Today is the 57th birthday of David Walker, co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Originally from Great Britain, David married co-founder Adam Firestone’s sister, and moved to California. The two brothers-in-law began homebrewing on the family’s winery property and decided to start a brewery business together in 1996. I first met David over ten years ago and I carried his beer at BevMo from the beginning. But I’ve gotten to know him better in the last few years and he’s become one of my favorite people in the industry. Join me in wishing David a very happy birthday.
Today is the 61st birthday of Steve Parkes. Steve owns and runs the American Brewers Guild, which trains brewers. I’ve known Steve for a number of years now and he’s one of my favorite Brits in the industry. I had the pleasure of writing a profile of him for Beer Advocate magazine a few years ago, from which I learned the following. Steve studied brewing sciences at Heriot-Wyatt University in Edinburgh and worked at several small UK breweries before moving to Maryland to open British Brewing (later known as Oxford Brewing). He then moved to California and created Red Nectar for Humboldt Brewing, which is also where he caught the teaching bug. Eventually buying the ABG school in 1999, several years ago making the leap to running the school full-time. In 2009, Steve was awarded the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing by the Brewers Association at CBC in Boston. Steve said at the time. “It’s gratifying when someone notices what you’re been doing every day. It just feels tremendous, like standing on the shoulder of giants. The willingness to share is the best part of this industry. I love being part of a working community that thinks like that. It makes you a better person.” Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.
Today is the 60th birthday — The Big 6-O — of Des de Moor, who’s a London-based freelance beer writer. I honestly can’t recall exactly when we met, but we’ve been judging together at beer competitions and attending other beer events around the world for a number of years, and Des is great fun to share a pint with. He’s also the author of the CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer Pubs & Bars. Join in wishing Des a very happy birthday.
Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 79th birthday. I first met Michael in the early 1990s, shortly after my first beer book was published. He is all but single-handedly responsible for the culture of better beer that exists today. He began writing about good beer in the 1960s and 70s and his writing has influenced (and continues to influence) generations of homebrewers and commercial brewers, many of whom were inspired to start their own breweries by his words. There are few others, if any, that have been so doggedly persistent and passionate about spreading the word about great beer. I know some of my earliest knowledge and appreciation of beer, and especially its history and heritage, came from Michael’s writings. Michael passed away in August 2007, nearly 14 years ago. I still miss him, and I suspect I’m not the only one. A few years ago, J.R. Richards’ documentary film about Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter: The Movie, debuted, which I helped a tiny bit with as a pioneer sponsor.
I did an article several years ago for Beer Connoisseur, for their Innovator’s Series, entitled Michael Jackson: The King of Beer Writers, A personal look back at the man who made hunting for beer a career. I reached out to a number of people who also knew Michael for their remembrances as well as my own, and as a result I’m pretty pleased with the results (although the original draft was almost twice as long).
I’ll again be playing some jazz and having a pint of something yummy in his honor, which has become my tradition for March 27, which I’ve also started declaring to be “Beer Writers Day.” Join me in drinking a toast to Michael Jackson, the most influential modern beer writer who’s ever lived.
At the Great Divide Brewing’s media party in Denver over fifteen years ago.
On stage accepting the first beer writing awards from the Brewers Association with Jim Cline, GM of Rogue, Stan Hieronymus, who writes Real Beer’s Beer Therapy among much else, and Ray Daniels, formerly of the Brewers Association.
At GABF in 2006, still wearing the same glasses. But my, oh my, have I changed. Sheesh.
Today is the 77th birthday of Steve Wellington. He “started working for Bass in 1965, a year after the Worthington’s brewery was demolished, and brewed both Bass and Worthington’s beers. He left Bass to run his own business, teaching people how to brew at home, then returned in 1994 to run the White Shield microbrewery as part of the Brewing Museum in Burton. He brewed some of the beers Burton had lost: Worthington’s E, Imperial Stout, Barley Wine, and the legendary Worthington’s White Shield.” In 2007, he was named “Brewer of the Year’ by the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group in 2007 and Guild of British Beer Writers’ Brewer of the Year in 2004. I met him shortly after that, when I visited Marston’s in Burton-on-Trent, accompanying Matt Brynildson on a trip to do a collaboration beer. He was very generous with his time and showed us around his brewery. He then retired several times, as many as five (according to Roger Protz), the last time in 2018. When he retired previously, in 2011, Pete Brown referred to him as the “Jedi Master Brewer of Worthington White Shield,” and that sums him up nicely. I’ve run into Steve at least one another time, and he’s a great person. Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of William H. Worthington (March 21, 1723-1800). Actually, it’s the date of his baptism, but that’s as close as we know, and, strangely, no one seems to have recorded the day he passed away and all we know is it was sometime in 1800. In 1761, he founded the Worthington Brewery in Burton-on-Trent, with the help of his wife Ann Tarratt, when “he purchased a brewery in the High Street for 320 pounds from Richard Cummings of Repton.”
