Beers weren’t the only things ahead of their times. There were beer writers and beer books, too, like Michael Jackson and Fred Eckhardt, who toiled for years in relative obscurity. Then we discovered the online world, and beer took to it with gusto.
How about the CompuServe beer bulletin board and that arcane character-based system it used (that worked pretty well, actually, if you didn’t mind the lack of pretty pictures). I remember ‘talking’ to Garrett Oliver there in 1992 (and being excited by that even then). The Prodigy service was a weird mix of characters and graphics, but I talked beer there in 1994 with people I still talk to every week.
Now we have BeerAdvocate and RateBeer and RealBeer (which was actually around in one form in the mid-1990s), and there are hundreds of thousands of people who use them every day, around the world. But there were websites ahead of their time, too: Pubcrawler still hangs on, a place I used to visit a lot. BeerExpedition.com is a cobWeb, still up, but stuck in 1997. The saddest entry I saw there while looking into this story was the one for Starview Brewing in Mount Wolf, PA: a brewery that never opened, with beer brewed under contract at a regional brewery that has since closed (Dubuque), and a listed e-mail contact through an ISP that no longer exists. Ghosts.
There are Internet antiques that are still alive and kicking. The USENET supports the alt.beer newsgroup, and the HomebrewDigest still flies around, as it has for 20 years. I belong to a Washington-area beer e-mail list, DC-beer, that’s been around since the earliest days of the pre-Al-Gore ‘Net, and still has the freshest dope on beer in the nation’s capital.
But maybe the best example of ‘ahead of their times’ is right here in your hands. All About Beer’s been around for nearly 30 years, way before craft beer was cool. The magazine was about any beer they could find back then, and has re-invented itself a couple times since. And now it’s the country’s best beer magazine, with a full-service website, a couple of the best annual beer festivals, and more to come. There’s a lot to be said for hanging around!