As an alcohol beverage attorney, I enjoy the rare privilege of working in a field that is both my hobby and my obsession. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I openly confess my love for beer―that delightful frothy beverage that permeates every aspect of my life. In fact, I owe some of my most memorable and interesting experiences to beer.
After graduating from law school, my wife, newborn daughter and I moved to Jacksonville, FL, for the start of my clerkship. It was difficult to leave our comfortable circle of friends in Washington, DC, and I knew that I would miss “playing” (to unfairly elevate my talent) in a casual rock band with my law school buddies. My wife and I wondered what Jacksonville could offer to fill the void.
Fortunately, beer came to the rescue. Like many of you, I had enjoyed my fair share of cold malted barley beverages by the time I reached my mid-20s. Heck, some might call me an “early adopter” (by East Coast standards) of craft beer due to my frequenting the old Commonwealth Brewery in Boston and my regular trips to the Brickskeller while in law school. In Jacksonville, however, I discovered a store with a decent selection of beer, and I began to explore the world of beer in a serious way.
I soon discovered that I had an unquenchable thirst for beer knowledge. I savored every nuance of the aromas and flavors of each beer I drank. I started collecting interesting beer bottles and taking tasting notes about each new beer I tried. After a fellow clerk introduced me to Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion, I happily discovered that I was not the only person enjoying the journey into the world of beer.
By the time my clerkship ended and I returned to Washington, DC, I was a full-fledged “beer geek.” Much to my delight, the local beer scene offered far more than what Jacksonville had provided. When something seemed missing from my life as a young litigation associate, my thoughts naturally turned to beer. I wondered whether I could turn my passion for beer into a vehicle for a different, more satisfying legal career. The short answer was (and is) yes.
My work as an alcohol beverage attorney lets me excel in my chosen profession while helping my “beer heroes” navigate the complex world of alcohol regulations and distribution. Although my trips to the Great American Beer Festival involve frequent conversations with clients about their latest legal questions, I am still trying to track down the perfect Baltic porter or Imperial IPA. My love of great beer remains, and now I have the pleasure of getting beer tips from great palates like Charlie Papazian.
Experiences like the GABF highlight that craft beer has a community unlike any other. We are a small and tight-knit group, but we span the globe and welcome newcomers who share our passion and values. After all, how many communities would offer a young lawyer access to company presidents willing to discuss legal issues for an article in a small-circulation newspaper? Where else could a lawyer receive remote guidance from a craft-brewing legend to locate one of Europe’s best beer bars? How many communities welcome as friends the regulators who demonstrate a genuine appreciation of great beer?
The last 15 years of living with beer have provided numerous friendships, endless stories and a career I will never regret. While sitting on the patio of a brewpub in New Mexico along a rural stretch of the Rio Grande after a day of whitewater rafting (instead of attending the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators), a chili beer never has and never will taste so good. I even remember learning about beer from industry legends Gary Nateman and Bob Weinberg back in the days of the old Brewers Association of America. My story may not be common, but I think it highlights all that attracts me―and many of you―to the wonderful world of beer.
Marc Sorini is a partner in the Washington, DC, office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, where he heads the firm’s Alcohol Regulatory & Distribution Group. His clients include the Brewers Association and many brewers and importers of great beer. Marc is particularly fond of hoppy pilsners, malty winter ales, thick imperial stouts and ESBs.