Friday, April 04, 2008
The Session #14: Beer People
This month’s edition of The Session is being hosted by Stonch and is the 14th edition of Beer Blogging Friday. The topic is a good one: Beer People. He's challenged beer bloggers world wide to write about an interesting person they enjoy meeting for pints.
I have a hard time with this question, not because I don't have an answer – I have too many answers. Calling beer a social lubricant is probably an over-used term, but it is accurate none the less. I’ve met some pretty interesting folks in pubs around the world. I’ve had a beer with a governor, an ex-member of the British Parliament and a former German POW, who told me about the humane treatment he received while held captive in Texas during World War II. I’ve downed pints with college professors, mill workers and priests. I’ve brushed elbows with activists, athletes, actors and authors. There’s the guy whose hobby it is to find wild mushrooms and the creative genius who is always coming up with a great new design.
Then there are the “beer elite,” including the late Michael Jackson, Bert Grant and F.X. Matt II to those still among us like Jim Koch, Garrett Oliver and Carol Stoudt. This list of beer writers is a dangerous one. I’m sure I’ll leave someone out, but I realize how little I know on those rare occasions that I have the chance to enjoy a pint with the likes of Lew Bryson, Daniel Bradford, Stephen Beaumont, Stan Hieronymus, Julie Johnson Bradford, Bill Metzger, Gregg Glaser, Tom Dalldorf, Roger Protz, Jay Brooks, Bob Paolino and others that write about beer on a professional basis.
While these folks are great, my list of favorite people to drink with really is a family affair. My two daughters, Brittany and Brhea (and my son-in-law Mike Wirth now that gluten free beers are available) are now “legal” and I’m proud to say that they know more about beer at their young ages than I did back then. It might have something to do with growing up around the contents of my refrigerator, but they know hops from malt. I’ve done my job.
My wife, Sandy, is a great companion for winery tours and for the occasional Belgian specialty ale, but happily most of what I put into my refrigerator is safe around her. My brother-in-law Darrin Pikarsky and cousin through marriage Barron Boyd are perfect drinking partners because they are willing to try just about any crazy beer I recommend and can talk sports, politics and life with a good sense of humor.
But when it comes to having a beer with someone, the guy I wish I could have just one more pint with is my father, Dick Sears. He passed away back in 2001 at 69 years old. Way too young for a guy who made it clear to me early on in life that beer was a reward, something that you earned by working hard.
He also taught me that local beer was to be appreciated. I still have a tool box that he gave me when I was first married. In the top compartment is a cap off a Matt’s Premium split that he popped while we changed the oil on my car. He liked Matt’s partly because of the commercials featuring the “extra fussy” F.X. and the fact bthat the beer was always fresh. He got a kick out of it years later when I was on the team at Eric Mower and Associates that helped name and launch the Saranac brand for the brewery.
He was pretty much a lager guy, but that was times. He did enjoy occasional IPAs and stouts during his later years. He was not a beer expert, but he knew what he liked. I recall when I was fairly young seeing him send back a beer that he did not think tasted right. He asked the bartender “When was the last time you cleaned the lines?”
Finally, I credit him and my father-in-law, Marty Pikarsky, with launching my drinks journalistic endeavors. When I was a junior at Syracuse University in need of a topic for a magazine writing class I happened to be at my father's house when the two of them started to reminisce about long-closed breweries in our hometown. Haberle's Congress, Moore & Quinn, Bartels, Greenway and others were recalled. They argued a bit about which made the best beer and where exactly the old breweries were located. From that conversation I had the working outline of a story that I turned in for the assignment and later sold to the Syracuse New Times for $25.