Greg Engert, beer director for D.C. suds hub ChurchKey and the entire Neighborhood Restaurant Group empire, was pretty stoked by his nomination for a James Beard Award earlier this week. Even if the category might seem a little off, considering his particular area of expertise. “It’s kind of ironic that I’m a beer guy who’s nominated for a wine and spirits award,” says Engert, a semifinalist for “Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional” at his year’s foodie Oscars. “I’m kind of hoping that maybe this will finally get beer into the name of the category title.”
Engert is the only restaurant “beer director,” per se, nominated for the award, though several brewers, including Dogfish Head‘s Sam Calagione, Sierra Nevada‘s Ken Grossman, Brooklyn Brewery‘s Garrett Oliver and Sam Adams founder Jim Koch, also earned a nod, along with the heads of various distilleries and vineyards from across the country.
Engert sees the inclusion of the craft beer folks as a sign of progress for his drink of choice, despite the obvious snub in the category title. “It’s really cool that we’re getting these accolades but it just shows how new [craft beer] really still is,” he says. “So that’s my favorite part, that I’m part of a movement that is still so new and that is being given the accolades I thought it always deserved.”
Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Restaurant Group