Sunday, March 4, 2012

The master brewer's bowler

Unibroue's Jerry Vietz at Iron Hill
Let's take it from the top ...

Unibroue's master brewer Jerry Vietz is, of course, best known for great beers that articulate the brewing traditions of Europe's (particularly Belgium's) Trappist monks.

But Jerry also has another signature that distinguishes him on the craft beer scene. His trademark bowler hat makes him easy to spy among the throngs of beer enthusiasts who crowd around him at meet-and-greets, angling for the chance to sample some of Unibroue's unique beers and hear him talk about what sets the Quebec brewery's ales apart.

Fresh off last Tuesday's (Feb. 28) beer dinner and tapping of Jerry Chris Mas, a Belgian-style spiced Christmas ale he teamed with Iron Hill's brewer Chris LaPierre to brew at the Maple Shade restaurant-brewery, Jerry wrapped up his visit in the New Jersey-Philadelphia market with an appearance at the Philly Craft Beer Festival on Saturday. (At Iron Hill and in Philly, Jerry also poured some Grand Reserve 17, among other beers .)

Catching up with him before the festival's start, Jerry shared a moment of his time to talk about his bowler (or bowlers, actually, since he has four of them) that he got from Montreal's famed hat shop Henri Henri.

"I don't always wear the bowler hat, but when I come in this market, since I've had pictures taken and on the Web site with the bowler hat, people are always asking for it," he says.

"I've been wearing hats for years. I have a wide collection at home. I have the classic hat, more like the Al Capone (fedora) style. I have many of them, different colors, different kinds, some have the ribbon, others not. I also have the beret ... "

Jerry at Philadelphia Craft beer fest
Of the 80-year-old hat shop, Jerry notes Henri Henri is credited with helping to popularize the term hat-trick among hockey fans (the term's origins are traced to the 1850s and the game cricket).

"When they were sponsoring games at the Montreal Forum, if any player a scored three (goals) they were given a hat," Jerry says.

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