Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ten People Who Shaped the US Beer Scene

Clearly this could get out of hand, the listing of influencial beers, brewers, people, cities, logos, ingredients, magazines, clubs and whatever. That said, Stan over Appelation Beer started the discussion with the 10 Beers that Changed America, which sparked some debate. Today, Jeff at Beervana lists Oregon's Influential Ten. I commented that his list made no mention of Fred (number 3 on my list) and then realized... why not do a list so you all can tell me what I missed? So, with that in mind, I offer a list of 10-ish PEOPLE who have shaped the modern American beer scene.

Fire Away!

1) Fritz Maytag - For obvious reasons he must top the list. Upon buying the struggling Anchor brewing he spearheaded the brewery's turnaround and making it the prize of craft brewing in America.

2) Jack McAuliffe - Owner of the now defunct New Albion Brewing, once located in Sonoma (their sign now adornes the wall of Russian River Brewing). Beer geeks will know the name, but in case you miss this significance, this was the first modern 'micro brewery' in the US. They weren't around when I discovered beer, but I have heard up and down reviews on what they once made - but there is no doubting the importance this place had in the US.

3) Fred Eckhardt - The first beer column writer published in modern times, beginning in early 1980's. His first columns were published in The Oregonian and his writings inspired many of the readers to start asking for better beer - if not make their own. Fred's first beer article was published in 1969, 10 years before making beer at home was even legal. Oh, and Hair of the Dog's "Fred" is named after the guy... how cool is that?

4) Charlie Papazian - Another no-brainer pick, but Charlie's book, "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" was inspirational to many beer lovers who would become home brewers... who would become brew masters. In addition, Charlie has continued fighting the good beer fight with his works with the American Brewers Association.

5) Bert Grant - You won't find a first or second generation brewer in the US (those who have been brewing 15-25 years) who doesn't want to give this man credit... who am I to disagree? Sadly, all I know about Bert is what I've read about the man - and it has all be very good.

6) Garrett Oliver - Getting to the 'iffy' picks, I am putting Mr Oliver on the list for what he is doing now with his passionate pursuit to change people's perception of beer, specifically with regards to food and beer pairing. Personally, I think he's the most articulate brewer/writer out there and his writings are among the most approachable out there.

7) Jim Koch - Boston Beer Co does so much to promote craft beer. Yes, they're promoting their own beers, but they are the only beer commercials to combat the B/M/C ads that saturate my TV. He is on this list mostly for his seemingly larger-than-life personality.

8) Ken Grossman - For two words: Pale Ale. Talk about spawning a revolution! And today he's not found brewing too often, but leading the way for sustainable business practices and social responsibility.

9) Tie because I can't tell them apart... Vinnie Cilurzo & Sam Caglione - It seems that these two are pushing two different envelopes with equal success and a wonderful friendship. Vinnie is becoming somewhat legendary for his work with sour beers and wine barrel aging - not to mention some of the best IPAs in the country. Sam... well, Sam seems to be doing whatever he wants, and doing it well - and has been featured on TV spots highlighting beer more than once for his works. Together, these two are creating a solid reputation for beers across the country.

10) With respect to Jeff Alworth's piece on "Oregon's Influencial Ten", I'll let this one remain empty. I know I am missing some obvious people and for that I apologize. I would like to see Dave Alexander, owner of Brickskeller, or Dave Keen of Toronado, Don Younger of Horse Brass - someone who makes the beer bar a great place to be today, those who have redefined what a Beer Bar can be.

Not Listed:
- John Maier of Rogue - I really wanted him to be here, but... he's not. I can't even tell you why.
- Greg Koch of Stone - Couldn't do it - I think he is deserving, but I can't pump anyone off the list.
- Tomme Arthur? Help me out here - who has had the greatest influence on barrel aging beers in the US? Todd Ashman was floated once as a pioneer while he was at Flossmore Station, but I honestly don't know enough to know how wrong I am. I mentioned Tomme for what he is doing now and the success he is having - along with the legend he seems to be creating - but that could be off base.
- The Alstrom brothers at Beer Advocate - Love the site or hate it, BA is huge right now. I hope they figure out their magazine endeavor, those who talk to me (thanks mom) just aren't in love with it like they'd hoped to be.
- Homer Simpson - and I am partially serious here. Can you name another "family TV show" who has a beer drinking father? Better yet, can you think of a family show that was on when The Simpsons first aired that had so much beer throughout the show? I can't.

A note about Rick Sellers
I am admittedly a student of the American Beer Scene at this stage of my life. I hope to someday be able to pass on the history of our modern brewing to as many people as possible, with the respect and passion those who are doing that now have in their writing and daily lives. I am pretty young (30 is the new 27, right?) still and know I have quite a ways to go before I'll call myself an expert. There are, however, experts I greatly admire who also have great beer blogs - Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin, Lew Bryson at Seen through a Glass, Stan Hieronymus at Appelation Beer in particular. These guys spark my beer loving imagination and challenge me to dig deeper into my library of beer knowledge - or expand it I should say. I guess this little piece is a note of appreciation to the better beer writers in the country today, those who have seen and experienced more than me. Thanks guys.
- Rick