Interview with Gary B. Schrier, Pipeman, Author & Publisher
- Industry Spotlight
- Interview with Gary B. Schrier, Pipeman, Author & Publisher
- Kevin Godbee
- Nov 20, 2010
- 0 min read
Gary B. Schrier, the owner of Briar Books Press, has some unique book offerings specifically crafted for the pipe enthusiast. He has published the only existing "lifestyle guide" for the pipe smoker (and collector) titled, "Confessions of a Pipeman". He has also brought back to life several out of print books and catalogs. Gary was one of the featured speakers at the recent West Coast Pipe Show in Las Vegas. PipesMagazine.com’s Cynthia Sargent was on location for a sit-down, on-camera interview with the "contentious" yet entertaining and warm Mr. Schrier.
See the selection of books at BriarBooks.com
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Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 550! Our featured interview tonight is with Pastor Joda. This is the fifth in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. Joda grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and knew several people working in the tobacco business. Before he became a pastor, he had a graphic design business that took on a job from Scandinavian Tobacco Group, which left some pipe tobacco in his office. It wouldn’t be until years later that he would become a regular pipe smoker though. His pipe smoking journey will have you knowingly nodding, if not laughing a little. At the top of the show, Brian will report on his trip to Tennessee and The Muletown Pipe Show. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- March 21, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 549
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- March 10, 2023 You Have HOW Many Pipes?
I actually don’t really know. I mean, I have some vague idea, more of a guess, a sort of order of magnitude dart throw. I swear, this isn’t a point of pride or some kind of bench racing brag, but rather something closer to embarrassment. As I wander through the boxes, racks, pouches, bags full of pipes, in an attempt to 1) get them into a semblance of order, and 2) think about thinning the herd a little, it’s feeling a little daunting. Worse, it’s not the first time I’ve been through this, and I’m afraid it might not be the last. It all began at a time when I would answer the question, “How many pipes do you need?” with the ever so witty, “Just one more.” I know I’m not alone there. I sometimes feel like there should be a twelve-step program for the pipe acquisition afflicted. But, they’re such compelling little things; tiny works of functional art, where the beauty of the wood and the skill of the maker come together to yield something that’s too often hard to resist. I easily recall my early days as a young pipe smoker, enthusiast, burgeoning collector, fanatic, whatever I was at the time. I was full of wild enthusiasm towards building up a good collection. It began with just wanting a nice seven-day set, so I could let my pipes rest a week between smokes as I was told was necessary for optimal smoking. That happened fairly quickly, though my seven pipes weren’t all anything to be truly proud of. Then, I wanted enough pipes for two weeks, because I began to think that if one week of rest was good, two would surely be better. After that, it really did seem a good idea to have different pipes for different types of tobacco. (I still adhere to this notion fairly strictly.) And, then there should be smaller pipes for shorter smokes, larger ones for the longer, leisurely periods. See where it starts? When we’re told that a seven-day “set” is an almost necessary practicality, at least if we’re going to truly enjoy smoking a pipe on a daily basis, “they” might as well give us the first one free. The seven-day, at least for me, quickly revealed itself to be a gateway drug, leading me by the hand down a dark corridor to a much more sinister affliction. So, thus disordered over the years, I’ve found myself collecting brands, makers, pipes from specific countries, shapes, finishes – if there’s a way to categorize pipes, I’ve probably at some point had a sub-collection specializing in that particular categorization. I’m a pipe nerd; things like this are bound to happen. At some point in the journey, I had the bizarre notion that if I ever were ever to reach 100 pipes, I’d surely have enough, and I could stop looking for new ones. Or, perhaps better still, the collection could remain at or near that figure by careful selling and trading. This delusional strategy worked just fine. Until it didn’t. The collection continued to grow. More and more of the pipes in my collection began to take on some sort of emotional value. I’ve mentioned in the past that pipes can be talismans of events, or even more importantly, of people. Recently, I was reminded of an old friend who sold me a very special Castello 55 from his own collection. He is no longer with us, but that pipe will always remind me of him, of his vast knowledge, freely shared, of Castello pipes. I now have a lot of pipes like that. Some of them I smoke regularly, and the idea of parting with them never even occurs to me. Others, I don’t, for whatever reason, but when I think about putting them on the block, they whisper their stories in my ear, and back they go until the next round. The century mark has long ago come and gone. A bunch of years ago, I was fairly successful in weeding the garden a bit, selling off quite a few, and feeling quite proud of myself for thinking that, just maybe, I might once again find 100 pipes in my collection, this time coming at it from the other direction. I’m sure it’s no surprise that this hasn’t happened. What’s wrong with having so many, some would say too many pipes? It’s hard to find an answer I can really live with. I suppose perhaps the worst thing is that some of them, even the special ones, might be too-long ignored. Maybe this isn’t really a bad thing. Once in a while, there’s the opportunity to rediscover some old gem, listen again to the stories it might tell, put it into rotation for a while, and experience it all over again. Maybe it’s just keeping track of everything amidst my disorganized chaos, or finding suitable ways to display them all, while keeping them clean and dusted, or just finding them if they’re bagged up in their fancy leather gloves. Maybe it’s just me fostering feelings of excess, latent notions of decadent overindulgence. I should talk with my therapist about that. What I do know is that no matter how, or how many times I examine my “condition,” the same conclusion persists. I have a lot of pipes, and it’s highly likely that this will not only be an enduring condition, but it’s probably only going to get worse. There are times when a particular piece just stops speaking to me, and even that can be a problem. In the past, I’ve too hastily sold off or traded a piece that no longer felt special, only to years later regret parting with it, wishing I’d kept it. Or worse, scouring estate pipe offerings looking for it, or at least a suitable stand-in. There was this lovely old Charatan Executive, you know, and a pair of Larsen bulldogs, one straight, the other bent, that were different from any seen […]
