Eaton 400 & Smashed Blueberry by Shipyard

Aren’t pleasant surprises a delight? Neither of the subjects covered in this blue-themed entry were ones that I was expecting to like nearly as much as I did. One was acquired quite close to home, while the other was quite a journey. Let’s jump right in and take a closer look at this pair of blue(s) brothers… (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

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Silver Seiko’s Eaton 400

If you live in Canada and grew up in the 20th Century, you know the name Eaton. Eaton’s was a chain of department stores that crossed the country, not unlike The Bay, Simpsons, and Sears. The only one of those left in Canada now is The Bay, which illustrates how much the retail landscape has changed in twenty years.

Timothy Eaton founded his initial store in 1869 on Yonge St. in Toronto. By the middle of the next century, Eaton’s was the dominant retailer in Canada. In 1977 they opened the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, and although the company went bankrupt at the end of the last century and is no longer in operation, the mall still bears its name. (I pass it daily on my way to work.) Another Eaton Centre still exists in Montreal, I believe.

Eaton’s was a fixture in my youth. As a kid I delighted in getting the Eaton’s “Christmas Wish Book” catalogue. My mother worked for Eaton’s for a time.  Hey, they even started Toronto’s annual Santa Claus Parade way back in 1905!  So imagine my delight I discovered that there were Eaton-branded typewriters.

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I should note that my love of this pretty little blue typer seems to have fostered a (possibly bizarre) interest in typewriters re-branded by department stores… But we’ll get to that in future updates.  😉

It was through this typewriter that I learned of Silver-Seiko, the Japanese manufacturer of a great many re-branded machines. They are perhaps best known for the Silver-Reed brand, but it’s astonishing how prolific they were, and how many fascinating shapes, colours and names their mechanism appears under. They are not unlike Brother, in this respect. And like Brother, these seem to be tough, rugged typers, though very often lacking many features, likely in an effort to cut costs as much as possible.

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Of particular assistance in making this Eaton 400 tolerable by adding the felt was baesun’s Of Type and Ink entry on Refelting an Olympia SM3, which outlines techniques that could be applied to a great many different sorts of machines.

 

Shipyard’s Smashed Blueberry

Our next blue subject is the quite strong Smashed Blueberry from the Shipyard Brewing Co. from the beautiful State of Maine.

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Whereas the beautiful, blue Eaton 400 was found just a short drive away, this blue beauty was found in its home State. Initially I almost passed on it, as I am not much interested in fruit-style beer. But I do like big, strong beer, so I gave this one a shot. I was very happy that I did!

I shared this big bottle with my friend Jamie, and upon pouring it we were nearly knocked over by the aroma of blueberries. There was no doubt to be had – this really was a blueberry beer!  I tentatively took my first sip, fearing a sweet, fruity flavour that had been ramped up to 9%, and…

Wow, this tasted nice!  I took a bigger swig to better appreciate it, and to confirm my first impression – there was almost no berry in the flavour.  This was a really nice, full-bodied ale with flavours dominated by wonderfully balanced malts. When reading the back of the bottle, I instantly saw the resemblance to a Scotch Ale – but a very big one, at that!

Shipyard Brewing Co. was established in 1992 as one of Maine’s original Brew Pubs. Now the brewer has grown to the point that their beer is widely available across New England, and exported to 40 other States. I was really impressed with this bottle, and am looking forward to trying another Shipyward brew, currently resting in my fridge. With luck maybe our provincial liquor control board, the LCBO, will bring some distribution to our humble province.

Until next time, drink & type responsibly!

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Olympia Traveller (Cursive) & Crusher by the Alchemist

This time in my quest to find the perfect writer’s typewriter I took a little detour, focusing on a typewriter I didn’t actually mean to purchase. The beverage of choice features a return to Vermont’s The Alchemist.

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Olympia’s Traveller (cursive typeface)

My first forays into 21st century typewriting were completely accidental. It was pure chance that brought me to my first typewriter (as described in this entry). Once I’d caught the bug and started to develop a new-found appreciation for type-writing, I started to read more about them and learn more about what made each of these machines so different (Richard Polt’s Typewriter Revolution was a fantastic aide in this regard, showing these aging tools in a contemporary light).

If you learn just a little about quality typewriters, Olympia is a name you will hear. Many times I have read and heard that their SM9 model is considered one of the best portable typewriters for writers ever made. So I was keen to get to try an Olympia and see what this was all about. However, they didn’t seem to be terribly common in my part of the world.

