Food  |  News & Politics

DC Breweries Pay Tribute to Ben Tolkan With a Special, Limited-Edition Beer

"Living the Dream" honors the well-liked figure in DC's beer industry, who died of cancer this past October.

Ben Tolkan, a well-liked figure in DC’s beer industry who recently passed away from cancer, will be honored by a limited edition craft beer called “Living the Dream.”

The new beer is a collaboration of seven local breweries—including DC Brau, Right Proper, Atlas Brew Works, 3 Stars, Bluejacket, Oxbow, and Hellbender—who worked together to create this American pale ale with a 5.2. percent alcohol by volume. The brewers will donate the proceeds from the beer’s sale to the Sarcoma Foundation of America. Tolkan passed away in October, at age 37, after a five-and-a-half year battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

“Ben’s unwavering optimism was infectious,” Brandon Skall, the CEO and co-founder of DC Brau, where Tolkan worked shortly before his passing, said in a press release announcing the new beer. “He always saw the cup half full and the world as a beautiful place full of life and laughter. He always had a smile on his face, and spent each day ‘living the dream.’ We were honored to have him as part of the DC Brau family.”

I met Tolkan in 2016 at Sibley Memorial Hospital, where we were both being treated for Ewing’s Sarcoma. I was immediately fascinated by the upbeat manner in which he handled the grueling, yearlong course of chemotherapy that we were both undergoing. I wrote about him in a 2016 Washingtonian feature titled, “I Was All Set to Become the Most Popular Guy in the Cancer Ward. Then I Met My Nemesis: Ben.”

“Ben had bright eyes and a smile that made me smile,” Ruth Gresser, the owner of Pizzeria Paradiso, where Tolkan worked earlier in his career, said in the press release. “His arms embraced you with a mix of Midwestern kindness and New York wit that made you want to hold on for a good long while.”

The new beer will be available beginning December 11 through DC Brau’s curbside pick up or delivery.

Other local businesses are paying tribute to Tolkan as well. According to the press release: “Pizzeria Paradiso is adding a special pizza to their menus at all four locations in honor of Ben called the Quartroni (Pepperoni, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Mozzarella, Minced Garlic, Parsley). They’ll be donating 100% of proceeds from the beer, plus a portion of the Quartoni pizza sales to the Sarcoma Foundation of America. Additionally, Jerkface Jerky is partnering with DC Brau on a special pairing package that includes Ben’s favorite Maple Jalapeño jerky with every 4-pack of Living the Dream.”

Click here for more information about Ben and this initiative to honor his memory.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.