Portland publican Don Younger dies

Don Younger

Don Younger, the pioneering Portland publican who opened the legendary Horse Brass Pub in 1976, has died.

Younger died early this morning, a day after John Foyston sent shockwaves through the American beer community by reporting Younger was gravely ill death due to “multiple health problems triggered by slipping and breaking a shoulder last week. He’s unconcious and on a respirator in the cardiac intensive care unit at a local hospital.”

Although Younger was best known for his role in turning Portland and Oregon into “Beervana,” his death inspired a particularly moving tribute from British author Pete Brown, which concluded:

I only met Don the one time and I’ll leave the proper obituaries to the people who were lucky enough to know him well.

But on the basis of one meeting, he was one of my favourite people in the beer world. Even if you didn’t know who he was till now, take a while to read about him, and raise a glass of your favourite US craft beer to him tonight. After all, there’s a good chance it may not have existed without his influence.

There are various stories about how Younger acquired the Horse Brass in 1976 — he had more than one version himself — but he pointed to a trip to Great Britain in 1977 as the reason the Horse Brass became what it was. “That’s when I knew,” he said. What, he wasn’t yet sure, “but I was going to do the pub thing.”

Reflecting on the first twenty years of business in 1996, he said: “We didn’t know we were making history, nobody does at the time, or we would have written these things down.” He talked about unopened bottles from New Albion Brewery in the pub’s basement. He remembered anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first beer from Portland’s Cartwright Brewing in 1980. “We had it one day,” he said, but it was too flawed to serve. “I’ve still got Cartwright T-shirts and coasters,” he said.

The first microbrewery beer he put on tap was Grant’s from Yakima, Wash., in 1982. “People (in Portland) were ready, the pipeline was here. All he had to do was make it,” he said. Soon he was serving Anchor and Sierra Nevada from California, then BridgePort Brewing opened in Portland in 1984. . . . The new breweries kept coming and Younger kept finding ways to showcase the most promising.

Meanwhile, publicans from across the country were always showing up at the Horse Brass, and Younger freely offered advice. In fact, he became part of a group of bar owners who called themselves the Publican National Committee. Both they and their establishments — Tom Peters (Monk’s Cafe-Philadelphia), Dave Keene (The Toronado-San Francisco), Chris Black (The Falling Rock-Denver) and Matt Bonney and Matt VandenBerghe (Brouwer’s-Seattle, Washington — are well known, yet they only hint at the extent of his influence.

For instance, when Deven Black opened the North Star Pub in Manhattan — now long gone, but an early beachhead for better beer in New York City — he consulted Younger. The list goes on and on. In the coming days those who Younger will tell endearing stories and reflect on how desperately they will miss him. In the coming years many more will hoist a glass of better beer and perhaps somebody will remind them Don Younger is one of the reasons they can.

More reading:

Celebrator Beers News interview (video).
Imbibe maganize profile.


Foothills acquires Carolina Beer brands

The Triad area Business Journal reports Winston-Salem based Foothills Brewing has acquired the beer division of Carolina Beer & Beverage of Mooresville.

The acquisition includes the company’s equipment, trademarks and brands (the very popular Carolina Blonde and a variety of Cottonwood Ales).

Foothills Brewing will quadruple its brewing capacity and add 10 sales and production employees over the next year.

“We consider this strategic decision as very positive for the future of both our companies,” said Jamie Bartholomaus, president and brewmaster of Foothills Brewing, in a statement. “Carolina Beer wanted production of its beloved brands to be in North Carolina, and we are glad to accommodate.”


Win a trip to ‘Brew Your Cask Off’ festival

All About Beer Magazine is giving away a trip for two to the Brew Your Cask Off festival March 5 in Atlanta.

Sweetwater Brewing and the magazine have rounded up 80 guest brewers, each creating a one-of-a-kind cask ale and competing to win either the “Best Cask Ale” or the “Biggest Loser.”

AABM asks contest entrants to write about what type of cask they would brew in 300 words or less. The winner receives a free trip for two (two nights of lodging included) to the Brew Your Cask Off festival. In addition, the winner and guest will be celebrity judges for the competition.

Entries will be judged on entertainment value, imagination, artistic abilities, historical accuracies, whatever criteria “strikes us at the office when we all sit down to decide the lucky winner.”

All entries must be received by Feb. 14, and the winner will be announced Feb. 18.

The magazine has posted an entry form at its website.


Local ale returns to Jefferson’s Monticello

The Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center in Monticello is teaming with a Virginia brewery to produce Monticello Reserve Ale.

