Hoosiers Who Deserve to Have a Beer Made in Their Honor, Part 1

Hoosiers Who Deserve to Have a Beer Made in Their Honor, Part 1

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

There are several subjects I love and strive to learn more about – beer of course, science, Shakespeare (the plays not the sonnets), history, and classic films. I especially like mixing the subjects – history of science in Indiana, science of beer, and classic film actors and directors from Indiana.

I’m proud of my state and its history. Hundreds of Hoosiers have been famous on a national or international level, and even more have contributed significantly to human progress in science, business, public service and the arts without popular recognition. Would you believe that between the years of 1852 and 1916, no fewer than a dozen Hoosiers were on national tickets for President or Vice President? Nobel Laureates from Indiana or who have studied/taught in Indiana are numerous, as are some of the most influential directors and actors of all time. In the first five decades of the 20th century Hoosier authors had more best selling books than any other state except New York, and the difference between those two states was microscopic.

Even better, bits of US history that make our country what it is (from classics to pop culture) were born or made possible by Indiana and Hoosiers. The physical appearance of 007 James Bond? Based on a Hoosier. The Gorton’s Fisherman for 14 years on TV commercials? He was a Hoosier. The voice of Droopy Dog, the inventor of the breathalyzer, the first American to win a Nobel Prize in Economics – all Hoosiers.

Craft beer is all about community and sense of place. Craft beer is forward looking, but it also holds the past dear as history contributes to that sense of place. To aid in this, we should consider the many Hoosiers that deserve to have a beer named for them and their accomplishments. What’s more, the cities and towns of Indiana have craft breweries that correspond to the places where these Hoosiers of note were born, raised, and worked. Over a good long time (because there are so many of them), lets hook up amazing Indianans and a brewery or breweries that should develop a beer in their honor.

Here’s the first set:

Basketball star Chuck Taylor – yes, there really was a person named Chuck Taylor (given name was Charles). He was born outside Nashville, IN in 1901 and played high school basketball in Columbus, IN. He was made captain as a sophomore and was a two time Indiana All Star.

Chuck played some semi-professional basketball, but his career really took off when he was hired by Converse to sell its rubber-soled shoe designed just for basketball, the All Star. Chuck made many suggestions to improve the shoe, including the patch on the side to protect the ankle. That’s where they put the big star. Just a year or two later, they added Chuck’s signature to the patch, and from then on they were known as Chuck Taylors.

Chuck traveled the country giving clinics locally to help sell the shoes, and was the player manager for the Converse All Stars, the professional team that Converse put together to help shoes. He had a stint as a physical fitness instructor for the armed forces during WWII, but the rest of his career was made selling and improving the Converse All Star shoe, which he helped propel to the #1 selling basketball shoe from the late 1920s to the 1970s and the official shoe of Olympic basketball until 1986. He retired in 1968, was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame the same year, and died in 1969.

Now that Quaff On! Brewing has moved their operations to Hard Truth Hills in Nashville, it’s about time they made a beer for Chuck Taylor. Perhaps they could make an All Star IPA, or a Chuck-ale.

Nobel Laureate Harold Urey – Harold’s early life was tough because his father died just six years after his birth in 1893 in Walkerton, IN, but he overcame his challenges. Harold attended Amish school schools early, and then went to Kendallville High School and Earlham College when it was recognized that he was academically gifted. He got a BA and BS from U. Montana, and was awarded a PhD in 1923 from U. Cal-Berkeley studying the ionization states of ideal gases.

Harold spent time studying in Europe and then upon returning to US, he wrote one of the first books in English on quantum mechanics. Working at Columbia, he discovered the deuterium isotope of hydrogen and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery in 1934. Deuterium is what the Nazis would use to try to make a nuclear bomb in WWII. He became an expert on isotope separation, so he was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project.

After the war, he switched to cosmo-chemistry, especially the idea that life on Earth began chemically. He was half of the famous Miller-Urey experiment that supposedly produced amino acids from a primitive environment and lightning. It was later disproven, but not for several decades. He died in 1981 and is buried in Fairfield Cemetery in Dekalb County.

Koontz Lake Brewing is located in Walkerton, so it would seem perfect for them to make a beer in his honor.

Actor Dean Jagger – You may not recognize the name, but every Christmas you see him in a classic film. Dean was was born in Lima, OH in 1903, but he did a lot of growing up in Greencastle, IN where he later attended Wabash College. He worked as a teacher in Chicago, where he started to take acting lessons. He moved to Hollywood, did one silent film (with Mary Astor), and then started getting parts in talkies.

His best parts were in Twelve O’ Clock High (nominated for an Oscar), The Honeymoon Machine (with Hoosier Steve McQueen), Bad Day at Black Rock (with Spencer Tracy), The Robe (with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons), and, of course, as retired General Waverly in White Christmas (with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye). He even did a movie with Bruce Li late in his career, called Game of Death.Dean died in 1991.

Wasser Brewing is in Greencastle. Chris, why not make a winter warmer for Dean Jagger and his role in White Christmas?

Designer Roy Halston Frowick – Halston, as he was best known (I bet his career wouldn’t have gone so well if he was known by just Frowick), was born in Des Moines, IA, in 1932, but grew up in Evansville. He learned to sew from his grandmother at a young age and made hats and things for family and their friends.

He graduated from Bosse High School and went to college at IU for a short time before attending the Art Institute of Chicago. He started as a milliner (hat maker), and became famous when it became known that he was designer of first lady Jackie Kennedy’s pill box hat that she wore to her husband’s inauguration.

When hats fell out of style, he moved on to designing clothes. Actress Angelica Huston was one of his “Halstonettes,” his favorite group of models. He later lent his name to Max Factor for a line of fragrances, from which earned more money than he ever did with his own clothing line. He did make $1 billion selling a line of affordable clothes to JC Penny, but it cost him his line in upper crusty stores. He died in 1990 from complications associated with HIV/AIDS.

There are several breweries in Evansville, and all of them could make a good Halston-inspired beer. Max King at Myriad Brewing has a special attachment to history, so maybe he would be best at a Halston beer; something with a lot of aroma that could evoke his Halston fragrance.

Inventor Charles Francis Jenkins, Charles grew up near Richmond after his birth in 1867. He went to Earlham College in Richmond before taking a job as a stenographer for the federal government in Washington in 1890. However, he always fancied himself an inventor.

He invented the first motion picture projector in 1892, but it only projected a small image on a wall, not big enough for a large audience. He kept working on it (with a man name Thomas Armat) and they displayed a larger version called the ‘phantascope” at the Cotton States Exposition in 1895. Through some different arguments and double-dealing, their patent was sold to Thomas Edison. He called the same invention the Vitascope, and most people nowadays just assume that Edison invented it.

Jenkins had over 400 patents, including for the first television built in the United States (radiovision) and he started the first television station as well. He also invented the conical paper cup, the airplane brake, a bean-shelling machine, and the first automobile with the engine in the front, not under the seat. He died in 1934. This amazing man would be a good source of inspiration for a beer from 5 Arch Brewing in Centerville, near Richmond or for New Boswell Brewing in Richmond itself.

We’ll continue next time with more Hoosiers you ought to know about and the breweries around the state that should make a beer in their honor.

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