Friday, April 14, 2006
Old Cranky Brewers
I've eulogized the Eastern Shore of Virginia before, and with good reason. It's a special place and one on the brink of massive change. My recent trips home - and I do still think of the Shore as home, even though I don't plan to return as a resident - leave me ambivalent.
A principal virtue of life at the end of a peninsula is isolation. The southern reach of the Delmarva Peninsula remained relatively "undiscovered" by developers through the middle of the 1980s. Even in the early 1990s, the majority of the "come-heres," as they are called, relocated from elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region, many of them wealthy businessmen from Virginia Beach or the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Most of these upwardly mobile types moved to the Shore for the hunting and fishing, and, more importantly, to escape the spreading sprawl to the north, in southern Delaware and eastern Maryland, and west, across the Chesapeake Bay. Breaking from this mold, a small minority of the transplants, my parents among them (they moved to the Shore in the mid 1970s), were middle class folks from more distant locales, but they, too, immersed themselves in the local community and achieved an uneasy rapport with their neighbors. In some cases, the "come-heres" even earned a begrudging respect from the Shore's established families, although it was made abundantly clear that two generations of "come-here" children had to be raised on the peninsula before the pejorative label would be removed, a rather endogamous policy.
The last decade, though, has seen an influx of urbanites, mostly from Washington, D.C. and New York City, buying land and building weekend retreats. These developments, estates, and cottages are picturesque enough, but they disrupt the local ecosystems, both that of the "natural" world - new houses, artificial lighting, and human activity increase the ecological footprint - and the country lifestyle. Gourmet restaurants, impossible to imagine ten years past, and boutiques are opening in the larger towns and alongside Route 13, the highway artery on the Shore. Most distressingly, the radiant eye of Sam's Club/WalMart has settled on the region. The Gates of Walton have been opened and the tractor trailers are emerging.
Mind you, not every change heralded by this imminent development will be for the worse. The Shore can expect to see growth in arts and culture, more calls for improved education (i.e., money from the state), and a heightened awareness of the long-standing racial inequality, hopefully leading to stronger social programs. (Of course, as I've suggested previously, the opposite could result, too.) Furthermore, dinner parties won't all revolve around "big buck" stories, litter collection will be encouraged, and the growing "come-here" population, with their discerning tastes, will likely demand an increased variety of food and beverages.
Enter Old Cranky, the brewery brainchild of two brothers, both of whom were childhood friends who remain important to me today. Although the brewery is still gestating, a blog, Old Cranky Brewers, details the trials and tribulations of this nascent beer operation. Rarely will readers find product promotion here at Hungry Hyaena, but I think this is a fair exception and, despite my ambivalence regarding the Shore's future, I'm eager to see Old Cranky take off.
Take off, by the way, is an apt phrase. The beer is named after the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), a common, even ubiquitous species in the region. When this handsome bird is irritated, usually by one or another of us bumbling apes, he hefts his awkward frame into the air and makes known his displeasure with a grating squawk, much as a rankled old man would do -- hence the nickname.
At any rate, the blog makes for interesting reading, especially if you have an interest in brewing, marketing, or small business start-ups. Plus, if all goes well, Old Cranky blog readers can one day sip the brew and say, "I remember when this beer was still a blog."
Photo credit: copyright 2006, Old Cranky Brewers