July 5, 2014

Your last beer

From when I had Nicole Erny, Adam Lamoreaux, Dan del Grande and Fraggle on my SFoodie blind pale ale tasting panel. Includes proof Fraggle drank Budweiser.
The beer community. That’s my favorite phrase. It juxtaposes the two greatest concepts: beer and community. Beer lovers love beer, sure, but a beer enjoyed alone isn’t nearly as good as one shared among friends new and old, basically extended family. Cities across the country and around the world grow their own beer communities comprised of brewers, publicans, beertenders, bloggers, quaffers—anyone who wants in. The family is ever-expanding as more people discover the world of better beer and of course as more people raise children as part of the industry and/or scene. The first story I had published in a beer magazine was all about second generation craft breweries featuring the likes of Sierra Nevada, Bell’s, and New Glarus. As a fairly new father myself, I’m pleased this is a culture I get to raise my toddler in. But like all families and communities, sometimes we lose people.

Sadly, Fraggle—the name absolutely everybody knew him as and the crusty punk certainly rocked—suffered a stroke last week and did not recover. A passionate beer geek (and vegan and punk and socialite), he and his former partner opened Beer Revolution in Oakland, injecting a huge dose of awesome into the San Francisco East Bay community. It was and remains a place to explore new beers and congregate, really delve into, discussion about beer (and other important life matters).

I never got to be very close with Fraggle—I lived in The City and then we moved away from The City—but every time I saw him his larger-than-life personality commanded the room even if we were at an outdoor beer festival.

As time marches, people age, accidents occur, and other tragedies strike the community, we will lose more family members. I’m fondly remembering the great Bill Brand, the legendary Don Younger, and recently departed Jack Joyce. Little-known fact: the first beer item I had published in print was the obituary for Karl Strauss. Even more tragic are the recent, untimely deaths of brewers’ kids like Dick Cantwell’s son (Nap, 18), and Brendan Moylan’s son (Sean, 27). I didn’t even know those boys but as a father and member of the beer community, I cried for their losses.
Comrade Barley's final Facebook profile
People often ask what’s your favorite beer, or if you can only have one beer on a desert island, what would it be? It’s a silly question because beer lovers have hundreds of favorite beers and none of us ever sign up for a three hour tour at sea. But just like one of my truly favorite beers, Moonlight Brewing’s Death & Taxes, those are things none of us escape. How many of us have a wicked awesome beer cellar going? Mine has case upon case. I always say I plan on enjoying every single beer before I go. But I can’t help wondering if Fraggle had a stellar stash of his own. That dude loved sours and big, strong ales—stuff that woulda been amazing long down the line. It’s macabre, but I wish he could’ve known, just an hour before he started to slip, so he could’ve selected what his very last beer would be. Like I said, it’s a really dark thought, but perhaps one worth thinking the next time we stare into our beer cellars or fridges or closets. “What do I want my last beer on Earth to be?” I think many folks have something uber special we hold onto for that mythical special occasion. Weddings come and go. Landmark birthdays arrive in rocket time and streak behind us in life’s rearview mirror.  And those magical bottles persist on shelves.

I wish to God I could go back one week (and supernaturally travel back to my Beeradise in Portland then bank south to Oakland) and uncork that bottle of Cantillon Fou’ Foune, or Horal’s Oude Geuze Mega Blend, or probably that 2010 Cascade Vlad the Imp Aler to share with Fraggle. But I do know that when I go home, the first bottle I’m going to crack open is that 2007 The Abyss and polish it off with my wife (and let my son dip his finger in it). We’ve all heard to live each moment as if it’s your last but I think that’s a terrible idea for the very reason that it might be true. Having said that, I can get down with enjoying each beer as if it’s your last. Just pray we all have a million more last-beers and a million more moments to enjoy them with friends and family.


Unknown said...

A few months ago, Fraggle invited some of his pals over to share a bunch of his saved beers up so don't fret that he missed out on anything because he was saving it! Thanks for this nice eulogy!

Brian Yaeger said...

Very glad to hear that, Alicia. Pray tell what were some of those last beers?