Today is the birthday of Bill Siebel (March 26, 1946-November 8, 2015). Bill was the grand-grandson of John Ewald Siebel, who founded what would become the Siebel Institue of Technology. In the early 1970s, Bill became president of the brewing school his family founded, and held that post until his retirement in 2000. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill a couple of times judging at the Great American Beer Festival, when we sat at a few of the same judging tables. Talking in between flights, he had a great sense of humor and seemed like such a nice person. I was only sorry I had’t met him sooner. Join me in raising a toast to Bill tonight.
This is Bill’s obituary from the Chicago Tribune:
Bill Siebel was the fourth generation of his family to head a Chicago beer-brewing school that has produced tens of thousands of alums with surnames such as Busch, Coors, Pabst, Stroh and Floyd — as in 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to call him a member of the “First Family” of beer education in the U.S., said Charlie Papazian, president and founder of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest.
Bill Siebel was chairman and CEO of the Siebel Institute of Technology, established in Chicago in 1872 by his great-grandfather, Dusseldorf-born immigrant John Ewald Siebel. It bills itself as the oldest brewing school in the Americas. “There is one, based in Germany, established before us,” said Keith Lemcke, vice president of the institute, 900 N. Branch St.
“It’s been a continuous run,” Lemcke said, “except for this inconvenient time we call ‘Prohibition.’ ” During Prohibition, it kept going as a school of baking — which, like brewing, uses yeast.
Siebel Institute students, Lemcke said, have included August Busch III of Anheuser-Busch; John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; the father and grandfather of Samuel Adams brewer Jim Koch; and Greg Hall, a brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company and son of Goose Island founder John Hall.
“The contributions that the Siebel Institute has made to brewing — and to training craft brewers — in its long history, are far too numerous to count,” said Koch of Samuel Adams. “I’m a sixth-generation brewer, and my father graduated from Siebel in 1948 and my grandfather in 1908. . . . The industry has lost a great one.”
Mr. Siebel, who had esophageal cancer, died on Nov. 8 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was 69.
The family school is “the longest-living institution that has served as an educational institution for brewers in the United States,” Papazian said. “They’ve gone through a lot of transitions, from the small breweries going out of business in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, to embracing the small craft brewers that were emerging in the ’70s and ’80s, welcoming them, and offering them educational opportunities. Bill was involved with that transition.”
“Many of our employees are graduates of Siebel Institute, and the impact the school has made on the beer community is impressive,” said Ken Stout, general manager of Goose Island Beer Company. “A great industry leader has been lost, and we’ll miss him dearly.”
Bill Siebel and his brother, Ron, grew up near Devon and Caldwell in Edgebrook, and at the Southwest edge of the Evanston Golf Club in Skokie, where one of the tees was behind their home. A highlight of their youth was spending summers with their mother, Mary, at Paradise Ranch near Colorado Springs, while their father, Raymond, commuted back and forth from the Siebel Institute in Chicago. The Siebel boys became accomplished horseback riders.
They attended grade school at the old Bishop Quarter Military Academy in Oak Park. Bill Siebel graduated from Florida’s Admiral Farragut Academy and the University of Miami. He served in the Navy, rising to lieutenant, before returning to Chicago — and the family beer school — in 1971, said his wife, Barbara Wright Siebel.
Both brothers attended the Siebel Institute, where a variety of classes, diplomas and certificates focus on yeast, malt, fermentation, biological science, quality control, engineering and packaging. “One of my classmates in 1967 was August Pabst, and August Busch III was a few years before,” Ron Siebel said.
For decades, the school and laboratory were located at 4055 W. Peterson, where the Siebels had a brewing library and a second-floor bierstube with heirloom steins.
After their father and uncle sold the business, “Bill and I were successful in getting it back,” Ron Siebel said. “We got it back in the family hands, and it stayed there until [Bill] retired and wanted to liquidate his holdings in the institute.” Today, the school is owned by Lallemand, a Canadian yeast company.
Ron Siebel focused on selling products such as stabilizers, which preserve clarity in beer. “Bill was ‘Mr. Inside.’ He was very good with numbers,” his brother said. Because of him, “The business was always on a steady course.”
Bill Siebel retired in 2000, Lemcke said.
He restored himself and reveled in nature, hiking, and watching birds and animals. For their honeymoon, Bill and Barbara Siebel canoed nine days on the U.S.-Canadian Boundary Waters. And for 20 years, they canoed in Ely, Minnesota, where he enjoyed spotting bear and moose. He also loved reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.
And this is another obituary from website Beer Monopoly:
William (Bill) Siebel, philanthropist and former President of the Siebel Institute, died 8 November 2015, aged 69
In the classroom of the Siebel Institute in Chicago, there is a long wall featuring the graduating class photographs of students dating back to the year 1900. The year 1973 marked the first appearance of a young, moustachioed Bill Siebel in the faculty section of the Diploma Course photographs, and his image would appear in every class photo for the next 26 years.
