Today is the 61st birthday of Tom McCormick, Executive Director of the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA). Tom’s also owned and ran a distributorship and the Pro Brewer website, worked with Wolaver’s for a time, but has found his true calling promoting and defending small brewers in California. Tom is the most unflappable person I’ve ever met, and hands down one of my favorite people in the industry. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of William Alton Carter III, better known as Billy Carter (March 29, 1937–September 25, 1988). He “was an American farmer, businessman, and politician. Carter promoted Billy Beer, and was a candidate for Mayor of Plains, Georgia. He was also the younger brother of former Georgia Governor and U.S. President Jimmy Carter,” who signed into law the bill re-legalizing homebrewing.
He was a proud redneck, and capitalized on his image as a beer-drinking roughneck bumpkin to sell Billy Beer.
Billy Beer was a beer first made in the United States in July 1977, by the Falls City Brewing Company. It was promoted by Billy Carter, whose older brother Jimmy was the incumbent President of the United States. In October 1978, Falls City announced that it was closing its doors after less than a year of Carter’s promotion. The beer was produced by Cold Spring Brewing, West End Brewing, and Pearl Brewing Company.
Each can from the four breweries that produced it were slightly different. And you can see those differences in the cans below.
“After Billy Beer ceased production, advertisements appeared in newspapers offering to sell Billy Beer cans for several hundred to several thousands of dollars each, attempting to profit from their perceived rarity. However, since the cans were actually produced in the millions, the real value of a can ranged from 50 cents to one dollar in 1981.”
“Billy Beer was also featured on an episode of the reality series Auction Kings, where an appraiser deemed a case of unopened Billy Beer to be worthless; however, at the featured auction, the case was sold for $100.”
Here’s part of his story from 6 Presidential Siblings and the Headaches They Caused, published in Mental Floss:
Truly the standard by which all other presidential sibling’s antics are judged, Billy burst onto the national scene as the boisterous, hard-drinking counterpoint to his pious, reserved brother Jimmy. Billy’s early antics were amusing and fairly innocuous: he endorsed the legendarily terrible Billy Beer in an effort to make a little cash off of his hard-living image, and he made quips like, “My mother went into the Peace Corps when she was sixty-eight. My one sister is a motorcycle freak, my other sister is a Holy Roller evangelist and my brother is running for president. I’m the only sane one in the family.” While he worked hard to convey a roughneck bumpkin image to the press, Billy’s confidantes claimed that he was in fact well-read and an able businessman who used his Southern bona fides to help his older brother’s political cause. On the other hand, Billy’s drinking turned from amusing to tragic as his fame grew.
In 1979, he had to go into rehab to curb his drinking. Around the same time he nearly lost his Georgia home to the IRS for failing to pay a six-figure federal income tax bill for 1978.
The real capper, though, came when Billy began consorting with Libya at a time when relations between the North African nation and the U.S. were starting to strain. In 1978 he made a trip to Libya with a group of Georgia businessmen who were interested in expanding trade with the country; Billy then hosted a Libyan delegation in Atlanta. When questioned about his dealings, Billy responded, “The only thing I can say is there is a hell of a lot more Arabians than there is Jews,” a public-relations nightmare for which he later apologized. The damage got worse in 1980 when Billy registered as an agent of the Libyan government and received a $220,000 loan from the Libyans for helping facilitate oil sales. This transaction led to accusations of influence peddling and a Congressional investigation. In short, it was enough to make Jimmy Carter long for the days when his brother’s antics only included such little quirks as urinating in public in front of a group of reporters and dignitaries.
Mental Floss has an article entitled A Brief History of Billy Beer, which is actually a reasonably thorough account.
The side of the twelve-pack carton of Billy Beer.
And here’s his biography from Find-a-Grave:
Folk Figure, Businessman. Known for his outlandish public behavior, he was a younger brother of former Georgia Governor and US President Jimmy Carter. After graduating from high school, he attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia but did not complete a degree. He then served four years in the US Marine Corps and after his discharge, he returned to Plains, Georgia to work with his brother in the family business of growing peanuts. In 1972 he purchased a gas and service station in Plains and operated it for most of the 1970s. In 1976 he attempted to enter the political ring when he ran for mayor of Plains but lost the election. In 1977 he endorsed Billy Beer, capitalizing upon his colorful image as a beer-drinking Southern “good ol’ boy” that developed in the press when his brother ran for US President. After Billy Beer failed, he was forced to sell his house to settle back taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service. In late 1978 and early 1979, he visited Libya three times with a contingent from Georgia, eventually registering as a foreign agent of the Libyan government and received a $220,000 loan. This led to a US Senate hearing on alleged influence peddling which the press named “Billygate.” In the autumn of 1987, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after receiving unsuccessful treatments for the disease, he died the following year at the age of 51. In 1999 his son, William “Buddy” Carter, published a biography of his father titled “Billy Carter: A Journey Through the Shadows.”
The hit television show The Simpsons featured Homer drinking a can of Billy Beer in the 1997 episode “Lisa the Skeptic”; after Bart tells him that the skeleton he is trying to hide is probably old enough already, he counters Bart’s remark by introducing his Billy Beer stating that people said the same thing about the beer. After he drinks the beer, he says “We elected the wrong Carter”. Also in the 1992 episode “The Otto Show”, Homer excitedly finds a can of Billy Beer in the pocket of his old “concert jacket”, and drinks it.
The Brewers Association just announced the top 50 breweries and craft breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2017, which is listed below here. I should also mention that this represents “craft breweries” according to the BA’s membership definition, and not necessarily how most of us would define them, as there’s no universally agreed upon way to differentiate the two. For the tenth year, they’ve also released a list of the top 50 breweries, which includes all breweries. In the past I’ve posted the two lists separately, but have decided going forward to present them together since the two are getting increasingly intermingled. Here is this year’s craft brewery list:
Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies
|1||D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc||Pottsville||PA|
|2||Boston Beer Co||Boston||MA|
|3||Sierra Nevada Brewing||Chico||CA|
|4||New Belgium Brewing||Fort Collins||CO|
|5||Duvel Moortgat||Paso Robles/Kansas City/Cooperstown||CA/MO/NY|
|7||Bell’s Brewery, Inc||Comstock||MI|
|9||CANarchy||Longmont/Tampa/Salt Lake City/
|12||Dogfish Head Craft Brewery||Milton||DE|
|13||Minhas Craft Brewery||Monroe||WI|
|14||Artisanal Brewing Ventures||Downingtown/Lakewood||PA/NY|
|16||New Glarus Brewing||New Glarus||WI|
|20||Great Lakes Brewing||Cleveland||OH|
|21||Abita Brewing||Abita Springs||LA|
|22||Odell Brewing||Fort Collins||CO|
|23||Stevens Point Brewery||Stevens Point||WI|
|24||August Schell Brewing||New Ulm||MN|
|25||Summit Brewing||Saint Paul||MN|
|26||21st Amendment Brewery||Bay Area||CA|
|28||Flying Dog Brewery||Frederick||MD|
|29||Full Sail Brewing||Hood River||OR|
|31||Long Trail Brewing||Bridgewater Corners||VT|
|35||Gordon Biersch Brewing||San Jose||CA|
|37||Uinta Brewing||Salt Lake City||UT|
|41||Karl Strauss Brewing||San Diego||CA|
|42||Bear Republic Brewing||Cloverdale||CA|
|43||Green Flash Brewing||San Diego||CA|
|44||Left Hand Brewing||Longmont||CO|
|45||Three Floyds Brewing||Munster||IN|
|46||Saint Arnold Brewing||Houston||TX|
|47||Lost Coast Brewery||Eureka||CA|
|48||North Coast Brewing||Fort Bragg||CA|
This list, by contrast, is the Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2017. This includes all breweries, regardless of size or any other definitions or parameters.
