Bill DeBaun says goodbye
During the nearly nine years I’ve been with DCBeer, I’ve described it variously as a hobby and a side hustle, but most frequently I’ve called it a labor of love. That love has waxed and waned multiple times as my relationship with the DC beer scene and my interest in throwing away sizable portions of my free time has fluctuated.
Thankfully, I’m hanging it up in a waxing period; the past few weeks of consistently producing posts on our lovely new website (smell ya later, Drupal) reminded me what I like about the rhythm of blogging. Go out on a high note, if you can manage it.
In December, we announced that the site would enter its second decade with a new publisher. Concurrently, I decided that sometime in the first quarter of 2019, I’d step back from editing, which is a move a long time coming. Given that the calendar just hit April, now is as good a time as any to do so. I may still come back from time to time to chime in, but for the most part this is the end of the road for me.
I’ve been writing this post in my head off and on for years, but somehow that doesn’t make it any easier to put pen to paper on it.
Thank you, DC Beer scene
Meeting new people and friends, benefiting from cool opportunities and experiences, and tasting innumerable beers has been the through line from my post-college life into adulthood. Across all of this, the overwhelming sentiment I have is gratitude. On net, what a tremendous addition to my life this website and community have been. I’ve always said that it was the beer that got me into this, but it was the people who kept me here. That has remained true, and it’s why I’ve been here for so long after debating internally when to depart.
Thanking all of the people who have made this experience special for me would be fruitless. I’d inevitably leave people out, so I won’t try to be comprehensive. There are a few people I need to acknowledge though. Bear with me, I’ll be quick.
When I started writing for the site, my then-girlfriend, now-wife Cait didn’t drink beer (although she got me into trying various ciders). I’m grateful that has changed over the years and that we can appreciate IPA and gueuze together (maybe lager will follow someday). She has been (and is, and god willing will continue to be) a sounding board and advisor, and despite never getting a byline here, some of the better decisions we’ve made have undoubtedly been bounced off of her first. I’m grateful for all of that and for her indefatigable patience at being “just one more beer”’ed by me across all of the random beer bars, bottle shops, and brewery tours.
I’ve had three co-editors during my tenure. Andrew Nations and Chris Van Orden went on to bigger and better things in the beer world, and Jake Berg continues on presently. You should all be grateful for that; you will not find a more incisive, shrewd analyst of the DC beer scene than Jake, and it has been a joy to be able to edit his writing. The beer scene is fortunate to have him writing about it for as long as you have until he writes his own post like this. As has been pointed out to me, this site was my child before my actual real-life, flesh-and-blood, not-a-blog son arrived. Continuing with that metaphor, it has been a genuine pleasure co-parenting with these three guys. They have each variously pushed me and the site’s content to be better, sharper, and more thoughtful, but more importantly (to me, at least) is that they’ve pushed me to be a better person and have been fixtures in various phases of my life toward and into my 30s.
Predictably, to all of the readers, bartenders, beer directors, brewers, wholesalers, and everyone else in the local beer ecosystem who read and supported the site, gave us something to write about and explore, and gave me a reason to keep things going, I thank you. Many of you have become great friends. Others have become valuable critics. Some have been both. I appreciate all of the support and suggestions.
Lastly, to all of the writers, past and present, who contributed their time, energy, and prose, thank you. You didn’t have to lend your voice to this publication in exchange for very little (if any) material return, but you did, and this website and the beer scene are both better for it. In all cases I’ve tried to make your writing the best version of your voice. Where I succeeded, I’m glad, and where I failed, I’m sorry.
Speaking of failure, I got two things (at least) wrong during my time here.
First, though I’ve tried to advocate at every turn for a more diverse and inclusive beer community, locally and at-large, I’ve done a lousy job at recruiting a more diverse staff and, consequently, diversifying the voices the site amplifies. I’m hopeful that will change in the future, and I’d encourage anyone with even a passing interest in writing for DC Beer to contact Richard. Whether you write one post or one hundred, the site will be better for it and so will the beer community.
Second, and maybe related to the first given that many people are understandably unable or unwilling to write thoughtful content for free, is that this has remained a labor of love (and notably not financial gain) for everyone on staff. I had (and have) neither the business acumen nor the interest in generating the kind of revenue that could have paid writers. I’m also hopeful that will change in the future, and I’m grateful that Richard’s vision as the site’s new publisher includes that as a focus.
It’s a piece of beer scene apocrypha that I was the second customer in the door at ChurchKey’s opening night on October 22, 2009. I had read on Twitter something about a hot new beer bar opening (and that was pretty much all I knew), so I left work early and hustled down there. That night was a who’s who of the beer scene past and present. Mike Dolan, this site’s founder, was there. Nahem Simon, now of Jack Rose Dining Saloon, and Drew Swift, now of Meridian Pint, were behind the bar. Countless others surely were, too. I wound up sitting next to Patent Brewing Company co-founder Matt Humbard and, not for the last time, marveled at his beer knowledge.
My beer experience is bifurcated into the time before I climbed those stairs at ChurchKey and the time after. I remember so clearly this sense of wonderment and awe that all of this world-class beer was here, that I could have it, and that all of these other people were as psyched as I was to enjoy it, talk about it, share it, and yes, argue over it. I have thought about that night every time I have climbed those stairs since. Even separated by almost 10 years and 100 times that many pints (maybe an undercount), I still get to the middle of those steel steps and find myself excited and hoping there will be a seat for me so I can find something new or get reacquainted with an old standby. I’m grateful that this site has helped to instill and further that kind of excitement in the DC beer scene’s newcomers, veterans, and everyone in between. I hope and suspect it will continue to do so for years to come.
Cheers and thank you.