Every spring for the last decade, I’ve managed to convince an almost entirely new group to hang out for a day as Brewvitational judges as they sip through dozens of beers. In honor of BrewviX, our 10th annual beer competition, I invited a few old faces back to reprise their noble roles alongside a fresh collection of experts to give this year’s panel the perfect mix of institutional Brewvi memory and wide-eyed wonder at the thirsty task. They were up to it!
Mike Fava This year’s special guest and out-of-town brewer comes from Oxbow in Portland, Maine, an 18-acre farm brewery where the head brewer oversees the mixed fermentation, brewing, and barrel-aging programs. One bonus: Fava, who’s also worked locally at the Dock Street and Nodding Head breweries, got to celebrate Mother’s Day with his mom in South Jersey thanks to his turn on the Brewvi panel.
Tom Peters and Felicia d’Ambrosio Sir Thomas of Monk’s, knighted by Belgium and beloved by all Philly beer drinkers for his immeasurable contribution to our beer scene, is co-founder of one of America’s greatest Belgian bars (Monk’s Cafe) and a returnee to the Brewvi panel. The tasting coincided with his annual beer fast, so he brought his assistant, Felicia d’Ambrosio, a longtime beer server and also a former judge. Together, they formed the Brewvi’s first-ever tasting twins. He sniffed, she tasted, and “Tomlicia” wrote the best tasting notes ever.
Jason Harris Owner and co-founder of Keystone Homebrew Supply and Stone & Key Cellars in Montgomeryville, one of the region’s major sources of brewing equipment and barrels, and a launching pad for numerous pro brewers who got their start in his shop, Jason, who has coordinated the tasting lists for every Brewvitational, reprised his role as an actual judge this year.
Meridyth Orner Works with Jason Harris at Keystone Fermentation Supply specializing in sales of wood barrels to brewers, distillers, and wine makers. She also is an active Beer Judge Certification Program homebrew judge who’s produced a number of barrel-aged brews herself.
Erin Wallace The owner of beer-centric Devil’s Den in South Philly and Old Eagle Tavern in Manayunk, Erin, who also owned the Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, is also co-president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit that supports women in the brewing profession.
Favian Alejandro Guertin-Martín An Arcadia University professor with a doctorate in criminology, Guertin-Martín teaches courses on race, crime, and justice — and also craft beer appreciation with focuses on environmental sustainability, gentrification, and gender. See Nick Vadala’s recent Inquirer story on Guertin-Martin’s class.
Nick Vadala The Temple grad has been a reporter for The Inquirer and Philly.com since 2013 and officially began covering beer as a beat this year. Saison Dupont was his first craft brew, but Dogfish Head made him fall in love, to the point where a blizzard and fender bender (resulting in a car repair) could not stop him from buying a six-pack. “The most expensive beer run of my life.”
Evan Benn The Inquirer’s new director of editorial marketing is also a veteran craft beer writer and a former beer columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he wrote a book on the history of St. Louis’ beer scene. Benn also is a former beer columnist for Esquire.
Max Pfeffer The director of operations and master distiller at Manatawny Still Works in Pottstown since 2013, Pfeffer has won numerous awards for his spirits. With degrees in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University and the master brewer’s program at the University of California, Davis, he got his start in brewing at Victory and Sly Fox.
Jessica Miller A newcomer to Philadelphia and former tech startup worker, Miller is now a bartender at the International Bar in Kensington, where she’s a contributor to the cocktail program and soaking up the beer knowledge of owner William Reed as well as her brother Jason Miller (director of marketing for a local beer distributor), who was a judge on last year’s Brewvi panel.
Mike Herman Herman nearly sneaked his beers into the Brewvi competition a few times before we realized he was, in fact, an accomplished homebrewer. (The Brewvi is for pros only.) A power systems engineer by day (“keeping the power grid reliable for future years”), Mike has won multiple homebrew awards and collaborated with local brewers. He finally made it into the Brewvi — this time as a judge.
Ned Foley After decades as a lawyer, Foley began farming “to stay sane” with 100 acres in Royersford, where he also created a successful composting business that collects two million pounds of food waste each month. His farm, Two Particular Acres, uses that compost to grow barley for at least six local breweries, who come together each year for a party on the farm to pour beers brewed from his grain.
Scott Morrison Widely known as “the Dude.” A former brewer at several local breweries (McKenzie, Dock St., Barren Hill), Morrison is now a consultant who’s helped dozens of breweries in the tristate area get up and running. He’s a returning judge to the Brewvi panel, having sipped and served admirably in 2017.
Jenn McClendon A North Carolina native with a degree in chemical engineering, McClendon was an assistant brewer at Love City Brewing after her studies at the USciences Brewing Science Program. A member of the local Pink Boots Society chapter, she also has worked in pharmaceuticals, marketing, and entertainment.