Booze University

Jason Wilson, best-selling author of Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure and the Overrated in Spirits, will lead a series of classes at Keg & Kitchen in Westmont called Booze University.

Wilson, a travel writer and Drexel University professor, is also creator of the digital wine series, Planet of the Grapes.

The tasting and talk sessions begin Wednesday, September 24, with Bourbon & Rye Step Out Of Their Overalls.

Then on October 8 comes Wines of Spain: The New Italy.

The topic for October 22nd is Yo, Ho, Ho, and a Bottle of Rum.

November 12 turns timely with Thanksgiving Wines.

Each class runs from 6:30 to 9 pm. Individual classes cost $54. Attend all four for $192. Taxes and gratuity are included.

Kevin Meeker,
62, owner of the restaurant, came up with the idea for Booze U while hanging out with Wilson, 44, his longtime friend and fellow Haddonfield resident.

Meeker, who has operated restaurants in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Delaware, says he has sometimes had the fun of being Wilson’s “wingman when he goes on travel writing excursions. I’ve been with him to Spain, Italy and different parts of Europe."

They once tasted 60 wines in two days, including varietals made from the oldest vines in Europe.

Wilson, in turn, helps develop wine lists and signature cocktails for Keg & Kitchen.

“Younger people, ages 21 to 35, are really into trying a lot of different stuff," says Wilson. "They don’t pigeonhole themselves. They drink wine one night, craft beer the next. They will be learning how to make a drink with different ingredients and why you use those ingredients.”

The first session, featuring six whiskeys, will start with a surprising white whiskey called “Death’s Door.”

“All whiskey starts out white,” Wilson says.

The color and flavor are imparted by the char on the inside of the barrels the whiskey is aged in. The double distilled white whiskey rests in stainless steel and ages in uncharred oak, lending hints of vanilla, chocolate and cherry.

“One of the largest-growing types of liquor," Wilson says, "is brown liquors and bourbons." The session will help students understand the differences between bourbon and rye, with both Canadian and American brands being sampled.

Wilson has a soft spot for the often-overlooked Spanish wines he will highlight in the second session.

“An inside joke in the wine business is that Spain is the new Italy,” he says. “There are indigenous grapes and geographic areas that people aren’t familiar with, and the affordability of the wines is incredible. There’s a lot to discover.”

Rum was chosen for the third class because it is the opposite of whiskey–that is, not trendy. Meeker says he wants to encourage people to try it.

“Rum is much more diverse than people really know,” Wilson says, citing varieties from Martinique and Guiana as examples.

People are always asking what goes well with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, both men say. Hence, the theme of the final session.

“It’s the 3000-calorie dilemma,” says Wilson. His goal will be to “deconstruct the Thanksgiving meal based on what pairs with sweet potato, what pairs with cranberry, what pairs with Brussels sprouts. The problem is there’s not really one wine that pairs with everything.”

All classes will include “made-from-scratch, homey comfort food” from Keg & Kitchen’s menu, says Meeker. That could include Mexican-style cemita sandwiches of beef brisket; chicken with quacamole, queso fresco and shaved red onion; and roasted clam and fontina pizza.

Keg & Kitchen
90 Haddon Avenue


SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Soup to Nuts articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown