People changing the beer landscape that you should know about.

by DGO Web Administrator

When I was a kid, I collected baseball and football cards. There was a gas station near our house that sold them and my brother and I would get a pack every time mom or dad stopped in to get gas or some grocery that they had forgotten in town. Back then, baseball cards were the internet for sports: What was John Kruk’s batting average in 1992? What team did Randy Johnson play for before the Diamondbacks? What college did John Elway go to? All that information was on the back of the card. And these were my heroes. I knew everything about them and cheered for them when I saw them on TV.

Now my heroes are beer people, people who changed or are changing the beer landscape. I don’t collect their cards anymore, I drink their beer. I read their archives, I toast to their achievements. They are brewers, thinkers, writers, activists, punks and mad scientists.

As much as I nerd out on the beer, I really nerd out on the brewers themselves. I love all brewers that can throw a big middle finger to industrial beer, and the chief of that tribe is Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head. Known for his outspoken views on big beer, his hot takes have made him a rock star.

But beer isn’t just a punk rock show, it’s a business, it’s an art. At the forefront there is Dick Cantwell, a principled business person (when the ownership group at the brewery he founded, Elysian Brewing, sold to AB-InBev, he quit), innovator in the industry, and a writer with several books. He is in the middle ground to me: a guy that has all the angst of Caligione, but with the brewing chops that made Elysian an award-winning brewery.

Then there’s Garrett Oliver, the artist, thinker, writer and head brewer of Brooklyn Brewing. Oliver’s perspectives on the beer world are sought after for their poetry, nuance, and subtlety. His books are published by Oxford University Press, and his style chronicled in the New York Times. These are the people that made craft beer what it is today.

Going into the past and into the future, I also love writer Michael Jackson, whose writing about beer in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s opened America up to the wider world of beer. His books are on the shelves of every brewer’s library, and his columns are bookmarked on their hard drives. Who knows where craft beer would be without Jackson’s words and scholarship. Then there’s the future: the Bjergso twins, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and Mikkel Borg Bjergso. The pair each run a gypsy brewery (Jeppe runs Evil Twin in Brooklyn, and Mikkel’s Mikkeller and Friends based in Copenhagen). Between Mikkeller and Evil Twin, the brothers have brewed thousands of different beers since starting in 2006. They brew most of their beer as collaborations, one-offs, and experiments that push boundaries in all meanings of the word. They have taprooms in Thailand, California, New York, Iceland, Sweden and their native Denmark. Neither of them own or operate a brewhouse but rent time and space in other breweries around the world. This is the type of brewery that should really scare the industrial beer set.

These are my beer heroes. These are the people I’d share a beer with at a dream beer dinner, or collaborate with on a dream brewing session. If they had baseball cards, they’d all be in plaques, I’d know all their stats, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Robert Alan Wendeborn puts the bubbles in the beer at Ska Brewing Company. His first book of poetry, “The Blank Target,” was published this past spring by The Lettered Streets Press and is available at Maria’s Bookshop. [email protected]

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