ROSE ANN FINKEL
Vice President, Founder & Owner
Rose Ann was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to East Coast parents. She was introduced to the pleasures of the table early in her childhood. To this day, she continues to prepare her Aunt Elaine’s spicy gumbo. Her love of potables and comestibles led her into several exciting food & beverage businesses before co-founding The Pike Brewing Company with her husband Charles in 1989.
Charles Finkel was a wine merchant who had recently moved to Houston when they met. They were married in December of 1968 and it was under his tutelage that she learned about the pleasures of wine, beer, spirits, and the art of the table. They traveled widely in France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, England, Scotland, and the United States, where they collaborated with vintners, brewers, distillers and specialty food makers to help design and market their products. Their travels took them to Asia and Africa, as well; in each locale, they had the opportunity to experience classic restaurants, hotels, pubs, and other dining establishments—the equivalent of earning a doctorate in cuisine.
Founded in 1969, Bon-Vin was their first business venture together. At that time there was little awareness of table wine in the United States so Bon-Vin was the first to offer wines from small, family owned wineries, coining the term ‘boutique’ for them in an article that appeared in “Wines and Vines Magazine” in 1970. Some of the wineries they represented were Ste. Michelle (later called Chateau Ste. Michelle), from Washington State, Dry Creek, Sutter Home, Ficklin, Fetzer, Kenwood, Nichelini, and ZD, from California.
Bon-Vin was acquired by the owners of Ste. Michelle in 1974. That year, together with their son, Andrew, they moved to Seattle where Charles helped build Chateau Ste. Michelle. Daughter, Amy, was born there, as was Rose Ann’s next food venture, “Truffles,” a specialty food store and delicatessen in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood. With two other women, they opened the “Gourmet Grocery” in March 1977. It was one of Seattle’s early “women-owned” businesses, and the first store in the U.S. to import fresh Perigord truffles. They also stocked hundreds of mustards and other specialty foods, offered a large selection of wine and beer, cooked their own corned beef and pastrami, and catered to food lovers in a neighborhood filled with well-traveled, well-educated locals, not far from the University of Washington. Truffles was rated one of the “top five specialty food stores” in the nation by Time Magazine in a feature section entitled ‘Love in the Kitchen,’ published in 1977.
In 1978 the Finkel’s avocation, the love of beer, became their vocation with the founding of Merchant du Vin. The company was the first to introduce craft beer from family-owned, European, and American breweries throughout the United States. With Merchant du Vin they pioneered craft beer from each of the classic brewing styles in America and throughout the world. They were the first to introduce the beers of Belgium to the U.S. and the first to offer craft beer from England and Germany. Rose Ann served as the Chief Operating Officer, working with customers to help them market their products. She produced the first ‘beer menus’ and ‘drink lists’ used in beer marketing, creating an educational tool for restaurants to train their staff and teach their customers about the new craft beer tastes. Donning her creative hat, she was responsible for naming some iconic brands like Celebrator, a double bock from the Ayinger Brewery in Bavaria, and Winter Welcome, a holiday beer brewed by the Samuel Smith Brewery in Yorkshire. When it comes to label design, she “gets to choose colors.”
In 1989 Rose Ann and Charles decided to further immerse themselves in beer by founding The Pike Place Brewery in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market—a local treasure devoted to food. At the same time they acquired Liberty Malt Supply, a retailer, that had been offering ingredients, equipment, and advice to home brewers and wine makers throughout the Northwest since 1921. The brewery grew quickly, receiving recognition and acclaim from local beer drinkers and international beer experts alike. A full color photo of Pike Pale Ale and Pike XXXXX Extra Stout appeared in “Beer, A Connoisseurs Guide to the World’s Best Beers,” the year that they opened. In 1996, Pike moved a half block uphill to its current location between Post Alley and 1st Avenue and Pike and Union. With the move, they simplified the name to The Pike Brewery. The location, on the side of the hill, takes advantage of gravity flow, something that they learned from the European breweries that they once represented. In addition to significantly increasing Pike’s brewing capacity, they opened the now-famous Pike Pub and Pike Microbrewery Museum. In January 1997, both the importing company and the brewery were sold, but eight years later in May 2006, they missed their ‘baby’ and thus re-acquired Pike Brewery and Pike Pub.
During their sabbatical, they devoted their energies to causes that were important to them. One is science: Charles and Rose Ann joined the board of The Weizmann institute of Science, attended their global gatherings, hosted events in Seattle, and did what they could to raise money and awareness for this post graduate-only, 100% scholarship, research institution in Rehevot, Israel. They still continue to support this great cause and recently hosted the first American “Science on Tap” in Pike’s Microbrewery Museum. In 1998 they became active in the Slow Food movement and traveled to Italy to participate in Salone del Gusto in Turin and at the University of Bologna where they judged the Slow Food Awards. They served artisan, American cheese at ‘Cheese’ in Bra in September 2001 because the cheese makers who were planning to be there were unable to fly. They became the leaders of the Seattle Slow Food convivium.
Rose Ann is an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization of women leaders in food, beverage, and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy, and philanthropy. She contributed the section on beer to their cookbook, “Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier: At Home with the Women Who Shape the Way We Eat and Drink.”
This coming October, Rose Ann and Charles are being honored with the 2015 Angelo Pellegrini Award in recognition of their contributions to the world of food and drink.