Breweries in bold are considered to be “small and independent craft brewers” under the BA’s current definition. That there are so many footnotes (23 in total, or almost half of the list) explaining exceptions or reasons for the specific entry, seems illustrative of a growing problem with the definition of what is a craft brewery. I certainly understand the need for a trade group to have a clearly defined set of criteria for membership, but I think the current one is getting increasingly outdated again, and it’s only been a few years since the contentious debate that resulted in the current BA one. But it may be time to revisit that again. This is the same number of footnotes as last year, so this is a problem that is not resolving itself.
Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies
|Bold = small and independent craft brewery|
|1||Anheuser-Busch, Inc (a)||Saint Louis||MO|
|4||Heineken (d)||White Plains||NY|
|5||Pabst Brewing (e)||Los Angeles||CA|
|6||D. G. Yuengling & Son||Pottsville||PA|
|7||North Amer. Breweries (f)||Rochester||NY|
|9||Boston Beer Co (h)||Boston||MA|
|10||Sierra Nevada Brewing||Chico||CA|
|11||New Belgium Brewing (i)||Fort Collins||CO|
|12||Craft Brew Alliance (j)||Portland||OR|
|13||Duvel Moortgat (k)||Paso Robles/Kansas City/Cooperstown||CA/MO/NY|
|14||Gambrinus (l)||San Antonio/Berkeley/Portland||TX/CA/OR|
|15||Founders Brewing (m)||Grand Rapids||MI|
|16||Bell’s Brewery, Inc (n)||Comstock||MI|
|17||Sapporo USA (o)||La Crosse||WI|
|19||CANarchy (p)||Longmont/Tampa/Salt Lake City/Comstock Park||CO/FL/UT/MI|
|23||Minhas Craft Brewery (q)||Monroe||WI|
|24||Artisanal Brewing Ventures (r)||Downingtown/Lakewood||PA/NY|
|26||New Glarus Brewing||New Glarus||WI|
|27||Matt Brewing (s)||Utica||NY|
|30||Great Lakes Brewing||Cleveland||OH|
|31||Abita Brewing||Abita Springs||LA|
|32||Odell Brewing||Fort Collins||CO|
|33||Stevens Point (t)||Stevens Point||WI|
|34||August Schell (u)||New Ulm||MN|
|35||Summit Brewing||Saint Paul||MN|
|36||21st Amendment||Bay Area||CA|
|37||Shipyard Brewing (v)||Portland||ME|
|38||Flying Dog Brewery||Frederick||MD|
|39||Full Sail Brewing||Hood River||OR|
|41||Long Trail Brewing (w)||Bridgewater Corners||VT|
|45||Gordon Biersch Brewing||San Jose||CA|
|46||Allagash Brewing Co||Portland||ME|
|47||Uinta Brewing||Salt Lake City||UT|
2017 Top 50 Overall U.S.
Brewing Companies Notes
Footnotes from brand lists are illustrative, and may not be exhaustive – ownership stakes
reflect greater than 25% ownership:
(a) Anheuser-Busch, Inc includes 10 Barrel, Bass, Beck’s, Blue Point, Bud Light,
Budweiser, Breckenridge, Busch, Devils Backbone, Elysian, Four Peaks, Golden
Road, Goose Island, Karbach, King Cobra, Landshark, Michelob, Natural Rolling
Rock, Shock Top, Wicked Weed, Wild Series brands and Ziegenbock brands.
Does not include partially owned Coastal, Craft Brew Alliance, Fordham, Kona,
Old Dominion, Omission, Red Hook, and Widmer Brothers brands;
(b) MillerCoors includes A.C. Golden, Batch 19, Blue Moon, Colorado Native,
Coors, Hamms, Hop Valley, Icehouse, Keystone, Killian’s, Leinenkugel’s,
Mickey’s, Milwaukee’s Best, Miller, Olde English, Revolver, Saint Archer, Steel
Reserve, Tenth & Blake, and Terrapin brands;
(c) Constellation Brewing Co includes domestic brands Ballast Point, Funky Buddha,
and Tocayo Brands; it also includes imported brands Corona, Modelo, Pacifico,
(d) Heineken Brewing Co includes domestic brand Lagunitas Brewing Co as well as
imported brands Dos Equis and Tecate;
(e) Pabst Brewing Co includes Ballantine, Lone Star, Pabst, Pearl, Primo, Rainier,
Schlitz and Small Town brands;
(f) North American Breweries includes Dundee, Genesee, Labatt Lime,
Mactarnahan’s, Magic Hat, Portland and Pyramid brands as well as import
(g) Diageo Brewing Co includes both domestically produced and imported Guinness
(h) Boston Beer Co includes Alchemy & Science and Sam Adams brands. Does not
include Twisted Tea or Angry Orchard brands;
(i) New Belgium Brewing Co includes Magnolia Brewing Brands (partial year);
(j) Craft Brew Alliance includes Kona, Omission, Red Hook and Widmer Brothers
(k) Duvel Moortgat includes Boulevard, Firestone Walker, and Ommegang brands;
(l) Gambrinus includes BridgePort, Shiner and Trumer brands;
(m)Founders ownership stake by Mahou San Miguel;
(n) Bell’s Brewery, Inc includes Bell’s and Upper Hand brands;
(o) Sapporo USA includes Anchor Brewing Co (partial year), Sapporo and Sleeman
brands as well as export volume;
(p) CANarchy includes Cigar City, Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Perrin and Utah
Brewers Cooperative brands;
(q) Minhas Craft Brewery includes Huber, Mountain Crest and Rhinelander brands as
well as export volume;
(r) Artisanal Brewing Ventures includes Victory and Southern Tier brands;
(s) Matt Brewing Co includes Flying Bison, Saranac and Utica Club brands;
(t) Stevens Point Brewery includes James Page and Point brands;
(u) August Schell Brewing Co includes Grain Belt and Schell’s brands;
(v) Shipyard Brewing Co includes Casco Bay, Sea Dog and Shipyard brands;
(w)Long Trail Brewing Co includes Long Trail, Otter Creek and The Shed brands;
Here is this year’s press release. For a few years, the BA had helpfully annotated the list, saving me lots of time, since I’d been annotating the list for nearly a decade, but they abandoned that practice three years ago. And I’ve also given up on annotating, too. It used to be fun to see who was doing well and rising and who was slipping, but it’s as much about business dealings as hard work and brewing, so I give up.
