Joe Six-Pack

When it’s time to relax,Kerry Callahan heads to his local pub for his second job: reviewing beer

Published in 2006 Connecticut Super Lawyers — February 2006

Glasses clink as Hartford attorney Kerry R. Callahan begins his research. It’s Friday evening in his brightly lit kitchen, and Callahan reaches into a cupboard filled with a gleaming arsenal of beer glasses. He pulls out the necessary supplies — a pint glass, a few mugs, a bulbous goblet and a tall, tapered footed glass — and begins his work. One by one he pours a selection of ale, stout, barleywine and Pilsner microbrews into their respective vessels, chosen to complement the beer, and after meticulous study, drinks them down.

Callahan presents his findings in his monthly column, called “Microbrew Review,” in The Hartford Courant. Chairman of the litigation department at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, the 44-year-old Callahan started writing the column eight years ago with the encouragement of his wife, Maura. “I like to write,” he says, “but I wanted to comment about something other than motions and memoranda of law.” Beer seemed a sensible alternative, as he was fascinated with all the new microbrews hitting the market at that time. So he tapped a contact he had at the Courant, drafted a sample column, and was hired.

“A lot of people who drank Bud and Miller when they were in their 20s were going into their liquor stores and finding all these crazy beers,” he remembers. “They didn’t know which ones to choose.” It’s his job to direct them to the good stuff. He reviews five to seven beers in each column, offering history and economics lessons as well as a flavor analysis. He recently recommended India Pale Ale. “India Pale Ale was made in England in 1720 to send to the British who lived in India,” he explains. “Someone had to brew a beer that would make it all the way to India and still be drinkable.”

“Microbrew Review” has affected Callahan’s life in a variety of ways. His colleagues tease him about his love of lager, and his readers are often disappointed to find that the brands often sell out after the review hits the streets. At the same time it helps with recruiting law school grads. He often hears that his column helps to recruit graduates who appreciate that one of the principals writes about beer. “They think that’s kind of neat,” he says.

He also uses beer to entice people to attend legal functions. Last January he spoke about informed consent to a dental society and hosted a beer tasting afterward. “It was a way to interest people in a meeting that they might not otherwise attend,” he says.

Callahan admits his passion for beer “probably started sooner than it should have.” Early on, he valued quantity more than quality. But as he matured, he became more selective. Now, full-bodied beer appeals to his tastes, and winter microbrews are among his favorites, as are Belgian-style ales.

“I still enjoy beer. I still enjoy writing the column and still enjoy seeing it published in the paper each month,” he says. And, not least in significance, “I’ve managed to avoid a beer belly.”

CALLAHAN’S FAVORITE WINTER BREWS 

Kerry Callahan’s favorite time of year is winter. He’s not especially attracted to the season’s chill or snow, but to the dark, flavorful beers microbreweries produce in winter. One preferred choice is Brooklyn Brewing’s Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.“If you show this stuff to a Bud Light drinker,he would say,‘Oh,my God! It looks like tar,’ which it does. It’s very boldly flavored.Bigger stuff is what I tend to like,”Callahan says. Other favorites include Sam Adams Utopias; Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale; Storm King Imperial Stout,Victory Brewing,Pa.; and Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (late winter, early spring).

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