My passion for beer was sparked in 1982 while visiting San Francisco with a couple of friends. We stopped in a bar where Anchor Steam was available. After a few sips and then a few glasses, I fell in love with the flavor of what I call real beer, which I had barely known existed.
During the next few years, especially while traveling, I began researching interesting and different beers. I started talking to “beer people” and reading books by Michael Jackson. In 1984, I was introduced to the Brickskeller in Washington D.C. and thought it was heaven. My first Xingu!
In 1989, the Sam Adams Brew Pub opened in Philadelphia. I attended the opening and enjoyed the first new, freshly brewed beer in Philadelphia since Prohibition. I got to know the brewers. They shared their wisdom and invited me to taste-test their brews before release. Stoudts in Adamstown also became a regular stop, if only to pick up a case of their freshly brewed beer in champagne bottles. (Does anyone remember the Rosemonster Ale at the old Horace P. Jerky’s Saloon in Garrett Hill?)
About this time, I became interested in home brewing as a way to better appreciate the brewing process, ingredients and flavors. I have brewed hundreds of gallons of beer, from Wheat Ales to double Bock Lagers and an occasional oddball such as Chocolate Mole-Raisin-Pepper Stout. (I thank John Reynolds, owner of Brew Your Own Beer in Havertown, PA, for his patient support and great ingredients.)
In the early 1990’s, I began attending beer festivals and tutored tastings which were becoming popular. For the last 13 years, I have attended “the Book and the Cook’s” tutored beer tasting with Michael Jackson which is held yearly at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I have had opportunities to talk with him, and with Ed and Carol Stoudt, William from the Standard Tap, the folks at Victory and other beer experts, especially in the Philadelphia region. I have been fortunate to know Fergie and Tom Peters the since the early days of Fergie’s Pub and Copa Too which had the first beer engine that I had seen in the United States. I feel deeply in love with Belgian beers and I have Tom to thank for that. When Monk’s arrived on the scene, it became my home away from home.
In Europe, notably in Germany, Belgium and England, I have tasted beers and visited pubs, breweries and famous beer bars. In the United States, I regularly visit Philadelphia area breweries and have traveled to others, including Ommegong, Snake River, Catamount and Nimbus.
In my non-beer life, I am a banking technology consultant. This work inspired my interest in teaching and explaining subjects that I knew well. Over the years, I have led friends to experience beer at notable venues in the Philadelphia region including Monks, the Drafting Room, Bridget’s, local brew pubs, the Boat House, and more. I helped them understand the beer they drank—how to taste it and why it was remarkable. They seemed to enjoy learning and I enjoyed teaching.
A few years ago, I decided to try teaching in a classroom setting. I began with my other passion, photography which I taught at the Haverford Township Adult School. This went well for several seasons and eventually I wanted to teach something else. The school agreed to my proposal for a course in Beer Appreciation, and the first session concluded in March 2005. Now I have taught this class twice a year for four years and added a class at the Main Line School Night.
For reference, I use the books of Michael Jackson, Stephen Beaumont, Lew Bryson and others. Thanks to local beer papers such as the “Barley Corn,” “Ale Street News,” and “Mid Atlantic Brewing News,” and beer scribes including Lew Bryson and Jack Curtain, I stay current. I also conduct beer dinners and host tastings (see Event Reports) with an emphasis on beer education—including stories, history, ingredients and styles.
I believe that lack of awareness is the main reason why craft and premium beer brands are less popular than American lite beers and pilsners. In addition, there is a stigma about beer, that it is inferior to wine. Based on the difficulty of production and the depth of its history, beer is as sophisticated, or more so, than wine or scotch. Unfortunately, beer marketing in the United States portrays beer as the beverage of fools while wine commercials emphasize sophistication. Bookstores have several shelves of books about wine but relatively few books about beer. Wine is not more complex than fine beer but people are trained and acculturated to believe that is so. Through Beer Appreciation, I hope to help change these misperceptions.
You can’t appreciate something you haven’t experienced, and you appreciate something more when you understand it. Join me on the path to the real beer experience and share the joy and passion. I will update this site with educational features and links to places where real beer can be found. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.