And similar to the last couple of years, the BA created a map showing the relative location of each of the breweries that made the list.
Today is the birthday of English scientist Joseph Priestley (March 13, 1733-February 6, 1804). While he was also a “clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, and Liberal political theorist,” he’s perhaps best known for discovering oxygen (even though a few others lay claim to that honor). According to Wikipedia, “his early scientific interest was electricity, but he is remembered for his later work in chemistry, especially gases. He investigated the ‘fixed air’ (carbon dioxide) found in a layer above the liquid in beer brewery fermentation vats. Although known by different names at the time, he also discovered sulphur dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and silicon fluoride. Priestley is remembered for his invention of a way of making soda-water (1772), the pneumatic trough, and recognising that green plants in light released oxygen. His political opinions and support of the French Revolution, were unpopular. After his home and laboratory were set afire (1791), he sailed for America, arriving at New York on 4 Jun 1794
In 1767, Priestley was offered a ministry in Leeds, Englane, located near a brewery. This abundant and convenient source of “fixed air” — what we now know as carbon dioxide — from fermentation sparked his lifetime investigation into the chemistry of gases. He found a way to produce artificially what occurred naturally in beer and champagne: water containing the effervescence of carbon dioxide. The method earned the Royal Society’s coveted Copley Prize and was the precursor of the modern soft-drink industry.
Even Michael Jackson, in 1994, wrote about Priestley connection to the brewing industry.
“It has been suggested that the Yorkshire square system was developed with the help of Joseph Priestley who, in 1722, delivered a paper to the Royal Society on the absorption of gases in liquids. In addition to being a scientist, and later a political dissident, he was for a time the minister of a Unitarian church in Leeds. During that period he lived next to a brewery on a site that is now Tetley’s.”
In the New World Encyclopedia, during his time in Leeds, it explains his work on carbonation.
Priestley’s house was next to a brewery, and he became fascinated with the layer of dense gas that hung over the giant vats of fermenting beer. His first experiments showed that the gas would extinguish lighted wood chips. He then noticed that the gas appeared to be heavier than normal air, as it remained in the vats and did not mix with the air in the room. The distinctive gas, which Priestley called “fixed air,” had already been discovered and named “mephitic air” by Joseph Black. It was, in fact, carbon dioxide. Priestley discovered a method of impregnating water with the carbon dioxide by placing a bowl of water above a vat of fermenting beer. The carbon dioxide soon became dissolved in the water to produce soda water, and Priestley found that the impregnated water developed a pleasant acidic taste. In 1773, he published an article on the carbonation of water (soda water), which won him the Royal Society’s Copley Medal and brought much attention to his scientific work.
He began to offer the treated water to friends as a refreshing drink. In 1772, Priestley published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air, in which he described a process of dripping sulfuric acid (or oil of vitriol as Priestley knew it) onto chalk to produce carbon dioxide and forcing the gas to dissolve by agitating a bowl of water in contact with the gas.
And here’s More About Priestley from the Birmingham Jewellry Quarter, whatever that is:
But his most important work was to be in the field of gases, which he called ‘airs’ (he would later chide James Keir for giving himself airs (oh dear!) by adopting the term ‘gases’ in his Dictionary of Chemistry, saying ‘I cannot help smiling at his new phraseology’). Living, as he did at the time, next to a brewery, he noticed that the gas given off from the fermenting vats drifted to the ground, implying that it was heavier than air. Moreover, he discovered that it extinguished lighted wood chips. He had discovered carbon dioxide, which he called ‘fixed air’. Devising a method of making the gas at home without brewing beer, he discovered that it produced a pleasant tangy taste when dissolved in water. By this invention of carbonated water, he had become the father of fizzy drinks!
But perhaps my favorite retelling comes from the riveting History of Industrial Gases:
The relevant findings were published in 1772, in Impregnating Water with Fixed Air
20. By this process may fixed air be given to wine, beer, and almost any liquor whatever: and when beer is become flat or dead, it will be revived by this means; but the delicate agreeable flavour, or acidulous taste communicated by the fixed air, and which is manifest in water, will hardly be perceived in wine, or other liquors which have much taste of their own.
Priestley’s apparatus for experimenting with ‘airs.’
Today is the 66th birthday of Governor of Colorado — and former Denver mayor — John Hickenlooper. John was also the co-founder of Wynkoop Brewery in Denver’s LoDo District, and in fact is credited with helping to revitalize the whole area. After being a popular, and by all accounts very effective mayor, for several years, he was elected as the Governor of Colorado. John’s been great for Denver, Colorado and craft brewing. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Grigori Rasputin (January 21, 1869–December 30, 1916). He “was a Russian peasant, an experienced traveler, a mystical faith healer, and trusted friend of the family of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of the Russian Empire. He became an influential figure in Saint Petersburg, especially after August 1915 when Nicholas took command of the army fighting in World War I. Advising his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, in countless spiritual and political issues, Rasputin became an easy scapegoat for Russian nationalists, liberals and aristocrats.
There is uncertainty over much of Rasputin’s life and the degree of influence that he exerted over the extremely shy Tsar and the strong-willed Tsarina. Accounts are often based on dubious memoirs, hearsay, and legend. While his influence and position may have been exaggerated by society gossip and his own drunken boasting his presence played a significant role in the increasing unpopularity of the Imperial couple. Rasputin was murdered by monarchists who hoped to save Tsarism by ending his sway over the royal family.”
Here’s his entry from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin, original name Grigory Yefimovich Novykh (born 1872?, Pokrovskoye, near Tyumen, Siberia, Russian Empire—died December 30 [December 17, Old Style], 1916, Petrograd [now St. Petersburg, Russia]), Siberian peasant and mystic whose ability to improve the condition of Aleksey Nikolayevich, the hemophiliac heir to the Russian throne, made him an influential favourite at the court of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra.
