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.
The guy who ran the homebrew shop that a lot of the early brewers came up though as they were learning their craft. The distributor who introduced some of the best local and national beers into this market early on. Two guys who got the idea that maybe they could make a living writing about their favorite beverage and became among the best-known beer chroniclers in the country. That guy who turned a battered, badly lit and totally overcrowded shack of a building into mecca for a whole generation of beer lovers. And, of course, the guy who seemed to be everywhere….
EDDIE FRIEDLAND. Friedland Distributing was the wholesaler of choice for most of the new craft breweries that emerged in the mid-’90s and later for other breweries from around the country looking to enter this market. The company was acquired by Origlio Beverage in January 2008.
“We started in late December or early 1996 distributing Yards (I had to convince them we would handle the beer with care) and got into selling hand pumps right after. I noticed a few of them around town that were serving this authentic English style ale from a tiny little brewer up an alleyway in Manayunk and it seemed like it might catch on. We were Dogfish’s first distributor outside of Delaware. George and Nancy at Home Sweet Homebrew turned Sam on to me because he used to buy ingredients from them. His second style he ever made was Chicory Stout and they’d bring in stuff for him. We were also the first distributor for Sierra Nevada in town.
“Stoudt’s, Dock Street, New Amsterdam, Red Feather Pale, Penn, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada were in market. Stoudt’s came to me after a brief fling with another wholesaler and then left market for a while, then came back to me and we started over again. We’d get the 25oz bottles, halves and sixtels from Bill Moore at the brewery and The Lion brought down the 12oz cases in tractor trailers.
“There were a few good beer bars already, Khyber Pass, Sugar Mom’s, Dawson Street. Tangiers at 17th and Lombard was ahead of the curve in those days. O’Hara’s Dining Saloon and Fish House which was where City Tap House is now was another. Actually, though, the Chuckwagon sandwich shop/deli chain was one of the first places to give customers in this area more than five beers to choose from. They didn’t do draft but had a great bottle selection. They were inspirational to me and I first had Guinness and Bass at the one near my house when I was 17. In my mind they were the beginning. Pop Edwards Saloon on Market Street was my father’s first Bass and Guinness account. I had first Bass on tap there.
“A guy named Dave, I don’t remember his last name, sold a lot of German imports at the Ballamingo Inn in West Conshohocken and caught onto crafts early. He used to drive to our warehouse in this huge old station wagon; all the insides from the driver’s seat to the tailgate was always full of trash. We’d stuff as much beer as we could into his car then we’d deliver the rest of his order the next Thursday which was when we went out that way.
“You know, all I was doing was continuing the tradition my father (Martin Friedland) has created. My dad was the reason for a lot of this and I want to give credit where credit is due.”
GEORGE HUMMEL. George and Nancy Rigberg’s shop was like a portal into craft brewing, the place where many of the people who started or worked at the emerging local breweries went for their homebrewing supplies or to just sit around and talk about beer.
“I remember the first time I met Sam Calagione, in the early summer of ’95. He arrived at Home Sweet Homebrew and began to assemble a particularly large selection of brewing ingredients. Several bulk sacks of grain, numerous large bags of specialty malts, several pounds of hops and around a dozen packs of Wyeast liquid cultures.
“Quite a large heap of homebrew booty. ‘Looks like you’ve got some serious brewing planned,’ I observed. He introduced himself and explained that he was opening a brewpub in Rehoboth Beach DE. He had personally lobbied the DE state legislature to change the laws to allow brewpubs, having done so successfully he was going to open the First State’s first brewpub. He was going to do this on a Sabco homebrewing system producing his first beers in 1/2bbl batches. Having stopped in Rehoboth a few years prior, and finding the most exotic beer offering in town was a frozen mug of Guinness, I viewed all this a bit skeptically. ‘What a nut job!’ I thought to myself, ‘that ain’t gonna last!’
“A few months later I spoke with Sam again. It was near the end of summer. They were expanding the size of the brewery. He was now hoping to sell his beer in Philly. I suggested two things to him. That he contact Eddie Friedland as his distributor, as he was the only distributor actively seeking to bring craft beer to the market, and to visit the manager at a bar called Copa, Too! as he was receptive to new brews, as well. That manager, of course, was none other than Tom Peters.”
DON RUSSELL. His “Joe Sixpack” column brought craft beer coverage into the mainstream media and when he did an expose on how beer pours at the old Veterans Stadium where shortchanging customers, he became Philadelphia hero. Today the column is syndicated to papers around the country. Russell co-founded Philadelphia Beer Week with Tom Peters and the late Bruce Nichols and serves as the event’s executive director.
“Fifteen years ago, I was trying to convince my editors to let me write a column about beer. I’d been on the staff at the Daily News for almost 10 years as a general assignment reporter on the City Desk. They thought the column was a ploy to expense my habit (true) and that I’d be writing about nothing more than PBR and getting drunk (untrue). What convinced them, in addition to picking up the tab at Westy’s on more than one occasion, was the list below. It was compiled during my camping and bicycle trip down the Pacific Coast in the summer of ’95, from Seattle to San Francisco, to mark my 40th birthday. I enjoyed as many different beers as possible over a 3-week span, visiting breweries nearly ever day (not to mention the Portland Brewers Festival, which inflated my list).
“To me, the list is a time capsule. It’s amazing how many styles were already being brewed back then. Grant’s, Fishtail, Bandon and few others are gone, and many others (Deschutes, Bridgeport) still are not widely distributed. Overall, it’s a great reminder of what was clearly already an exploding microbrew scene. Here it is, just as I presented it:
“The official tally from Don’s Tour de Brew is complete. It’s numbered roughly in order of consumption. About half of the beers were consumed on draught, the remainder in bottles lugged over countless hills and 1,041 miles. Overall, the top beers (noted with an asterick) were brewed mainly by Deschutes and North Coast.
1. Full Sail Pilsner
2. Salmon Bay Bitter
3. Oregon Honey Wheat
4. Deschutes Cascade Gold (Bend, OR)
5. Deschutes Porter*
6. Deschutes IPA*
7. Deschutes Bitter
8. Grant’s Scottish Ale
9. Grant’s Imperial Stout
10. Fishtail Ales Trout Stout
11. Widmer Hefeweisen (Portland, OR)
12. Redhook ESB (Seattle, WA)
13. Pyramid Apricot
14. Bridgeport Nut Brown Ale (Portland, OR)
15. Bridgeport Blue Heron Pale Ale
16. Bridgeport St. John’s Golden Ale
17. Bridgeport Pintail ESB
18. Bridgeport Coho Pacific Xtra Pale Ale
19. Bridgeport Nut Brown Ale (cask conditioned)
20. Bridgeport XX Stout (cask conditioned)
21. Alaskan Amber
22. Pike Place Pale Ale
23. Ballard Bitter (Seattle, WA)
24. McMeniman’s Black Rabbit Porter (Portland, OR)
25. McMeniman’s Ale (cask conditioned)
26. McMeniman’s Terminator Stout
27. Nor’wester Mai Bock (Portland, OR)
28. Nor’wester Blacksmith’s Porter*
29. Lucky Labradour Best Bitter (Portland, OR)
30. Lucky Labradour Quality Rye
31. Rock Bottom Big Horn Nut Brown (Portland, OR)
32. Tugboat Brewing Belgian (Portland, OR)
33. Hair of the Dog Trippel*
34. Steelhead IPA
35. Umpqua White
36. San Andreas Pale
37. Crested Butte Rodeo Cream Stout
38. Big Time Rainfest Ale
39. Oregon Fields Wheat
40. Fish Leavenworth Barley Wine
41. Los Gatos Octoberfest
42. Rogue Red Ale (Newport, OR)
43. Rogue Nut Brown
44. Rogue Shakespeare Stout
45. Rogue Whales Tail Ale
46. Thomas Kemper Blueberry Lager
47. Oregon Trail Spiced Ale
48. Bandon Mild (Bandon, OR)
49. Wild River Hefe-weizen
50. Wild River Nut Brown
51. Wild River Blackberry Porter
52. Humboldt Red Nectar Ale (Arcata, CA)
53. Humboldt Oatmeal Stout*
54. Humboldt Cherry Stout
