Beer Birthday: Charles Finkel

Today is the 71st 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.

Beer Birthday: Will Kemper

Today is the 66th 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.]

Beer Birthday: John Bryant

Today is my good friend John Bryant’s 49th 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 recently 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.

Beer Birthday: Bert Grant

Today would have been Bert Grant’s 87th 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.

Beer Birthday: Dave Buhler

Today is Dave Buhler’s 56th birthday. Ironically, like Dick Cantwell, whose birthday was yesterday, Dave is also a co-founder of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. Join me in wishing Dave a very happy birthday.

Fal Allen and Dave Buhler at OBF.

Dave and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf (at right). Neither Tom or I could identify the fellow in the middle, sorry about that. Can anybody help me out and tell me who that is?

At the Celebrator’s best of the West Beer Festival in 2009.

Dave with his business partner and Elyisian co-founder Dick Cantwell at GABF in 2006.

Beer Birthday: Dick Cantwell

Today is Dick Cantwell’s 57th birthday. He’s the head brewer and co-founder of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington, and the co-author of Barley Wine. In addition to brewing, Dick’s a great writer, too, and his work frequently appears in numerous beer magazines. He also was on the BA’s board of directors and headed both the Communications and Pipeline committees. More recently, he’s moved to San Francisco, and spends part of his time in our fair city. Join me in wishing Dick a very happy birthday.

Award-winning Portland beer writer Lisa Morrison and Dick at an Elysian event during OBF.

Dick with his business partner and Elyisian co-founder Dave Buhler at GABF in 2006.

Enjoying a pint at the Falling Rock in Denver during GABF week.

During OBF in 2007, Dick and Dave Buehler, a reception they hosted for brewers and beer folk.

Beer Birthday: Ralph Olson

Today is Ralph Olson’s 64th birthday. Ralph was the general manager/co-owner of HopUnion, a co-op that supplies hops to many of the craft breweries. Ralph’s pretty much retired but can still be seen at occasional beer events throughout the country. He’s been a good friend to and very supportive of the craft beer industry. Join me in wishing Ralph a very happy birthday.

Ralph Olson, the Big Cheese from HopUnion. If you look carefully in between his “Sponsor” and “Exhibitor” badge you can see his title really is officially “the Big Cheese.

Ralph and me at the end of the brewer’s reception at GABF in 2007.

Dave Keene, from the Toronado, Dave Pyle, Ralph and Becky Pyle, who are also with HopUnion, along with my friend Dave Suurballe.

Anheuser-Busch InBev To Buy Elysian

ABI elysian
Anheuser-Busch InBev and Elysian Brewing of Seattle, Washington announced today that they had reached agreement for ABI to buy the small Elysian brewpub chain.

From the press release:

“For two decades, we’ve welcomed guests into our brewpubs and served them creative and impeccably crafted beers,” said Joe Bisacca, Elysian ‎CEO and co-founder, who will continue with Elysian along with his partners, Dick Cantwell and David Buhler. “After a lot of hard work, we’ve grown from one Seattle brewpub to four pub locations and a production brewery. With the support of Anheuser-Busch, we will build on past successes and share our beers with more beer lovers moving forward.”

Dick Cantwell, Elysian co-founder and Head Brewer added, “Throughout our journey we’ve been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry through collaboration and experimentation. By joining with Anheuser-Busch we’ll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience.”

Elysian sold more than 50,000 barrels of beer in 2014, with Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s total volume.

“Elysian’s story includes everything we look for in a partner,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, Anheuser-Busch. “The team has spent their careers brewing distinctive beers in the thriving West Coast beer community and building unique venues that celebrate beer. As the fastest growing brewer in Washington, their recipe is working. Elysian’s brands are an important addition to our high-end beer portfolio, and we look forward to working together.”

In addition to the Seattle Airport Way brewery, the acquisition includes the company’s four Seattle brewpubs, Elysian Capitol Hill, Elysian Tangletown, Elysian Fields and Elysian BAR.

Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of Elysian is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2015. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Not sure what to make of the news yet, all I know is what’s in the press release. So far, there’s been no statement from anyone at Elysian, though I suspect we’ll learn more throughout the day.


Beer Birthday: Matt Bonney

Today is the 41st birthday of Matt Bonney, formerly of Brouwer’s and Bottleworks, both in Seattle, Washington, and now proprietor of Toronado Seattle. Bonney’s one of my favorite people in the industry. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person more passionate about good beer. He also knows how to throw a party and is always a gracious host. He does still need some work on his Washoe playing, but I’ll let that slide. Join me in wishing Bonney a very happy birthday.

Matt with Chris Black, from Falling Rock Taphouse in Denver, pouring hops to create Publication at Russian River Brewing in May of 2008.

Matt (3rd from left) with the final judges at the 2009 Hard Liver Barleywine Festival at Brouwer’s.

Matt with Dave Keene, from the Toronado, at the A Night of Ales beer dinner during SF Beer Week.

Dr. Bill with Matt at Slow Food Nation 2008.