Recently Boston lost one of its most historic brewers: Darryl Goss. Darryl was the Brewer for Cambridge Brewing Company from 1990 thru 1996, back in the days when CBC sat alone in a vast Cantabrigian desert called Kendall Square. Similarly, craft beer in Boston in 1990 was a far cry from what we have today in terms of variety and in this sense CBC was an oasis as well. To that end Darryl did something that seems unimaginable today… he brewed the first commercial Belgian-style beer in the United States. Don’t believe me? Michael Jackson the great beer writer put it in print many years ago in his Beer Companion book. I thought it fitting as Boston Beer Week begins today, that I remember one of our great pioneers.
In 2001 Darryl and I traveled together to Belgium. At that time we were toying around with the idea of starting a business together – maybe a brewpub that brewed only Belgian beers? I never let poverty affect my dreams and Darryl must have been the same way. We had been brewers for a number of years at various breweries – so neither of us had any kind of cash for a project. This trip is still my best recollection of Darryl.
We booked flights through Iceland Air that were probably no more than $300 round-trip and met a $17 a day hire-car at the airport in Amsterdam. The plan was to start in Antwerp and move around from there. Darryl and I spent time at Kulminator (maybe 6 hours?), with me wishing after some time that Belgian beer was non-alcoholic. I was having a hard time drinking everything I wanted to. I have distinct memories of taking “breaths of fresh air” outside and upon return finding Darryl still deep in the same conversation with the publicans. I swear this went on for hours.
My mind is foggy on Brussels. Did we even go there? I can’t remember.
As pictured above, we visited De Dolle Brouwerij in Esen, a nice village just near to the market town of Diksmuide in West Flanders. That’s Kris Herteleer, the brewer on the left, Darryl on the right. The photo kind of looks like a robbery in progress.
De Dolle might be my favorite brewery of all time. Perhaps more so back then when local brewery Rodenbach still let them share in their yeast. In fact as Darryl and I met up at Logan airport, he greeted me with the nugget that De Dolle would no longer be able to use the classic yeast. We made visits to both De Dolle and Rodenbach on this trip and spent much time thinking about how we could solve the problem for them! Ah, beer makes you so ambitious. De Dolle still isn’t able to “borrow” the Rodenbach yeast and it hasn’t seemed to matter in terms of quality and fidelity to the original quirkiness of the beers. So there you go.
That night was the longest and craziest memory of all. De Dolle is a place that I’ve probably visited nine times over the years. It’s a place that I literally dream about and I think it’s quite magical. I’ve taken tours many times and have been shown around personally as well, but I always felt like I’d never really seen the place. So back I came.
My impression of Darryl was that he was an extremely intelligent and also quite a shy guy. He was pretty soft-spoken and sometimes chose his words very carefully (unlike his traveling companion who runs at the mouth). On this visit to De Dolle however Darryl did something that I might have previously thought out-of-character. Moments after I introduced him to the brewer Kris, he walked over to a stack of books in the tasting room, opened directly to a page from memory and pointed to a passage to him. It was the Michael Jackson book.
Soon it was getting late and Kris had duties at the house. He asked if he could pop out and come back to us in a few hours. It was a dream come true: I had De Dolle to myself. I spent the time exploring the mid-nineteenth century brewery all by myself, sometimes in the dark. I really got to see the place, and it was as good as I had dreamt, or better even. Darryl meanwhile wisely slept off the buzz of several rather large De Dolle beers. In my criss-crossing of the brewery I cut across the tasting room several times and right past Darryl sleeping happily at the bar. Soon enough Kris came back and did us a favor by booking us into an inn in Diksmuide… an inn that we wouldn’t check into until 4:30 in the morning… much to the innkeepers disapproval.
Darryl’s nap must have done him some good because soon we were looking for a good pub to end the night. We found a good little beer pub with a youngish crowd who scratched their heads over our weird taste in beer. We made many acquaintances that night, probably meeting and speaking with everyone there over the course of a short time. We had no idea how important that would be. Not too long thereafter, a discussion happening next to us turned into an argument that spread across the pub. Words grew angrier and louder and before we knew it a bloody brawl was happening all around us in Flemish. Darryl was able to shout to everyone by name, jumping over the bar and deflecting what would have been a broken booze bottle from the bartender’s already bloody head.
The next morning we spoke about the angry innkeeper we woke up at 4:30 and the adventure of the previous day. We walked past the pub, all locked-up and looking “quaint” once again. And we wondered about how it had all become so violent. Darryl and I went through our memories of everyone in the pub that night (by name) and commented on how nice they seemed. Ah well, this day will be always in my mind and remind me of how much I liked Darryl and how totally cool he was to step in like that.
Darryl had a lot of cool distinctions like introducing New Belgium brewery to their now-famous brewer Peter Bouchart. He also taught Tod Mott how to siphon, back when they were both simply homebrewers rather than legendary brewers. He also importantly passed the reigns of CBC over to innovator Will Meyers, who has put the brewery at the forefront of everything going on in craft beer. Darryl fixed Bentley’s, was an FM DJ, rode motorcycles and again, was the first brewer in the US to brew Belgian-style beers! The latter distinction should be enough to get him “knighted” posthumously by the Belgian Knighthood of The Brewers Mash Staff. If anyone reading this can help make this happen I implore you to.
As some of you may know Darryl had A.L.S. which is also commonly named after a Yankee called Lou Gehrig. It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Darryl came to our going-away party before Martha and I moved to England, and unknown to me at the time – just showing the first signs of the disease. He spoke in choppy sentences and when I asked him if he was okay, he told me that this was neither the time nor the place to talk about it.
The last time I saw him was after Martha and I moved back. It was hard to see him suffering from the disease and especially because I knew the sharp brain inside was still the Darryl I knew. When I bent over nearly putting my ear on his cheek, I could just barely make out him asking me “did you brew proper real ale in England”? I told him I did and hoped to help him out and see him again.
As we were driving cross-country a few weeks back John Funke and I came on to the subject of Darryl. Darryl and John had both been DJs at my favorite radio station: WMBR in Cambridge. Later that same day we heard news of his death.
Farewell Darryl, you were quite a guy.
Along with Cambridge Brewing Company and Boston Beer Company, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project supports and will continue to support ALS charities.
*An Amazing Man & Story That Needs to be Shared! RIP Darryl Goss… Special Thanks to Chris Cowles For The Link and a few Darryl Stories Of His Own!!!