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.
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
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.
A label from his first brewery job, which he may also have designed.
Today is Dave Buhler’s 57th birthday. Interestingly, 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.
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?
Today is Dick Cantwell’s 58th birthday. He’s the former head brewer and co-founder of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. In addition to brewing, Dick’s a great writer, too, and his work frequently appears in numerous beer magazines. Cantwell’s the co-author of Barley Wine and the soon-to-be-published Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide, with Peter Bouckaert from New Belgium Brewing. He was also on the BA’s board of directors and headed both the Communications and Pipeline committees. More recently, he’s taken a job as the Quality Ambassador for the Brewers Association. Join me in wishing Dick a very happy birthday.
Award-winning Portland beer writer Lisa Morrison and Dick at an Elysian event during OBF.
Kim in costume with Dick Cantwell at Elysian’s annual pumpkin festival in 2013. [Note: This photo purloined from Facebook.]
Today is Ralph Olson’s 65th 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.
Dave Keene, from the Toronado, Dave Pyle, Ralph and Becky Pyle, who are also with HopUnion, along with my friend Dave Suurballe.
Today is the birthday of Leopold F. Schmidt (January 23, 1846-September 24, 1914) who founded the Olympia Brewing Co. in Tumwater, Washington in 1896. Although it was originally called the Capital Brewing Company, but changed it in 1902 to reflect its flagship Olympia Beer, and also began using the slogan “It’s the Water.”
Gary Flynn from Brewery Gems has the best biography of Schmidt. He also has a shorter piece about Schmidt’s first brewery in Montana, the Centennial Brewing Co., which he sold in 1896, before moving to Washington to scout locations for his next venture. He settled on Tumwater, and built a brewery “at Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River, near the south end of Puget Sound. He built a four-story wooden brewhouse, a five-story cellar building, a one-story ice factory powered by the lower falls, and a bottling and keg plant and in 1896, began brewing and selling Olympia Beer.”
The Schmidt House, set high on a wooded bluff at the mouth of the Deschutes River, was built at the turn of the 20th Century for local brewery owner Leopold Schmidt and his wife Johanna. Mr. Schmidt already owned a successful brewing operation in Montana when a business trip first brought him to the Tumwater area in the early 1890s. Discovering that the artesian springs here were perfect for brewing beer, Schmidt sold his Montana holdings and built a new brewery at the foot of Tumwater Falls which shipped its first beer in 1896.
At first the Schmidt’s moved into an existing house on the slope above the brewery, a home that the family affectionately nicknamed “Hillside Inn.” As his brewing business prospered, Mr. Schmidt began planning a larger, more elegant residence that would stand at the top of the hill. In 1904 the couple moved into the new house with their daughter, the youngest of six children. Their five sons continued to live at Hillside Inn and work in the family business. For reasons lost to posterity, the Schmidt’s called the new house “Three Meter.”
Leopold and his wife Johanna, posing with their six children in a portrait taken in the late 1890s.
Another portrait of Leopold Schmidt.
Here’s more on Olympia, again from Flynn:
In October 1896, after issuing $125,000 in capital stock, he established the Capital Brewing Company, nucleus of what would become the highly successful Olympia Brewing Company. The brewery was an unqualified success, its product outselling competing beers from Seattle and Tacoma. The pure artesian water and Schmidt’s brewing skills were a perfect match. The enterprise steadily grew in production in the following years, reaching peak production of 100,000 barrels of beer in 1914, just in time for statewide prohibition. This not only shut down the Olympia plant but also the other two plants in the state, the Bellingham Bay Brewery and the Port Townsend Brewery. Oregon also voted to go “dry” in 1914, five years before national prohibition, which ended the Salem Brewery Association. Only the two Acme Brewery plants in San Francisco were spared, albeit temporarily.
After prohibition was repealed, Leopold’s son Peter Schmidt ordered the construction of larger brewery buildings upriver from the 1906 building, rather than repurchasing and retrofitting the aging structure.
Olympia’s brewery in 1933.
There’s quite a lot on the history of Olympia Brewing, and here are a few good sources. The Cooperpoint Journal has Water to Beer: A Timeline of Industry and Drinking and the Seattle Weekly wrote Olympia Beer: The Water and the History. But Brewery Gems again has a thorough History of the Olympia Brewing Company, and the Olympia Tumwater Foundation had a concise history. Even cooler, the Foundation has some great old photos online, in Images of the Old Brewhouse : A Pictorial Exhibit from the Archives of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.
Today is the 42nd 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.
Wednesday’s ad is for Olympia, from the 1950s. I suspect this was originally a billboard ad, and it’s surprisingly colorful. A Stubby bottle of Olympia sits next to a full pilsner glass on a table in front of a grand piano. What is that box on the table to the right of the beer? Tissues, cigars or something else?
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.