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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Local man falls flat in Beerdrinker of the Year award

By Greg Kitsock
2011-finalist-James-Clark-TN_opt.jpg James Clark didn't clear the bar in contest. (Wynkoop Brewing)

Late Friday afternoon, James Clark was drowning his sorrows with a couple of Guinness half-and-halfs at Ri-Ra in Arlington. The Springfield resident, one of three finalists for the annual Beerdrinker of the Year award, finished out of the money at the contest on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver.

Not that Clark should feel bad: The winner, commercial pilot Phil Farrell from Cumming, Ga., finally triumphed after three unsuccessful appearances as a finalist. Clark, on the other hand, had never entered the contest before. He was vying for free beer for life at Wynkoop, a $250 bar tab at his favorite local pub, his name on a trophy and bragging rights for a year.

In his opening statement, Clark compared beer drinking to the Kama Sutra: “It’s more fun with two or three friends or two or three strangers.” He said he tried to bribe his way to victory by handing the judges -- seven beer experts cloaked in black robes and powdered wigs -- Ri-Ra glasses and hats. But he admits he stumbled on some of his examiners's questions, like “What’s the northernmost brewery in North America?” and “Name three sour beers and the cities they come from.”

In his defense, he notes, “I was three-quarters in the bag by then!" He says he spent the early afternoon at Denver’s Falling Rock Tap House, tossing back glasses of Pliny the Younger, an imperial IPA from Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, Calif., and other brews. (You can read more on Clark’s blog.)

Clark will be eligible to submit his name for the 2012 contest, and he’s already hatching plans to pad his resume. But he won’t be representing Virginia next time. A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, he says he’ll be reassigned in May, probably to San Antonio. You can catch him playing the bagpipes (another beloved hobby) at Ri-Ra on St. Patrick’s Day, a week from Thursday.

High volume for alcohol: A lot of beer drinkers also finished out of the money trying to snag SAVOR tickets. All 3,400 tickets for the two sessions (June 3 and June 4 at the National Building Museum) of the annual craft beer and food showcase are sold out. Whatever wasn’t bought by Brewers Association (BA) and American Homebrewers Association members in the pre-sale on March 1, the general public snapped up within about 15 minutes on March 3. “Extraordinarily high traffic” caused the SAVOR Web site to crash, forcing the BA to assist customers via phone, Facebook and Twitter.

“Basically, interest for SAVOR tickets was off the hook and shattered all of our expectations on how much interest to anticipate,” commented the BA’s Julia Herz.

All of the “salons” -- the more intimate beer tastings and seminars -- have also sold out, despite the fact that each SAVOR ticket costs $110 and admittance to a salon is an additional $30.

Monumental delay: Local nano-brewer Cabot Boyd of Fort Washington says there will be a delay in getting his Monumental Triple (a strong, gold, abbey-style ale) to the market. “The temperature dropped down so much that it killed the yeast,” said Boyd, whose operation, Washingtonian’s Brewing Co., is situated in a quonset hut on his five-acre property. “We were bottled up and ready to go, but the beer didn’t carbonate.”

Boyd, who hoped to be selling his triple in 750-milliliter bottles in February, is now shooting for July for the premier of his beer. Check out his Web site for more information.

By Greg Kitsock  | March 7, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Beer  | Tags:  Greg Kitsock  
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