Pike founder, Charles Finkel was born to a family of food lovers in New York City. The same year, Preston Sturgis directed the Hollywood hit, The Lady Eve, a hilarious comedy about the love life of Charlie Pike, scion to the Pike Brewing Company fortune. Charlie couldn't remember whether pale ale, brown ale, porter and stout were bottom or top fermented - he was more interested in rare snakes and beautiful women. The movie featured Pike Pale, "the Ale that won for Yale." In local bars, people were clamoring for it. Finkel didn't see the movie until beer anthropologist, Alan Eames, told him about it years later!
Charles moved with his family to Oklahoma which was a "dry" state until 1959. Only beers under 3.2% alcohol were legal. During his youth, Charles’ favorites were Greisedick (he liked the name) from St. Louis, Missouri and Stag, brewed in Oklahoma City. By his senior year in college, prohibition had been voted out and Charles managed a liquor store, leading to a life of good spirits, wonderful wine and the best beers.
Finkel experiences Europe, exposed to many beautiful things, including ales in England, fruit beers in Belgium and pils, dunkels and dopplebocks in Bavaria.
Rose Ann Martin meets Charlie Finkel at a wine tasting that he is conducting. Over shared Shiner's they discovered they both love beer and each other. Their partnership leads to Bon Vin, America's first boutique wine distributor.
Bon Vin is sold to the owners of St. Michelle Winery. Finkels move to Seattle. Charles is responsible for helping design Chateau Ste. Michelle; marketing; and sales . Visits to the Pike Place Market became a favorite activity. The same year, a petition to demolish the historic market replacing it with a parking lot was met with significant resistance from people who cherished the unique cultural and gastronomic icon and the market was saved.
With partners, Rose Ann opens Truffles in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood. Time Magazine names Truffles “One of America’s five best specialty stores.” The gourmet grocery/deli specialized in artisan foods, wines, and beers.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel founded a second importing company, in part "according to Charles" to satisfy their taste for authentic beers. At the time, the United States had 40 breweries, only one made beer according to the Rheinheitsgebot, the world's oldest food purity law. With an idea of marketing different tastes in beer, like different tastes in wine, Charles visited more than a dozen independent American breweries seeking marketing and distribution arrangements. He discovered that most small breweries copied the big ones brewing with corn syrup and rice filler (adjunct) chemicals and additives. Charles decided to market beers of his own design using other people’s breweries.
Finkel, who majored in design in college, became the agent for D.G. Yuengling of Potsville, PA, America's oldest brewery (for states west of the Mississippi). While he did not change the beers, he did choose labels from the brewery’s early archives.
Finkel launches Cold Spring Export, from one of only two remaining Minnesota breweries. In doing so he became America's first modern "contract brewer." Finkel specified that the beer had to meet Rheinheitsgebot standards, created the recipe, designed the label and sold it nationally. Years later, he did the same for the August Schell Brewery of New Ulm, Minnesota.
Frustrated by the lack of great American beers, Charles and Rose Ann set a goal of marketing great beers of each of the classic brewing styles and educating the American beer drinker about them. To do so quickly, the only choice was to concentrate on classics from Europe. The same year, the Finkel’s discovered Michael Jackson's seminal World Guide to Beer first published in 1978. Inspired and informed, Charles and Rose Ann became the exclusive agent for some of Europe's finest independent brewers including Ayinger, Lindemans, Melbourn Bros, Orval, Pinkus, Samuel Smith and Traquair House. Their's was the first company to offer a range of Belgian beers; to work with British brewers to create long forgotten styles like Oatmeal Stout, Porter, Imperial Stout and Scotch Ale; and to repackage classic Bavarian dopplebock under a private label that eventually became the Ayinger Brewery's world-wide brand. They introduced many people including many early craft brewers, to the glories of great beers.
Writing about Charles in Beers, A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best, Christopher Finch writes "No beer supplier in the world represents such a catholic range of beers, and in each range is a masterpiece, or something remarkably close to it."
AFTER PIKE FOUNDING
The Finkels talked of creating their own brewery for years. Working with the world's greatest brewers was inspiring. Wanting a location in the famous Pike Place Farmers Market, they convinced John Farias, the owner of Liberty Malt Supply Company, to sell them the business with the idea of creating a microbrewery as a way to show home brewers how beer is brewed. Liberty, founded in 1921, was originally upstairs in the main section of the market, but had moved to the LaSalle Hotel Building after the space had been vacated by a small winery.
