He tasted his first well-crafted beer in a dark dingy Barcelona bar, when he and five fellow U.S. Navy seamen were on leave in Spain. When J.S. Chandler, or “Woody,” as he prefers to be called, ordered cerveza, the bartender handed him a large, corked bottle of Chimay Red—a Belgian beer made by Trappist monks. “After my first sip,” he recalls, “I thought, ‘What have we been drinking stateside all this time?”
Decades later, Chandler has turned his love of well-crafted beer into a career. Known to beer lovers as Brother Woody from the Order of Disorder (by his own decree), he visits beer festivals across the United States, reviewing brews and penning articles on the nation’s beer-loving community. His signature monk’s garb (an homage to some of history’s earliest brewers) has helped him attract a cult following.
As his “brew” interests emerged and after he traveled the world in the U.S. Navy, he enrolled at Pitt, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Arts in teaching. Then, he taught high school literature for more than a decade in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa. He also nurtured his passion for the art of beer, writing for the bimonthly Ale Street News and hitting the beer fest circuit.
Chandler (A&S ’02, EDUC ’03G) says he has tasted more than 7,800 beers, hard ciders, malt liquors, and meads and is now on a quest to taste every canned beer made in America. While he won’t name favorites, he knows what he’d be if he were a beer: Surly cynic Ale, two traits that make him a critic—and a character—to remember.
This article appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Pitt Magazine.