Olympia first started in the typewriter business early in the 20th century, but it wasn’t until after the second World War that they really became a force in the industry. Their best known machines are from this period.  The X Over It blog has a wonderful history of Olympia’s machines from this time period. It is also interesting to note that (at the time of writing) the SM3 model is in the top ten models which have been logged at the Typewriter Database. I’m not sure if this is a good measure of popularity, but it is certainly an indicator of the desirability of these machines in the eyes of enthusiasts today.  Olympia folded in 1992, but it would appear that their last typewriters were produced in the mid 1980s.

Olympia typewriters have a lot of fans, and their small/medium portables as well as their full-sized typewriters are generally favourably or highly regarded. This example that I have, a Traveller model which I think comes from the 1970s, receives more mixed reviews when compared to other models, such as the SF portables from the ’50s/60s. Still, as I wrote this typecast, I found it to be quite a bit of fun.

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I look forward to getting the opportunity to try more Olympia typewriters. I have a couple of bigger ones – both SM9s, I think – that need some significant cleaning and attention before I’ll be able to give them a proper whirl. I would love to try an SF-model to compare with the Traveller, so the search continues!

 

The Alchemist’s Crusher

I know, I know, I’ve already covered another Alchemist beer in a previous blog entry… and I am back to them again already. Why would I do that when there are soooo many different options to cover? Two reasons: Crusher is excellent, and I needed to drink it before it got any older.  This was my last can from my visit to Vermont.

The Alchemist, as I mentioned in my previous post addressing Heady Topper, is a Vermont-based brewer that is well known to craft beer aficionados. Like Heady, Crusher is a Double India Pale Ale (DIPA), and it is another strong beer – both are measured at 8% alcohol.

While Heady Topper is more famous, with over 1,500 ratings at RateBeer.com, Crusher has a little more than a quarter that many ratings. Perhaps this is because it is not exported as far and wide, or is not as old? It certainly isn’t because of its quality – it is an excellent DIPA! Both beers have achieved a 100-rating on RateBeer.

To my taste, Crusher is equal to Heady, and is similar, but different.  The hop profile is different in the aroma, and the flavour is subtly different.  Both have hints of resin, and both have a slight tropical fruitiness in their flavour, but they’ve just a little different. I wish I had both handy to do a side-by-side comparison to better describe them. Sadly, Vermont is quite a hike from Toronto.

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The can quotes Frank Zappa in relation to its hop profile: “Did you say you want some more? Well here’s some more.” And yes, this is a very hoppy beer with ample bitterness. However, this is so well balanced – truly the key to Alchemists talents regarding DIPAs – no slightly-adventurous beer drinker should fear it. And besides, anyone who quotes Zappa should be embraced, not feared. 😉

Truly, Vermontians (Vermotians?), I am jealous of you.

And as we conclude another look at typewriters and beer together, I want to thank everyone who has been reading, and especially those who have offered support and advice – it is much appreciated!  Until next time, please continue to type and drink safely.

Brother Charger 11 & Viaduct IPA by Danforth Brewery

Last time I wrote about slightly uncommon, if not rare, subjects… This time I am going to focus on what I perceive to be among the most common.

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Brother’s Charger 11

Anyone who is even passively interested in typewriters knows about, and has seen, a Brother-brand typewriter. They are among the most common, and in my travels to different regions and countries, it doesn’t seem to matter where you go – you can find a Brother.  And it could likely be a Charger 11, one of the most plentiful of used typewriters I come across.

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Robert Messenger has a brilliant history of the Brother typewriter company, from its origins to the time when they began producing typewriters in the 1960s. It is well worth a read! And it provides a great perspective on how disruptive this Japanese company was in the industry.  They very quickly started producing good-quality, cheap typewriters for the masses. Eventually they were selling typewriters in 110 countries!

While there are only a handful of mechanism designs found in Brother typewriters, they appear in a staggering number of differently named and packaged machines.  The Typewriter Database entry on Brother can make your head spin! Not only did they sell essentially the same typing mechanisms in dozens of different models, they also provided repackaged machines to other sellers, including Webster, Sears, Montgomery Ward and K-mart.

