Set high above our bars and breweries, sculpted in the granite of personal history, lies a metaphorical place that stands the test of time as a “shrine of beerocracy.”
It’s Mount Rushmore … only my repurposed symbol of fermented freedom. No longer do Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln emblazon its side, but rather my own heroes, representing the people who have shaped my past and influenced my future with beer.
Today, along with a collection of fellow Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers, I’m sharing who should be remembered for the impact they’ve made on my beer drinking world. So let me introduce you to the dignitaries of my Mount Rushmore … of beer.
But for all Calagione has done to push boundaries of flavor and arguably kickoff an American love for IPAs, he deserves a place on my Mount Rushmore for making me realize beer goes beyond yellow fiz. He even tried to do his part educating people around the world with his own beer reality show. That requires some serious clout.
“We are trying to explore the outer edges of what beer can be,” he told the New Yorker for a 2008 feature on him and his brewery. It was that story, read more than six years ago, that changed my life and what I wanted my relationship with be to be.
For that, Calagione deserves a spot immortalized in stone.
Neolithic Man and Woman
Which is why thanks to Neolithic Man and Woman are pivotal, because these great-great-great-(and so on) ancestors of ours discovered that water from the sky or a stream mixed in a pot of grain could create something special:
Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer (as well as wine and other fermented potions) must have become immediately apparent. With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts. Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds.
This list wouldn’t be complete without an American president on Mount Rushmore, and fewer may be deserving as Carter, who, on Oct. 14, 1978, signed H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment creating an exemption from taxation of beer brewed at home for personal or family use.
Yes, there is certainly more to this story than “Jimmy Carter saved beer!” but the fact of the matter is Carter’s signature ushered in a new law that didn’t just (legally) launch more than a million homebrewers – including me – but set many people on the path to starting their own business.
With breweries now opening at a rate of 1.5 a day in the U.S.(!), homebrewers are widely responsible for the new beer you find on shelves and in taprooms. So while legislation doesn’t happen because of just one man – unless you’re Frank Underwood – Carter deserves a seat at this table and his face in some rock.
Elliot is one of my oldest friends, someone I’ve known for more than 10 years who no doubt helped me grow as a person and shape my personality. He’s also the one who made me want to care about beer in the first place.
While Sam Calagione opened my eyes to what beer can be, Elliot helped me realize what beer should be.
In the days before craft was A Thing, we shared countless beers with the qualification that it had to fill a role of something other than a drink to get us buzzed. It was supposed to taste good and we should enjoy it. Our beer wasn’t fancy – lots of Guinness and Hoegaarden and Old Speckled Hen – but it created a world where our expectations guided us, not the marketing or availability or lesser brews.
On my Mount Rushmore, nobody deserves a spot more than Elliot. Fate may have eventually guided me here on my own – with a fridge full of great beer, a blog and a passion for the industry – but it’s hard to imagine my path being set without him.
Now it’s your turn: who deserves to be on your Mount Rushmore of beer?
This post is part of multiple essays from Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers discussing who they believe should be remembered for all-time, thanks to the influence they’ve made on the beer drinking world. Additional posts will be shared below throughout the day.
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac