1995 – #2 the Publicans.

1995 is a multi-part Liquid Diet special report. I have asked an array of local beer luminaries to recount for us what they were doing in December 1995 and the story is told in their own words. The entire series is being cross-posted on a new 1995 page in chronological order as we go along for the convenience of late-comers who want to read the story in the order it was intended.

TOM PETERS & FERGUS CAREY. These two center city bartenders who became friends and then business partners were a driving force in creating Philadelphia’s beer identity and helped make it a destination city for beer drinkers from around the globe. Their centerpiece, Monk’s Cafe, is considered one of the world’s great Belgian beer bars. Fergie remembers the early days for us.
“Fergie’s Pub was just a year old in December 1995. The idea of Tom Peters and I doing something was probably being batted around at that time, though Monk’s would not come into fruition until March 1997.

“Fergie’s Pub was not exactly a beer bar. On tap we had Guinness, Yuengling Lager, Yuengling Porter, Rolling Rock and Yard’s ESA on the beer engine. Before we opened Fergie’s, I asked Tom what beers should I have to attract him to go come there and he suggested Duvel and Chimay Blue. So I got them in. We were selling 25oz Chimay Blue for $10 a bottle. I had left bartending at McGlinchey’s on 15th St. to open Fergie’s and drafts at McGlinchey’s were 60 cents. It seemed like a massive leap to go from that to $10 beers.

“I bartended every night at Fergie’s Pub at that point in time, though we were closed on Sundays.  My partner there, Wajih Abed, bartended every day and worked the nights on Friday and Saturday with me. Around December 1995 we asked one of our regulars to help out behind the bar. Dave Rogers came on board and eased things up for us a bit. Dave now owns Tritone, a bar and music venue at 15th and South.

“It was nice to have Sundays off. Many Sundays were spent over in Tom’s house in Collingswood. It was usually Aimmee Prozan (who bartends at Nodding Head still), James Fernandes (now our managing partner at Grace Tavern) and me, visiting Tom & Barbara. I was such a city rat back then I thought that Tom lived in the country. He had a fridge packed with brewed goodies in his garage and it was very educational, although I will admit that I would forget most of what I learned until the next time. We explored many different Belgians and also a fair amount of American craft beers, especially from the West coast. I do remember trying beers from Anderson Valley, North Coast Brewery, Anchor beers and much more. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in bottle was our `Budweiser’ back then.
“One Sunday, late in the evening we all were famished (read that as you will). Tom had some duck breasts in the fridge. I thought we were going to fry them and eat them on Kaiser rolls. No, Tom worked his magic and cooked the duck perfectly, served it on a salad with goat cheese, spiced walnuts and raisins with a vinaigrette. This was the first appearance of the famous Monk’s Café Duck Salad.

“Tom, of course, was still managing Copa Too! on 15th St, right beside McGlinchey’s and he was putting it on the map for beer. He put 14 Belgian Beers on tap one day. People were flocking there that day. That was the first time I met Ray Dieter from d.b.a. in NYC. He came over to Fergie’s Pub after the Copa Too! event to try the Yard’s ESA on the beer engine. He left his glasses behind and I had to send them to him. I always joked that he got blind drunk in my bar.”

WILLIAM REED. The founder, with Paul Kimport, of Standard Tap and, later, Johnny Brenda’s, created a showcase for local craft beers and the Tap has been credited as being the initiator of the “gastropub” concept in America. In 1995, though, William Reed was a brewer…
“I was employed by the Samuel Adams Brew House as the brewer in 1995. I had been there from 1994, after taking over from Jim Pericles. My friend, Paul Kimport, and I were looking at buildings in Northern Liberties for a brewpub that we wanted to start (we would buy 901 north 2nd in 1996).

“When I started at SABH there were three beers on all of the time, and Jim would make about four specialty beers a year. I started having six or more beers available all of the time. My favorites were the cask conditioned ales served by beer engine., notably the Eleven Pound Ale, the first beer that i knew of that used a different, single hop variety in each batch. Eleven pounds (5 KG) is the size of a small hop box, and that recipe let me try out so many different varieties of hops without any waste. It is also a pretty aggressive hopping rate for a 7 bbl batch.

“I made the Brew House Tart, which was a Rodenbach-inspired beer. Remember when Rodenbach was great? It came out really well–I remember that Tom Peters put some on at Copa Two! I sent a sample to the guys from Boston Beer. They thought it wasn’t good brewing practice, and were kind of pissed at me for making it. They said they doubted I could ever replicate it, because of the “wild” yeast.

“Tom must have mentioned it to Michael Jackson and I was thrilled when Michael asked me to brew it again for one of his events that Bruce Nichols put together at the University Museum. Of course I made another batch, and MJ rated it three stars in his next guide! HA! Uber-cool to get recognition on that beer.

“When Jim Anderson did the first Real Ale Rendezvous in 1995 at the Irish Pub, I helped out, and he and I did quite a few events together after that. Beer Philadelphia was pretty great. I think I may have the earliest issues somewhere. It was always fun to stop by Copa when Tom was working there. He put a few of my beers on and was a big supporter of local stuff that pushed the envelope. If the power went out (and it often did because of some shoddy transformer on the block) Tom would lock the door and start popping open progressively more exotic beers from his stash. That was a great way to spend a blackout.

“I still have triple bock from 1994 that was made at the brewhouse. And I believe that Kurt Wunder has a keg of my Tart ale in the basement of 700. I keep meaning to try and get that from him.”

CURT DECKER.He became a founding partner of Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant in 1999. In 1995, he was a forward-looking bar manager on 2nd St….
“As 1995 was drawing to a close, I was wrapping up my 6th year as manager at Brownie’s Pub in Old City. Those were exciting times for beer folks in Philadelphia, as more and more beers became available, both imports and American craft brews. I had already taken an American-craft-heavy approach to my draft list, but aside from Stoudt’s, most were from out of the area, usually west coast.

“It was earlier that year when many of us had our first Yards ESA on cask(!) at the inaugural Philadelphia Craft Beer Fest. What a beautiful eye-opener that was. First of all, seeing beer served from a beer engine at a festival was unusual enough, but the HOP…it was so amazing…tea-like… you could feel it on your teeth. That beer, that day, changed the beer landscape in this city forever. Belgians had begun to trickle in…the trickle becoming a steady flow…but local beer, Philadelphia beer, was set to become a force to be reckoned with.

“I met Sam Calagione that year too, but I think he’s getting enough press lately…”

SCOATS. Real name: Mike Scotese, but who uses that? One of the most imaginative and creative people in the business, Scoats was a contributing writer when I was Philadelphia editor or “Beer & Tavern Chronicle.” Later, I described him this way in another publication: “Scoats is either a genius or an idiot savant, I can’t decide which. But God bless him.” In 1995, it was all just out of reach…
“In 1995, I was part owner of what would become The Grey Lodge Pub. I was in the painful year-long process of buying out my three business partners. The only thing that got me through that year was knowing that I had a plan to put great beer on tap. Hopefully some day I would actually get to drink Yards ESA at my bar.

“I was visiting a buddy upstate and we stopped in Ralphs in Bloomsburg. I was blown away by their selection. So many beers to choose from. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout-whoa, how exotic. Imagine being able to find stuff like that on tap! I had some interesting bottles in stock at my bar, but great beer on tap remained a (seemingly) impossible dream.

“A few long years later, a draft selection like that would be the norm at The Grey Lodge.”

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