Although he attended school, the peasant Grigory Yefimovich Novykh remained illiterate, and his reputation for licentiousness earned him the surname Rasputin, Russian for “debauched one.” He evidently underwent a religious conversion at age 18, and eventually he went to the monastery at Verkhoture, where he was introduced to the Khlysty (Flagellants) sect. Rasputin perverted Khlysty beliefs into the doctrine that one was nearest God when feeling “holy passionlessness” and that the best way to reach such a state was through the sexual exhaustion that came after prolonged debauchery. Rasputin did not become a monk. He returned to Pokrovskoye, and at age 19 married Proskovya Fyodorovna Dubrovina, who later bore him four children. Marriage did not settle Rasputin. He left home and wandered to Mount Athos, Greece, and Jerusalem, living off the peasants’ donations and gaining a reputation as a starets (self-proclaimed holy man) with the ability to heal the sick and predict the future.
Rasputin’s wanderings took him to St. Petersburg (1903), where he was welcomed by Theophan, inspector of the religious Academy of St. Petersburg, and Hermogen, bishop of Saratov. The court circles of St. Petersburg at that time were entertaining themselves by delving into mysticism and the occult, so Rasputin—a filthy, unkempt wanderer with brilliant eyes and allegedly extraordinary healing talents—was warmly welcomed. In 1905 Rasputin was introduced to the royal family, and in 1908 he was summoned to the palace of Nicholas and Alexandra during one of their hemophiliac son’s bleeding episodes. Rasputin succeeded in easing the boy’s suffering (probably by his hypnotic powers) and, upon leaving the palace, warned the parents that the destiny of both the child and the dynasty were irrevocably linked to him, thereby setting in motion a decade of Rasputin’s powerful influence on the imperial family and affairs of state.
In the presence of the royal family, Rasputin consistently maintained the posture of a humble and holy peasant. Outside court, however, he soon fell into his former licentious habits. Preaching that physical contact with his own person had a purifying and healing effect, he acquired mistresses and attempted to seduce many other women. When accounts of Rasputin’s conduct reached the ears of Nicholas, the tsar refused to believe that he was anything other than a holy man, and Rasputin’s accusers found themselves transferred to remote regions of the empire or entirely removed from their positions of influence.
By 1911 Rasputin’s behaviour had become a general scandal. The prime minister, P.A. Stolypin, sent the tsar a report on Rasputin’s misdeeds. As a result, the tsar expelled Rasputin, but Alexandra had him returned within a matter of months. Nicholas, anxious not to displease his wife or endanger his son, upon whom Rasputin had an obviously beneficial effect, chose to ignore further allegations of wrongdoing.
Rasputin reached the pinnacle of his power at the Russian court after 1915. During World War I, Nicholas II took personal command of his forces (September 1915) and went to the troops on the front, leaving Alexandra in charge of Russia’s internal affairs, while Rasputin served as her personal advisor. Rasputin’s influence ranged from the appointment of church officials to the selection of cabinet ministers (often incompetent opportunists), and he occasionally intervened in military matters to Russia’s detriment. Though supporting no particular political group, Rasputin was a strong opponent of anyone opposing the autocracy or himself.
Several attempts were made to take the life of Rasputin and save Russia from further calamity, but none were successful until 1916. Then a group of extreme conservatives, including Prince Feliks Yusupov (husband of the tsar’s niece), Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich (a member of the Duma), and Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich (the tsar’s cousin), formed a conspiracy to eliminate Rasputin and save the monarchy from further scandal. On the night of December 29–30 (December 16–17, Old Style), Rasputin was invited to visit Yusupov’s home and, once there, was given poisoned wine and tea cakes. When he did not die, the frantic Yusupov shot him. Rasputin collapsed but was able to run out into the courtyard, where Purishkevich shot him again. The conspirators then bound him and threw him through a hole in the ice into the Neva River, where he finally died by drowning.
The murder merely strengthened Alexandra’s resolve to uphold the principle of autocracy, but a few weeks later the whole imperial regime was swept away by revolution.
Naturally, the reason Rasputin has anything to do with beer, is that Mark Ruedrich, the founder of North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg, California, named his imperial stout after the “mad monk,” and his Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout has become a classic beer, one of the earliest examples of what’s become a very popular style of beer, and, frankly, is still one of the best tasting.
For one of my newspaper columns, in the Fall of 2012, I wrote about imperial stouts, and below is an excerpt from that, the part that tells the story of North Coast’s Old Rasputin:
Happily, you don’t have to go as far as Russia, or even England, to find an imperial stout. We’re very lucky that one of the best Russian Imperial Stouts brewed anywhere is made in nearby Fort Bragg. North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout was also one of the first brewed in America, and was most likely the second (after Bert Grant’s Imperial Stout), which makes it the oldest one still being made. I visited the Fort Bragg brewery last week and watched the latest batch of Old Rasputin being bottled, as I spoke to founder Mark Ruedrich about his beer.
When they opened in 1988, North Coast had a terrific stout they called Old No. 38. But a few years later, Ruedrich decided he wanted to do something different, and noticed that almost nobody else was making the style. Grant’s version also included honey, which is not a traditional ingredient for the style. So he set to work brewing an authentic version of the style, which by that time was even nearly gone in England, too, with very few still making it.
Shortly before its 1994 debut at the pub, Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the “Celebrator Beer News,” happened to be in town visiting the brewery. He recalls Ruedrich handing him a glass and saying. “Here’s a new beer I’m about to release.” Dalldorf recalls seeing its inky black color and asking “don’t you already make a stout?” Mark responded with something like “this is different, just try it.” Like most of us, Tom immediately fell in love with it.
The beer has a definite “wow factor” from the very first sip, with gorgeous milk chocolate, roasted coffee notes and warming sweet flavors from its 9% a.b.v. It’s as bold as they come and infinitely complex, an ever-lasting gobstopper of a beer. It also enjoys near perfect balance. It’s a sipping beer, and changes as it warms in your glass. It’s a not a beer for a pint glass, you’ll want a snifter to get the full aromas of the beer as you slowly sip it by the fire.
One additional fun fact: on the label of Old Rasputin in a quote written in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet. Translated, it’s apparently a traditional Russian saying, or proverb: “a sincere friend is not born instantly.” But if you’re a fan of big beers, you’re love for this beer will almost certainly be instantaneous. For even bigger flavors, if that’s possible, try North Coast’s Old Rasputin XIV, which is their imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels.
The cyrillic text on the label is taken from an old Russian proverb. “A sincere friend is not born instantly.”
The label also features part of a well-known photograph of Rasputin. And while you find it all over the internet, its origin seems unknown, or at least widely uncredited.
The Smithsonian published a story on the 100th anniversary of his death a few years ago, entitled The Murder of Rasputin, 100 Years Later:
The holy man is he who takes your soul and will and makes them his. When you choose your holy man, you surrender your will. You give it to him in utter submission, in full renunciation.” – Feodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
The murder of Rasputin, Russia’s infamous “Mad Monk,” is the fodder for a great historical tale that blends fact and legend. But the death of the controversial holy man and faith healer had a combustible effect on the tense state of affairs in pre-revolution Russia. Rasputin was killed on December 30, 1916 (December 17 in the Russian calendar in use at the time), in the basement of the Moika Palace, the Saint Petersburg residence of Prince Felix Yussupov, the richest man in Russia and the husband of the Czar’s only niece, Irina. His battered body was discovered in the Neva River a few days later.