The Worthington brand was purchased from Bass by the American brewing company Coors in 2002, which following a merger became Molson Coors in 2005. Worthington’s White Shield IPA has continued to be brewed since 1829. In 2010, Molson Coors opened the William Worthington microbrewery, which brews historical and seasonal beers.
Here’s the early history of the brewery, from Wikipedia:
William Worthington (1723–1800) was born at Orton on the Hill in Leicestershire, the fourth child of William Worthington (1687–1742), yeoman farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth. In 1744, he moved to Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire where he worked as a cooper at Joseph Smith’s brewery. In 1760, Worthington purchased the brewery from Smith’s successor, Richard Commings, for £320 (equivalent to £50,000 as of 2019).
By the 1780s, the brewery probably had an annual output of around 1,500 barrels, similar to the rival breweries of Benjamin Wilson and Michael Bass. Throughout the eighteenth century, Worthington sales were mostly of porter, directed towards the Baltic market, which was transported via narrowboat through the River Trent to the Port of Hull. Largely as a result of this trade, by the time of Worthington’s death in 1800, Worthington & Co. ranked among the largest of the provincial breweries.
And this account of the brewery is from the Oxford Companion to Beer, written by my friend Tim Hampson.
Worthington Brewery was established by William Worthington in the English town of Burton-on-Trent in 1744. It became one of a handful of companies to trade lucratively with the Baltic states along with the better-known Burton entrepreneurial brewers run by the Wilson, Sketchley, Bass, and Evans families. By the 1820s a worsening relationship with Napoleon Bonaparte soured much of this trade, and an alternative market had to be found.
Since at least the 1780s the East India Company had exported beers to the Indian sub-continent, following in the wake of the administrators and troops who left the United Kingdom to work in settlements there. Records show that some of the first shipments took place in 1697.
The trade was dominated by London brewer Abbot & Hodgsons, but the Burton brewers recognized a business opportunity when they saw one. When the London brewer faltered, the trade quickly became dominated by Burton brewers Bass and Allsop, and, to a lesser extent, Worthington. They first began to imitate the London brewers’ beer but discovered that a Burton IPA had the attribute of arriving in Calcutta pale, clear, and sparkling. See burton-on-trent and india pale ale. Sometime around the start of the 20th century the term “India pale ale” disappeared from White Shield’s label and became known by its heart shield and dagger label design, which was first registered as a trademark in 1863.
Worthington was never one of the big Burton brewers and was subsumed within the growing Bass empire in 1927. Somehow, nonetheless, the beer survived as a bottled beer. It was a curiosity as it still contained yeast in the bottle, long after the practice of bottle-conditioning had largely disappeared from British brewing. Drinkers’ conversations often focused on whether the beer should be poured clear or have the yeast tipped into the glass too. Many beer enthusiasts have commented upon the beer’s ability to age well, gaining character in the bottle over a year or two.
Today is the 42nd birthday of Jeff Bell, whose alter ego was, until several years ago, Stonch, one of England’s best bloggers. He retired from blogging to concentrate on his new job as landlord of a London pub, The Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, a village in the heart of London. I stopped by to meet Jeff on my way back from a trip to Burton-on-Trent years ago. And several years back, I saw Jeff several times during GBBF week. But later, the blogging started up again, and he moved on from that pub, and for a time he was the landlord of the Finborough Arms in Earl’s Court, next to the Finborough Theatre, but he’s moved on from there, and for awhile was tramping around Italy as an “Englishman living in Tuscany.” But he’s back in England, and has taken up residence in the East Sussex town of Rye as the publican and proprietor of the Ypres Castle Inn. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.
Jeff Bell, a.k.a. Stonch, at The Gunmakers Pub in central London.
Today is the birthday of Robert Harry Beale Neame, though he was generally known as Bobby (February 25, 1934- ). He joined his family’s company, Shephard Neame in 1956, and in 1971 became the chairman of the company, a position he held until retiring in 2005, when he was named president.