Unless you knew Bill, visitors to Siebel could be forgiven for wondering who this prankster was, who, year after year, managed to blag his way into one of the world’s oldest brewing schools to have his photo taken with the brewing school’s graduates?
Certainly, Bill would have chuckled at the suggestion of him being a repeat gatecrasher at the school, which has borne his family’s name since the 19th century. He would have even taken delight in being awarded the nickname Zelig – the title character of a Woody Allen “mockumentary” from 1983 about a human chameleon that sneaked past guards at major events to rub shoulders with the high and mighty – because he would have known of the film or more probably would have even seen it.
Bill had a great sense of humour. When he attended the Munich trade fair Drinktec as an exhibitor for the first time in 1993, he came armed with only a poster, expecting to be given a tabletop for his brochures. To his surprise he had in fact rented a large booth. Bill being Bill made the best of this and immediately organised two dozen large trees in pots which he placed alongside the walls. If passers-by remarked that the Siebel Institute had obviously branched out into horticulture, Bill laughed his infectious and his eyes would sparkle behind his glasses as he repeated the story about his mishap over and over again.
Despite his self-effacing modesty, Bill represented the best of North American “beer royalty”. Being a fourth generation Siebel to run the business, whose passion for beer was undeniable – he was most inconsolable when he had to cancel being a judge at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver due to his failing health – Bill felt equally strongly about his obligations as a citizen. He diligently and conscientiously gave his expertise to many good causes and probably even more in terms of financial support. However, you had to know him really well to discover this side of him.
Bill was a Chicago man: born and bred in the Windy City, which he loved but hated for its extreme weather. This may have been one reason why he chose to study in far-away Florida. He graduated from Florida’s Admiral Farragut Academy and the University of Miami. He served in the Navy, rising to lieutenant, before returning to Chicago — and the family beer business — in 1971.
The Siebel Institute of Technology was established in Chicago in 1872 by Bill’s great-grandfather, the German-born immigrant John Ewald Siebel. Unlike Bill, JE Siebel must have been a real sourpuss, judging from the dour-looking gentleman, whose bust Bill and his wife Barbara kept in their yard. On my last visit to Chicago this spring, we presented JE to the Siebel Institute – they already had the other of the two busts that JE had made – because Bill knew no one in his family would want such a stern character face them in the morning.
Bill did not bear his family’s heritage lightly. He would joke about how the Siebel Institute made it through this “inconvenient time” Americans call Prohibition. Officially, the Siebel Institute kept going as a school of baking – which, like brewing, uses yeast – and Bill would laughingly speculate that his ancestors probably were involved in all kinds of shenanigans. After all, Prohibition in Chicago gave rise to plenty of colourful gangsters whose empires were made with alcohol. In fact, reality was far bleaker than Bill liked to narrate it. When JE Siebel died in late 1919, Prohibition had already been ratified, which meant that the Siebel Institute could no longer teach brewing in America and several Siebel family members were left destitute, says Keith Lemcke, Vice-President of the Siebel Institute.
As we know, the Siebel Institute survived. But when Bill joined the Institute, his father and uncle had already sold the business. Fortunately, Bill and his older brother Ron succeeded in getting it back. “We got it back in the family hands, and it stayed there until Bill retired and wanted to liquidate his holdings in the institute,” Ron said. Today, the school is owned by Lallemand, a Canadian yeast company.
Both Bill and Ron attended the Institute to be taught all about yeast, malt, fermentation, biological science, quality control, engineering and packaging. “One of my classmates in 1967 was August Pabst, and August Busch III was a few years before,” Ron said. Over its long history, the Siebel Institute has produced tens of thousands of alumni with such illustrious surnames like Busch, Coors, Pabst and Stroh. But John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; the father and grandfather of Samuel Adams brewer Jim Koch; and Greg Hall, a brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company, were also among them.
For decades, the school and laboratory were located at 4055 W. Peterson, where the Siebels had a brewing library and a second-floor Bierstube in mock-Germanic style. For parties they liked to serve brat and sauerkraut.
While Ron would focus on selling auxiliary products, Bill was Mr Inside. “He was very good with numbers,” his brother remembers. Because of Bill, the business was always on a steady course. This does not mean that things were easy. For decades, the U.S. beer industry has been in a state of transition. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s a lot of the smaller brewers went out of business followed by the remaining mid-tier brewers in the 1990s. Fortunately for the Siebel Institute and thanks to Bill’s tireless travelling and networking, international students and craft brewers began to fill seats as of the 1990s. Bill wholeheartedly welcomed them, offering them educational opportunities.
Until his retirement in 2000, Bill taught at the Siebel Institute and took on various roles, from registrar, to President, Chairman and CEO.