Seattle’s food and beverage industry recently lost a real leader. Rose Ann Finkel, who founded the venerable Pike Brewing Co. and craft beer importer Merchant du Vin with her husband Charles, died last Tuesday at the age of 73 after battling the blood cancer of myelodysplastic syndrome.
“All she gave was love,” says Arlen Harris, longtime brewer and former executive director of the Washington Brewers Guild. “Walk into a crowd and if she hasn’t seen you in two years or two days, she would still hug you tight. She took care of everyone around her. “
“She was a role model of authenticity, generosity, and strength and will be sorely missed,” said Alisha Malcolm, private events director at Pike Brewing.
Those who knew Rose Ann both professionally and personally remember her as a warm soul and visionary who was instrumental in advancing the Seattle beer, wine and culinary scenes. Over the decades, she was not only co-founder of the many influential Finkels businesses, but also started a gourmet market called Truffles in Laurelhurst in the late 1970s, which Time Magazine once named as one of the “top 5 grocery stores” in the USA – and was an advocate of the Seattle Slow Food movement, which was dedicated to local sourcing and community engagement. Rose Ann was also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization of women leaders in the hospitality industry.
Rose Ann was born in New Orleans and grew up in Houston. She traveled around the world with Charles and settled in Seattle in the mid-1970s. The two started out in the wine business – Woodinville’s Chateau Ste. Michelle bought her Bon-Vin company in 1974 – and soon helped bring many malty, complex European beers to the region with Merchant du Vin, at a time when lighter beers were most common in mass production. She even came up with the name Celebrator for a celebrated German Doppelbock.
When Pike Brewing first launched in 1989 (then called Pike Place Brewery), it was one of only a handful of independent craft breweries in town before the great beer boom, and its dedication to food as an integral part of the brewing experience was influential. The Finkels also acquired Liberty Malt Supply, a long-time retailer for home brewers and winemakers.
“Charles has received a lot of first-hand recognition for what the Finkels did for craft beer and world beer culture in general, but Rose Ann was there every step of the way – a fact that Charles was always keen to point out,” Says Dick Cantwell, who runs the operations at Magnolia Brewing Co. in San Francisco and worked for the Finkels in the 1990s. Cantwell recalls the two who came to various beer events on a tandem bike and “the crowd worked harder than everyone else in the room.”
Joe Bisacca, Co-Founder of Elysian Brewing, says, “Charles and Rose Ann were true pioneers when it came to not just craft brewing but how to do it with real class. Rose Ann has had a positive impact on Merchant Du Vin, Pike Brewing and the entire industry. ”
“Like so many others in the craft beer business in Seattle, I started out in one of Rose Ann and Charles’ stores – Liberty Malt Supply,” says Manny Chao, founder of Georgetown Brewing Co. “Rose Ann has always had me so treated a lot of kindness and warmth. We will miss her smile and grace, our matron beer! “
Adam Robbings of Reuben’s Brews says: “Not long after we opened our doors, we met Rose Ann for the first time – always welcoming, with a warm smile. She and Pike invited us to their events in those early days and always made us feel part of the community. While her and Charles achievements are immense and important to the entire brewing community, our lasting memory is how warmly she treated everyone around her. She is deeply missed and our thoughts go to Charles and the entire Pike team for her loss. “
From Lara Zahaba, co-founder of Stoup Brewing: “At Stoup, our hearts are full of admiration and gratitude for Rose Ann and the paths she and Charles have walked for so many. Your support for new breweries has been unwavering and we have felt very welcome since we started in 2013. Our hearts are filled with grief over the loss of the wonderful wife, partner and leader in so many things that Rose Ann Finkel was. We can only strive to live the love, happiness, and success that she and Charles have mastered. “
“Rose Ann was a leader and remains a role model in the beer industry,” said Stasia Brewczynski, former communications director at Pike Brewing. “Women are still severely underrepresented in leadership positions in the beer sector. Therefore, it is particularly difficult to lose such a visible figure who has inspired countless people both directly and indirectly.”
“The last time I saw Rose Ann was she and Charles invited me to dinner at their Sand Point home,” recalls Cantwell. “We shared a beer and a nice bottle of wine and they sketched out plans for Pike’s 30th anniversary [in 2019]where all former Pike Place and Pike brewers would contribute and run a special beer. It was a lovely evening and I cherish the memory of seeing them both at home and enjoying everything they always had – gardening, beer of course, and a delicious simple meal to share with friends. “