The Finkels opened The Pike Place Brewery in the Pike Place Public Market. Well, not exactly "in" the market, but “under" the market in the La Salle Hotel at 1432 Western Avenue. It was one of the country’s smallest breweries with the tallest smoke stack. A four barrel copper kettle was custom made by Seattle's Alaska Copper and Bass Company and though tiny, the brewery was state of the art. From the beginning the goal was to brew world class ale to accompany great food. The Finkels wanted the beers of Pike to be the equal or better, and in better condition than any that they represented from Europe. Charles and Rose Ann favored beers that went well with food, especially the classic British brewing styles like Ales, Porters, Stouts, Scotch Ales and Barley Wines. There was great anticipation among the Seattle brewing community as a little red and white tile brewery in the lobby of a former bawdy house took shape. Articles appeared in newspapers and posters announcing the brewery opening and inviting friends and beer lovers to participate in the "World's Shortest Non-Motorized Uphill Parade", from the brewery to Cutter’s Bay House at the corner of Pike Place and Western Avenue were distributed to local pubs and retailers. The opening day weather was as good as the beer. Leading the parade was John Farias pushing a keg in a silver two wheeled hand truck. Following were the Finkels, Franz and Angela Inselkammer from Bavaria's Ayinger Brewery, Pike brewer, Jason Parker, a host of TV and newspaper photographers and writers, and almost 100 beer lovers. Joining the group was a llama from The Herb Farm, a walking geoduck from the Seattle Sheraton Hotel, dogs, a cat and an oyster. Everyone ) perhaps not the oyster, which was eaten, and the llama) sensed that they were making history. The premier pint of Pike Pale was tapped by Braü Franz Inselkammer, Braü Von Aying. In the weeks and months that followed, Pike gained a following among the growing rank of beer lovers, became available at some of the finest restaurants, hotels and pubs in Washington and developed a loyal following. In addition to draft, Pike Pale and XXXXX Stout were offered in beautiful swing top bottles which required a deposit. They were so popular that consumers didn't return them and for practical reasons, the brewery switched to 12 and 22oz. bottles. The labels were created by Charles, inspired by views of the entrance to the art deco market. The original logo was cut out of a stencil. He later switched to a computer to do the designs, but always retained the stenciled look. As soon as the brewery opened, the bottles were featured in a full page color photograph in Beer, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World's Best, Beer by Christopher Finch. The beautiful coffee (beer) table book was published in 1989 by Abbeyville, the country’s finest art book publishers.
Fal Allen joins Pike as head brewer. Algernon "Fal" Allen began as a home brewer. He brewed at Pike until 1996, creating some of the great Pike recipes Pike IPA introduced.
Pike Kilt Lifter, a scotch style ale made with peated malt was introduced.
Liberty Malt is expanded and moved next door, and 1451 Western Ave. A small quantity of Old Bawdy Barley wine was brewed.
When Michael Jackson was asked in a newspaper interview by Roger Protz "After tasting and retasting all of the world's finest, which brews would The Beer Hunter choose for a desert isle --- which eight beers would he take with him in bibulous isolation?" From the United States--the products of the tiny Pike Place Brewery in Seattle. Of Pike's beers, he said "In the days when most ales were dark brown, a translucent russet counted as ‘pale’ This is a pale ale in that traditional, robust style, full of nutty malt flavors, with fruit and balancing hoppy dryness; a wonderfully appetizing beer that slips down like cream." Pike brews an authentic 18th century Spelt beer for an exhibit of Flemish Old Masters at the Seattle Art Museum. Birra Perfetto, made with Oregano; Auld Acquaintance with orange peel; Cerveza Rosanna with fresh chilies; oyster stout with 'crassosterea gigas' oyster liquor were each hand crafted.
Microbrew Appreciation society elects Charles to Microbrewers Hall of Fame "For your outstanding contribution to the NW Microbrew industry."
Bill Owners, beer writer and artist describes the Pike beers as "the finest in the Northwest.”
Pike XXXXX Stout places number one in Tacoma's Engine House Stout Bout.
The British Independent Newspaper features Pike in an article about food tourism in Seattle written by Michael Jackson.
British Beer writer Roger Protz names Pike Porter as "the finest in America."
Pike Pale is brewed under license at Catamount Brewery in Vermont.
Old Bawdy Barley Wine wins bronze medal at Great American Beer Festival.
