Saturday, March 04, 2006

more on Heurich's demise

Marc Fisher writes a blog for the on-line edition of the Washington Post. On 3 March 2006, he posted an entry about the demise of the Olde Heurich Brewing Company. There were several posted comments in response - some trenchant, some not, and some snide.

Below, I've copied the ultimate paragraph of one such post followed by my reply to it.

I think if Mr. Heurich had been a little less of an "eleemosynary" guy and more of a "beer-makin'" guy, maybe he'd have gotten somewhere. Meanwhile, I'm gonna drink my crappy beer and watch some baseball from the cheap seats.

Posted by: Kevin R | March 3, 2006 10:48 PM
The snide reference to Gary Heurich's vocabulary (the use of the word "eleemosynary" - meaning charitable with familial connotations), and, by intimation, to Mr. Heurich's philanthropy, speaks to the commenter rather than to the object of his disdain. And it is not germane to the topic.

In the mid 1980s, the 'hometown DC' region was relatively devoid of good beer - as were significant swaths of the US. The microbrewery movement was still nascent. Gary Heurich was taking a large personal financial risk when he began 'contract-brewing' his beer at that time.

Yes, the issues of local support, quality control, and marketing, mentioned - in Mr. Fisher's blog and posted comments - are significant. Yes, bitterness is a quality prized in a brewer's product, if not his personality.

But if Mr. Heurich let some bitterness slip, maybe he can be excused. His family's industrial, cultural, and, yes, eleemosynary roles in DC's heritage have been gravely wounded.

Maybe Mr. Heurich could have devoted more time to marketing and promotion. But in the early days, I remember seeing him here, there, and seemingly everywhere, indefatigably flogging his beer, distinctive behind his handlebar moustache. (Maybe his shearing of that trademark was an augur.)

And maybe Mr. Heurich could have 'home-towned' the liquid by shifting production from Utica, NY to local breweries in Frederick, or Ashburn, or Baltimore. Beer is so much more delicate than wine; its freshness is a quid pro quo guarantee of its quality (that is, if the beer is sapid to begin with!).

But maybe pigs should have wings, and maybe rain should be beer.

The fickleness of earlier beer-drinking generations twice hastened the demise of local breweries across the nation. The capriciousness of today's beer-geek generation may again do the same.

So long, Gary Heurich, and thanks for all the beers!
[ Text of Heurich's farewell ]

POSTSCRIPT (16 April 2006):

A few weeks later, I met up with Gary Heurich at the Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda, Maryland.

Proprietor Greg Hourigan was throwing his annual Spring Beer Tasting and had invited Gary to pour us his last brews and talk on the his last 20 years of beer in DC. (Hourigan had been one of the first to offer Heurich on draft in the area.)

Gary's presentation was short, and pithy, and funny, and sad. We stood up at the conclusion and applauded. And it was fitting that Bob Tupper was there as well that evening - a final meeting between two godfathers of good beer in our area.

More Photos.

But there was even more history and convergence that evening.

Old Dominion Brewing Company's Montgomery County territory manager, Paul Askea, was there to present that brewery's spring offering.

Paul was full of spring in his step. Dominion was about to be purchased by two in-house employees from long-time owner Jerry Bailey, averting a sale to Anheuser-Busch. And Paul was to gladly return to the company he loved. As we now know, that was not to be.

'Hoppy' Jeff Wells was there, and he too was saying goodbye. For 5 years, Jeff has been an uber-saleman of good beer in our area, specifically promoting the beers of the Global Brewers Guild. Jeff will be opening his own beer bar in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, New York City in 2007.

In foreground: Gary Heurich looking at bottle
of his Dad's beer in pristine condition.
Jeff Wells looks on.

More on Heurich's demise.

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