Shepherd Neame is an English independent regional brewery founded in 1698 in Faversham, Kent. Evidence has been uncovered showing brewing has taken place continuously on the current site since at least 1573. It is the oldest brewer in Great Britain and has been family-owned since 1864. The brewery produces a range of cask ales and filtered beers. Production is around 281,000 brewers’ barrels a year. It owns 338 pubs & hotels predominantly in Kent, London and South East England.
From the Neame Family Research:
The next generation faced the same difficulties in the 1960s. Bobby Neame came to work at the Brewery in 1956. In September 1957 he became a director when Madeleine Finn, due to retire, decided to step down. Jasper, his father was ill at the time, but Bobby was back at work in the following January. By the September 1969 AGM he had widened his range considerably and it was said that he was helping in the Brewery, and was in charge of the free trade, advertising etc.
Laurie’s son, Colin Roger Beale Neame joined the company in October 1959, to help his father in the bottled beer department, a month after Rex Neame had joined in Managing ‘Queen Court’. At the September 1961 AGM after serving a probationary period on the Board, they both became full members. As the production director, he was in charge of the more technical side of the brewing business, making improvements in the bottling plant and keg beer, by utilizing many labour saving techniques. He also introduced a small biochemical laboratory employing a laboratory technician.
Jasper died on 18 Jan 1961 at the early age of 56, Laurie then becoming sole managing director. He survived his brother for another nine years and continued his interest in production.
Following is his father’s footsteps, Bobby took particular interest in the sales side of the business. This became especially important once the larger brewers started investing heavily in advertising, especially on commercial television. Bobby then became marketing manager in charge of “improving the image of the Company in the eyes of the public”, showing greater attention to publicity, with advertising on Southern Television in 1970.
In 1968 the Cobb brewing company in Margate (with its family connection) again came on the market, together with 38 licensed premises. The Cobbs found it increasingly difficult to survive independently after the increasing success of the Butlins hotels group took over much of its trade. It was taken over by the Whitbreads in Januray 1968 and ceased to brew in the following October. This now left Shepherd Neame as ‘the last independent brewery in Kent.’
On 19 Dec 1970, Laurie died suddenly and unexpectedly at the end of the day, after all the excitement when his second son, Stuart, was married. In March 1971 Bobby became chairman and Colin managing director.
I love the stained glass windows showing the brewery’s history.
Today is the birthday of Samuel Charles Whitbread (February 16, 1796-May 22, 1879). “He was the grandson of Samuel Whitbread,” who founded the brewery Whitbread & Co. Samuel C. “represented the constituency of Middlesex (1820–1830) and was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1831. His interests were astronomy and meteorology. He served as president of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1850 to 1853. In June 1854 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.”
b. 16 Feb. 1796, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Samuel Whitbread† (d. 1815) of Cardington and Southill, Beds. and Elizabeth, da. of Lt.-Gen. Sir Charles Grey of Falloden, Northumb.; bro. of William Henry Whitbread*. educ. by private tutor Richard Salmon 1802-7; Sunninghill, Berks. (Rev. Frederick Neve) 1807; Eton 1808; St. John’s, Camb. 1814. m. (1) 28 June 1824, Juliana (d. 13 Oct. 1858), da. of Maj.-Gen. Henry Otway Trevor (afterwards Brand), 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 18 Feb. 1868, Lady Mary Stephenson Keppel, da. of William Charles, 4th earl of Albemarle, wid. of Henry Frederick Stephenson*, s.p. suc. bro. to family estates 1867. d. 27 May 1879. Offices Held Sheriff, Beds. 1831-2.
Whitbread, a member of the brewing dynasty, was raised in London and Bedfordshire, where his father, a leading Foxite Whig, inherited the family’s recently purchased estate of Southill in 1796. His parents’ favourite, he was educated with his elder brother William and sent to Cambridge to prepare him for a career in the church or politics. Little is known of his reaction to his father’s suicide in July 1815. His uncle Edward Ellice*, who now oversaw the Whitbreads’ troubled finances, dismissed the brothers’ private tutor Sam Reynolds, who ‘goes about as an idle companion to the boys’, and pressed their continued attendance at Cambridge. Whitbread joined Brooks’s, 22 May 1818, and became a trustee the following month of his father’s will, by which he received £5,000 and £500 a year from the age of 21, £5,000 in lieu of the church livings of Southill and Purfleet (Essex) reserved for him, and was granted the right to reside at Cardington when the house fell vacant. William came in for Bedford at the general election of 1818 and Samuel was now suggested for Westminster and Middlesex, where he nominated the Whig veteran George Byng* in a speech proclaiming his own credentials as a candidate-in-waiting. Encouraged by his mother, who took a house in Kensington Gore after William came of age, he fostered his connections with the Westminster reformers, purchased a £10,000 stake in the brewery and in 1819 joined their controlling partnership, which was then worth £490,000 ‘on paper’ and dominated by his father’s partners Sir Benjamin Hobhouse†, William Wilshere of Hitchin and the Martineau and Yallowley families. Maria Edgeworth, who now met Whitbread for the first time, described him as a ‘good, but too meek looking … youth’.
