Monday’s ad is for Miller Brewing, from the 1950s. This ad features scenes of pheasant hunting with the disembodied head of the hunter front and center toasting the reader. “After all … It’s the Champagne of Bottle beer.”
Archives for December 24, 2018
While not widely known, St. Nicholas, among his many patronages includes brewers. He is a patron saint of brewers. The way we think of St. Nick in America begins with the publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore in 1823. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery. Hoppy Christmas. Enjoy. For more detail on how this came about, and about the original poem, see below.
Twas the Beer Before Christmas:
A Brewery Visit From St. Nicholas
‘Twas the beer before Christmas, when down in the brewery
Not a bottle was stirring, not a mouse dared to scurry;
The hoses were hung by the kettle with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would drink there;
The bottles, like children, nestled snug in their beds,
While visions of candi sugar fermented their heads;
The brewers, in hoodies, gave just the impression,
They’d all settled down for a long winter’s session,
When outside by the tanks there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the brewery to see what was the matter.
Away to the rollup I flew like a flash,
Tore open the lock, the door flew up with a crash.
The moon on the breast of the newly-paved tarmack
Gave the lustre of stout looking velvety black,
When, what to my sobering eyes should appear,
But a miniature delivery wagon, and eight kegs of beer,
With a little old brewmaster, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than fermenting his brewers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
Now, Busch! Now, Rheingold!, now, Pabst and Carling!
On, Schlitz! on, Schmidt! on, Miller and Yuengling!
To the top of the jockey box! To the top of the cask!
Now drink away! drink away! drink away the whole flask!”
As dry hopping that before the wild bittering fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, toast a drink to the sky;
So up to the brewery-top the brewers they flew,
With the wagon full of Beers, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, glasses tinkling, I heard on the roof
The toasting and drinking of each little goof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Out the fermenter St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in red, from his toes to his top,
And his coveralls were soiled with spent grain and hops;
A carton of Beers he had flung on his back,
And his rubber boots squeaked as he opened his pack.
His besotted eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were all rosy, like New Glarus cherry!
His droll little mouth was beseeching our pardon,
And the beard of his chin was as white as Hoegaarden;
The end of a zwickel he held tight in one hand,
While the other held Watermelon Wheat that was canned;
He had a beer belly, that bent two stumpy legs,
That shook when he laughed, like a half-emptied keg.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old brewer,
And I drank when I saw him, for what could be truer;
A wink of his eye as he poured generous heads,
Soon gave me to know he would join us instead;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And emptied the bottles; then sat with a smirk,
And raising his glass, he gave the first toast,
Then each brewer, in turn, drank to his own riposte;
Then he sprang to his wagon, to his brewers gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a hop torpedo missile.
But I heard his last toast, ere he drove out of here,
“Hoppy Christmas to all, and to all drink good beer.”
In late 2009 — a Saturday night — I read Porter and Alice, my two kids, Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St, Nicholas by Clement C. Moore. Whenever I read something I know to my children (which happens a lot, kids love repetition) the writer in me edits as I go. I change words as if it was my work, I flatter myself I’m improving it or correcting mistakes. A scatterbrained scheme was hatched as I again read them what’s probably the most famous Christmas poem.
First published in 1823, according to Wikipedia, “it is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and the tradition that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the Anglosphere and the world.”
As I’ve written about before, St. Nick is also a Patron Saint of Brewers. So with my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I decided to rewrite Moore’s masterpiece, moving his visit from the home to the brewery.
As it happens, there are a lot of different versions of the poem, with incremental changes having been made over the years. I used, for no particular reason, an edition from Trans-Pacific Radio. Enjoy. Hoppy Christmas. You can also compare the two versions side by side, which also includes the brewers names I’ve used in previous years. The plan is to change those each year.
Feel free to share my version of the poem, with credit if you please, plus a link back here is always appreciated.
UPDATE: Georgia’s Sweetwater Brewing also did their own beer-themed version called Sweetwater’s Night Before Christmas. There’s also another beer-themed one I shared last year, Twas the Brewer’s Night Before Christmas. For many more parodies, check out the Canonical List of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Variations, which contains 849 different variations on the poem.
