I may still have reservations about not attending The Four Seasons beer dinner with Fritz Maytag during Philly Beer Week. Fortunately, though, I'd stopped in for a bit of the meet and greet prior to the dinner. Certainly one of the highlights of my Philly Beer Week 2009.
Since Bruce Nichols attended, I asked if he might like to share his reaction to the dinner. Keep in mind that he is one of the Philly Beer Week "committee members." But, I'm guessing that if he really wasn't all that thrilled with the dinner, he would have politely turned down my offer to write a few words for The Brew Lounge.
From Bruce Nichols: The Four Seasons Hotel can spot a star; they booked Fritz Maytag for a Philly Beer Week dinner early on and watched the reservations roll in. Then the waiting list swelled; then they opened an adjacent dining room. Lots of people wanted to spend an evening with the father of the craft brewing movement.
Fritz has been a supporter of craft beer in Philadelphia for decades; at a 1992 Michael Jackson event at the Penn Museum, he launched Ninkasi, his recreation of the ancient beer spoken of in a hymn to Ninkasi, Sumerian goddess of beer. Most recently, he spoke at the memorial celebration for Michael Jackson at the Museum during Philly Beer Week 2008.
This year, Fritz was enjoying himself. Before each course, he got up and said a few words about the Anchor beer being served. But at the table, he could not stop talking about the food. The chef had created a special five course beer dinner menu and Fritz was awestruck. He has probably soldiered through some less than sterling beer dinners, but this one hit his quality zone head on. He was a happy man.
What else was on his mind? He waded right in to current controversy over the significance of style labels in beer. "What makes a beer a bock?" came a question. His answer: "Because it says so on the label," came his response; a recognizably Fritzian distillation that dismisses dimwits and pundits alike. He seemed to take a position very similar to that of Randy Mosher, another Philly Beer Week visitor, who views style labels at best as "markers" rather than exact guidelines or descriptors of the beer itself. But that is another topic.
Andy Musser is Fritz’s local rep, and he brought us around to talking about Philly Beer Week 2010. How could Fritz help? I put the question to him directly: what would you like to do during Philly Beer Week next year?
Anything you want me to, he said—which I took as a sign that he knew something very special is happening around beer in Philadelphia, something he wants to continue to be part of. Fritz inspires, just by being himself. Come out and meet him yourself next year.