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.
Women have played a prominent role in the Philadelphia craft beer scene from the beginning…indeed, before the beginning. Carol Stoudt is a brewing legend, long recognized as the nation’s first modern day female brewer. Rosemarie Certo, with husband Jeff Ware, created, in Dock Street, what might arguably be considered the most ambitious and creative brewpub in the country in the early ‘90s. The Stoudt Brewing Company and a reinvented Dock Street remain ongoing and vital parts of our modern day beer culture.
Those two, along with Kathy Hughes, the “mom” of Sugar Mom’s Church Street Lounge, were industry veterans before the time span of our report here, but they gave the region a female edge over most of the rest of the country. There was also Megan Wright, who worked at the Khyber and Bridgid’s before opening The Abbaye in 2003. You’ve read in earlier posts about the contributions Anne Cebula.
Contemporary beer-lebrities of the female persuasion such as Leigh Maida and Suzanne Woods were mere children in 1995 (Leigh: “I was a boring suburban community college student who got shitty on rolling rock pony bottles every night after work;” Suzy: “In 1995, I was 17 years old. I never drank in high school”). And where have you gone, Priscilla Estes, one of the best beer writers in this beer-writing paradise? She was a solid reporter and possessed the best industry contact list of anybody I knew back in the day.
A couple of still prominent beer lasses were right in the middle of it all, however. One paints a striking image for us of the way it was the other has gone on to become the PR face of a significant segment of the local brewing community.
NANCY RIGBERG. She and husband George Hummel were perhaps the ultimate enablers of dreamers hoping to create a new beer culture via their Home Sweet Homebrew shop.
“I remember that it 1995 good beer was almost like a secret society- a small, interconnected polyglot of those of us with an esoteric appreciation of these weird, hard-to-get beers that defied any real classification, and like the burgeoning appreciation for interesting foods and cuisines, set us all apart from the mass approach of even the hard to obtain, yet often unexciting, imports. The willingness to try something that hadn’t been attempted before (draft Belgians, anyone?) germinated in the late 90s, and the idea that anything was possible. Startling to think that the ensuing generations, those that have never known a world without craft beer, were barely entering their teens then, and really don’t have an appreciation of how this current bounty came about. The sense of excitement at that first Philly Craft Beer Festival at the old Civic Center was tangible, even though the general demeanor of festival goers has pretty much remained the same.”
JENNIFER HATTON. “Jen.” Everybody knows who you mean when you speak her name. And if somehow she’d slipped under your radar before Philly Beer Week came along, that deficit was quickly eliminated. She’s a partner in Profile PR these days, but wherever did she get her start?
“In 1995, I was working for Tom Peters at Copa Too! as a hostess/impressionable beer drinker. My watering hole was McGlinchey’s and while most of my friends were drinking Rolling Rock, I drank Yuengling Porter because I felt that since it was a dark beer, it was “better.” One day, Tom asked me what I liked to drink and I proudly told him, “porters” he came back with five different beers for me to try and on my first sip of Grant’s Perfect Porter, my beer drinking life was changed forever.
“I started to learn as much as I could about beer and Tom was glad to teach me (it was a fun way to start my shift!) I believe I was the waitress for the first beer dinner he hosted at Copa Too! Tom cooked each course himself and that was my first experience with food and beer pairings.
“Over the next few years, I traveled to Belgium for a solo beer drinking tour and got a job at Sam Adams Brewpub (when Will Reed was the brewmaster) and the manager (Lisa Anderson) introduced me to Clare Pelino at Profile. I was always talking about beer this and beer that, and Clare was open to the idea of working with beer having already promoted Dock Street.
“My first beer client was Brew Moon. Since then we’ve done PR for Iron Hill, Flying Fish, Yards, Rock Bottom, Nodding Head and Philly Beer Week. When we started our ProLiterary branch, Sam Calagione was our first client, and we’ve now agented books for many beer writers including Don Russell and Randy Mosher.”