Fritz Maytag

The Friday Mash (Merry Pranksters Edition)

Fifty years ago today, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters invited the Hells Angels to Kesey’s California estate. The party introduced psychedelic drugs to biker gangs, and linked the hippie movement to the Hell’s Angels. The Pranksters could have avoided this had they served beer instead.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Englewood, New Jersey, where Agnes Fenton became of the few people on Earth to celebrate a 110th birthday. Her secret? Three cans of Miller per day.

Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields is not only a Pro Bowler, but he’s also an all-Pro homebrewer. Fields, whose wife bought him a kit seven years ago, recently took up all-grain brewing.

Five weeks after a tornado devastated the town, the residents of Portland, Michigan, came together at a beer festival. The logo for one beer, Portland Strong Strawberry Stout, featured a red tornado.

Svalbard, an island in the Norwegian Arctic, is now home to the world’s northernmost brewery. Last year, the island lifted a decades-old ban on brewing.

The Fat Cat Pub in Norwich, England, has named a beer in honor of Cecil the lion, who was killed by an American dentist. Its name, “Cecil’s Revenge,” was chosen by the pub’s customers.

Last Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Fritz Maytag’s acquiring majority ownership of the Anchor Brewing Company. Tom Rutonno of CNBC recaps this now-famous brewery’s history.

Finally, technology and the growing popularity of craft beer has created new legal issues. Kalamazoo Beer Exchange has filed a trademark infringement suit against the developer of an app for beer collectors. The parties use the same handle on social media.

Milestones in American Craft Beer History

Many of us plan to celebrate Independence Day with an American craft beer–something that, just a generation ago, barely existed. Tom Acitelli, the author of The Audacity of Hops, identifies four milestones that made America’s craft brewing industry what it is today.

First, there’s Fritz Maytag’s decision in 1965 to buy Anchor Brewing Company, the nation’s last surviving craft brewery, and improve what was then a very bad product. Maytag insisted on high quality and independent ownership, and suffered big financial losses for years before his brewery became a national icon.

Second, in 1966, Jack McAuliffe, a U.S. Navy mechanic stationed in Scotland, bought a home-brewing kit at a local drugstore and discovered he could brew a very good pale ale. His own attempt at commercial brewing, the New Albion Brewing Company, eventually failed–but not before it encouraged other homebrewers to go commercial.

Third, and you might not have known this, Coors Brewing Company tested a new hop variety, the Cascade hop, which was the first American-grown variety considered good enough to use as an aroma hop. Maytag used it in his Liberty Ale, released in 1975 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous ride. Liberty Ale led the way to modern India pale ale, the most popular style of American craft beer.

Finally, a 1976 act of Congress lowered the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of beer. After the tax cut took effect, the number of craft breweries in America grew rapidly. Many of them, including Jim Koch and Pete Slosberg, decided to rent the equipment and subcontract the labor at one of many under-capacity regional breweries being squeezed by industry consolidation.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Fritz Maytag Holds Court

Pull up a chair, pour yourself a pint, and listen to Fritz Maytag talk about The Sixties, America’s food revolution, the origins of Liberty Ale, and why “beer guys” stick together:

Hat tip: Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin

The Friday Mash (Westward Expansion Edition)

On this day in 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their historic expedition through the vast Louisiana Purchase. Their journey has nothing to do with beer festivals, except that Ludwig’s come up with the crazy idea of paying for his next pint with Sacagawea dollar coins.

And now…The Mash!

Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin comments on Miller Lite’s new Vortex Bottle (complete with a how-it-works video). He also wonders about ideas that are so silly that even beer marketing people give them the thumbs-down.

Charlie Papazian explains how the Protestant Reformation affected the beer you drink today. Seriously.

Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, worries about Anchor Brewing’s future now that Fritz Maytag has sold it. He points out that Pete’s Wicked Ale Brewery failed after Pete Slosberg sold it, and Bert Grant’s brewery disappeared after his death.

Some in the beer community pooh-poohed the idea of craft beer in cans, but more than 70 craft breweries now can their beer, and that total is steadily growing.

Brookston Beer Bulletin’s 40th edition of The Session will be, appropriately enough, a discussion of session beers. The host will be Erik Lars Myers from Top Fermented, and you’re welcome to join in .

May is National Tavern Month, and a couple of articles crossed Ludwig’s desk. Thursday’s Guardian had an article about the best-ever bar fights in movie history. On a more serene note, the editors of Draft magazine describe their favorite watering holes.

Finally, an item from The Mash’s Retro Want Ads Department. London’s Old Spitalfields Market is looking to hire an ale taster.

Anchor Brewing Acquired by California Investment Firm

After 45 years at the helm at Anchor Brewing Company, Fritz Maytag announced today that he has sold the company. The buyer is The Griffin Group, an investment company based in the Bay Area. It is led by beverage-industry veterans Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, who built the Skyy Vodka brand.

Here is a link to Anchor’s press release announcing the sale to Griffin (hat tip: Todd Alstrom at

Maryanne and Paul discovered this news upon returning home from a local grocery store where, ironically, they bought several bottles of Sierra Nevada’s Fritz & Ken’s Ale. This weekend, they plan to open one and toast Fritz Maytag and his remarkable career. By the way, he’ll stay on at the brewery in the capacity of chairman emeritus.

Update on Sierra Nevada Collaboration

Last month, we mentioned Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s plans to celebrate craft brewing’s pioneers by brewing special beers in collaboration with them.

Here are the details.

In March, the brewery will release the first of four beers at Anchor Brewing with Fritz Maytag. The other pioneers are Jack McAuliffe of the departed, but certainly not forgotten, New Albion Brewery; and veteran beer writers and homebrewers Fred Eckhardt and Charlie Papazian.

Speaking of McAuliffe, he’s now living in San Antonio where he’s been recovering from a serious auto accident (hat tip: Jack Curtin and McAuliffe’s sister, Cathy).

Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder, explained why he’s doing this series:

We wanted to pay tribute to the original pioneers who helped me and hundreds of others get started….Few people in the craft-brewing world have accomplished more than these guys, and we thought it might be fun to get the original crew together and make something special.

Cheers, Ken. That was very classy of you.

If you want more information, Sierra Nevada has created a special website for these beers.

Sierra Nevada: Celebrate & Collaborate

2010 is Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary and founder Ken Grossman has big plans that are sure to make a big splash. He’s announced four collaboration brews involving the founders of Americas current craft brew movement.

March of 2010 will see the first of four beers in a series of collaborative projects with America’s craft-brewing pioneers: Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing; Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albion Brewery; and authors, homebrewers, and beer advocates Fred Eckhardt, and Charlie Papazian. Together, this group is credited as ‘the men who launched a thousand breweries;’ and without them, our current day craft-beer-renaissance might never have happened.

Proceeds from the project will be donated to charities selected by the four pioneers. And, when can we look forward to what’s sure to be the best in earthly delight?

The beers will be released periodically throughout the year, starting with the first release in March, and continuing until Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary on November 15. These limited-release 750ml cage-and-cork bottles will be available at select retailers and beer-centric bars.

We hope they make their way out to the Midwest.

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