The Wynkoop Brewing Company may have built a neighborhood, and launched at least one political career, but that wasn't the only career that got started at Denver's first brewpub. Jen Schwertman took a job there in October 1992 as one of the first bartenders in the newly-added upstairs pool hall. "The varnish had as yet to dry on the bar," she writes in a resume as part of this year's Beerdrinker of the Year contest. "So, we were instructed not to stock or organize until five minutes before the doors opened. As soon as they did, though, the fun and my world began."
See also: - J. Wilson: Here's what it takes to be the Wynkoop's Beerdrinker of the Year - 2011 Beerdrinker of the Year: Phil Farrell - Wynkoop Brewing will package its "ballsy" Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout in cans
Schwertman moved to New York City seven years later, but she will return to the Wynkoop on Saturday as one of the three finalists in the seventeenth annual contest, which seeks out the biggest beer aficionados in the country, submits them to rigorous beer testing and then showers one of them with fame and more beer. (Find details below.)
After her move to the Big Apple, Schwertman says she "was perplexed and horrified to find that the city lacked any real understanding of what I knew the beer world to be. They appeared to be looking at it as a straight, competitive business, and what made it into the glass seemed to suffer directly as a result. On top of that, the consumer base didn't really care what they were drinking and fell easily into the hands of huge importers' marketing budgets. It was a bleak scene."
Schwertman tried to change that, and over the years she has drummed up enthusiasm for craft beer as a waitress, started her own consulting agency to help service employees connect customers with beer, taken a gig co-hosting a weekly Internet radio show called "Beer Sessions," attended Sierra Nevada's famed Beer Camp and traveled the country and the world as a beer ambassador and frequent judge.
Schwertman is one of only a handful of female finalists over the past seventeen years. If she wins, she would be only the third woman to do so.
The other two contestants this year are:
Kevin Cox, a Muncie, Indiana, beer hunter, homebrewer and beer advocate who has visited over 400 breweries, tasted more than 6,000 different beers and "stalked the perfect pint" on four continents and in twelve countries.
Warren Monteiro, a New York City freelance writer, beer traveler, homebrewer and beer columnist who has sampled beers throughout the United States, Europe, Central American, India, Sri Lanka and other nations.
Both Schwertman and Monteiro call Manhattan's Blind Tiger their home bar. "It's the first year we've had two finalists from the same city, let alone the same bar," says Marty Jones, the Wynkoop spokesman and BYOTD master of ceremonies.
The live showdown between the three contestants, which is free and open to the public, begins on Saturday, February 23, at 2 p.m. at the Wynkoop. Five wigged and robed judges (including 9News anchor Kyle Clark, Women Enjoying Beer founder Ginger Johnson, two previous winners and Wynkoop head brewer Andy Brown) will grill the contestants on beer knowledge, theory and even some beer humor.
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