Today is the birthday of Henry Rahr (December 24, 1834-April 14, 1891). He was born in Wesel, Germany, but came the U.S. in 1853, when he was 19. He worked in his uncle’s brewery in Manitowoc, and then opened his own brewery near Green Bay with a partner, August Hochgreve, which they called the Bellvue Brewery. They later had a falling out, and in 1866 Rahr left to start his own brewery in Green Bay, which was initially called the East Rivery Brewery. When he died in 1891, his sons continued the business, but renamed it the Henry Rahr Sons Co. Brewery, later shortening it to Rahr Brewing Co. It survived prohibition, and was known as the Rahr Green Bay Brewing Co. until closing for good in 1966.
History of Brown County, Wisconsin: Past and Present
Note: This biography gives his birth date as December 25, but a photo of his tombstone clearly shows it as December 24.
This short history of the brewery is from The Neville Public Museum:
One hundred fifty years ago, Henry Rahr established a brew house on the corner of Main Street and N. Irwin Avenue in Green Bay known as the East River Brewery. It would become the largest and most well-known historic brewery in Green Bay. Following the death of Henry Rahr in 1891 the business was passed to his sons Henry Jr. and Frederick and became Henry Rahr & Sons Co. Prior to Prohibition (pre 1920) Rahr’s was producing 60,000 barrels of beer per year. After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the brewery was back in business and began pumping out “Standard,” “Special,” “Belgian” and “Old Imperial Pale Beer.” In 1966 the company was sold to Oshkosh Brewing Co. Exactly 100 years after opening, Rahr’s Brewery was shut down. The brewery buildings were demolished, leaving no trace behind except for Rahr’s merchandise, barrels, and bottles.
And this brewery history is from “Breweries of Wisconsin,” by Jerold W. Apps and Jerry Apps:
Today is the birthday of Aron Deorsey, who for a lot of years was the brewmaster at the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant in San Francisco, along with the Park Chalet and the Lake Chalet in Oakland. I got to know Aron much better a few years back when we roomed together attending Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp for SF Beer Week. He had been making great beer at the beachside brewpub for a number of years, and is great fun to hang out with, but earlier this year he’s opened his own place, a brewpub in San Francisco called the Hop Oast Pub & Brewery. Join me in wishing Aron a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Howard Hughes (December 24, 1905–April 5, 1976). He was, of course, “an American entrepreneur, known during his lifetime as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. He first made a name for himself as a film producer, and then became an influential figure in the aviation industry. Later in life, he became known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle, oddities that were caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and chronic pain from a plane crash.”
As a maverick film tycoon, Hughes gained prominence in Hollywood beginning in the late 1920s, when he made big-budget and often controversial films like The Racket (1928), Hell’s Angels (1930), Scarface (1932), and The Outlaw (1943).
Hughes formed the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932, hiring numerous engineers and designers. He spent the rest of the 1930s setting multiple world air speed records and building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 Hercules (the “Spruce Goose”). He acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines and later acquired Air West, renaming it Hughes Airwest. Hughes was included in Flying Magazine’s list of the 51 Heroes of Aviation, ranked at No. 25. Today, his legacy is maintained through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
While not even mentioned in most accounts of his many accomplishments, Hughes also founded the Gulf Brewing Co. on his property used for the Hughes Toll Co. in Houston, Texas, just after prohibition ended. He hired one of the area’s most famous brewers, Belgian-born Frank Brogniez to create their beers, and his Grand Prize ended up becoming the best-selling beer in the state. Here’s some more about the Gulf Brewing Co. that Howard Hughes founded, from the Houston Past:
Howard Hughes’ connection with the Houston-based Hughes Tool Company is fairly well-known. It is less well-known that Hughes started a brewery in Houston, on the grounds of the Hughes Tool Company, called Gulf Brewing Company. Hughes opened the brewery at the end of Prohibition, and its profits helped the tool company survive the Depression.
Gulf Brewing Company produced Grand Prize beer, which for a time was the best-selling beer in Texas. It has been reported that a beer called Grand Prize beer was also produced prior to Prohibition, by the Houston Ice and Brewing Company. While that may be accurate, any confusion is likely connected to the fact that Hughes’ Grand Prize brewery was operated by the man who served as brewmaster at Houston Ice and Brewing before Prohibition. In 1913, while he was brewmaster at the Houston Ice and Brewing Company, Belgian-Houstonian Frantz Brogniez was awarded Grand Prize at the last International Conference of Breweries for his Southern Select beer – beating out 4,096 competing brewers. Brogniez left Houston during Prohibition, but Hughes convinced him to return to serve as brewmaster for the Gulf Brewing Company. Brogniez’ son operated the brewery after his father’s death.