The man in the photo was my great-great grandfather, Johann Georg Beck, from Aichelberg-Aichwald (near Stuttgart), Germany.
"Grandpa George" came to the US in 1864 as a teenager with his widowed mother and siblings. He joined in a number of business enterprises with his wealthy older brother, all while continuing his father's Old Country vocation as a farmer, cider miller and wine maker.
George and his wife Anna, a Norwegian native, had 13 children. He served in the militia, was elected to the town council, played in the community band, tended his trees and fields, raised dogs, and generally lived a long, full and interesting life.
When the country went dry in 1920, he was forced into semi-retirement, though he continued to produce cider and vinegar at his mill. Occasionally those beverages pushed the limits of prohibition, forcing George to unapologetically defend his livelihood in court. He was not afraid to speak his opinion, nor did he let people push him around. Fortunately, his advanced age and long-standing reputation in the community kept him out of serious trouble.
Yet, from all accounts, he was a kind, gentle, self-confident man who valued his family, his country, and his faith. He offered help to anyone in need--including taking a thousand mile journey on foot, leading wagons and oxen in deep winter snow through four states to deliver needed supplies to stranded settlers. No kidding. The guy was pretty amazing.
George outlived his first wife (my grandmother) and married another; and he remained healthy and active until his death at 85, just months before the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
On April 11, 2004 I began tracking (by brewery, name, etc., on a spreadsheet) every different beer I tried (cans, bottles, samples, etc.). The first on my list was, appropriately, a bottle of Beck's (the real stuff, then still coming from Germany, just like my great-grandfather did). As of 10/14/19, the number of unique beers on my list has reached 2,329
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