Whitbread grasped the opportunity to contest Middlesex at the general election of 1820, when, backed by his relations, brewing partners, the Nonconformists and the Whig-radical coalition campaigning in Westminster (which he denied), he defeated the sitting Tory William Mellish in a 12-day poll to come in with Byng. His lacklustre brother had shown none of their father’s talent and energy, but Samuel impressed with his enthusiasm and appealed throughout to his father’s reputation as a reformer and advocate of civil and religious liberty. Ellice praised his common sense and popularity and surmised that Parliament ‘may save him by throwing him into society and engaging him in politics, although possibly the situation he will occupy will be rather too prominent for either his abilities or experience’. He later informed Lord Grey:
Sam has exceeded all our expectations … He has on every occasion conducted himself with skill and feeling, and shown a quickness and talent, which I did not give him credit for, and if he will only apply himself with activity and industry to the business of the county, he may retain the seat as long as he pleases.
Samuel C. later in life.
While most of the rest of his biography concerns political machinations, toward the end, there’s some more about his life outside politics:
Out of Parliament, Whitbread acted to combat the ‘Swing’ riots in Bedfordshire in December 1830, attended the Bedford reform meeting in January 1831, and addressed the Middlesex meeting at the Mermaid with Charles Shaw Lefevre, 21 Mar. He declared for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, notwithstanding the omission from it of the ballot. As sheriff, he assisted his brother and the Bedford reformers in the county and borough at the May 1831 general election, when both constituencies were contested. He continued to promote reform and the ministerial bill at district meetings in Middlesex, where he turned down a requisition to contest the new Tower Hamlets constituency at the 1832 general election. A lifelong Liberal, Whitbread did not stand for Parliament again, but from 1852 took a keen interest in his son Samuel’s political career as Member for Bedford. His health remained erratic, and he increasingly devoted his time to business and scientific pursuits. As a fellow since 1849 of the Royal Astronomical Society, and treasurer, 1857-78, he built the Howard observatory at Cardington (1850), and became a founder member that year of the British Meteorological Society and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1854. In 1867 he succeeded his childless brother William to the family estates and as head of the brewery and trusts, and in 1868, almost ten years after Juliana’s death, he married into the Albermarle family, making Cardington available for Samuel, who had inherited his uncle’s shares in Whitbreads’. He died in May 1879 at his town house in St. George’s Square, survived by his second wife (d. 20 Sept. 1884) and four of his six children. According to his obituary in the Bedford Mercury:
in the world at large, Mr. Whitbread did not figure greatly. He was fond of sport, but not to a base degree; his caution prevented him making rash ventures, which often end unhappily. As a walker he was rather famous; it was a matter of amusement to his friends to see how in the vigour of his manhood and even of late years he used to walk down interviewers who bored him … The anecdotes of this species of pedestrianism are neither few nor far between, and the richest of them are those in which the bores were portly and ponderous to a degree. It may be imagined therefore that he was humorous; and so he was. He was good company everywhere. Political economists might have praised his habits of economy, for his chief fault was his desire never to waste anything.
His will, dated 30 Nov. 1875, was proved in London, 24 July 1879. By it he confirmed Samuel’s succession to the entailed estates and several family settlements, ensured that the non-entailed estates, including the brewery’s Chiswell Street premises, passed to his younger son William, and provided generously for other family members.
The Whitbread Brewery in Chiswell Street, 1792, painted by George Garrard.
Today is the 42nd birthday of Logan Plant, founder and brewmaster of Beavertown Brewery, which he started in 2011. I met Logan first at the Firestone-Walker Invitational Beer Festival a few years ago and have run into a couple of times since both there and at the RateBeer Best Festival. He’s a very friendly and talented person and his beer is great, and it’s always been a pleasure to hang out with him. Please join me in wishing Logan a very happy birthday.