Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Honoring a brother through beer

At some point in my life as a beer nerd, I started to feel a mental shift. While I used to be so heavily and blindly focused on rarities and the conquest of trying every beer known to man, more and more I find myself associating certain beers with people and places, and deriving enjoyment from them based on their ties to memories or experiences. Don't get me wrong, I still occasionally make a rush to the liquor store for a limited release or get a little 'badge whorish' on Untappd, but I've become much more prone to appreciating beers for the connections they have to moments in my life.

As an example, I'll never forget the first time I drank Love Buzz Saison from Anchorage. It was in the midst of my divorce, during my final night at the home I had shared with my ex-wife. The bottle of Love Buzz was perched on a box and provided a little liquid solace as I packed up the last of my belongings to move on with the next chapter of my life. It might seem depressing, but now I look back at that moment and identify the beer with a personal turning point and new beginnings.

Another beer that has held a special place in my heart for the past few years is Maui Brewing Company's Coconut Porter. It might seem strange to hold a connection to a beer that's brewed nearly 4,000 miles away and doesn't get distributed here, but this one dates back to the development of a great friendship with a guy named Jordan.

Truth be told, Jordan didn't like me at first. I was dating his sister, and in accordance with his protective
nature, he had to assume the worst about me. But as time went on, we realized we had plenty in common, and a close friendship blossomed. We eventually became brothers-in-law, and he was a fantastic, loving uncle to my child. And even after my marriage didn't work out, where most people in our positions might drift apart, we remained friends and became even closer as time went on.

Though from a legal, familial respect we weren't officially brothers anymore, we remained as such through the commonalities we shared. Brothers in beer. From building up a bottle share group at Outlaw Cigar Company (where we generally would shut the place down and have to get ushered out the door) to taking a spontaneous 24 hour trip to Milwaukee to tour breweries, beer adventures were our forte. And Maui's Coconut Porter contributed by being one of the beers that first triggered the 'beer light bulb' in Jordan's head. We had navigated our way through countless mixed six packs, trying different styles and beers together, but on a trip to Hawaii with his family, Jordan tried Maui's Coconut Porter and it was the first beer that truly blew him away. He ended up hauling some back to Kansas City, and ultimately, it became his 'signature' beer of sorts. I purchased it online multiple times to give to him for birthdays/Christmas, and it ended up being that identifying beer that made me think of him every time I saw it.

Jordan being crowned 'Princess
 Hops' at Lakefront Brewery
In November 2013, just a few days before Thanksgiving, Jordan died in a motorcycle accident. To say it was a tragedy seems like a gross understatement. He was only 24 years old, and was poised to do great things in life. He was a talented graphic designer, salesman (he had just started a new gig at SKC Communications), a local band manager, an animal lover that worked with Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption, and in a twisted case of irony, generally lived his life like there was going to be no tomorrow. If there was something he wanted to try, he'd do it without hesitation, whether it be training in a tattoo apprenticeship or skydiving. Though he was 4 years my junior, I had major respect for him and his attitude towards life. 4 1/2 months later, I still can't wrap my head around the lingering question of why his life had to be taken; but as I learned when my sister passed away years ago, that 'why' will never stop lingering, and all you can do is embrace those memories that remain.

When Jordan passed away, his family set up a charity fund in his name. Since then, I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to raise money for his fund in a way that represents our relationship and our bond. Beer was a no-brainer. Then one day, my own coconut-shaped light bulb lit up my brain. I decided I wanted to brew a beer in his honor, then hold a release party where money raised from beer sales would go towards his charity fund and in turn, benefit Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption. And of course, it only made sense for the final product to be a Coconut Porter.

So, much like he lived his life without pause to make his goals happen, I took the same attitude and went out to pitch my idea. I knew my first stop was going to be Martin City Brewing Company. Not only is it one of my favorite places in town, but to me, the bond between Matt, Matt, and Chancie was reflective of my own relationship with Jordan; brothers in beer. I was blown away (and quite frankly, a little choked up) when Matt Moore immediately agreed to help out and make this idea a reality.

Finally, yesterday, I took vacation from the usual daily corporate grind and instead, started my morning out at the brewery, helping out brewers Nick and Grant as much as I could to get this beer started. From weighing out hops to raking spent grain from the lauter tun to cleaning equipment, I got a first hand look at the brewing operations at Martin City, and subsequently gained a new level of respect for brewers everywhere. It was pretty surreal to watch the beer develop over the course of the day; and it was all accompanied by a bittersweet feeling of wishing that Jordan could have been there to witness and lend a hand as well.

Yesterday was just the beginning as the beer began primary fermentation; we'll reconvene later to get toasted coconut added. And, we may just do a little experimentation with some of the Dark Horse Distillery barrels that Martin City has hanging around, so there could be an interesting barrel-aged variation or two of the Coconut Porter (which, for the time being, I'm referring to as Jord-er).

Details are still getting fully ironed out for the release party, but if it's something that interests you, go ahead and pencil in the evening of Thursday, July 10th on your calendar to save the date. In addition to the beer, I'll be working with Jordan's family to collect some cool raffle items and see what else we can do to make this a proper and beer-centric celebration of his life while helping out a local organization that he and his family are very close to.

To most of you reading this, Jordan is a stranger and this post may not fully resonate, which is understandable. I suppose if there's one thing I want to convey, it's this: while beer is sometimes nothing more than a beverage, there are moments when it can mean so much more. And thanks to the guys at Martin City Brewing Company, come July, I'll be drinking the most meaningful beer I've ever tasted.


  1. I never met him in person but was acquainted with him through Twitter by way of you. I remember having a great conversation about home brewing. I was saddened when I heard about the accident. This is a great tribute Pat and I truly salute you for what you are doing to honor his memory and charity. Mike Wagner

  2. Great post and tribute, Pat. I look forward to trying the Jord-er in honor of your brother in beer.

  3. Great article Pat! Very commemorable too. I know he would be proud of having a beer made in his honor. I am also a big fan of Maui Coconut Porter & look forward to trying this beer in July. Very cool of Martin City Brewing to support this whole idea. I will help spread the word over at KC Beer Klub. Good stuff. Cheers!

  4. Forgot to say that I also love the barrel aged version idea. It's a nice way to look back & raise a glass to this whole thing as it came to be.