A King Whose Reign Brewed An Industry

“I don’t lose no sleep at night ’cause things with you are going right/And I hardly ever sing beer drinking songs.”  “I Hardly Ever Sing Beer Drinking Songs” by Johnny Cash

Go into any bar or restaurant on DC’s trendy U Street Corridor or into any joint in new hot neighborhoods such as Bloomingdale or Logan Circle.  For every irony-drenched hipster sipping a PBR, you’ll find dozens of Congressional staffers, lobbyists, lawyers, NGO-sters, and interns pouring over copious beer lists brimming with exotic offerings from microbrews both local (like Northeast DC’s Chocolate City Brewery) to international, such a Belgian premium drafts that rival a good Bordeaux in price and drinking pleasure.   The beer selections at “hoppin'” places such as Birch and Barley are literally dizzying, especially with beers whose alcohol content approach 10%.

It’s easy to forget that just a generation ago, finding an India Pale Ale or English bitter was rarer than a blue moon.  Now of course, Blue Moon Brewery is one of the more ubiquitous standard bearers of the “craft beer” explosion.  And imports once prized for their scarcity and pedigrees, such as Stella Artois and Pilsner Urquel (not to be confused with Steve Urkel), have now gone mainstream, rubbing shoulders with Heineken, Corollas, and even Bud and Miller (apologies to Buddy Miller, the most soulful and compelling alt. country musician/producer/guitarist performing today.)

As chronicled in the Wall Street Journal,  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324482504578455131793135370.html, the father of this  beer revolution  was Henry King, a New Jersey native who came to Washington to shake up and wake up a stagnant beer industry.  He realized that the biggest impediment to harnessing the brewer’s art was a federal excise tax that imposed prohibitive costs on would-be small producers.  Leaning on industry, labor, and lawmakers alike, King shepherded legislation to slash the tax,  paving the way for the beer explosion we’re enjoying today.

Back in the day, your choices were Miller Time, Clydesdale Horses, or a Rocky Mountain high from Coors.  But thanks to Henry King, the true King of Beers, we now can enjoy flights of beers from microbreweries in every state of the union.  Full disclosure,  Henry King is the father of my dear friend Ottilie King Droggitis.  Ottilie has shared stories about her dad that certainly made him appear as a larger than life figure.  This story in the Wall Street Journal confirms all that, and more.

Next time you enjoy a cold one from a craft brewery, drink a toast to Henry King.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He was a wise man who invented beer.”  Plato

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