Nearby Starr Hill Brewery will brew the beer. The partners say the recipe, which will include wheat and corn, is based on what was consumed regularly at Jefferson’s Monticello home. Brewing beer was among the plantation’s important activities, and the beer was one of the “table liquors” served with meals.

The ale will make its public debut at the center’s museum shop on Feb. 21.


New Belgium adds more East Coast markets

New Belgium Brewing, maker of Fat Tire Amber Ale, has announced plans to expand the brewery’s market territory along the eastern seaboard. The Colorado brewer will open Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. in September of 2011. The added territory will bring the nation’s third-largest craft brewer to 29 states.

“We had significant expansion in 2009 when we added five states,” Joe Menetre, New Belgium sales director, said for a press release. “We wanted to make sure we had the capacity to keep up with that demand, so we expanded our fermentation cellar to address future growth as well.”

New Belgium currently distributes its beers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


UK beer sales tumble; pubs hit hardest

Taxes are being blamed as beer sales in the United Kingdom, particularly in bars and pubs, continue to fall.

Total sales were off 3.9% in 2010, while pub sales tumbled 7.5%. Trade in supermarkets and stores rose .6%.

The totals indicate 333 million fewer pints were sold in pubs in 2010. On-trade beer sales have now fallen 20.2%.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of British Beer & Pub Association, said the figures revealed the government was “cooking the golden goose” because lower sales meant the government collected £257m less in tax revenue.

She called for plans to further boost taxes to be abandoned. “Huge tax rises are having a big impact on beer sales,” she said. “The government should abandon plans for above inflation hikes in beer tax in the budget, as further rises are simply unsustainable.”


Importer acquires Ontario’s King Brewery

Beer Barons, an importer of premium beers to Canada, has acquired King Brewery, a craft brewery based in Nobleton, Ontario, according to DBR.

The brewery has been in operation since 2002, and is known of its pilsner. King Brewery founder Phil DiFonzo will remain in his role as brewmaster.

DiFonzo said in order for the brewery to realize its full potential in Canada, it wanted to bring even more expertise to the table, and the management at Beer Barons will provide it with the necessary support to exponentially grow the business.

King Brewery’s lineup includes King Pilsner, King Dark lager, King Vienna and seasonally produces King Pilsbock.


‘Small’ brewer just got a lot bigger

The board of directors of the Brewers Association has voted to change the BA’s designation of “small” in its definition of a “craft brewer,” boosting the limit from two million barrels annually to six million.

According to a press release:

In the BA’s craft brewer definition, the term “small” now refers to any independent brewery that produces up to 6 million barrels of traditional beer. The previous definition capped production at 2 million barrels. The changed definition is currently in effect and can be reviewed on the BA website, The change to the bylaws went into effect December 20, 2010.

In the Brewers Association’s bylaws, two classes of membership (Professional Packaging Brewers and Associate membership) have been redefined with a qualifying barrelage of 6 million barrels versus 2 million barrels.

The association cited several reasons for the change, including the recognition that “small” is a descriptive term relative to the overall size of the industry.

“Thirty-four years have passed since the original small brewers tax differential defined small brewers as producing less than 2 million barrels,” said Nick Matt, chair of the Brewers Association board of directors and chairman and CEO of F.X. Matt Brewing Company. “A lot has changed since 1976. The largest brewer in the U.S. has grown from 45 million barrels to 300 million barrels of global beer production.”

Matt added, “The craft brewer definition and bylaws now more accurately reflect and align with our government affairs efforts.” On the legislative front in 2010, the Brewers Association supported H.R. 4278/S. 3339, which sought to update the cap on an excise tax differential for small brewers to 6 million barrels per year in production for their first 2 million barrels.

The industry’s largest craft brewer, The Boston Beer Company, is poised to become the first craft brewer to surpass 2 million barrels of traditional beer within the next few years. Loss of The Boston Beer Company’s production in craft brewing industry statistics would inaccurately reflect on the craft brewing industry’s market share.

In addition to Boston Beer, the current growth trajectory of other sizable BA member breweries places them on a course approaching the 2 million barrel threshold in the coming years.

Boston Beer accounted for 20.2% of “craft beer” sales in 2009.

“With this change to the craft brewer definition and BA bylaws, statistics will continue to accurately reflect the 30-year growth of market share for craft brewed beer,” Matt said for the press release. “Brewers Association statistics on craft brewers will continue to keep pace with the growth of the industry.

“Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.”