The story of how a Charger 11 appeared in my little collection…

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Judging by the styling of it, and the convoluted deciphering of the serial number (G4820008) from the TWDB, my daughter’s Charger 11 would appear to be from 1964. It would be considered a JP-1 variant, I believe (the first generation of Brother’s mechanisms). I neglected to get a picture of the cover/case that snaps onto it, making it easy to carry, but it’s not very interesting to look at, so if you’ve seen one, don’t worry, you’re not missing a thing!

It has no tab, no #1 key, not even an exclamation point – it is a very basic sort of machine.  On the plus side, the margins are very easy to adjust. While it’s a capable, portable, sturdy, bullet-proof sort of typer, I wouldn’t be too upset if, for example, Zoe knocked it off the desk and it ended up bent or broken. I could probably find a replacement in a few days, to be honest. I would be more upset if, say, my Skyriter or my Hermes Rocket were to suffer such damage.

All that having been said, I must admit that there are some other Brother variations that I am really looking forward to trying…

 

Danforth Brewery’s Viaduct IPA

I need to provide a bit of context here; I live in Toronto near a street we call The Danforth. As a result, the beer I’m looking at today is a very common beer, very easily available. Unlike the Charger 11 typewriter, if you don’t live here, I realize it will likely seem far more exotic. Such is life!

The Danforth Brewery has been in operation for a few years now. Not a bricks-and-mortar brewer, their beer is brewed under contract. Their Viaduct IPA is, to my knowledge, their only beer. It is widely available in restaurants and bars across the city, and is distributed by the LCBO (the provincially-owned and operated liquor store in the province of Ontario.

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Interesting fact: The viaduct from which the beer gets its name celebrated its 100th anniversary just a few weeks ago. I take the subway to work on this route, traveling high over the Don River and the Don Valley Parkway (affectionately known locally as the Don Valley Parking Lot).

Much like the Charger 11, this beer is a pretty straight-ahead, no-frills West Coast IPA. It is a bit grassy on the nose, and has a somewhat sweet flavour with the initial quaff, finishing off nicely bitter. It’s a decent pint, and it lives up to the standards of a craft beer. Beyond that, I don’t know what I can add? It will never be one of my favorite beers, I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek it out. In that way, it’s very much like the Brother Charger 11! A solid performer of good quality, but landing somehow in the middle of the pack of all available option.

Here’s to hoping that Danforth Brewery will continue, and that we’ll see another recipe from them soon. (Love the artwork on the can, by the way.)  Until next time, please drink responsibly, and type safely!

Olivetti Lettera DL & Heady Topper by the Alchemist

This is a special blog entry for me… the Olivetti Lettera DL was my first 21st Century typewriter. I guess you could say it started all of this for me. And Heady Topper, the beer which perhaps cemented the double-IPA as a favorite style of beer for me.

Olivetti’s Letter DL

Olivetti was an Italy-based manufacturer of manual typewriters from early in the 20th Century through to the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. They moved to electric typewriters, but also followed the technology into purpose-made word processors and even early personal computers, eventually making IBM-compatible machines into the mid 90’s before dropping out of that business altogether. I will mention that my only other Olivetti device is an M10 “laptop” computer (essentially a clone of Tandy’s M100) which is powered by 4 AA batteries. It’s quite a nice typer in and of itself!

The thing that sets Olivetti typewriters apart, it appears, is their design. Noted industrial designers like Ettore Sottsass and Marcello Nizzoli were employed by Olivetti, and as a result their typewriters are some of the best known and most sought after by collectors, for their different, distinctive designs. The most famous may be the Valentine portable typewriter, which is highly collectible.

The first typewriter that I literally ever purchased was this Lettera DL.  Here is the story of my re-introduction to typing.

olivetti_dl_102olivetti_dl_typecast_0102olivetti_dl_typecast_0202olivetti_dl_typecast_03My Lettera DL has a serial number of 7140205, a higher number than the others listed in the Typerwriter Database, which makes like think it was likely manufactured late in 1973 or in 1974. Although I have never seen a Lettera 33 model in person, they appear identical in pictures. I am not sure what technical differences may be lurking beneath the surface between the 33 and the so-called “DeLuxe” model.

Alchemist’s Heady Topper

The Alchemist is one of those craft brewers that becomes almost something of a fable. By that, I mean you read about them, and you hear people talk about them (particularly if you attend beer festivals and chat with far-flung beer nerds from all over), but if you’re not local, how do you ever know? Russian River brewing in California is a similar case. With limited distribution, and a rabid local fan base willing to buy up all the product they can produce, it’s no wonder that their wares never make it here to Toronto, Ontario.

