Each spring for the Brewvitational, I find an entirely new set of judges to offer fresh opinions alongside myself and a pair of Inquirer stalwarts who are Brewvi regulars. With nearly 75 beers on the table for this ninth edition of the annual blind tasting, we expanded the panel to 16 judges. Here are their bios.
Ryan Dunnavant, this year’s special guest out-of-town brewer, is CANarchy’s QA/QC director for the company’s East Coast brewery, producing Oskar Blues and Cigar City Brewing in Brevard, N.C.
Carol Stoudt is one of the pioneers of American craft brewing, having founded Stoudt’s Brewery in Adamstown 31 years ago, making it the first craft brewery in Pennsylvania since Prohibition. She was also the first woman in America to oversee the design and development of a craft brewery from start to finish.
Mary Grace Hodge currently manages the bottle shop at Di Bruno Bros.’ Franklin location, and is a former brewery rep/brand manager for Flying Fish and sales rep for Shangy’s who has also taught the fundamentals of beer at Drexel University. She was a standout on this year’s panel for her ability to identify beers blind, as well as for a distinctive emoji rating system.
Matthew J. Farber is the founder and program director of the Brewing Science Certificate Program at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where he is an assistant professor of biology and researches innovative applications of biotechnology for the improvement of beer production. He is an inventor on two patent applications in brewing.
Jason Miller is director of marketing for 31st & Wharton, a craft beer distributor in Grays Ferry. He is also a hip-hop producer and DJ known as j the audiophile.
Jenny Hobbs is a sales manager for New Liberty Distillery in Kensington and the Connacht Whiskey Co., its sister distillery in Ireland. She also worked for several years in the beer industry as a regional market manager for Firestone Walker. She was named “Beer Rep of the Year” by Philly Beer Scene in 2016.
Jon Medlinsky is the owner and beer buyer for Martha in Kensington, one of the premier showcases for all things fermented, brewed, cured, and distilled in the region. Before Martha, he was known as a host for beer events; he goes by the nickname Jonny Blueshoes.
Amy Hartranft is a veteran of some of the best bars in Philadelphia who helped open a.bar/a.kitchen, V Street, and the Olde Bar. She currently is general manger at Prohibition Taproom, where she oversees a beverage program dedicated largely to local beer and cider, another of her passions.
Ben Kishbaugh is a founder and co-owner of Big Hill Ciderworks in Gardners, Pa. His passion for craft beer started in college (inspired by Williamsport’s Bullfrog Brewery) then grew into home brewing while he worked at Pinocchio’s Beer Garden in Media. He quit his day job in the automotive industry to buy his farm and start Big Hill in 2013.
Richard Pawlak, a food and drink writer and editor for several area magazines and the Daily News, is best known for his dozen years of Golden Age of Beer in Philadelphia tours, and as one of the moderators of the Facebook beer chat group the No Bull Inn.
Etinosa Emokpae is a sommelier at the Walnut Street Café. The Bronx-born beverage specialist has a decade of experience in New York mainstays such as Maialino in the Grammercy Park Hotel, Lafayette, and Mission Chinese. In Philadelphia, she’s worked at a.kitchen and Bar Hygge, where her love of malt-forward beers was fostered by brewer Tom Baker.
Paul Sukeena is a name music lovers might recognize as the guitarist for Angel Olsen, with whom he just performed at Coachella. Beer lovers will know him as a longtime bartender at Monk’s Cafe who recently left to help open the International, a new Kensington bar from the team behind Standard Tap.
Gary Monterosso is host of the radio show What’s on Tap (99.9 FM and 1240 AM in South Jersey), author of the book Artisan Beers, a Cicerone-certified beer server, and has appeared on numerous TV and radio outlets, including the BBC, Sirius, CBS News New York, and the History Channel show The Epic History of Everyday Things.
Dan DeLuca, the Inquirer music critic, is a Brewvi veteran who’s as serious about his IPAs as he is about his country music.
Rick Nichols, the esteemed Inquirer food columnist emeritus, is always the Brewvi’s favorite curmudgeon, with a fondness for classic finesse and a sharp wit to keep the trendy pretenders in check. This year’s tasting was held beneath his portrait in the Reading Terminal Market space named in his honor, so despite those 75 beers, we were not seeing double.