55. Lost Coast Downtown Brown (Eureka, CA)
56. Lost Coast Raspberry Stout
57. Lost Coast White*
58. Lost Coast Steelhead X Stout
59. Riverside Victoria Ave. Ale
60. North Coast Red Seal Ale* (Ft. Bragg, CA)
61. North Coast Old No. 38 Stout*
62. North Coast Imperial Stout*
63. Mendocino Red Tail Ale (Hopland, CA)
64. Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout (Booneville, CA)
65. Anchor Steam Beer (San Francisco, CA)
66. Golden Gate Amber (Embryville, CA)
67. Hubsch Marzen (Baker, CA)
68. El Toro Poppy Jasper (Morganfield, CA)”
LEW BRYSON. His Pennsylvania Breweries, as good a travel guide as you’ll ever read, sold out the entire first run of its fourth edition in a stretch two or three months this fall. He is managing editor of the respected Malt Advocate magazine and a contributor to more magazines than there is space to list here. He is a crusading advocate for the elimination of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. It is difficult to believe that he once had his heart set on becoming a librarian.
“1995 was the year I first tasted Baltic porter and got THAT obsession. As 1995 was drawing to a close, I was preparing to become a full-time beer writer. I had been writing part-time for about two years, but my temporary job–editing drug labels in Spanish and Portuguese, neither of which I speak–was running out, so I had to make up my mind what to do. The wife encouraged me to take my shot, so I worked my last day as a wage slave in December of that year. I would try to make my way selling stories to Ale Street News, Malt Advocate, and Beer & Tavern Chronicle. I think that might have also been the year I got wicked blotto at the Copa Too! Christmas dinner.”
MATT GUYER. It is difficult to argue with the contention that The Beer Yard in Wayne, nestled away behind a Starbucks (“beer in the rear”) is the region’s and maybe the state’s best retail beer outlet. The structure may look like its about to collapse at any moment, but inside it walls an astonishing array of beers from around the nation and the world are stacked in row after row that bedazzle the eyes of the beer geeks who travel from near and far to partake of the bounty. This is what Matt Guyer has wrought.
“I was working at my father’s company, longing to get out of it. I wasn’t even a beer drinker. I worked for an art gallery called Image Makers in Strafford, which featured artwork by musicians, and I traveled a lot but with old people, 40-45. They would go to bed and I’d go out to see the city. I learned that if you went to a a dance club or sports bar alone, people would look at you like you were weird. But if you went into brewpub or good beer bar, everybody was very welcoming. I started working at Beer Yard in August 1997 with the agreement that I was going to buy it. I was interested in and drinking good beer at that point and I saw the Beer Yard not just as a business opportunity but as a chance to be involved with a lot of nice people.”
CHRIS MORRIS. I’ve often referred to Chris as the brewing world’s Zelig, a guy who turns up everywhere and fits right in. He was one of the legendary bartenders at the original Khyber Pass, he worked with Jim Anderson on Beer Philadelphia, he promoted and worked most of the city’s early beer events and still carries the “Split Thy Skull” flag every Easter Saturday, he worked for Yards and has stayed on with Philadelphia Brewing. But he’s wary of talking about all that instead close out the 1995 series with an enigmatic “formula” which appears to be a tribute to the place he once called home…
“I’m usually a bit reticent about discussing events 15 years past, as beer memories tend to get a bit fuzzy (as in, nobody really ‘defected’ to Sugar Mom’s, but several friends worked at both bars). I really just have a mathematical formula, thus – “Jesus Lizard + Old Crustacean + Guided By Voices + Fullness (1/2 Fuller’s ESB, 1/2 Guinness) + fascinating co-workers and friends/customers = Khyber Pass Pub.”