It was October, 1991. The Maltose Falcons had just had an excellent Oktoberfest at the house of David Sherfey in La Crescenta. The new Board of Directors was installed, with five new members including President Bruce Brode and Vice President Brian Vessa, after an unprecedented three terms served by outgoing president R. Bruce Prochal. There had been a fine raffle (I won several high-quality tall German Pilsener glasses, an auspicious presidential debut), and Burgermeister Bob Shepard had prepared a spectacular entire roast pig for the victuals. There had also been a beer auction, with the stars of the auction being two truly rare beers brought back from Germany by Joe Sakosky: Rauchenfels Fest Marzen, and the legendary Rauchenfels Steinbier, the unique Bavarian lager beer brewed with superheated rocks. Outgoing treasurer Maureen Nye, realizing how rare these beers were, bid successfully on both of them.
With all this stimulation, when night came a number of us simply weren't ready to go home. This was in the days before staying the night at a Falcons fest became a regular thing for a lot of us. Unbearable pressure was put on Maureen by the rest of us to open those rare bottles so we could all get a taste, and she ultimately relented. David set up a table in his garage and about twenty of us gathered around to get a taste of those beers and some other rare beers such as Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine and Celebration Ale that happened to be on hand, possibly there was some Anchor Old Foghorn Barleywine as well.
At one point as the gathering was getting under way, the event was unwittingly christened by Darryl Richman, continuing newsletter editor. A current-release film at the time, starring Robin Williams, was The Dead Poets Society. Darryl noted this and blurted out words to the effect, "Well, this must be the Dead Palates Society!" We all had a great laugh, and the name stuck. And yes, I did get a tiny dribble of a taste of the Rauchenfels Steinbier, which I can only describe as the most elegant beer I have ever tasted.
We had such a good time that by popular demand the event became a fixture at all future Falcons fests and at the early Southern California Homebrewers Festivals, where local versions of it continue to this day among attending clubs. It also migrated to the Northern California Homebrewers Festival; when I first attended that event on its second occasion in October 1999, the first beverage that appeared before me at the Dead Palates Society (DPS) 'meeting' was a bottle of Glenlivet 21-year-old Scotch Whisky!
In the Falcons, conducting the DPS meeting became the responsibility, appropriately, of the Grand Hydrometer. Although it's fun and informative to hear about the beers, meads, etc., there usually is no formal tasting order, since, at that point, after all, it should make no difference since our palates are "dead." I still like to describe the Dead Palates Society meeting as the part of the fest "for those who refuse to go home." And it was memorable for me, many years after the original event, during one of my stints as Grand Hydrometer, to serve some Rauchenfels Steinbier at a DPS meeting we had during a Sunfest the club held up on the Kern River. History repeats itself!