It’s amazing how well this can pairs visually with the Lettera DL, isn’t it?

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I first got to try this fantastic beer when my friends Doug and Ralph had brought some back from a Vermont beer-run. I was utterly amazed! This summer on a family road trip to the East Coast we happened to pass through Vermont, so I was sure to pick up some of their amazing beer.  It is interesting to note that, because of the demand for their product, they have a limit on how many four-packs you can buy in one visit!

Starting in the early 2000’s the Alchemist has been gradually growing, adding to their facilities and slowly (and smartly) adding to their capacity. They specialize in hopppy beers, so IPAs are a natural choice for them. As they have expanded they have been careful not to compromise in their “concerted effort to provide the freshest, hoppiest packaged IPA on the market.”

Heady Topper is a double-India Pale Ale (or DIPA), which means it’s strong and bitter. But where some DIPAs, and even IPAs, can draw attention to their bitterness in a way that drives away the casual beer drinker, Heady Topper is really amazingly well-balanced. When you taste it, there’s a resinous character, but also some citrus notes. As it passes over your tongue you will get some of the malt character, and it finishes with a not-overpowering bitterness. It is the definition of balance! Because of this, the website Rate Beer has it rated at 100.

Focal Bager is the junior version of this, a IPA (not a double), and it is also excellent. In fact, if you are going to get to a place that sells The Alchemist’s beer, I recommend you try everything you can get there.

Until next time, happy typing and safe drinking!

Typewriters & Beer: the Hermes Baby & La Trappe Tripel

Does the Internet need another blog about typewriters?

Does the Internet need another blog about anything?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself over the last few months. As my interest in typewriters has grown over the last few years (and I will tell a bit of that tale in my next installment) I discovered the great blogs that make up the Typosphere (http://munk.org/typecast/the-typosphere-literally/), as well as Richard Polt’s excellent book, the Typewriter Revolution (https://typewriterrevolution.com/), which documents the resurgence of typewriter use and how the typewriter relates to, and is used in, the 21st century.

I’ve had a desire to participate, but didn’t know if there was a need, or room, to share my view. I am certainly not an expert, so what could I add? I benefit from the support and knowledge of the online typewriter community (particularly the various Antique Typewriter groups on Facebook), but I am not sure that I really have the ability to contribute very much. I don’t even consider myself a typewriter collector, although I have accumulated a number of machines. I use them to write, so I am primarily interested in them as a tool to achieve this. While I can appreciate a beautiful design in a typewriter, its ability to function for me is far more important. That being said, I do continue to pick up new machines to try out their differences with the ones I am familiar with.

As I pondered whether I had a place in the Typoshere I engaged in one of my other favorite technical interests: I drank a beer. A very good one, in fact! And gradually one of the side-effects of consuming alcohol kicked in, and I began to feel more confident, if not more qualified. My particular differentiation in the Blogopshere (or, if you will, my gimmick) came to me, as well – I could write about my experience in beer as well as my experience with typewriters, combining two of my great interests!

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

With that introduction, out of the way, on to my first two subjects…

The Hermes Baby

I thought I would start my voyage into the Typosphere with the typewriter that I think I’ve had the great personal connection with; a Hermes Baby. By the time I acquired this little typer, my first Hermes, my interest in typewriters was well on its way. I had read much about this  famous brand of typewriters and I knew they were desirable not only to collectors for their interesting designs, but also to writers, who appreciated their quality construction, durability, and performance as writing machines.

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While I knew of them, I’d never seen one in person. Mind you, at this point I wasn’t going out of my way to seek out typewriters, either. We just happened to be in an antique mall in Cookstown, Ontario, where I came across this one. It was tucked away, not easy to find, and the price tag was a little more than I wanted to pay for a typewriter. So I left it there, and went on my way.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, though. It was such a cool-looking, neat, compact little machine, with its metal case lid and strong handle. The next day I went back and purchased it.

When I bought it I knew that it needed a little work. It didn’t type very well, the type bars got stuck a lot, the bell didn’t work. But the carriage return lever did turn the platen, so I knew all was not lost. And this brings me to one of the main reasons I loved this typewriter: It was the first one that I pulled apart and worked on. For that reason alone, it has a special place in my heart.

The good news was that the Baby was complete. Initially I thought something was really wrong with the bell (or perhaps it was missing), but it turned out that there were just some serious dust bunnies that were preventing the bell from ringing. In fact, the work it required was mostly cleaning or straightening bent pieces. Richard Polt’s book was a really valuable resource as I went through this process, it not only helped inform me but it gave me courage, as well!

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I didn’t end up replacing anything aside from the ancient ribbon that had come with it. The cleaning was a lot of work, however, as it was filled with dirt, hair, and dead bugs. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t purchase a machine (or certainly pay so much for one) in that condition again. It was very fortunate that there was so little else wrong with it.

Once it was tuned up, the Hermes Baby was a surprisingly good typer. I loved the snappy, responsive feel, and the keystrokes didn’t feel as long as on my other typewriters. Uppercase type was just slightly out of alignment, but it was so minor that I didn’t even both to adjust it. It didn’t bother me. With a fresh ribbon (and cleaned type bars) it made great looking type.

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As I understand it, Hermes really heavily influenced the development and design of truly “portable” typewriters with their introduction of the Featherweight in the 1930’s. The Featherweight became the Baby, and then the Rocket, and was later joined by larger portables in the 1950’s, including more famous model like the 2000 and 3000. These are sough-after machines now, but the Hermes brand was finished before the end of the 1970’s.

My Hermes Baby was made by E. Paillard & Co. in Switzerland. The Serial Number 325913 places it as a 1944 model, according to the Typewriter Database (http://typewriterdatabase.com). The small size, durable construction, and metal lid made these things popular tools for correspondents during the second World War. They truly do feel bullet-proof! I have heard that there are similar machines with tripod mounts on the case, for field use.

As I said earlier, I loved the physical act of typing on this type writer, and I used it to write a number of short stories. There were a couple of drawbacks for me, however.

The first, and most commonly mentioned shortfall was the very short return lever. This was corrected with later models, however. It wouldn’t be enough to turn me off of this typewriter on its own, because it works, but it really is a miss-step on an otherwise really well-designed device.

Second, this model didn’t have full double-spacing capability. I think the maximum is 1.5 spacing? For someone like myself, writing fiction, the spacing of this typewriter didn’t leave enough space for me to make notes between lines.

Finally, as you can see in the photos, while this was a QWERTY typewriter, it wasn’t until after I’d brought it home that I realized it was a Turkish model. This wouldn’t have been an issue for me, except that there were no double-quotations in the typeface! Much like the spacing issue mentioned above, if I were using this to write a diary, or letters, it probably wouldn’t be an issue. But most of my writing is fictional, so this became a nuisance.

As much as I hated to let it go, I did sell my very first Hermes Baby. I hope it is being used (and kept clean!) by its new owner, and that they enjoy it as much as I did.

 

La Trappe Tripel

What do you pair with a classic typewriter like the Hermes Baby? A classic beer, like La Trappe’s Tripel, of course!

When I think of Trappist beer, I think of beers like this one. Made by Koningshoeven Brewery, it is permitted to carry the Trappist name because has been brewed in a Trappist monastery under the supervision of the monastery’s monks. The history of this brewery goes back to the 1880’s (even older than the Hermes typewriter legacy!) when the monastery used funds raised through their production of beer to help pay for the abbey that was eventually built before the close of the 19th century. While it all sounds very old, the beer that I tasted here was really formally introduced in 1980, after they’d started using the moniker “La Trappe.”

My taste in beer generally leans toward ales, and typically big, bold, strong ales. Dark, heavy beers, or vibrantly hoppy, bitter beers, those are my favorites. This Tripel is very much in the strong ale category, and suits me just fine!

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While it’s quite light in colour, it has full body and bursts with a complex combination of flavours. It has an aroma with hints of fruit, and this translates into some sweetness on the tongue, which is similar to other belgian-style beers. The hops offset this to a point, offseting the sweetness and fruity overtones with a well-balanced bitterness.

I love the way this beer feels when it rolls over my tongue. The carbonation is very moderate, and the initial sweetness and the malty flavours finish off more bitterly. It has a bit of a bite in its finish, but is very drinkable and doesn’t feel as strong as its alcohol content would suggest. There’s a reason this beer is available everywhere, and it’s not marketing – it is great!

In short, a wonderful beer to complement a wonderful typewriter! Thank you for reading, and for your patience if you’ve made it this far.