is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His column
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
Two of my very good friends are doctors. One saves children from ignorance with her PhD in Education and the
other saves teeth from being false with his DMD. Now I can add three more individuals to that list each of whom save
beer from neglect. And one of them is me. Admittedly there is a slim, nearly imperceptible difference between the
first two degrees and ours which we all received at a lustrous graduation ceremony recently. We now have a
document proclaiming each of us a PhD - “Professor of Hops & Drafts”. Hold the applause (but not the beer) please.
Now don’t think this is some sort of phony online degree where all you have to do is pay a few (or in some cases a lot
more than a few) dollars and bingo, you’re an instant academician certified to officiate funerals and shoe horses in
six states. No this degree has to be earned. To add to its luster you cannot become a Professor of Hops & Drafts
without a required prerequisite degree, namely an MBA- Master of Beer Appreciation.
The institute offering this worthwhile program in advanced beer is the Cloverleaf Tavern which has exclusively award
ed both degrees for many years. With thousands graduating yearly from just about any college you’d care to name t
he fact that only around 3,400 people worldwide hold a degree from Cloverleaf clearly shows the severity of the
ir course of study. It’s all about drinking craft beer in its vast amount of styles and brands. It’s a task not for t
he foolhardy or faint of heart.
Enrollment is straightforward and uncomplicated. You go to the Cloverleaf and ask anyone in a green staff shirt
(except on St. Patrick’s Day when you can’t tell a worker from a customer) for a free MBA card. You fill out the card.
If you do not have a pen one will be provided for you. Then you order beer which you were going to do anyway. The
only requirement is that your beer has to be one of the many listed on the card. Not to worry since they are specially
selected to help educate your palate on the incredible array of beers around the world. When you’re done for the
day your friendly bartender /server will punch out holes on your card giving testimony to your ever expanding
competency and consumption. Just in case you were concerned, all punches are on the card. I’ve never seen a face
being mistaken for it. Yet.
To aid your education, after 15 and 30 credits (punches) have been earned, you will receive a $15 Clover gift card.
That’s a total of $30 which is clearly more than any other pub will give you no matter how much you’ve imbibed there.
Punches at those places are reserved for the parking lot.
It takes 45 credits to graduate with your MBA. When that glorious moment arrives the activity in the room stops, as
an official Pub Crier (the bartender with the loudest voice) and an entourage of noble personages (members of the
wait staff who aren’t busy) surround the graduate. At that point a large bell is rung which begs the question, does the
name Quasimodo ring a bell? As the tension builds to a fever pitch the Crier shouts in the sternest of stern
stentorian tones, “Oyez -hear ye," which is a call for silence and attention that just about no one pays attention to
often including the graduate. The Crier then states the graduate’s name and what degree is being confirmed.
There are a few cheers, more if the graduate is buying a round. Oh, before I forget let me explain that “Oyez” is from
an Anglo-Norman word for listen. That must be true because I looked it up on the Internet.
As an official MBAer you are certainly no ham and egger since your degree gives you even more special perks. Your
name will be engraved on one of the prestigious plaques around the dining room walls. But wait, there’s more. As an
M.B.A. graduate you will enjoy a 20oz Imperial Pint every time you order a beer on draft that the Cloverleaf normally
sells in a 16oz pint and pay that price. Did I hear you say there can’t be more after that? There is. You will also
receive a complimentary MBA t-shirt and another $15 clover gift card. Unfortunately your degree does not provide for
stock options in the establishment. They had to draw the line somewhere I guess.
There is one last thing. As a grad you can now call the Cloverleaf simply “the Leaf” without sounding foolish or
pretentious. That’s no small benefit. Considering the amount of times you’ll be saying it, saving those six letters will
eventually total more than all the words in War and Peace.
There is no time limit to finish the degree requirements only the need to drink responsibly and not have any checks
bounce. It took me just over two years to complete the program since that latter consideration relegated me to
the CFB (cash for beer) plan. My pace would get a snail respected for his speed. In my defense I might be naturally
lethargic. Heck, it takes me nearly two hours to watch 60 Minutes.
The PhD program follows a similar format. You get a new card with a list of 60 beers to drink over four seasons.
