This post is part of the ongoing coverage of the 2011 Beer Blogger’s Conference. For more information on the conference itself, visit The Beer Blogger’s Conference Webpage.

Keynote: Fred Eckhardt & John Foyston

If you don’t know who Fred Eckhardt is, you’re missing out on an important part of American Craft beer history. He has his own wikipedia entry, for goodness sake. In his 80s, Fred basically single handedly resurrected homebrewing in the US and sparked a (multiple) revolutions in beer. He’s also a hilarious, eccentric, outspoken and wonderful grandfatherly man with an epic mustache. Described by Ken Wells (author of Travels with Barley) is probably the best description I can provide for you.

“Fred is [an eighty-two] year old former Marine and Buddhist who teaches swimming classes to children back in his native Portland, Oregon. . . . He wrote a book on how to homebrew lagers in 1969, ten years before homebrewing was relegalized. His 1989 book, The Essentials of Beer Style, has become a kind of Rosetta Stone for homebrewers and those who judge homebrew competitions. “Eckhardt (as mentioned by Ken Wells of The Wall Street Journal) is a soft-spoken, diminutive, roundish man with blue twinkling eyes and a white mustache and goatee. Imagine Shakespeare’s Puck reborn as a beer mensch.”

The first time I ever watched Fred Eckhardt speak, it was in an interview on BrewingTV. Brewing TV + Fred Eckhardt

The keynote was a little bit less of a keynote than it was a “fireside chat” with Fred and John. John acted as pseudo-moderator and probed Fred for his infinite wisdom. There were many notable quotes and comments – and a lot of laughter.

John Foyston and Fred Eckhardt talk craft beer revolutions.

Beer glass in hand, Fred and John spoke about the great beer revolutions – adding hops to beer, figuring out how to brew clear, crisp beer (lagers), and the introduction of ales. When Fred mulled over the lack of session beer, he commented that “What’s the fun of drinking 9-10% ABV beers if you have to stop after having one or two?!” He also harped on the fact that the bloggers in the room have a lot in common with him when he first started writing. He wrote in newsletters and published several books – the difference being that “no one can comment back on a newsletter.”

As profound as it was to think about the dark ages of brewing and people like Fred that helped haul the brewing industry up by the bootstraps to its glory today, I was just happy to hear him talk and joke. When he was out of beer, he stopped mid-sentence and told the audience he was out of beer. The Beer Wench promptly refilled his glass, and he then said the best quote (in my opinion) of the evening.

Fred: “People ask me, Fred, what’s your favorite beer? And you know what I say? The beer in my hand.”
Audience member: “What’s your second favorite beer?”
Fred: “I think that’d be the next beer in my glass. Especially if it’s free beer.”

Cheers Fred. It was a privilege to be in his audience, and I want to thank Fred and those like him for paving the way for people like us and for this industry to grow.