary of the new organization, whose plant has a capacity for an annual output of 150,000 barrels.

Mr. Sweeney is also a stockholder of the King County Bank; a director of the National Bank of Commerce; owns valuable real-estate interests in Seattle, and mining interests in the Cascade Mountains. Socially, he affiliates with the K. of P., B.P.O.E., the Seattle Athletic Club and the Seattle Yacht Club. He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the manufacturing committee of that institution.

Gary Flynn, in his wonderful Brewery Gems, points out that there are several discrepancies with that account and he tries to correct them and adds later details of Sweeney’s life.


And here’s another from “An Illustrated History of the State of Washington.”



And here’s an account of how the brewery came to be known as the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company from the “History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 2,” by Clarence Bagley



Historic Beer Birthday: William H. Biner

Today is the birthday of William H. “Billy” Biner (April 16, 1889-January 5, 1953). Biner was a journeyman brewer who worked for numerous breweries over his

He was born in the Montana territory to Swiss immigrant parents. His father, Theophil Biner, knoew Leopold Schmidt and even worked at his Olympia Brewery. Biner sent two of his sons, including Billy once he’s finished with a career as a boxer, to brewing school in Milwaukee. Biner’s first brewing job was at the Phoenix Brewery in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1912. He then worked as brewmaster at at least eight more breweries, from Los Angeles to Canada. The breweries he worked at included the Mexicali Brewery; the Orange Crush Bottling Company in L.A.; the Mexicali Brewing Company again after it was rebuilt following an earthquake; then the Kootenay Breweries, Ltd. in both Nelson and Trail, in BC, Canada; followed by the Ellensburg Brewing Co. in Washington, and then in 1937 he founded his own brewery, the Mutual Brewing Company. But it didn’t last thanks to World War II and supply issues, and it folded. Afterwards, he moved on to both Sicks’ Century Brewery in Seattle and the Silver Springs Brewery in Port Orchard, Washington. Finally, he ran the East Idaho Brewing Co. in Pocatello, Idaho until 1946, when he retired from brewing and bought his own bar, the Leipzig Tavern in Portland, Oregon. He stayed there until a year before he died, which was in 1953.


Here’s his biography from Find a Grave:

William Henry “Billy” Biner was born in Boulder, Montana Territory, on April 16, 1889. He was the fifth of nine children for Theophil Biner and Juliana Truffer, immigrants from Randa, Switzerland.

Theophil Biner was a builder and an acquaintance of Leopold Schmidt, founder of Olympia Brewery. He worked briefly for Schmidt in Tumwater, Washington from 1903-1905. Later in 1905 he purchased the Phoenix Brewery in the copper boomtown of Phoenix, British Columbia. Theophil became president of the company and his sons Albert and Dan ran it.

Younger son Billy became a boxer, eventually earning the title of welterweight champion of British Columbia. In 1911 Theo Biner sent his sons Billy and Gustave to the Hantke Brewery School in Milwaukie, Wisconsin where they graduated in 1912. Billy then became the brewmaster for the Phoenix Brewery and as an aspiring artist he also designed all of the beer labels. During this time he gave up boxing for curling where he found similar success.

Billy Biner married Harriet Lynch, the daughter of diamond drilling supervisor Dan Lynch in 1914. As prohibition approached Billy wrote articles for the local paper espousing the benefits of beer. But business declined in Phoenix and he moved south to Los Angeles in 1919 to work for the Canadian Club Bottling-Orange Crush Bottling Co.

From 1924 through 1929 he served as the brewmaster for the Mexicali Brewing Company in Mexicali, Mexico. In 1929 he returned to Canada and was a brewer in the towns of Merritt and Princeton, BC. From 1929 through 1936 he served as brewmaster for the Kootenay Brewing Company in both Nelson and Trail, BC.

In 1936 Biner moved to Ellensburg, Washington where he became brewmaster at the Ellensburg Brewery through 1942. After the Ellensburg Brewery closed Biner worked as a brewer at both Sick”s Select Brewery in Seattle and Silver Spring’s Brewery in Port Orchard, WA before moving on to Pocatello, where he ran the Aero Club Brewery until 1946.

He purchased the Leipzig Tavern in Portland, Oregon in 1946 and operated it until 1952 when he moved to Los Angeles to work for the North American Aircraft Company. He died of a heart attack on January 5, 1953.

Billy and Harriet Biner had four children; Betty, Bill, Bob and Fredericka (Fritzi). Bill and Bob Biner both worked for their father in Ellensburg before becoming members of the US Air Corps during WW II. Together they flew over 100 missions and are the subjects of the book The Brewmaster’s Bombardier and Belly Gunner.

Although none of Billy’s children or grandchildren became professional brewers, his great-grandson, Charlton Fulton, is the brewer at McMenamins Mill Creek Brewery near Seattle, Washington.

Biner with his sisters Julia and Mary Cecelia and his children Betty and Billy, c. 1925.

Phoenix Export Lager beer label
A label from his first brewery job, which he may also have designed.