Thank You, Charlie
I need only type these words for BrewersAssociation.org visitors to know exactly what and who I mean. Maybe you’ve even said the words directly to him.
On January 23, 2018 Charlie Papazian announced his planned exit from the Brewers Association (BA), which will occur on January 23, 2019 on the occasion of his 70th birthday and National Pie Day, which he founded. (You knew that, didn’t you?) We were given one year’s time to digest this transition. Woe is me—the year went by too quickly.
Charlie’s role as a visionary, homebrewing advocate, author, speaker, beer historian, beer and food guru, and all-around beer sage have had a profound impact on beer. Just Google his name to see.
Words in one web post cannot do his contributions justice, although I’m excited to try. His work and presence have shaped association staff thinking, mine included. This is significant because we at the BA, beginning in 2019, will merely follow in his footsteps as opposed to walking the same halls with him. No longer will we regularly get to look across the conference room table or BA bar and into that ever-adventurous glint in his eye. No longer will we get to see his ever-curious smile as he asks questions about our projects, pitches, and communications. This is a big change. Very big.
A Living Legend
As founder and past president of the Brewers Association, Charlie’s accomplishments surpass those of most living legends, and I don’t type those words lightly. At the base of it all is his joy and his love for homebrewing, which helped jump-start, advance, and grow the U.S. craft brewing movement. In 1978 he founded the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), along with Charlie Matzen, which today has more than 45,000 members. He’s brewed an exponential number of beers, authored hundreds of recipes and articles centric to homebrewing, given many, many beer reviews, written infinite magazine articles and web posts, and granted tens of thousands of interviews. Surely many of you have a copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing or one of his other brewing books on your bookshelf, likely dog-eared and creased like mine, riddled with handwritten notes.
Examples of his accomplishments include…
The National Homebrew Competition (NHC), which over its 40-year history—and still going strong—has evaluated 143,240 beers. The NHC is an annual holy grail, largest beer competition in the world, amazing-to-bag-a-medal event that has allowed homebrewers, many of whom end up becoming professional brewers, to test and up their brewing game. I will always consider bagging a bronze medal for my and my husband’s Old Ale in the 2003 NHC as a career highlight. We all have Charlie and the AHA to thank for that competition and beer feedback opportunity.
Charlie also started Zymurgy magazine, which has influenced the brewing approaches and techniques of tens of thousands of homebrewers.
What about the Great American Beer Festival? Founded by Charlie. The World Beer Cup? Another Charlie innovation. Via the world-class judging panels at these competitions, the U.S. and world brewing scene is light years beyond where it was in the 1980’s. Simply put, the BA beer competitions have truly advanced brewing and brewers.
Thank you, Charlie.
Ahead of His Time
Now as we take a few more sips from the glass of BA history, we can’t help but notice that Charlie has been there in some form or another at most junctures since the 70’s. For example, did you know that Charlie is the person who started the Beer City USA tag that helped put Asheville, N.C. and Grand Rapids, Mich. on the craft beer map, fueling an advanced beer culture in many towns that still allows them to tout their Beer City status to this day? This project came along when he was tapped as the national beer examiner for Examiner.com. The website (now defunct) is yet another example of where Charlie was ahead of the curve about what’s next of next with the early use of social media and crowd sourcing to help emerging beer cities gain street cred. It inspired many other current crowdsourced awards, including the present Great American Beer Bars published by CraftBeer.com, the BA beer lover-facing website.
He was behind the start of The New Brewer magazine, the journal of the Brewers Association. Haven’t seen it? It’s mailed every other month, not via subscription, but via membership to the BA. The New Brewer has inspired and informed tens of thousands of professional brewers since 1983. Charlie has been penning his magazine column from almost the very beginning. Well, batten down the hatches, because starting in 2019 BA members and the twenty thousand plus readership are going to have to get used to not reading his words on the pages. This is just the tip of the iceberg, one of the many voids we will notice when he steps away.
Thank you, Charlie.
Charlie as a Co-Worker
Many people might not know what a fun, lighthearted, and inquisitive nature Charlie has. A great example is his all-staff emails. These provide a glimpse into how his mind works on a week-to-week basis, bringing co-workers along for the ride. Inspiration comes full circle.
Often his all-BA emails are sent with a creative or kooky subject header. Here are two prime examples:
Subject: Celebration of fermentation today
It’s Pickle-rama Day. Brought in a jar of naturally fermented pickles. In the kitchen.
Share while it lasts.
Subject: Another sad farewell
Saga of “The Ale Pail and the Step Ladder.”
Today I bid farewell to my brewing aluminum stepladder and the original 20-gallon plastic pail (trash container) in which I brewed my original pail ales. These two are on their way to the Smithsonian, joining my spoon and a few other remnants of my 1970’s homebrewing life.
There the Smithsonian staff are using words like “fantastic” and “immensely exciting” and “fun” and “authentic,” etc.
On this side, melancholy has set in. Goodbye Ale Pail. Goodbye Step Ladder.
Or how about these gems?
- Subject: 1976 before homebrewing was legal
- Subject: Hot stuff for a chili day
- Subject: Chill-o-rama. And the winners are…
- Subject: Who is Tommy Moe?
- Subject: Bizarre and encouraging
- Subject: Veg garden plants coming soon
- Subject: 1982 HomebrewCon interview
- Subject: Heading to the BAr fridge
- Subject: Basil
- Subject: The right medium is part of the message
- Subject: Hunk <As in hunk of cheese that won’t fit in fridge!>
- Subject: Take pride
- Subject: Say it ain’t so
- Subject: An extraordinary story. Recommended reading.
- Subject: One more thought about my Japan trip
- Subject: Fight Fire with Beer Festival
- Subject: Travel to Japan
- Subject: Keep a Peach
- Subject: It seems it is 4:30
- Subject: Beeeeerrrrrrrr
- Subject: Unbelieving Contemplation
- Subject: The only 3 to have judged all WBC competitions (Charlie is one of them)
- Subject: Fun at the warehouse party
- Subject: Softball throwback
For a while, Charlie even sent out a yearly email about ordering energy balls to get BA staff through the long days of GABF. Each fall, his wife, Sandra, prepared what Charlie called “her infamous gender-free yin-yang energy balls. One order is three ping-pong sized chocolate covered blockbuster balls, including red and Chinese ginseng, guarana, chocolate, spirulina, almonds, sesame butter, honey, and more.” After all, when you attend every session of GABF like BA staff do, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Thank you, Charlie.
Charlie the Historian
Many also might not know what a craft beer historian Charlie is. Some of his most recent work has been as the BA’s archivist. In the past few years he has cataloged more than 100,000 photos within the BA’s possession and lead the interview process of 140 craft beer community pioneers. Stay tuned for continued work on this front that leverages the base Charlie set up, including ways historians and researchers can accesses BA library resources. With this work, Charlie has established himself as continuing to make beer history and, once again, leading the BA to a new place that we would not have gone without him.
Thank you, Charlie.
Memories, Thoughts, Moments
I asked a few BA staff members to share some of their favorite memories, thoughts, or moments with Charlie:
Chuck Skypeck: I took a tour of southern U.S. breweries with Charlie (it’s in Microbrewed Adventures, page 101). Probably the most interesting part of the tour was that at each stop we had a contest—a completely joyous homebrew contest—where all the entries had to be brewed from recipes from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. In Little Rock we were offered a cock ale fermented with chicken. When Charlie asked where they got the cock, it turned out that it was a fryer from the store, so it was actually a hen and therefore wasn’t a true cock ale. By the way, as a vegetarian, I refused to drink it.
Acacia Coast: Charlie had the sweetest reply to my question last fall. I said, “Charlie, did you know you started GABF the year I was born?” His reply: “Yes. I saw you there. Many twinkles in people’s eyes.”
Cindy Jones: Charlie is my go-to person for gardening and travel tips. Not only does he share his seedling and harvest bounty with staff, I found we both like traveling to similar parts of the world. Charlie knows some of the best out-of-the-way places to visit.
Jill Redding: The fact that Charlie started both Zymurgy and The New Brewer motivated me even more as editor-in-chief to try to maintain the integrity, quality, readability, and value of both magazines. I never knew what he would come up with next for his columns, but they were always heartfelt and entertaining (and never late). I think his Commentary, “An Extraordinary 40-Year Journey,” in the January/February 2018 issue is one of the best things we’ve ever published in The New Brewer.
Julia Herz (Me): Charlie, my beer career began on a fateful day in 1993 when I was able to connect and dig into the amazing network you built. That summer, in my early 20’s, I won a membership to the AHA while attending a beer festival in the mountains. This man who gave me that membership, when he picked my name out of a hat of more than 200 people, was you. Since then I’ve been ever inspired by your take and approach on the beverage of beer. Its taste, its packaging, its producers, its variety, how it pairs with food and the expanded experiences one can have connected to beer. You have also shown, beer in and beer out, how to savor the flavor in low quantities and to of course “relax, don’t worry and have a homebrew.” It’s fair to say that this amazing beer revolution and ride would never have happened without you. There are more than 135,000 full- and part-time jobs directly related to U.S. craft breweries. Incredible. And we have more than 60 Brewers Association staffers, many of us who have dedicated our professional careers to the service of the
craft brewing and homebrewing community.
Thank you, Charlie.
So, what will Charlie do next?
This is a question I’ve been asked multiple times in 2018. My answer is whatever the heck he wants. No doubt whatever it is he will be making beer history and helping U.S. craft breweries and homebrewers keep ahead of what is next of next. In other words, he will continue to not only document beer history, but continue to make it and brew it for many years ahead.
Cheers to you, Charlie, and to whatever fantastic and wonderful beer-filled travel, projects, and brews are next. You deserve the moon and the stars, and an always-full glass of beer.