There’s more flexibility in the selections than on the MBA card leading some to say the requirements are not as stiff. I
don’t know about that but the card itself is just as stiff. Along the way you get free bottles to take home and upon
completion a $50 gift certificate, a PhD t-shirt, and the right to get your beer served in a 22 ounce glass with
permission to snicker at those with a measly 16 ounce one. That didn’t seem fair when I didn’t have a degree. Now
it’s much more than fair.
The seasons passed and I drew closer to PhD graduation as did my BeerNexus colleague the Big G himself, Glenn
Deluca, and the celebrated “beer poet”, Brian Lynch. Glenn was going to get his 4th PhD and Brian his 5th. They
are clearly two serious members of the Leaf (saved 6 more letters there) intelligentsia. I won’t even get into the list of
perks you get at their level. I’m just pleased that before my graduation they let me sit with them proving once again
the bigger they are the nicer they are. On occasion they even let me buy them a beer or a glass of Johnnie Walker
Blue. I know Johnnie Blue is not a beer which only shows they’re even nicer than you might have thought.
We began discussing a date to make it a never before seen triple graduation. Given our busy and varied schedules
that wasn’t an easy task unless of course you factor in that we all are usually at the Leaf (that makes 12 letters
saved) every Tuesday. We picked a Tuesday.
We sat down at our usual high top table near the bar and examined our cards. I had one beer to drink, Brian had
two, and Glenn had 4. In a short time I finished one, Brian two, and Glenn four. Don’t get the wrong idea about
those four. Some beers count for multiple punches so you can still get what’s needed while drinking responsibly. I’m
not sure why the Leaf (up to 18 saves) does that but it’s a good idea. After all, no one wants to be punch drunk.
We finished the needed beers and called over our regular server Dana. She had been with us on the journey and
we thought her presence would be fitting. We explained our simultaneous graduation plan. The astonished and
awestruck look on her face was understandable. This was unprecedented. She huddled with the manager as they
examined our cards. Like paper currency, birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, and Shoprite discount coupons rumor
has it that there’s a Dark Web source for getting counterfeit fully punched Cloverleaf PhD cards. We would never do
that. Being honest, at least at the Leaf, our cards were legit. They were quickly approved.
We were startled when suddenly an ear splitting peal of a bell began to shake the area. Nine times the bell tolled.
Nine times we held on to our empty glasses using our hands as pseudo earmuffs for fear the noise would shatter
them. With that the bells stopped though the crying of a few sound sensitive wimps seated at the bar continued a bit
Then a phalanx of green shirted Leaf employees led by the bar manager himself came out to our table. One of their
group who was reputed to have studied under Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, sang out with “The Cloverleaf
is proud to award three PhDs!” to the tune of “La donna è mobile” .Even Verdi would have approved.
The word must have gotten out since it looked like the crowd in the room had doubled in size in only a few minutes.
Even more, there seemed to be dozens of people on the street looking in the big front window at us. Perhaps a bit
immodestly I waved while the more experienced Brian and Glenn gave them a gentle nod of appreciative
We were each presented with the appropriate gifts and swag to commemorate the occasion as Ryan Dorchak the
third generation of the Cloverleaf’s founding family came from his office to congratulate each of us. The Leaf may be
about excellent food and amazing beer but it’s also about the connection between ownership and patrons. And for
the record it was Ryan who created the MBA and PhD programs. That alone gives him a place of honor in Beerland.
As the hoopla settled it was time to order my first beer in the huge 22 ounce glass and to revel in knowing I was only
going to pay what a puny pint would cost. I thought about making a symbolic gesture and ask it to be filled with Miller
High Life since it was the first beer I can remember drinking (legally). I started to do just that but couldn’t get past the
“Mill” without gagging. A 12 ounce bottle of a macro lager is one thing but 22 ounces is serious volume. I’d like to tell
you exactly what I did order but it was a long celebration and I can’t remember. I hope it was a triple dry hopped
Double New England IPA.
The bottom line is now I’m a doctor. In fact, I’m an old school one. I will gladly make a house call as long as you have
a good supply of beer on hand.
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