BREWERY GEMS PROFILES:
William Biner - Brewer
BIOGRAPHY of WILLIAM H. BINER
The following biography was provided by, Joseph Fulton, the grandson of
“Billy” Biner was born in Boulder, Montana Territory, on April 16,
1889. He was the fifth of nine children for Theophil Biner and Juliana
Truffer, immigrants from Randa, Switzerland.
Theophil Biner was
a builder and an acquaintance of Leopold Schmidt, founder of
Olympia Brewery. He worked briefly for
Schmidt in Tumwater, Washington from 1903-1905. In October of 1905 he
purchased the Phoenix Brewery in the copper boomtown of Phoenix, British
Columbia. Theophil became president of the company and his sons Albert
and Dan ran the plant.
His younger son, Billy,
became a boxer, eventually earning the title of welterweight champion of
British Columbia. In 1911 Theo Biner sent his sons, Billy and Gustave, to
the Hantke Brewery School in Milwaukee, where they graduated
in 1912. Billy then became the brewmaster for the Phoenix Brewery and
as an aspiring artist he also designed all of their beer labels. During
this time he gave up boxing for curling where he found similar success.
married Harriet Lynch, the daughter of diamond drilling supervisor Dan
Lynch in 1914. As prohibition approached Billy wrote articles for the
local paper espousing the benefits of beer. The Phoenix Brewery folded
because the mines failed and the brewery machinery was moved lock, stock
and barrel to Mexicali, Mexico to build their Mexicali Brewery.
After a brief stint with the Orange Crush Bottling
Company in Los Angeles, Billy served as the brewmaster for the Mexicali
Brewing Company from 1924 through 1929.
In 1926 the brewery was heavily damaged by an earthquake, but the
Biners rebuilt their brewery. When the family sold the brewery, Dan Biner, Billy’s
brother, remained as engineer
Billy returned to Canada in 1929 and was a brewer in the towns of
Merritt and Princeton, BC. From 1929 through 1936 he served as
brewmaster for the
Kootenay Breweries, Ltd. in both Nelson and Trail, BC.
In 1936 Biner moved to
Ellensburg, Washington, where he became brewmaster
at the Ellensburg Brewing Co. The company was
foreclosed on and Biner, along with two other
employees, saved the company. In October of 1937,
Company was incorporated with William Biner as president and
brewmaster. Unfortunately, the WWII was time rationing &
restrictions crippled the struggling brewery, and in December of 1943,
the company was dissolved.
Biner relocated to
seattle and worked as a brewer
Sicks' Century Brewery
in Seattle and
Silver Springs Brewery in Port Orchard, WA, before moving on to Pocatello,
where he ran the East Idaho Brewing Co. until 1946. This was to be his
last position as a brewer.
He purchased the
Leipzig Tavern in Portland, Oregon in 1946, and operated it until 1952,
when he moved to Los Angeles to work for the North American Aircraft
Company. He died of a heart attack on January 5, 1953.
Billy and Harriet
Biner had four children; Betty, Bill, Bob and Fredericka (Fritzi). Bill
and Bob Biner both worked for their father in Ellensburg before becoming
members of the US Air Corps during WW II. Together they flew over 100
missions and are the subjects of the book
Brewmaster’s Bombardier and Belly Gunner.
Although none of
Billy’s children or grandchildren became professional brewers, his
great-grandson, Charlton Fulton, is the brewer at McMenamins Mill Creek
Brewery near Seattle, Washington.
Billy Biner and his wife Harriet, along with son
Bill, are buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles."
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