Pike brews Old Companion to commemorate Michael Jackson 50th birthday.
To accommodate demand, the Finkels decide to move Pike to a larger location to include a brew pub. Potential locations are considered.
Pike Pale wins Bronze Medal and Old Bawdy silver at GABF
Pike Pale Ale tops Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale at California Beer Festival.
Real Estate maven Tom Leavitt becomes president and partner of Pike, charged with identifying a location for expansion. New location, adjoining Pike Place Market is choosen. Name is changed from Pike Place to Pike Brewing to avoid legal problems with the Pike Place Market authority. Pike ales are contract brewed in Vermont and Minnesota and sold through the MdV sales network nationally.
Pike and Liberty move from Western Avenue to 1415 1st Avenue.
Seattle Microbrewery Museum is created downstairs from Liberty Malt, at the back entrance to the Pike Pub.
Charlie Papazian calls Liberty Malt Supply the finest home brew shop in the country. Pike receives three gold medals at World Beer Championships for Pale, XXXXX Stout and IPA.
Pike Pale receives a gold Medal, California Beer Festival.
Pike Voted Best Microbrewed Beer - Members Vote, Microbrew Appreciation Society.
Writing in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beer expert Stephen Beaumont describes Pike as "One of the ten best beers in America."
In America's Best Beers, Pike beers receive the highest ratings. Scott Griffin rates Pike, "Outstanding beers, I have the highest regard for Charles as a creative force and educator in the craft beer category. In the same book, co-author Christopher Finch writes, "Pike Beers - whatever their gravity - have a rich, creamy, malt character, always balanced by generous hopping.
Randy Moser, beer writer and home brew expert names Pike among 11 of America's most innovative beers. He says "It has a knock-you-down fullness seldom seen in British beers."
Bruce Raymond assumes job as Pike Publican.
Pike wins a Platinum and two Gold medals at World Beer Championships.
Pike IPA was described by beer specialist David Brockington as "A well balanced, subtle ale which was clearly crafted with excellence. I would drive across town to sample it on successive days.
In the Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer, Michael Jackson rates Pike Pale and Stout. Of XXXXX he says "Very soft, smooth, toasty, dryish and even more delicious."
Charles is presented the Midwest International Beer Exposition Lifetime Achievement Award at a Legends of Beer Dinner in Chicago by Michael Jackson - sharing the award, Anthony Fuller of Fuller Brewery, London and John Hall of Goose Island Brewery, Chicago.
Gary Marx becomes Pike's Executive Chef.
Tom Schleis of the Northwest Beer Journal writes of our IPA. I recently tasted Pike IPA and was nothing short of amazed. Generally, with an IPA, the predominant impact is the hops. With Pike IPA, the flavor of the brew predominates over even the hops. Now don't make any mistake, this is a highly hopped beer, but it has a flavor that hits you that almost defies explanation. This is a MUST TRY beer!
The Pike Pub is named the best local brew pub.
Finkel's buy back Levitt's interest in Pike.
Contract brewing is discontinued.
The Finkel's sell Pike Brewing, Liberty Malt Supply Company and Merchant du Vin Corp.
Steve Sinser becomes president of Pike.
Charles Finkel, no longer in the beer business, receives the annual recognition award form the Institute of Brewing Studies at their national conference in Portland.
Rich Hamilton becomes president of Pike.
Kim Brusco appointed head brewer.
Liberty Malt Supply is closed.
Pike beers now sold in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and Utah.
Naughty Nellie Golden Ale is introduced on draft and in six packs.
Pike Celebrates 10 years of brewing with the introduction of a XXXXX Stout as a seasonal offering.
Pike installs bio filter on roof. In doing so history was made as it is the first brewery in the country to do so. The brewery exhaust, a glorious aroma of malt and hops are filtered through natural materials to be environmentally correct, and all but eliminates the aroma to satisfy the neighbors.
Pike Pub is voted best brewpub by City Search.
Pike Pub is voted best brew pub by Where Magazine readers for a second time. Pike is Zagat rated.
City Search lists Pike as "best local brewpub"
Andy Walls joins Pike in sales.
Bootleg Brown Ale is introduced.
Pike Brewery reaches a milestone of 7,200 barrels. In number of tap handles, it is number 14 of almost 80 breweries in Washington State.
Pike Naughty Nellie wins gold medal at 2005 Spring Beer and Wine Fest, Portland, OR
Pike XXXXX Stout named Best of the Nortwest/Pacific in the Stout category at the category at the 2004-2005 United States Beer Tasting Championship.