In the decade prior, Rasputin had risen rapidly through Russian society, starting as an obscure Siberian peasant-turned-wandering-holy-man and then becoming one of the most prominent figures in the Czar’s inner circle. Born in 1869 in the village of Pokrovskoye, on the Tura river that flows eastward from the Ural Mountains, where Europe meets Asia in Siberia. He seemed destined for an ordinary life, despite a few conflicts in his youth with local authorities for unruly behavior. He married a local woman, Praskovya Dubrovina, became the father of three surviving children, Maria, Dmitri and Varvara, and worked on his family’s farm.
Rasputin’s life changed in 1892, when he spent months at a monastery, putting him on the path to international renown. Despite his later nickname, “The Mad Monk,” Rasputin never took Holy Orders. Men in Rasputin’s position usually gave up their past lives and relationships but Rasputin continued to see his family – his daughters later lived with him in Saint Petersburg – and support his wife financially.
His religious fervor, combined with an appealing personal charisma, brought Rasputin to the attention of some Russian Orthodox clergymen and then senior members of the Imperial family, who then introduced him to Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra.
Nicholas wrote to one of his ministers in October 1906, “A few days ago I received a peasant from the Tobolsk district, Grigori Rasputin, who brought me an icon of St. Simon Verkhoturie. He made a remarkably strong impression both on Her Majesty and on myself, so that instead of five minutes our conversation went on for more than an hour.”
The Imperial couple had consulted unconventional spiritual advisors in the past, but Rasputin filled this role by his ability to read their inner hopes and tell them what they wanted to hear. He encouraged Nicholas to have more confidence in his role as czar, and Alexandra found that his counsel soothed her anxieties. By the First World War, Rasputin was also providing political advice and making recommendations for ministerial appointments, much to the dismay of the Russian elite.
Rasputin cemented his relationship with the czar and czarina when he supposedly helped alleviate their only son Alexei’s hemophilia. Rasputin’s alleged healing powers continue to be debated today. The Czar’s sister, Grand Duchess Olga, wrote that she observed Rasputin healing Alexei by kneeling at the foot of his bed and praying; the calming atmosphere that he created in the palace may have assisted with the recovery. Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting, Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, thought that Rasputin employed peasant folk medicine used in Siberian villages to treat internal bleeding in horses.
Historians continue to debate Rasputin’s impact on Alexei’s health. In his 2016 book, Rasputin: Faith, Power and the Twilight of the Romanovs, Douglas Smith observes, “Rasputin’s assurances calmed the anxious, fretful mother and filled her with unshakeable confidence, and she, in turn, transferred this confidence to her ailing son, literally willing him back to health.” In addition to increasing confidence in recovery, a key variable may have been Rasputin’s insistence that doctors keep away from Alexei. Medical knowledge was still sparse, even though drugs like aspirin were available for treatment. Unfortunately for Alexei, aspirin, considered a cure-all remedy, had the then-unknown side effect of thinning the blood, which would have exacerbated hemophilia symptoms. French historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse argued that when Rasputin insisted that remedies prescribed by the doctors be thrown in the fire, the discarded medicine likely would have included aspirin. Rasputin’s insistence that the doctors leave him alone would have improved his condition and appeared to create a miraculous improvement in his symptoms.
Rasputin presented himself in the Imperial Court as holy man, despite no formal affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church, and spoke as a self-appointed representative of the peasantry, but his behavior away from court offered a different portrait. His drunkenness and affairs with women of all social backgrounds, from street prostitutes to society ladies, scandalized the public. Rasputin appeared to bask in his fame, showing off shirts embroidered for him by the Empress and inviting her friends and servants to his home in Prokovskoye. (Rasputin’s wife appeared untroubled by his infidelities, commenting “He has enough for all.”)
The press, unshackled thanks to rights granted to them by Nicholas II in 1905, spread lurid tales about Rasputin both within Russia and abroad. Rumors about Rasputin’s influence over the Czarist regime spread throughout Europe. Petitioners, believing that Rasputin lived with the Imperial family, mailed their requests to “Rasputin, Czar’s palace, Saint Petersburg.”
Soldiers on World War I’s Eastern front spoke of Rasputin having an intimate affair with Alexandra, passing it off as common knowledge without evidence. As the war progressed, outlandish stories expanded to include Rasputin’s supposed treason with the German enemy, including a fantastical tale that he sought to undermine the war effort by starting a cholera epidemic in Saint Petersburg with “poisoned apples imported from Canada.” What the public thought they knew about Rasputin had a greater impact than his actual views and activities, fueling demands that he be removed from his position of influence by any means necessary.
Until he murdered Rasputin, Felix Yussupov lived a comparatively aimless life of privilege. One of Nicholas II’s daughters, also named Grand Duchess Olga, worked as a nurse during the war and criticized Yussupov’s refusal to enlist, writing to her father, “Felix is a ‘downright civilian,’ dressed all in brown…virtually doing nothing; an utterly unpleasant impression he makes – a man idling in such times.” Plotting Rasputin’s murder gave Yussupov the opportunity to reinvent himself as a patriot and man of action, determined to protect the throne from a malign influence.
For Yussupov and his co-conspirators, the removal of Rasputin could give Nicholas II one last chance of restoring the reputation and prestige of the monarchy. With Rasputin gone, the czar would be more open to the advice of his extended family, the nobility and the Duma and less dependent on Alexandra. There was hope that he would return from military headquarters and once again govern from Saint Petersburg.
The most well-known account of Rasputin’s murder was the one that Yussupov wrote in his memoirs, published in 1928. Yussupov claimed to have invited Rasputin to his palace to meet his wife Irina (who was in fact away at the time) and then served him a platter of cakes and numerous glasses of wine laced with potassium cyanide. To Yussupov’s astonishment, Rasputin appeared to be unaffected by the poison. A desperate Yussupov borrowed the revolver of the Grand Duke Dmitri, the czar’s cousin, and shot Rasputin multiple times, but was still unable to kill him. According to the memoir, “This devil who was dying of poison, who had a bullet in his heart, must have been raised from the dead by the powers of evil. There was something appalling and monstrous in his diabolical refusal to die.” There was reputedly water in his lungs when his remains were discovered, indicating that he had finally died by drowning.
Yussupov’s account of Rasputin’s murder entered popular culture. The lurid scene was dramatized in numerous films about Rasputin and the Romanovs and even made it into a 1970s disco hit by Boney M., which included the lyrics “They put some poison into his wine…He drank it all and said, ‘I feel fine.’”
