Beer’s No. 1 Super Fan
Dave Gausepohl has Visited More Than 3,400 Breweries and May Get a Trademark for ‘Beer Dave’
Beer Dave pulls a can of Uinta Trader Session IPA out of his cooler, flips it upside down, looks around and shakes his head.
“Need a church key,” he says, heading off to borrow one.
Opening it from the top, using the tab Uinta thoughtfully provided, is not an option. Church key—a device otherwise known as a beer can opener—in hand, he pops two triangular holes in the bottom and fills a glass. This is how beer can collectors do it. And Dave Gausepohl, more often simply called Beer Dave, is a collector of all things beer. Beer Dave is also a beer tourist who has visited more than 3,400 American breweries. Beer Dave brewed beer for a living before he began selling beer for a living. Beer Dave’s various hobbies and jobs look much like a Venn diagram, independent but intersecting.
“This was good,” he says on another June day, en route to his home outside Cincinnati after visiting White Squirrel Brewery in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He took a picture of the front, as he always does; drank pints of two of the house beers on tap; toured the brewhouse; and bought a glass with the brewery’s logo on it. The guest taps included two beers that he represents as specialty beer manager for Heidelberg Distributing in Kentucky. “So I got to call on an account,” he says.
It was the 3,375th brewery he visited since his father took him to the Geo. Wiedemann Brewery in Newport, Kentucky, in 1977. He was 12 years old and had already been collecting cans for three years. He has about 15,000 now, just a small portion of his collection of roughly three quarters of a million brewery-related items.
“Not Haydockian,” Beer Dave says, referring to his friends and sometimes traveling companions, Herb and Helen Haydock, who have acquired two lifetimes’ worth of breweriana.
The numbers are something beyond impressive, but they are not how Beer Dave became Beer Dave. When he went to work as the specialty beer buyer for the Party Source, a package store, in Bellevue, Kentucky, in 1995, the store already had a wine buyer by the name of Dave. The office manager suggested he take the name Beer Dave, and two days later a Beer Dave name tag arrived. Friends in his various circles had no problem embracing it.
He already owned the name, but a few years ago a collecting friend, Don Johnston, decided he and others would trademark Beer Dave™ for him. That got put on hold when Johnston became ill, and eventually died. Now Johnston’s son, a trademark and patent attorney, has resumed the process to acquire the mark, because it was important to his father. “It’s not like I’m going to put a circle after it when I sign my name,” Beer Dave says. (He, thankfully, does not speak of himself in the third person.)
What mattered is that it was important to Johnston. “He was like a second father to me,” Beer Dave says. “The hobby means a lot to me,” which is why he wrote a column about beer collectibles for this magazine for five years. “The hobby is my family.”
He treats every gathering of collectors like a reunion. “Hey, how are you, Anne?” he asks on the first Saturday in June, offering her something from a carefully packed cooler that contains both interesting cans and interesting beers. He’d been on the road before dawn to drive five hours to Swap-O-Rama just outside of St. Louis. “How you doing, Charley?” he says, starting a conversation about an upcoming event. “I’ll help you in any way, shape or form.”
After a Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA) board meeting, his cooler becomes a natural gathering spot. He knows who is more likely to want to try an IPA and who prefers cider. He often also knows what special cans they are looking for.
“You’ve got to see this,” he says at mid-afternoon, heading around the corner where a large pile of beer cans sits that will soon be under attack. This is called a “can dump.” BCCA members donate cans that they are tired of hauling around, then all who want to wade in to grab whatever catches their eye. He should have said, “You’ve got to hear this,” because cans bouncing off of each other create an eerie metallic chirping sound. “There aren’t going to be any $500 jewels, but maybe you’ll find something that is a little bit better than a can you have, an upgrade. Or maybe a placeholder,” he says, excusing himself when he spots a can—from Rahr Green Bay Brewing Co.—he’ll end up taking home with him.
His collection includes half a hand-decorated wooden crate from New Albion Brewing. He particularly treasures it because Don Barkley, who had worked at New Albion and then helped start Mendocino Brewing, gave the crate to Beer Dave and Herb Haydock when they visited Mendocino in 1991. Gausepohl and Haydock carefully pulled the nails from it to split it into two parts. They have a deal that the first to die bequeaths his half to the other.
“Now you have a brewery starting up, they don’t have nearly the things to go through that (New Albion founder) Jack McAuliffe did,” Beer Dave says. “They say, ‘Oh, how am I going to pick a wholesaler?’ How about when nobody wanted your beer?”
Beer Dave’s boyish looks—accentuated by an impish turn of the mouth when he delivers a pun he is particularly proud of—would fool most carneys, but he turned 50 last December, and it has been more than 40 years since one of his sisters, Sally, handed him an empty 7-ounce can of Pabst that put him in the middle of this Venn diagram.
The range of his experience is evident on a Friday evening in May. He sits on one side of the expansive patio of Lexington’s newest brewery, Ethereal Brewing, choosing a spot where he can take it all in. The brewery is located on a former distillery campus, and there is plenty of space for other businesses to fill in around it. Owner John Bishop—who earlier simply identified himself as the father of one of the brewers—is busy rounding up empty glasses. Beer Dave has seen “the dad” chip in plenty of times, but this still makes him smile.
“Belgian (style) beer in Lexington. Who would have thought it?” he says, soon talking about the lagers from Blue Stallion Brewing, then a collaboration beer from Country Boy Brewing and West Sixth Brewing released earlier in the day, kicking off Lexington Beer Week. He is people watching.
“There’s another dad,” he says.
“You’d see them at Country Boy.”
Of course Beer Dave has been there. That’s why he’s Beer Dave. Well, one of the reasons.
Stan Hieronymus has known Beer Dave since before he was Beer Dave. He met Dave and Daniel Bradford, then publisher of All About Beer Magazine, on the same weekend in 1993. The three still haven’t run out of beer things to talk about.