Carol and Ed Stoudt threw a party at their beerhall to celebrate (That's Ed, my hatted self, Carol, and Bill "Mr. Victory" Covaleski...um, towards the end of the party), and Cathy and I went up. We pulled in behind a Berkshire Brewing pickup; wow, I said, they're coming in from all over! We ran into Tom Peters of Monk's Cafe and the Iron Hill Gang right away, grabbed some beers -- Pilsner, natch -- and started going on about whatever was on our minds.
The dinner, paired with different Stoudt's beers, was excellent, very well-prepared, and the evening's entertainment was exceptional as well: a roast of Carol and Ed by friends from the brewing industry: Covaleski, Gary Bogoff (from Berkshire Brewing), Ken Allen of Anderson Valley, Chris O'Connor of Northampton Brewery (also celebrating 20 years this year), Sebbie "East Coast Rogue" Buhler, and Mark Edelson of Iron Hill.
There was at least one other roaster, but I'm blanking; Cathy and I were sitting with the Iron Hill brewers, a raucous and hilarious bunch, and I may have paid less attention at times than I should have. One major topic of table conversation was how Edelson, who was 'batting cleanup' as the last roaster, was going to do after the phenomenal performance by O'Connor, who brought the house down with his stories and barbs. We howled when Larry Horwitz (Iron Hill North Wales brewer) texted Edelson to ask him that, and Edelson responded "Im screwed."
We couldn't allow that to happen of course, so we sent him some material, and we collected some single brewer's cards and put them in my hat for Mark to pull out a "Mystery Date" for Carol's two unspoken-for daughters. The look of grateful relief on his face was a beautiful thing, and as you can see by Carol's reaction in the picture to the left, he killed.
After Mark redeemed himself, we got the release we'd been waiting for: the 20th anniversary beer, Smooth Hoperator. As you might guess from the name, it's a hopped-up doppelbock (although I've seen it tagged as an amber lager and an AIPA on various beersites...either I'm nuts or they are). Smooth as a preacher's downfall, powerfully hoppy, and just a bit dangerously drinkable at 7%, this one's a winner.
So, okay...that's the party. Thoughts on the Stoudt's 20th anniversary? Well, pleasure, mostly, and some vindication. I've always been a fan of this brewery, lager/German-oriented as it is. I've been friends with Ed and Carol for years, been to a number of their fests. I'm very glad to see the brewery finally off contracting; I think the beer has benefitted from the focus, and I'm glad to see the response from the customers has been positive. I'm hoping that people will give them another look in the light of the 20th anniversary: this is a brewery with relevance. The classic styles they continue to produce are some of the best American iterations of their type.
Here's to plenty more years of fine beers from Stoudt's Brewing. Stick to your guns, keep brewing lagers in a family tradition, and don't back down on the Germanosity of the whole operation. And whatever has to be done to keep the fests going, do it, they're still some of the best around.
From Cathy and I: Prost, Stoudt's! Viel Erfolg!