Rasputin’s actual murder was probably far less dramatic. His daughter Maria, who fled Russia after the Revolution and became a circus lion tamer billed as “the daughter of the famous mad monk whose feats in Russia astonished the world,” wrote her own book in 1929 that condemned Yussupov’s actions and questioned the veracity of his account. She wrote that her father did not like sweets and never would have eaten a platter of cakes. The autopsy reports do not mention poison or drowning but instead conclude that he was shot in the head at close range. Yussupov transformed the murder into an epic struggle of good versus evil to sell books and bolster his own reputation.
The responses from the public were mixed, reflecting Rasputin’s checkered reputation. The elite, from whence Yussupov and his co-conspirators came, rejoiced and applauded the killers when they appeared in public. The peasantry mourned Rasputin as one of their own, seeing the murder as one more example of the nobility controlling the Czar; when a peasant rose to a position of influence with the Czar, he was murdered by wealthy men.
To the dismay of Yussupov and his co-conspirators, Rasputin’s murder did not lead to a radical change in Nicholas and Alexandra’s polities. To the emergent Bolsheviks, Rasputin symbolized the corruption at the heart of the Imperial court, and his murder was seen, rather accurately, as an attempt by the nobility to hold onto power at the continued expense of the proletariat. To them, Rasputin represented the broader problems with czarism. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Provisional Government leader Alexander Kerensky went so far as to say, “Without Rasputin there would have been no Lenin.”
And, apropos of nothing, there’s apparently a commercial vodka called “Rasputin.”
Today is the birthday of Samuel Whitbread II (January 18, 1764-July 6, 1815). Despite being the son of Whitbread Brewery founder Samuel Whitbread, he is most remember for being a politician. According to Wikipedia:
Whitbread was born in Cardington, Bedfordshire, the son of the brewer Samuel Whitbread. He was educated at Eton College, Christ Church, Oxford and St John’s College, Cambridge, after which he embarked on a European ‘Grand Tour’, visiting Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Prussia, France and Italy. He returned to England in May 1786 and joined his father’s successful brewing business.
“Samuel Whitbread Esqr. M.P.” by Samuel William Reynolds after John Opie, 1804. This is the painting’s description. “A fine full length, seated portrait of the brewer, philanthropist and Whig politician Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815). He sits at his desk, wearing a dark suit and hessian boots, before an open window, his hand resting on a piece of paper. In the background is a draped curtain and on the floor is a pile of books.”
For over two decades he was a Member of Parliament:
Whitbread was elected Member of Parliament for Bedford in 1790, a post he held for twenty-three years. Whitbread was a reformer — a champion of religious and civil rights, for the abolition of slavery, and a proponent of a national education system. He was a close friend and colleague of Charles James Fox. After Fox’s death, Whitbread took over the leadership of the Whigs, and in 1805 led the campaign to have Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, removed from office.
Whitbread admired Napoleon and his reforms in France and Europe. He hoped that many of Napoleon’s reforms would be implemented in Britain. Throughout the Peninsular War he played down French defeats convinced that sooner or later Napoleon would triumph, and he did all he could to bring about a withdrawal of Britain from the continent. When Napoleon abdicated in 1814 he was devastated. Whitbread began to suffer from depression, and on the morning of 6 July 1815, he committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.
Samuel Whitbread, the son of the brewer Samuel Whitbread, and Harriet Hayton, was born in Cardington, Bedfordshire in 1758. His mother died when he was a child and his father took great care over his only son. When Samuel was sent to Eton he was accompanied by his own private tutor. Samuel continued his education at Christ Church, Oxford and St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he met his lifelong friend, Charles Grey.
After university Samuel Whitbread sent his son on a tour of Europe, under the guidance of the historian, William Coxe. This included visits to Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Prussia, France and Italy. When Samuel returned in May 1786, he joined his father running the extremely successful family brewing business.
In 1789 Samuel Whitbread married Elizabeth Grey, the sister of Charles Grey. The two men were deeply interested in politics. Grey was already MP for Northumberland and in 1790 Whitbread was elected MP for Bedford. In the House of Commons, Whitbread and Grey became followers of Charles Fox, the leader of the Radical Whigs.
Whitbread soon emerged in Parliament as a powerful critic of the Tory Prime Minister, William Pitt. A passionate supporter of reform, Whitbread argued for an extension of religious and civil rights, an end to the slave-trade, and the establishment of a national education system.
In April 1792, Whitbread joined with a group of pro-reform Whigs to form the Friends of the People. Three peers (Lord Porchester, Lord Lauderdale and Lord Buchan) and twenty-eight Whig MPs joined the group. Other leading members included Charles Grey, Richard Sheridan, Major John Cartwright, Lord John Russell,George Tierney, and Thomas Erskine. The main objective of the the society was to obtain “a more equal representation of the people in Parliament” and “to secure to the people a more frequent exercise of their right of electing their representatives”. Charles Fox was opposed to the formation of this group as he feared it would lead to a split the Whig Party.
On 30th April 1792, Charles Grey introduced a petition in favour of constitutional reform. He argued that the reform of the parliamentary system would remove public complaints and “restore the tranquillity of the nation”. He also stressed that the Friends of the People would not become involved in any activities that would “promote public disturbances”. Although Charles Fox had refused to join the Friends of the People, in the debate that followed, he supported Grey’s proposals. When the vote was taken, Grey’s proposals were defeated by 256 to 91 votes.
In 1793 Samuel Whitbread toured the country making speeches on the need for parliamentary reform. He encouraged people to sign petitions at his meetings and when he returned to London they were presented to Parliament. Whitbread also campaigned on behalf of agricultural labourers. In the economic depression of 1795, Whitbread advocated the payment of higher wages. When Whitbread introduced his minimum wage bill to the House of Commons in December 1795 it was opposed by William Pitt and his Tory government and was easily defeated.
Whitbread was a strong supporter of a negotiated peace with France and supported Fox’s calls to send a government minister to Paris. Whitbread argued for Catholic Emancipation and opposed the act for the suppression of rebellion in Ireland. His friend, Samuel Romilly, said that Whitbread was “the promoter of every liberal scheme for improving the condition of mankind, the zealous advocate of the oppressed, and the undaunted opposer of every species of corruption and ill-administration.”
In 1807 Samuel Whitbread proposed a new Poor Law. His scheme not only involved an increase in the financial help given to the poor, but the establishment of a free educational system. Whitbread proposed that every child between the ages of seven and fourteen who was unable to pay, should receive two years’ free education. The measure was seen as too radical and was easily defeated in the House of Commons.
Whitbread refused to be disillusioned by his constant defeats and during the next few years he made more speeches in the House of Commons than any other member. Sometimes his attacks on George III and his ministers were considered to be too harsh, even by his closest political friends.
Unable to persuade Parliament to accept his ideas, Whitbread used his considerable fortune (his father, Samuel Whitbread had died in 1796) to support good causes. Whitbread gave generous financial help to establish schools for the poor. An advocate of the monitorial system developed by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, he helped fund the Royal Lancasterian Society that had the objective of establishing schools that were not controlled by the Church of England.
When the Whigs gained power in 1806, Whitbread expected the Prime Minister, Lord Grenville, to offer him a place in his government. He was deeply disappointed when this did not happen. Some claimed it was because Whitbread was too radical. Others suggested it was due to snobbery and the aristocrats in the party disapproved of a tradesman entering the cabinet.
After this rejection, Whitbread consoled himself with his involvement in the Drury Lane Theatre. In 1809 the theatre was destroyed by fire. Already over £500,000 in debt, the theatre was in danger of going out of business. Whitbread became chairman of the committee set up to rebuild the theatre. With the help of his political friends, Whitbread managed to raise the necessary funds and the Drury Lane Theatre was reopened on 10th October, 1812.
In 1815 Whitbread began to suffer from depression. Over the years he had been upset by the way he was portrayed by the political cartoonists such as, James Gillray and George Cruikshank. He also began to worry about the brewery business and the way he was treated in the House of Commons. After one debate in June he told his wife: “They are hissing me. I am become an object of universal abhorrence.” On the morning of 6th June 1815, Samuel Whitbread committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.
This is a political cartoon featuring Samuel Whitbread entitled “The Brewer and the Thistle.” It was drawn by James Sayers, and published by Hannah Humphrey, June 26, 1805. The people in the cartoon include Charles James Fox (1749-1806), James Maitland Lauderdale (1759-1839), William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Sir Home Riggs Popham (1762-1820), Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815) and Henry Dundas Melville (1742-1811). While I’m sure you need to be a historian specializing in this period of British history, the Royal Collection Trust gives this description. “Whitbeard in costume of beer casks, attacks thistle with Melville’s head. (r) alehouse; Fox and Launderdale (in tartan) laugh. Wilberforce leans out of window dressed as Puritan. (l) blunderbuss fired at sign of St.Vicent.”
Here’s an interesting, and odd, bit of history. One of the earliest temoperance socities, the Order of Temperance, was founded on Christmas Day, December 25, 1600. It was established by Maurice, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel, or Hesse-Cassel, was a state in the Holy Roman Empire.
Here’s a short history of the Order, from “The Gentlemen’s Magzine, published in 1836:
They were trying to put an end to the custom of “pledging healths,” which in that time period meant drinking to the health of everyone and everything; or toasting. So the Order of Temperance had its members pledge “to never become intoxicated.” Which is all well and good, except for one tiny little detail. The order had strict rules on alcoholic consumption and they were allowed no more than seven alcoholic drinks per meal, and only two meals per day; essentially they were restricted to only fourteen glasses or wine or beer per day. That was their idea of temperance. That doesn’t actually sound too bad, now does it? I think most of us could have taken that pledge.
On the eve of the repeal of prohibition, anticipation must have been running pretty high. On November 18, 1933, Warner Brothers cartoon studios released their newest Looney Tunes animated short film, “Buddy’s Beer Garden.”
“It is a Looney Tunes cartoon, featuring Buddy, the second star of the series. It was supervised by Earl Duvall, here credited as ‘Duval,’ was one of only five Warner Bros. cartoons directed by him, and one of only three Buddy shorts. Musical direction was by Norman Spencer.”
Here’s the description of the film from Wikipedia:
We enter Buddy’s beer garden, where are gathered many merry patrons, singing “Oh du lieber Augustin”, mugs in hand. The happy opening scene fades to one of an equally merry Buddy, who balances a tray and sings of the good cheer his beer brings (to the tune of “Auf Wiederseh’n (We’ll Meet Again)”), as he fixes a tablecloth and sets down two glasses of his ware, while a black dog, pretzels on its tail, behind him barks in tune. A German oom-pah band creates an ambience (and, as the band reappears four times throughout the cartoon, each time they are seen, as a gag, a small member of the group will come out of the largest member’s brass instrument, playing, in succession, a trumpet, maracas, a piano, and a bass drum.) Beer flows on tap, and Buddy ensures that each mug has plenty of foam. Cookie neatly prepares several pretzels, which then are salted by the same little dachshund, and carried thence away. The tongue sandwiches offered as part of the bar’s free lunch sing & lap up mustard; an impatient patron (presumably the same brute who serves as the villain in later shorts, such as Buddy’s Show Boat and Buddy’s Garage) demands his beer, which he instantly gulps down upon its arrival.
All present take part in “It’s Time to Sing ‘Sweet Adeline’ Again”: some sing, one patron plays his spaghetti as though the noodles were strings on a harp, Buddy makes an instrument out of his steins, &c. Cookie comes around, offering cigars and cigarettes to the patrons, one of whom, the same impatient brute as before, accepts, but not before freshly stroking the girl’s chin. Cookie performs an exotic dance for the entire beer garden, and is joined by the selfsame patron, & a formerly stationery piano. The film goes on: Buddy whistles “Hi Lee Hi Lo”, tossing beer from one mug to another, preparing sandwiches, clearing tables.
As a final treat for his customers, Our Hero introduces a lady singer (who bears a striking resemblance to Mae West), who reveals herself only after Buddy’s departure and a brief musical interlude. The grand dame attracts the attention of the very same recurring patron, who drunkenly stumbles over to her with the intention of receiving a kiss: as the song (“I Love my Big Time, Slow Time Baseball Man”) ends, he makes his request, but a horned goat, part of a poster advertising “Bock Beer”, but nonetheless quite alive, with its horns stabs the patron’s backside, sending him flying. The patron, on his airborne journey, causes the lady singer to catch her dress on an overhanging tree; the dress tears, & the throaty performer, now grounded, is revealed to be a cross-dressed Buddy. Pleasantly embarrassed, Buddy stalks away, waving blithely to all present; in the final shot, we see that the bird cage strapped to Buddy’s posterior (there to replicate the voluptuousness of his singing persona), in fact houses an exotic bird, which shows itself to have a voice & nose like those of Jimmy Durante, as well as a saying: “Am I mortified!”
Although it’s fairly small, here’s the entire cartoon to watch. Enjoy.
Today is the birthday of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who “was an American author and poet. Her best-known work was Poems of Passion. Her most enduring work was ‘Solitude,’ which contains the lines ‘Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.’ Her autobiography, The Worlds and I, was published in 1918, a year before her death.” She was also a confirmed prohibitionist and wrote many temperance poems that are absolutely rife with ridiculous propaganda, along the order of “Reefer Madness” in their misinformation, and are similarly unintentionally funny … almost. But she started writing such works as a young woman, having never once consumed a drop of alcohol herself so her ignorance, while understandable, is no less dangerous and uninformed. Also, her poetry wasn’t very good, but it was popular. For example, her poetry’s described on her Wikipedia page:
A popular poet rather than a literary poet, in her poems she expresses sentiments of cheer and optimism in plainly written, rhyming verse. Her world view is expressed in the title of her poem “Whatever Is—Is Best”, suggesting an echo of Alexander Pope’s “Whatever is, is right,” a concept formally articulated by Gottfried Leibniz and parodied by Voltaire’s character Doctor Pangloss in Candide.
