Looking back on my over 25 years of beer appreciation, there are a few particular people in world of beer that I consider to be major inspirations for me. Michael Jackson was the first person that I had ever heard of that took beer seriously, and talked about what made it special – and a part of the fabric of life. In the late 1980’s he began hosting the Penn Museum beer tasting – part of the “Book and Cook” events in Philadelphia. I would marvel at Michael’s ability to “digress” while at the same time informing and entertaining people with facts and opinions on beer.
In 1991 I bought Michael’s “Pocket Guide to Beer” and in 1992 I took my book to the Penn tasting and had Michael sign it. He asked me my favorite beer and I stammered “Uh… Anchor Steam and… Bass I guess”. He wrote : “To Peter: Look out for the Bass… Anchor’s better!” (He was right of course.)
Around this time I had started to search out and find special and fresh brewed beers in Philadelphia. I would go to the Sam Adams Brew Pub as well as the old Copa Two in center city, trying new beers and just hanging with beer people. One of the people that I noticed that kept showing up at beer dinners I finally recognized from Copa II to be Tom Peters. Copa Two had the first beer engine I’d ever seen. As time passed the old 16th St Bar and Grill finally reopened as “Monks Belgian Cafe” with Tom (and Fergie) at the helm.
Tom was accessible, friendly and more than willing to talk about beer – and share his opinions. And did he bring new, great and unusual beers to Philly! My friends and I would head there after work, and by the glare of the white wall shining through the front window we reveled in fine, funky, flavorful exotic brews.
When I started my beer class at the Haverford Adult School in 2005, Tom (with very little begging) agreed to speak to the class and host a tasting of Belgian beers. As it turned out, Tom showed up at the class with a cooler filled with great Belgian brews – it was a wonderful evening.
There have been many others along the way that have helped me directly – most notably Chris Firey of Manayunk Brewing along with many others like Tom Kehoe and Franklin Winslow of Yards, the folks from Gullifty’s, Brendan of the Oakmont Pub and Matt Guyer of the Beer Yard. Starting to sound like a Oscar’s night ramble? OK, but I guess it’s my site so I can do that (but just this once!)