I am truly speechless, a state I do not often find myself in. You see many years ago when I worked for ISPN with fellow bier gnurds Eric Helms and Jerry McMillan I was invited to a private event at Boulevard by my peers at work. Truthfully, I hadn't yet been turned on to the "craft beer phenomenon" that was starting to take root and hold in our fair city (The Paris Of The Plains) and this was long before man-bunned hipsters twenty dollar bombers, barrel aged everything and taprooms by the dozen. Now I've been a social drinker for many years, and I am Irish after all, so I wasn't entirely sure that going to a social event where moderate drinking was encouraged was such a bright idea, but my curiosity got the better of me, and truth be told I was really flattered that Eric had asked me join him.
We were warmly met by a large and fairly handsome man, whom I remember had fantastic taste in music. This immediately opened my up. We were to drink in what is now the taproom at Boulevard, but had not been opened yet to the public. A gorgeous room, which I imagine has only grown more so in age in the days since. My head began reeling, I uptake information pretty quickly, and those of you who know me here, know that I greatly enjoy the opportunity to learn, in almost any capacity, but especially in the accoutrements of culinary delight. I learned the lore of trappist monks, and folks spoke in almost hushed tones about the fine art of fermentation, of pairings and that some day perhaps beer may even be considered as complex as the finest Bordeaux. Of styles so wild, I could not yet wrap my head around them. Of pilgrimages and journeys beyond imagination and reckoning, and again I find my own head spinning in the remembrance.
I have re-told this tale many times, tried countless beers since that day, turned on many friends to craft beer and while this is a fond memory, I cannot help but feel a deep sense of loss. A loss to our city, a loss to the beer community and culture, a loss to many of JB's co-workers, and I am overwhelmed with sadness that will forever now be tied to the day my eyes and palate were opened.
Thank you JB, for that fine day. Thank you for all which you have done for this city and community. You will be sorely missed.