Pike Pale Ale was named Best of the Northwest/Pacific in Bitter/ESB category at category at the 2004-2005 United States Beer Tasting Championship.
Pike Auld Acquaintance named Best of the Northwest/Pacific in the Strong/Old Ale United States Beer Tasting Championship.
At the Craft Brewery Conference in Seattle in April. Pike is site of many tastings, parties and get togethers. The Rolling Boil Brew's band preformed. Guests included the head brewers of Belgium's Orval, Westmalle, St. Bernardus & Rodenbach plus many top American craft brewers.
The Finkel Family buys back the brewery from Merchant du Vin. Deal is closed on May 1. The two are now separate companies.
Charles Finkel becomes president of his company, for the first time in 11 years.
Rose Ann Finkel becomes vice president.
Articles about the surprise takeover appear in the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Seattle Times, and in newspapers and magazines internationally.
Pike menus are changed to reflect a philosophy of quality and sustainability.
Drew Cluley, assistant head brewer for five years, becomes head brewer. Dean Mochizuki becomes second head brewer.
Patti Baker joins Pike as bookkeeper and office manager.
Under the direction of Andrew Finkel, renovation begins including a new entrance bar, reception stand, Museum Bar on two levels for private events and restaurant expansion, kitchen expansion and relocated office and restrooms.
Bruce Raymond leaves Pike to start his own business. Company presents Bruce with a new bike to thank him for 10 years service.
Gold Medal winning Bootleg Brown ale is re-formulated and re-christened Pike Tandem.
Pike XXXXX Extra Stout is re-introduced using the original recipe.
Pike bottled and draft products are repackaged under Charles' direction.
Family owned is added to announce the new/old ownership.
Charles and Rose Ann present Pike beer to the Great Canadian Beer Festival.
Charles gives the commencement address at the Seattle Central Community College Culinary Arts program.
Pike moves into its own warehouse at 1255 Harrison in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Pike introduces Monk's Uncle Triple at Brouwers Cafe.
Pike teams up with Seattle Art Museum to be the official beer for the opening of The Olympic Sculpture Park and the new SAM.
Pike re-introduces Old Bawdy Barley Wine, after an eight year absence. Old Bawdy 2006 is well received at The Alaska, Tornado, and Hard Liver Barley Wine Festivals, presented by Drew Cluley and Andy Walls. 500 cases are bottled, designed to age.
Pike Old Bawdy 2006 wins gold medal in American Barley Wine category at The North American Beer Awards.
Pike IPA and Pike XXXXX Extra Stout earn silver medals at The North American Beer Awards.
In the "most ambient" section of Seattle Magazine Best Restaurant Issue; April, April 2007 Seattle Magazine Annual Best Restaurants Issue under "Best Ambience," the editor said "Truly a renaissance for a Seattle favorite."
Bicyclists of the Month awarded to Charles and Rose Ann. A half page interview in The Cascade Courier addresses significant subjects, beer and bikes.
Charles judged number one among "10 Beer Innovators"
A story and photograph of Charles at Pike appeared in the July/August issue of Draft Magazine by Don Russell. It says "You can’t understate the impact of his quest. The exotic flavors of Merchant du Vin’s imports later influenced a whole generation of craft brewers. Today, dozens of other companies, following the path that Finkel cut, import hundreds of even more obscure wonders. Just take a look at the takeout selection at your favorite deli and you get an idea of how a wine merchant, of all people, changed the American beer scene."
Brewer Drew Cluley brews FSB (Finkel Special Bitter) to coinside with the 20th Anniversary of Latona Tavern, one of the earliest of Seattle's famous ale houses which was founded by Bob Brenlin. Latona's version is called BSB (Bob's special bitter).
Andrew Scott (Drew) Gillespie is named Pike Pub General Manager.
In July, Drew Cluley is invited by the Smithsonian to Washington, D.C. to present Pike Beers.
In the Sept. All About Beer Magazine, author Roger Protz selects Pike IPA as, “one of five best IPAs in U.S. and among the 10 Best IPAs in the World."
N.W. Brewing News readers name Pike Kilt Lifter “Best N.W. Scotch Ale” two years running.
Seattle Magazine names The Pike Pub microbrewery museum, “Best place to learn about beer.”
For the website of Charles Finkel, founder of The Pike Brewing Company, please click here.