You know Woody Chandler, or at least you do if you’ve ever gone to a beer festival around these parts. He’s the character with the Rasputin beard wearing a monk’s robe and a beer-mug hat.
Oh, right – we’re talking beer freaks, so maybe that doesn’t completely narrow it down. I’m talking about the dude who just posted his 7,000th unique check-in on Untappd, the popular social networking app for beer-lovers.
That means he’s tasted 7,000 different beers since 2011 – 2,000 of them in the last 12 months alone, a pace of more than five new beers every day.
No, that’s not the top of the leaderboard; there’s one guy with more than 24,000, though skeptical observers wonder how he could have actually tasted ’em all so quickly and in so many places around the world, given the constraints of the space-time continuum.
Indeed, Chandler acknowledged he’s been accused of cheating.
“There are detractors out there, one guy especially, saying I couldn’t have had them all,” Chandler said. “Other people stepped up to defend me, but now I add a picture whenever I check in . . . shut this guy up. “
It’s beyond me why anyone would doubt the man. Chandler, 50, has been a familiar, cheerful denizen of the East Coast beer scene since the 1990s, riding Amtrak from his home in Lancaster to Philly, Washington, New York, wherever. He pops up at festivals and dinners, and pokes in and out of bars, always clutching a cold one.
He poses for more photos with admirers than Kim Kardashian.
Seven thousand beers is a lot of suds, and Chandler is not one for counting one-ounce sips to inflate his number. We’re talking full beers or at least samplers, savored and then followed with a quick bit of fuzzy wordplay.
Of Great South Bay Sleigh Ryed winter ale, he wrote, “I got slayed by a Sleigh Ryed. “
Of Pizza Boy Arck Angel quadruple IPA: “Arck, the herald Angel sang! “
Of 4 Hands Absence of Light peanut butter chocolate milk stout: “My 4 hands suffer from an absence of employment.
Though the temporary lack of a job may explain his milestone, Chandler is by no means a slacker. He holds a master’s degree in arts and teaching from the University of Pittsburgh and spent more than a decade as an English teacher at Lancaster’s J.P. McCaskey High School (his alma mater) until he retired two years ago.
In 2013, he ticked off his local newspaper by running an offbeat write-in campaign for mayor of Lancaster. Among other things, his platform called for the establishment and taxation of a mobile brothel to cut the city’s budget deficit.
The Lancaster New Era called him “wacky” and slammed him for “his far out political views [that] make us wonder about their impact on his students . . . “
Chandler responded with campaign buttons that said, “Put a Woody in Lancaster. “
That irreverence is what makes him so endearing in beer circles.
For example, there’s his penchant for wearing a full-blown sailor’s uniform to beer festivals down at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. He’s not goofing on the armed forces; turns out, it’s the same one he wore while serving 15 years in the U.S. Navy.
That’s where he got bit by the beer bug.
A night in port in Barcelona in 1985 led him to a punk rock club with a bunch of mates. He ordered a beer and the bartender pulled out a massive corked bottle.
“No, beer, not wine,” Chandler said.
“Si, cerveza! “
Turned out it was a pricy bottle of Chimay Premièr Red, the Belgian Trappist ale.
“It was delicious. I thought, ‘If this is beer, what is that stuff we’ve been drinking back in the States? ‘ “
He’s been tracking down great brews ever since, with thousands now following his exploits on Untappd and Facebook.
“What I like about [social media] is that it helps me keep track of everything I drink,” Chandler said. “Plus, it promotes drinking socially. You add a location, people know you’re out and about, and you end up meeting a lot of people. “
I’m not so sure he needs a smartphone app for that. If you drink beer in these parts, you already know Woody.
Here’s more about the man in the monk’s robe:
Top-rated beer on Untappd: Triumph Brewing Chill Amber (5 stars).
Lowest-rated: James Page Casper White Stout ( 1/4 star).
Most-often checked-in: Old Style (32 times, to earn special badges for drinking in Chicago).
Number of badges he’s collected: 1,324, including “Epic” for 5,000 distinct beers. Still ahead: “Uber,” for 10,000.