Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Most Influential Beer People

This week’s Time magazine is a special double issue featuring The Time 100: The World’s Most Influential People.


So that got me thinking about my 15th Top 10 list, and the fact that there are no beer people in Time’s Top 100, not that I necessarily think there should be. In Time’s list, everybody listed is still alive, but I didn’t feel the need to limit myself. They also chose from the entire world of human endeavor, from Leaders & Revolutionaries, Heroes & Icons to Scientists & Thinkers. In our rarefied beer world, certainly there are people who have had more influence than others, but I’ll just concern myself with people whose work changed our perceptions of beer and allowed the ball to be moved forward, so to speak.

So here is my list of the ten most influential people in the craft beer world, who have helped shape the world of beer as it looks today. And by craft beer world, I’m talking primarily about the American market, without trying to ignore the rest of the world, that’s just the world I inhabit and know best. Without their assistance it’s quite possible the state of beer today would look very different, and possibly might not exist at all, who knows. There are probably a few pioneers from the very early days that I’m forgetting, but these are the ones I remember. I’d love to hear your choices or who you think I left out that I shouldn’t have. Anyway, here’s List #15:

Top 10 Influential Beer People

TIE: Stephen Beaumont & Garrett Oliver Besides being a terrifically talented brewer, and an early and prodigious collaborator, perhaps Garrett’s biggest contribution to craft beer is his championing beer and food together. Through seminars, tastings, beer dinners and the publication of his magnum opus, The Brewmaster’s Table, he forever changed the way people view beer’s relationship to food. But Stephen has also been writing about food and beer for nearly two decades and spread that message in such mainstream publications as Saveur, Wine Enthusiast and Playboy. He’s also worked behind the scenes training staff at restaurants and bars to be more beer knowledgeable.
Fred Eckhardt Through hs support of homebrewing and the publication of The Elements of Style in 1989, Fred inspired a countless number of amateur and commercial brewers, plus he pioneered the idea of pairing beer and chocolate together.
Pierre Celis Belgium’s brewing rock star. Pierre single-handedly revived a dead style when he began brewing Hoegaarden again in the 1960s. Even in a country known for iconoclastic brewers, Pierre Celis stood out among giants, whether brewing in Austin, Texas or aging beer in caves.
Jim Koch The consummate marketeer, who could have predicted a decade ago that Koch’s beer company would today be the biggest American-owned brewery, a remarkable achievement in twenty-five years.
Ken Grossman Though not the first brewery to use Cascade hops, Sierra Nevada took their signature aromas and flavors and built an empire on Pale Ale, Barley Wine and Celebration. They’ve also made countless technical innovations, been very supportive of the craft beer community at large and managed to grow larger while retaining a small company outlook.
Bert Grant Grant opened the nation’s first brewpub in the heart of hop country and challenged consumers with some of the first unfamiliar beer styles.
Jack McAuliffe Jack was undoubtedly a man ahead of his time, opening the country’s first modern microbrewery in 1977. Even though New Albion only lasted until 1983, its influence was very important to many of the very first microbreweries that started in the early 1980s.
Charlie Papazian Besides inspiring a homebrewing explosion with the publication of his Joy of Homebrewing, Charlie founded the American Homebrewers Association, the Institute of Brewing Studies and the Association of Brewers, which today as the Brewers Association is the largest existing trade group for breweries.
Fritz Maytag When he bought the ailing Anchor Brewery in 1965, Fritz could not have foresaw the revolution he helped usher in. All he wanted to do was save his favorite beer. But after several years studying English breweries, Anchor debuted some of the first examples of styles in the U.S. and even helped save certain styles from extinction. With Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn, Porter, Our Special Ale coming in rapid succession in the 1970s, Fritz Maytag truly is the Godfather of Craft Beer.
Michael Jackson People tend to ignore or forget Michael’s early influence on craft brewing in America, but it’s worth remembering that he helped redefine the very notion of beer styles, tirelessly championed the new microbreweries and lent them legitimacy when few took them seriously, not to mention the countless burgeoning better beer fans he reached through his writing.


As is always the case, it was pretty hard to keep the list to ten, and a great many wonderful people just missed being on the list. Here’s a few more that would have made the list had it been longer:

Todd & Jason Alstrom, Tomme Arthur, Judy Ashworth, Charlie Bamforth, Don Barkley, Fred Bowman, Bill Brand, Matt Brynildson, Lew Bryson, Daniel Bradford, Sam Calagione, Dan Carey, Vinnie Cilurzo, Tom Dalldorf, Ray Daniels, Alan Eames, Charles Finkel, George Fix, Paul Hadfield, Pat Hagerman, Stan Hieronymus, John Hickenlooper, Greg Koch, Michael Lewis, F.X. Matt, Bill Owens, Roger Protz, Mark Silva, Pete Slosberg, and Carol Stoudt

Let me know who you think deserves to be on the list, and why.

Also, if you have any ideas for future Top 10 lists you’d like to see, drop me a line.


  1. Breweryrep says

    Not ten but the tens of thousands of beer people that drink our product on a daily basis. Without them we would be nothing.

  2. Gary Frank says

    Great list! There are many I could list, but this is a great list and thanks for listing Carol Stoudt a great lady.

  3. says

    I’d be happy to take my name off the others list and – per the suggestion of Stephen Beaumont when Rick Sellers posted something similar a couple of years ago and insert Mark Silva and Pat Hagerman. Obviously biased but we’re chatting here about beer on this Internets thingy.

    I don’t know who you bump from the Top 10 but Charles Finkel belongs in that part.

  4. says

    Stan, nah I couldn’t bump you or Stephen. You’re right about Charles, but I couldn’t figure out who I’d take off the list, either.

  5. The Professor says

    Very good list indeed. My one quibble is singling out Jim Koch as a great marketeer (which he unquestionably is), but neglecting the fact hat the product he was marketing was a very fine product. I think he deserves a lot of credit for making a good beer that is widely available and even serving as a gateway beer of sorts for people just discovering that there is a world beyond Budweiser.

    Other than that, the list is right on the money.

  6. says

    I’d put Greg Koch (Stone Brewing Co.) at least in the “others” list, simply for the fact that not only is he the founder/CEO of “The Greatest Brewery in the World”, but also the mouthpiece for the latest “I Am a Craft Brewer” movement. Someone had to sort of take charge and he’s been handling the task quite well IMO.

    EDIT: damnit, I must’ve overlooked his name at first glance… he’s already on your “others” list.

  7. easong says

    I nominate Vic Kralj, proprietor of the Bistro, host of the most excellent beer festivals, and the single greatest promotor of highly hopped ale in the Bay Area.

  8. says

    Are we forgetting President Jimmy Carter, who signed the bill legalizing homebrewing in 1979? Without thousands of homebrewers tinkering, I doubt we’d have a craft beer industry at all.

  9. says

    I see dead people on this list, suggesting its historical nature, as well as current. I have no argument about any of these names, and think you have the top three rightly pegged. But if we’re talking historical influence, I think you have to include Matthew Reich, the force behind New Amsterdam. It was Reich who really ushered in the notion of contract brewing, which Koch emulated. (Way back when, Sam Adams looked like a direct knock-off of New Amstersdam.) Contract brewing was fairly controversial at first, but it helped keep some regional brewers like Matt going, and I think ultimately led more drinkers to craft brews.


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