By Bobby Bush
A beerdrinker’s hat trick! North Carolina native Ray McCoy won the 7th Beerdrinker of the Year competition, staged each January by Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company. McCoy joins fellow North Carolinians Cornelia Corey (2001 winner and Ray’s longtime girlfriend) and yours truly, the 1998 winner of this highly coveted titled. Of the seven BDOYs, three hail from the Tarheel State, two from the Garden State of New Jersey and one each from California and New York.
A Clemmons, NC resident, McCoy, 42, is a computer consultant in his spare time, that is when he and Cornelia aren’t touring Belgian breweries, homebrewing for a Philadelphia beer dinner, making a beer run to Delaware brewery Dogfish Head or otherwise enjoying a great beer somewhere in either hemisphere.
Due to a scheduling conflict, Ray had to turn down an invitation to the BDOY final finals last year. He was not about to let this repeat opportunity slide by this time. Chosen, as were his two fellow finalists, from a blind review of applicants’ beer résumés, Ray joined 59-year-old John Ahrens, a New Jersey law book salesman, and John Marioni, a 39-year-old Seattle-area high tech operative who reached the BDOY finals last year, in Denver on January 18. For 15 years, Ahrens was listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for the World’s Largest Beer Can Collection and has a library of over 2,000 beer songs. For his part, Marioni grows hops in his backyard and once worked in a German brewery. A serious homebrewer, winner McCoy enjoyed 2002 beer festivals in Belgium and Sweden. His beer philosophy is summed up nicely: "Life’s a journey. Pack a cooler."
As in previous BDOY competition, the finalist trio was subject to exhaustive questioning. More about beer and brewing knowledge than it is about beer trivia, the competition begins with an opening statement from each contestant, followed by ten sessions consisting of Beer Whispering (a friendly conversation with a pint of beer), audience questions, previous winners’ questions (submitted via email), Beer Listening and the Nasty Round (tough questions from the black robed, white wigged judges) among others. Following 60 second closing statements, the judges withdraw to their chamber to ponder and sip.
In his first final finals appearance, McCoy impressed the judges and was crowned Beerdrinker of the Year. For his accomplishment, Ray receives free beer each time he visits Wynkoop, a $100 gift certificate at his hometown brewpub, High Point’s Liberty Steakhouse, a gaudy yellow-on-black t-shirt and national acclaim. His name joins mine, Cornelia’s and four others on a fancy brass plaque which hangs in the main floor Wynkoop bar.
There are no criteria, no right and wrong, no best and better in the Beerdrinker competition. The contest is not about quantity. It’s about quality and the ability to share understanding, knowledge and appreciation for good beer. An observer said that McCoy won because of his nimble mind, iron bladder and mastery of hops beginning with the letter "C."
As for the questions, here are three examples:
1) Which of these five North American beers is actually owned and marketed by a North American company- Labatt Blue, Dos Equis, Red Stripe, Leinenkugel, Rolling Rock? (answer: Dos Equis). 2) Name the groups and songs these lines come from: "I woke up this morning and got myself a beer." "Newcastle Brown can sure smack you down." (A: The Doors, "Roadhouse Blues." Humble Pie, "Thirty Days in the Hole"). 3) How is beer beneficial to a person’s health? (McCoy’s answer: If you don’t challenge your liver occasionally, it becomes complacent").
And from his closing statement, McCoy stated: "A beerdrinker is someone who drinks beer. The Beerdrinker of the Year is someone who lives beer." Congratulations to Ray. Long may you live!
Résumés for the 2004 BDOY competition are due in November. Learn more at Wynkoop.com.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush