Never in my life did I think beer would lead me to the principles applied in electricity – fundamentals that govern anodes, cathodes, alternating and direct current, electrolytes, rectifiers, and electroplate technology. My eyes would have glazed over. I would have run to the nearest exit. Give me a beer … please! We all have talents and aversions, and my Beer Fox Brain simply did not accept the challenges necessary to process the fundamentals of electromagnetic bronzing. But that was before I knew Phil Farrell and his famously-photographed rubber chicken.
We met in Alaska in 2007 – the three of us – me, Phil Farrell, and that loose, limp girl. I was enamored by her the moment we met. There she was … already a star … a model that the most world-renowned beer experts in the world had touched.
Phil, a Master Beer Judge and elected representative of the Southern Region for the Beer Judge Certification Program, is a well-recognized face at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. He is a champion homebrewer and has been a Finalist in Wynkoop’s Beerdrinker of the Year Contest so many times he could easily be named their mascot. But the mascot who gets the most attention is that gnarly bird from the Chicken City Ale Raisers Homebrew Club.
Phil gave her an elaborate name: “The Chicken.” Despite this, she has endured the test of time, posing in photographs with famous beer people since June of 2005. Mr. Farrell has tasted beer in over 1000 pubs throughout the world, and can proudly assert that he has had a beer in every country in Europe. Chicken just goes along for the ride.
The Chicken is a member of Rogue nation and has been featured in Zymurgy, New Brewer, and The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, starred as guest taster at the Toronado Barleywine Festival, and escaped Executive Chef Bruce Paton’s butcher knife at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco. Her photo-ops have included being in the limelight with the late Beer Hunter Michael Jackson, Celebrator Beer News Publisher Tom Dalldorf, Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian, Beerwriter Jay Brooks, Publicans Don Younger and Dave Keene, Quentin Falconer – the brother of the late Glen Falconer – of the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation, and a Who’s-Who of Brewmasters a mile long.
As the wear-and-tear of life-on-the-road chipped away at The Chicken, her soft rubber skin began turning to powder. Owner Phil Farrell understood her significance in the World of Beer, and was committed to preserving the tradition. Methodical research pointed to the only plausible preservation that would ensure The Chicken would truly be preserved: Electroplating with bronze. When I saw Phil and The Chicken in Chicago at the World Beer Cup in April, 2010, she had a new, bronze gleam in her eye … for real.
Chicken had been stuffed with Zeus Hops at Gamache Hop Farm, but she needed to be filled with a more substantial substance - a plaster-like mold - to preserve her shape while enduring the process of electroplating with bronze. She was immersed in a tank filled with an electrolyte solution that contained just the right chemicals dissolved in water. A negative electrical lead was attached to her, essentially transforming her into a cathode. Another electrical lead, positively charged, was in the solution. When electrical current was turned on, the negatively-charged “cathode chicken” attracted the positively-charged bronze from the solution, causing the metal to adhere to the surface of the chicken. She began to gleam with new life.
The process is a bit more complicated than that, but this explanation bears enough detail for any beer drinker who doesn’t have a brew in hand. Suffice it to say that the coating covered the surface so perfectly that every detail on the skin was preserved, from the individual feathers and the chicken’s beak, to the uneven seams and “made in China” inscription on her claw-embellished legs.
Phil hinted at the establishment of a Dead Chicken’s Society, and has initiated an annual toast to be dedicated to The Chicken each February. You might consider seeking out a proper stout to commemorate the occasion – something like Chicken Leg Oatmeal Stout from Roy Pitz Brewing Company in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Phil Farrell shows off The Bronze Chicken
Phil Farrell holds up the Bronze Chicken for a closer inspection of her refurbished skin and the preservation of texture left by electroplating
George Reisch, Brewmaster for Anheuser-Busch & The Chicken
George Reisch of Anheuser-Busch poses with The Chicken in Anchorage, Alaska
Jay Brooks and The Chicken
Jay Brooks, Beer Writer/Creator of the Brookston Beer Blog with the ever-famous Chicken before she was bronzed
Other Photos (from top): The Bronze Chicken and Beer in Chicago at Rock Bottom Brewing Company; Geoff Larson, Owner of Alaskan Brewing Company, has serious dialogue with The Chicken; Phil Farrell gives his Bronze Girl a drink; Midnight Sun Brewing Company celebrates their big win at the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival at the Robert Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, while The Chicken joins the cheer