Treasures in the Garage

Zymurgy November/December 2015

Zymurgy November/December 2015

Debbie Vandevort (November 3 post) and I stand in her two-car garage filled with one car and a lot of miscellaneous stuff. A cat, sprawled on the hood of the car, eyes me lazily, disdainful of the intruder to his kingdom. I stare into the box before me, awestruck. “At one point,” Debbie says, “Bill wanted to throw the magazines out, but I told him we might want them some day.”

“The magazines,” some 30 years old, would probably get snapped up by the first breweriana collector who got his hands on them. Most are issues of Zymurgy, the American Homebrewers Association’s bimonthly magazine. I gently pick up one from Winter 1986, then a Summer 1989. Next is the Special Issue 1988 with an eternally youthful—and drop-dead gorgeous—Kathy Ireland.

Zymurgy Special Issue 1988

Zymurgy Special Issue 1988

The 80s super model and actress sits crossed legged on a beach, one arm wrapped around a five-gallon glass carboy. In the other hand, she holds a flute glass filled with golden beer and a perfect two-finger head. White shorts highlight her richly tanned legs. She sports a red T-shirt that reads, “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew,” the Charlie Papazian mantra millions of homebrewers still know today. The accompanying article, written by Papazian, shows Ireland and a smiling young Papazian at a picnic table, enjoying a homebrew and each other’s company. I hadn’t known until I read the article, that Ireland homebrewed.

That afternoon, I left the Vandevorts clutching five beautifully preserved issues ranging from 1986-1989. With all the resources available today, it’s hard to remember a time when there was no World Wide Web and Zymurgy was possibly the only magazine for homebrewers.

Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi, 1988

Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi, 1988

I spent hours poring over the magazines. In a Summer 1988 article, “Pilgrimage to Chico,” British writer Paul Farnsworth describes an American road trip in the company of his father-in-law. When they found themselves 60 miles from Chico on a Sunday, he called Sierra Nevada and asked if they could have a tour. Told there were only once-a-week tours, Farnsworth said he was from Burton-on-Trent. That got him through to Paul Camusi, then part owner of Sierra Nevada. The Englishmen ended up spending four hours at the “little microbrewery,” and scored a lovely photo of Camusi and Ken Grossman for the article. (A few years later, Grossman bought out Camusi, and the long-time friendship and partnership ended on a highly acrimonious note.)

Zymurgy Summer 1989

Zymurgy Summer 1989

The cover of the Summer 1989 issue features three fresh-faced, happy looking guys. The companion article, “Lakefront Brewery, A Homebrewer’s Dream Come True,” reports that the microbrewery produced its first barrel in December 1987 and brewed 70 barrels the next year. Most impressive, all three founders worked full-time jobs elsewhere.

I emailed Lakefront Brewery, Inc. “We have that copy of Zymurgy in our archives here, super cool article!” Office Manager Andy Jungwirth replied. Although one of the founders long ago moved on, Lakefront expects to brew 46,000 barrels in 2015. Their daily brewery tours have become a highly rated Milwaukee tourist attraction. A typical Saturday includes 18 or more tours, some of which sell out, even with a 60-person limit.

“We strike an unprecedented balance between education and entertainment,” Jungwirth wrote. “We were the first brewery that we know of that would actually let people drink beer ON the tour, not at the end as a reward for being fed a bunch of propaganda.  Our co-founder, Jim, pioneered the tour style back in 1987 and it has been refined and nurtured for 26 years.  If anyone knocked on the door of the original brewery, Jim would welcome them in, show them around and tell his bar jokes.”

Zymurgy Special Issue 1987

Zymurgy Special Issue 1987

As I read through those old Zymurgies, what impressed me most is how well the magazine has maintained a clear mission. Both then and now, issues feature recipes, articles on the science and techniques of brewing, DIY and hands-on projects, plenty of beer culture and history, and information on homebrew clubs and events.

One major difference, of course, is the role technology plays. In 1986, except for the front and back covers, issues were black and white. No web addresses. No online magazine. No iPhone or Droid apps for eZymurgy. Instead, there were lots of phone numbers, cut-out order forms and a classified advertising section.

Over a quarter century later, some of the same faces are still showing up today, the most recognizable being Charlie Papazian’s, founder of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association. In the Summer ’89 issue, Papazian’s classic The Complete Joy of Home Brewing is advertised with the phrase, “More Than 90,000 in Print!” The current Zymurgy still lists the book, now in its fourth printing.

Fred Eckhardt, 1988

Fred Eckhardt, 1988

On the cover of the Beer-Lovers Store insert in the Winter ’88 Zymurgy, there’s Fred Eckhardt, pioneering guru of craft and homebrewers, with his iconic mustache and a T-shirt that says, “I brew therefore I am.” In the Brewing Books section of the Summer ‘89 issue, the first book listed is Byron Burch’s already classic Brewing Quality Beers (“Now in Its Sixth Printing”).

Sadly, the October/November 2015 Zymurgy, includes a multi-page article by Papazian titled, “Remembering Two Brewing Legends.” The two are, of course, Eckhardt and Burch, who both passed away in August.

The good news, if you’re an AHA member, is that you can read issues as far back as 1993 online. Happy reading!

(AHA members, click here for the “Search Issues” link.)

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