None of Wilcox’s works were included by F. O. Matthiessen in The Oxford Book of American Verse, but Hazel Felleman chose no fewer than fourteen of her poems for Best Loved Poems of the American People, while Martin Gardner selected “The Way Of The World” and “The Winds of Fate” for Best Remembered Poems.
She is frequently cited in anthologies of bad poetry, such as The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse and Very Bad Poetry.
Here’s a representative example, written around 1872, and entitled “Ph. Best & Co.’s Lager-Beer.” In the poem, he really sticks it to Philip Best for making and selling beer, all but calling him a murderer. Needless to say, she must have been a hoot at parties.
Ph. Best & Co.’s Lager-Beer
“In every part of the thrifty town,
Whether my course be up or down,
In lane, and alley, and avenue,
Painted in yellow, and red, and blue,
This side and that, east and west,
Was this flaunting sign-board of ‘Ph. Best.’
’Twas hung high up, and swung in the air
With a swaggering, bold-faced, ‘devil-may-care-
It-is-none-of-your-business’ sort of way;
Or, as if dreading the light o’ the day,
It hung low, over a basement-stair,
And seemed ashamed when you saw it there.
Or it shone like a wicked and evil eye
From a ‘restaurant’ door on passers-by,
And seemed with a twinkling wink to say:
‘Are you bound for hell? Then step this way;
This is the ticket-office of sin;
If you think of purchasing, pray, walk in.’
Or it glared from a window where the light
Of the lamps within shone full and bright,
And seemed to be saying, ‘Come out of the storm!
Come into my haven snug and warm;
I will give you warmth from the flowing bowl,
And all I ask is your purse and soul.’
But whether on window, door, or stair,
Wherever I went, it was always there;
Painted in yellow, and red, and blue,
It stared from alley and avenue:
It was north and south, and east, and west,
The lager-beer of this Philip Best.
And who was Philip Best, you ask?
Oh! he was a man, whose noble task
Was the brewing of beer — good beer, first class —
That should sparkle, and bubble, and boil in the glass:
Should sparkle and flow till drank, and then
Feast like a vampire on brains of men.
Ah! Philip Best, you have passed from view,
But your name and your works love after you.
Come, brothers, raise him a monument,
Inscribed, ‘Here lies the man who sent
A million of souls to the depths of hell;
Turned genius and worth to the prison-cell;
Stole bread from the mouth of the hungry child:
Made the father a brute, and the mother wild;
Filled happy homes with dread unrest:
Oh! a very great man was Philip Best.
O Ph. Best! you have passed from view,
But your name and your deeds live after you.’”
She was nicknamed “the poet laureate of the Temperance Movement,” and indeed her very first book of poetry, “Drops of Water: Poems,” was published by The National Temperance Movement and Publication House. It’s quite startling to see how they viewed drinking people and especially the people making and selling alcoholic beverages as less than human, something you still see today in the propaganda of modern prohibitionist groups. But some of her poems are just crazy.
Here are some more excerpts from some of her other temperance poems:
From “What I Have Seen, Number III”
“I saw two men: one was fair to behold;
The other, a drunken sot, bloated and bold.
One stood on the mountain and drank of God’s fountain,
The other drank beer in the street.
Yet both started alike; but one made a ’stroke,’
Which ended, you see, in defeat.”
From “What I Have Seen, Number V”
“I saw his candidate sipping his beer,
Wiping his mustache and lapping his jaws;
And I said to myself, ‘ It’s decidedly queer,
If this is the man that should help make our laws,’
But may be he is — may be he is!
I won’t say it outright, but may be he is!”
From “Don’t Drink”
“Don’t drink, boys, don’t!
There is nothing of happiness, pleasure, or cheer,
In brandy, in whiskey, in rum, or beer.
If they cheer you when when drunk, you are certain to pay
In headaches and crossness the following day.
Don’t drink, boys, don’t!”
From “Where are the Temperance People?”
“Where are the temperance people?
Well, scattered here and there:
Some gathering in their produce
To show at the autumn fair:
Some threshing wheat for market,
And others threshing rye,
That will go to the fat distiller
For whiskey by-and-by.
And some are selling their hop crops
At a first-rate price, this year,
And the seller pockets the money,
While the drunkard swallows the beer.
And some ’staunch temperance workers’(?)
Who’d do anything for the cause,
Save too give it a dime or a moment,
Or work for temperance laws,
May be seen from now to election,
Near any tavern stand
Where liquor flows in plenty,
With a voter on either hand.
And these temperance office-seekers
That we hear of far and near
Are the ones who furnish the money
That buys the lager-beer.”
From “Give Us a Call”
“Give us a call! We keep good beer,
Wine, and brandy, and whiskey here;
Our doors are open to boys and men,
And even to women, now and then.
We lighten their purses, we taint their breaths,
We swell up the column of awful deaths;
All kinds of crimes
We sell for dimes
In our sugared poisons, so sweet to taste!
If you’ve money, position, or name to waste,
Give us a call!
Give us a call! In a pint of our gin,
We sell more wickedness, shame, and sin
Than a score of clergymen, preaching all day
From dawn till darkness, could preach away,
And in our beer (though it may take longer
To get a man drunk than drinks that are stronger)
We sell out poverty, sorrow, and woe —
Who wants purchase? Our prices are low.
Give us a call!”
From “Origin of the Liquor Dealer”
“Turn it in, to a lake of gin,
Where the devil bathes, to cool.
Then lift it up, and turn to a cup
Of wine they dip from a pool.
Then they dip it in ale, till it turneth pale,
In beer, till it growth red.
It? nay, HE! for the thing they see
Is a man, from heel to head.”
And here’s one more full poem:
From “The Brewer’s Dog”
“The brewer’s dog is abroad boys,
Be careful where you stray,
His teeth are coated with poison,
And he’s on the watch for prey.
The brewery is his kennel,
But he lurks on every hand,
And he seeks for easy victims
The children of the land.
His eyes gleam through the windows
Of the gay saloon at night,
And in many a first-class ‘drug store’
He is hiding out of sight.
Be careful where you enter,
And, if you smell his breath,
Flee as you would from a viper,
For its fumes are the fumes of death.
O boys! would you kill the bloodhound?
Would you slay the snarling whelp?
I know that you can do it
If every one will help.
You must make a solemn promise
To drink no ale or beer,
And soon the feeble death-wail
Of the brewer’s dog we’ll hear.
For, if all keep the promise,
You can starve him out, I know;
But, if boys and men keep drinking,
The dog will thrive and grow.”