Today is Steve Wagner’s 62nd birthday. Steve is a co-founder of Stone Brewing and the president of the California Craft Brewers Association. In the late 1980s, Steve was a member of the band “The Balancing Act,” who put out several albums on I.R.S. Records. Now he just presides over one of the most successful microbreweries in the U.S. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.
Today is the 63rd 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 Karl Frederick Schuster (April 2, 1890-November 4, 1976). He was born into a brewing family, and worked in several Bay Area breweries until prohibition, during which time he continued working with beer people though making cereal products. When prohibition ended, he was named president of Acme Breweries.
Our subject’s grand-father, Frederick Schuster emigrated from the Alsace upon hearing of the California gold rush and made his way to the placer mines in Plumas County.
In the early 1850s he started a family and failing to strike it rich, he established a small steam beer plant, one of the first in California. The Pacific Coast Directory for 1867 lists the La Porte Brewery, F. Schuster, proprietor. When the placer mines played out Frederick relocated to San Francisco, and in 1870 he purchased the American Railroad Brewery. When Frederick died, his son Frederick Paul Schuster took control of the Brewery, and in 1902 he merged it with the Union Brewing & Malting Company. The American Railroad branch of the new company operated for two more years, and was then closed. Frederick became the vice president of the Union Brewery.
Frederick Paul’s son, Karl F. Schuster, continued the family tradition in brewing. In 1908 he started as an apprentice, drawing his first pay check from the Union Brewery, which had abandoned the manufacture of steam beer and entered the lager beer field in 1903. While Karl was learning all aspects of the trade, the brewing industry in San Francisco was undergoing many changes – in part from the effects of the ’06 earthquake, but also from the influx of brewers escaping early Prohibition in their home states.
In 1909 Union Brewing & Malting annexed the Wunder Brewing Co. by purchase, paving the way to a merger that would solidify its position. In Jan. 1917 the Union Brewery joined five other breweries in the formation of the California Brewing Assn., with Frederick P. Schuster subsequently named one of the Association’s directors.
Frederick’s son Karl, returning from WWI and facing the demise of his industry from Prohibition, took a position as assistant to Master Brewer Anton Dolenz at the Association’s Fulton plant. During this period with the Cereal Products Refining Corporation he worked with William Adams and Jacob P. Rettenmayer, and later assumed the position of plant superintendent.
By Repeal in 1933 Karl had moved up high enough in the company that in 1934, with the death of Samuel Clarke, the Board of Directors elected Karl F. Schuster president and general manager of Cereal Products refining Corp., aka the Acme Brewery.
On April 1, 1936 the company changed its operating name to Acme Breweries to reflect the addition of the Los Angeles plant.
Karl Schuster remained president of Acme Breweries until it was sold in January 1954. He died in November 4, 1976.
Today is Dick Cantwell’s 62nd 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 Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide, with Peter Bouckaert, formerly of New Belgium Brewing. He was also on the BA’s board of directors and headed both the Communications and Pipeline committees and worked for a time as the BA’s Quality Ambassador. More recently, is brewing with Magnolia in San Francisco. Join me in wishing Dick a very happy birthday.
Award-winning Portland beer writer Lisa Morrison and Dick at an Elysian event during OBF.
Today is the 42nd birthday of Rich Higgins, who wore many hats in the San Francisco beer scene. He left his job as the brewmaster at San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery several years ago, and was also the President of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and Director of SF Beer Week for a time. He’s currently focusing his attention on his consulting, Rich Higgins Consultant à la Bière, and most recently had been brewing at San Francisco’s Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar, but it closed last year after a short run. Rich was for quite some time also one of only six people to have earned the title “Master Cicerone.” I’d gotten to know Rich working on SF Beer Week over the last few years, and he’s a great person, as well as a terrific brewer. I’ve haven’t run into Rich lately, since moved out of the area, so I’m not sure what new adventure he’s on. Join me in wishing Rich a very happy birthday.
