Last night, while at a book signing dinner, the name Fritz Maytag came up. The woman sitting next to me immediately remarked “Ah yes, the cheese man”.
I mentioned that he also had something to do with a beer in San Francisco. It should be noted that the people attending this dinner consider the acquisition, preparation, presentation and enjoyment of food to be something very special. In short, they were foodies. The fact that the person they associated with special American Blue Cheese once ran one of the most successful craft breweries in the United States was something they insist upon hearing about. It only took me a second or two before I began to tell him about my favorite meeting with Fritz Maytag. It was not when the above picture was taken which was March of 2000. It was about a month later in April of that year at a beer tasting event held at Windows on the World. This is how I remember it…
After the major presentations had been made, the brewers that attended the event hosted by Kevin Zraley, who ran the wine division, were available for separate question and answer sessions with the members of the press.
After introducing myself to Fritz Maytag the first question I had for him concerned the beer that they brew annually and call their “special ale”. Each year it is made with a slightly different formulation. Some years they will add particular spices, herbs or other flavorings. Almost every year it is a fairly hefty beer as far as alcohol content is concerned. Released between Thanksgiving and Christmas it had become even then something that beer aficionados looked forward to.
I asked Mr. Maytag if this years “special ale” was going to have the type of characteristics typical of a burgundy or more tailored towards a bordeaux.
The journalists standing next to us listening to our conversation butted in with a follow-up question. “Why are you talking about wine when this is a beer event?”
Fritz Maytag took one of those long seconds to look this fellow up and down. And then, without a pause, responded… “We are all friends in fermentation.”