Written by Roger Baylor
That’s because Matt wouldn’t have wanted us to make a fuss. Quite a few local craft beer lifers didn’t even know he had been gravely ill, or for how long. He’d surely say the show could go on perfectly well without a dumb old brewer, and then he’d growl at us to get out there and drink some beer, damn it.
But here’s the conundrum: Matt’s lengthy career in beer helped make Louisville Craft Beer Week possible. It helped make Louisville beer possible, period. I’m sure he knew it, and I hope he was proud of it. He had a right to be.
As his colleague and friend Joel Halbleib put it: “Matt was a Louisville brewing legend.”
Matt’s work as a brewer spanned the modern-day history of brewing in Louisville. He assisted Eileen Martin at the Silo, worked with David Pierce at Bluegrass Brewing Company’s original St. Matthews location, opened Cumberland Brews and built the beer program there, and finally went to work for BBC again, this time at the production facility on the beer corner of Main & Clay. Ironically, in the very end, Eileen was a co-worker once more.
That’s a bit shy of twenty years, and during the course of those two decades, Louisville gradually became a place where good beer flourished, and local brewing put down deep roots. But unlike larger industries, the Louisville brewing brother- and sisterhood has remained fairly small, and most of the club’s members know each other quite well. They’ve worked, played, drank and socialized together, replaced one another at jobs, and they’re pleased at what has been achieved on their collective watch. These dudes abide.
Matt obviously was a huge part of this community, a man universally loved, possessing an irreplaceable personality. He could be gruff and cantankerous, but as a fellow curmudgeon, it never fooled me at all. He was thoughtful, gentle, funny and self-effacing, and his heart was made of gold. For the rest of my life, I’ll think about him whenever a first pitch is thrown or a keg is tapped, and when Louisville Craft Beer Week gets underway. Farewell, Brew Boy.
Of all the money e’er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm I’ve ever done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To mem’ry now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
The 2012 version of Louisville Craft Beer Week now has concluded. I’d like to write about it in a comprehensive, authoritative tone, while making lists of the best, happiest and hoppiest moments, but alas, I must announce that such record-keeping is absolutely impossible. There were too many great beers, and too much on the calendar for any one person to get lofty about it, even John Wurth.
As with any endeavor undertaken by fallible (and periodically intoxicated) human beings, there’ll always be room for improvement.
However, I genuinely believe that in 2012, we turned a major corner with Louisville Craft Beer Week. Local brewery owners, reps and brewers tried their damndest in 2010 and 2011 to build upon this concept of a craft beer week here, and the inescapable verdict was that while enticing, there just isn’t enough time for industry people to do it right. Independent local brewing companies are no different from other small businesses; they’re often overwhelmed in their hectic daily worlds, without the resources and logistics enjoyed by chains and franchises.
The very best move the local brewing “brain trust” ever made was handing the reins for Louisville Craft Beer Week to John, Scott Lykins and LouisvilleBeer.com, which quite simply took the event to a different level in 2012. The proof’s in the many glasses drained, and the level of conversation in the air, everywhere I went during LCBW.
Their painstaking efforts freed us to sharpen our own events and offerings. We’re grateful, and you should be, too.
As a final note, henceforth in this space I’ll be adopting my longtime blog moniker “The Potable Curmudgeon” as column name, replacing the months-old “provisional” Baylor on Beer. Whatever the identity, thank you for reading; there is much to be considered, and never a bad time for another beer.