Today would have been Bill Brand’s 81st 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, 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 46th 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 46th 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.]
Today is the 51st birthday of Jason Chavez, who was the brewmaster at Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz for a number of years. Chavez started homebrewing while still in high school on his family’s kitchen stove. He’s a graduate of the American Brewers Guild, and had been brewing at Seabright since 1999. I believe I first met Jason many years ago at the Rock Bottom in Denver during a GABF week, but I still run into him occasionally at events. Seabright celebrated their 25th anniversary two years ago, when I spent the day at the brewery to do a story on their silver anniversary. But last year, he made a big change, moving closer to home to take over the Kelsey Creek Brewing Co. in Kelseyville. I still haven’t made up to see the brewery since he took over the reigns, but hopefully one day soon. Join me in wishing Jason a very happy birthday.
Here’s a great shot by Dan Coyro, from an article in Santa Cruz Sentinnel.
Jason, in the center, surrounded by Seabright folks at the 10th annual Stumptown Russian River Revival and BBQ Cook-Off.
Jason, again in the center, at GABF (Note: last two photos purloined from Seabright’s website).
Today is the birthday of Alexandra Nowell, brewmaster of Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, southwest of L.A. She’s brewed previously at a variety of Bay Area breweries, including Moylan’s and Drakes, before moving south to Kinetic Brewing a few years ago. More recently, she joined Three Weavers, located in Inglewood. Join me in wishing Alexandra a very happy birthday.
The Drake’s/Stone Quarter Century of Issues Celebrator 25th Anniversary Pale Ale brew crew (from left to right): Drake’s owner John Martin, Stone Northern California regional brewery rep. Dave Hopwood, Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele, Stone San Francisco regional brewery rep Michael “Zippo” Parzick and, obviously the only one doing any real work, then-Drake’s brewmaster Alexandra (on the brew deck).
With Jesse Houck, who also worked at Drake’s, and for a time brewed at Golden Road. in L.A., but more recently moved to Hawaii to brew on Maui with Maui Brewing.
Alexandra with Mike “Tasty” McDole (purloined, er … borrowed from the Weekly Pint)
Today is the 51st birthday of Joe Tucker, the Executive Director at Rate Beer. He used to run the website from his Vineyard bunker in Sonoma, California, although last year he relocated to the Rose city of Portland. Because I’m in the Bay Area, I used to run into Joe from time to time, and usually at the annual hop picking day at Moonlight Brewing, though we flew to San Diego together a few Decembers ago to visit Stone Brewing, too. More recently, he asked me to be the Emcee for the Rate Beer Best awards held in late January in Santa Rosa, which was great fun. Join me in wishing Joe a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Frederick “Fritz” Breckle (March 5, 1849-?). I can find almost nothing about Breckle, apart from he opened the Frederick Breckle Brewery in 1896, but it closed just one year later, in 1897. It was located at Point Lobos Road and Boice (or Boyce) Street. Given how close his last name is to Gottlieb Brekle, who started in 1871 what would become the Anchor Brewery in 1896, it would seem odd that they’re not related. In searching through old records, it appears that the two spelling are interchangeable, which frankly makes that more plausible. Also, a page from the 1880 census lists his father as “G. Breckle,” but with no more information that that. Still, it seems reasonable that both father and son could have been brewers. Although I have to say that’s pure speculation and guesswork, there’s nothing I can find that’s definitive or proves any connection.
Today is the birthday of J.J. Phair, co-founder of E.J. Phair Brewing. J.J. started homebrewing in 1990, and ten years later opened his brewery, which is named for his grandfather Ewart John Phair, who was an amateur winemaker and beer lover, as a way to honor E.J. The brewery’s grown since then, and today there’s a Concord Alehouse, a production brewery and taproom in Pittsburg. Join me in wishing J.J. a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Gottlieb Brekle (February 23, 1821-1888). He was born somewhere in Germany, most likely Württemberg, though possibly Ludwigsburg or Hamburg, arriving in America on July 31, 1852, along with his wife Marie and young son Frederick. In 1871, according to Anchor, “Brekle bought an old beer-and-billiards saloon on Pacific Street near Russian Hill for $3,500, transforming it into the American brewery that, twenty-five years later, would be renamed Anchor” when it it was bought by “German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr.” Given how long ago Brekle was born, not to mention all of the records lost due to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, little is known about Brekle’s life, and I don’t know of any pictures of him. Even the spelling of his name seems uncertain, with records existing where it’s spelled Breckle, Breckel, and Breckels, too, making trying to find information a lot harder.
After Gottlieb, or George, as he took calling himself later, died, his son Frederick took over the business. Since we know the brewery was sold in 1896, we can be pretty sure Gottlieb died before then, but it could have been in 1888, or some other year, nobody seems sure. Anchor wrote on their blog, in a piece entitled Under the Crown: A Brewery is Born, which I assume was written by Anchor’s historian Dave Burkhart (who I consider a friend) that Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers indicate he became a citizen in 1854, and they display a small image of those papers.
But as much as it pains me, I’m not sure that’s right. Look at the paper blown up a bit, so it’s a little easier to read.
From what I can make out, he was a subject of the King of Württemberg on September 21, 1861, but became a U.S. citizen August 5, 1854, which I don’t quite understand, but then some of language is hard to read. But the name on that document appears to be “Carl Gottlieb Breckles,” so I’m wondering if it may be a different person?
I found this document on Ancestory.com, which is a voter “Register 7th Precinct, 4th Ward, San Francisco County, 1880.” Line 34, the third from the bottom, lists a Gottlieb Brekle, age 59 (which would make his birth year 1821 if he was 59 in 1880). It also lists his occupation as “Brewer” and his address as “1431 Pacific,” in San Francisco. But more telling is that last column, which lists the date he was naturalized. And for Gottlieb, what’s listed is August 4, 1879. And more confirmation is in the line below, where it lists a Frederick Brekle, also listed as a “Brewer” and living at the same address. Since we know that was his son’s name, it seems pretty clear that this document is referring to our Gottlieb Brekle.
Sadly, there isn’t much more known, though Anchor also has some more information they found in researching newspapers at the time.
Fortunately for researchers of San Francisco history, most of its early newspapers survived. In early 1874, San Francisco’s largest brewery—the Philadelphia Brewery—took out an ad in an SF paper to brag that it had sold more beer than any of SF’s other 33 breweries the previous year. Anchor, then called the Golden City Brewery, ranked 29th out of 34, with sales of just 585 barrels, the equivalent of about 8,000 cases of beer. If that seems like a lot of beer, our brewery’s sales in 1873 were just .33% (not 33%, not 3.3%, but .33% or 33/100 of 1%!) of total sales in barrels by all SF breweries!
In 2011, Anchor Brewing released a beer named after their first brewmaster, Brekle’s Brown.
And here’s a short video Anchor released at the time.