Today would have been the 53rd birthday of Mark Martone, better known to the beer world as “Fraggle.” Fraggle always called them borndays, so I’ll continue that tradition for him. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke six years ago in late June and passed away a few days later, on July 5, 2014. Fraggle, along with Rebecca Boyles, founded the terrific Beer Revolution in Oakland, near Jack London Square on 3rd Street. I first met Fraggle when I featured him and Rebecca in an article I did for Beer Advocate magazine on beer geeks several years ago. It’s been great to see them turn their passion into their livelihood, and go from civilian to pro over the last few years. Join me in wishing Fraggle a very happy bornday, and raise a toast to his memory today or tonight or all day long. He would have wanted it that way.
Today would have been Bill Brand’s 82nd birthday, if not for the tragic events of February 8, 2009. Bill, of course, was hit by a Muni Train that evening and passed away twelve days later, on February 20. He was a bastion of support for the local beer community for decades, and one of it’s most visible media faces. He did a staggering amount of good to help brewers throughout the Bay Area, and wrote about the beer he loved so much with an unmatched passion and zeal. His Bottoms Up blog was read by millions, the newest form of his What’s On Tap newsletter that stretched back into the early 1990s. It was my great honor to take over his column and try to continue his legacy of support for craft brewers in the Bay Area and beyond. Drink a toast to the memory and legacy of William “Bill” Brand today. Happy birthday Bill, you are most certainly missed.
Today is the birthday of filmmaker Anat Baron, whose Beer Wars movie started people writing and talking about the beer business, from all sorts of angles, over ten years ago, and while it’s slowed down, the discussion has yet to have completely gone away. Or as Alan from A Good Beer Blog puts it, “joined to the long-standing discussion about the beer business and added an interesting interpretation.” Love it or loathe it, it has certainly managed to capture people’s attention, and if that’s all it’s done, that’s still a huge positive to my way of thinking. But it’s also opened quite a few minds to what those of us who’ve been embedded in the beer business have known forever, which is how the business operates, where it’s fair and unfair, and what you can do as a consumer to support the beers and breweries you love. Join me in wishing Anat a very happy birthday.
Today is the 47th birthday of Jim Crooks, who is currently the Master Blender at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton. But before that, Jim was the QC manager, and was one of the original brewers there when it was still SLO Brewing when Adam Firestone and David Walker bought the brewery. When I wrote an Innovator’s Series piece for Beer Connoisseur magazine on Matt Brynildson, naturally, Jim came up when re-telling the story of the transition:
But Matt and another SLO brewer, Jim Crooks, weren’t ready to give up quite so easily. What happened next is local legend. The bank didn’t lock the doors or turn off the power. Maybe it was an oversight, maybe not. So Brynildson and Crooks came in and kept making beer while the brewery was still in receivership, and continued filling orders. The idea, they thought, was to just hang on. They both loved the area and the brewery that they’d poured so much of themselves into. The pair hoped that if they kept it alive, that someone would come to the rescue, buy the brewery and give them both jobs. The gamble paid off and their harebrained idea actually worked. Both Matt and Jim Crooks continue to work there to this day, with Jim leading the Barrelworks production in Buellton.
I’ve run to Jim several times over the years, and since heading up Barrelworks in 2013, he’s been knocking it out of the park. Join me in wishing Jim a very happy birthday.
At the 2008 GABF, Eric and Lauren Salazar, both from New Belgium Brewing, sandwiched by Jim, and Chris Swersey, Competition Manager for GABF judging.
Today is the 47th birthday of Lee Chase, co-owner of Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego, and brewer at Automatic Brewing, located in the Blind Lady’s back room, and brewery consultant to the stars. Chase was also the head brewer at Stone Brewing for nearly a decade and oversaw the building and installation of the new brewery in Escondido. Lee’s a terrific brewer and a great beer ambassador, and also great fun to hang out with a share a pint, which I was able to do a few Decembers ago at the Stone Vertical Epic Tasting. Please join me in wishing Lee a very happy birthday.
Lee with Stone co-founder Steve Wagner on April 14, 1999 celebrating their first bottling run on their then new Maheen bottler. [Note: photos purloined from Facebook & Stone Brewing.]