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Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 547! Our featured interview tonight is with Dan Croxall. This is the third in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. Dan is a professor at his alma mater, the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. Prior to returning to academia, Dan practiced law at the world’s largest law firm (DLA Piper LLP) as a complex civil litigator and white-collar criminal defense attorney. He then opened the world’s smallest law firm (Croxall Law) in 2013 to focus his practice on representing California Craft breweries and related parties. At the top of the show, Brian will have a trip report on his visit to Jackson, MS to The Country Squire for the party and last recording of the Country Squire Radio Podcast. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- March 6, 2023 Ashton Guilty Pleasure Tobacco Review
Guilty pleasures—we all have them; whether it’s bingeing the latest water-cooler television show, midnight-snacking entire pints of ice cream, or devoting hours to an online debate that we’re sure we’ve won. Us pipe snobs (face it, if you’re reading this article, you’re likely past the point of no return into the hobby) often catch flack—or give flack—for full aromatic blends, mistakenly thinking them the piper’s equivalent of a bike with training wheels, or confections for filthy casuals. A true pipe smoker, such prevailing wisdom may say, can only find enlightenment in the most mephitic of concoctions, the kernel of bodhi within which they have unlocked through years of trial and sacrifice, with wonderful tastes that they alone know how to perceive, naysayers be damned! Well, that’s poppycock. As the holidays came and went, I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the tins of the aromatic C&D offerings reviewed in the last column, finding subtle little hints of new flavors here and there with every bowl full; I was particularly saddened when I went to re-order them and found them sold out; perhaps my guilty pleasure of being an unabashed aromatic smoker was not so singular as I had presumed? Such it was that I found myself pondering as I navigated the streets of the Financial District and popped in to Barclay-Rex, the City’s oldest family-run tobacconist—and indeed one of the few left of its ilk anywhere. Perusing through their offerings for new review material, my eye was drawn to the jazz-age graphic of a couple of flamenco dancers mid-embrace on a rose-colored tin of Ashton’s Guilty Pleasure, a no-pretense aromatic manufactured by Kohlhase & Kopp for the Ashton brand. Sure, there were English and cigar-leaf blends aplenty, various Virginias as far as the eye could see, but my holiday sweet tooth had not quite yet been fully sated. “This glorious mixture of Cavendish, Virginia and Carolina burley carries an irresistible aroma of vanilla, mango, and exotic citrus,” reads the tin, promising an immodestly candied experience. Kohlhase & Kopp have produced many of my favorite aromatic blends, notably the erstwhile Peterson special editions, so I had great confidence that the tobacco would be of the best quality and not a waste of my time or money, as the price of tobacco in Manhattan is on the verge of requiring a bank loan. Popping the tin certainly confirmed this hypothesis; it unleashed a bright and floral confectionery sweetness that was sure to send the burliest he-man Latakiaphile running for the hills. The tobacco itself was that perfect melange of light-gold to dark-mahogany leaf of consistent cut that is a trademark of K&K blends in my experience. Parsing the aromas back in the laboratory, I kept searching for vanilla and mango—‘exotic citrus’ being indefinite enough to discount. Vanilla firmly chimes in as an overall binding aroma that the fruity notes couch themselves within, but I found mango or citrus aromas neither overt nor distinct in the blend; rather, they are verbal proxies for the overall sweetness and fruitiness with a decidedly floral bent of the bouquet; in fact the unique and unmistakable—though confoundingly unspecific—flavor of Necco wafers popped into my head as the best analog, a notion which would later prove to be shockingly precise. Even after weeks of an open-and-closed tin while sampling, the aroma remains quite strong and readily induces salivation. Not to say that it’s done with too heavy or indelicate a hand—the tobaccos are clearly highest quality and allowed to shine through the mix to shape the smoke, which is quite a bit more restrained than the tin note would suggest. Puffing through a half-dozen bowls in search of the best instrument, I found the smoke then to be quite good and much more rounded than merely aromatic, if perhaps lacking a little in real depth, particularly held up against the last review blends mentioned. Bowl after bowl it presented quite brightly on top and faded to a good sweet nutty Cavendish-burley by mid-bowl, and tapered down slowly through to the heel—a heel that was easily reached with slow sipping and temperature control as well as a few rest periods and relights, and not goopy at all. Once I’d honed in on the proper pipe, cadence, and drink pairing, it was sweet heaven through the end of the tin. As for the room note, it is sweet but rather tame compared to the tin note; I would place both flavor and room note on the bright and fruity side of mild-to-medium. While swapping out pipes to find a good mate for this blend I stumbled upon my cache of several years’ worth of Kaywoodie pipes from the holiday dinner and slow-smoke, to my good fortune. The straight billiards and clay cutty I started with weren’t really bringing out the full experience of the blend, tending to get too hot past top-bowl and not really hitting the mark on the aromatic notes while smoking. The delightful Shellcraft half-bent billiard pictured, handmade by Bill Feuerbach of very old-stock Algerian briar and vulcanite stem, nailed it like Mary Lou Retton on a floor routine—the perfect geometry of chamber to coax down a small ember, and the bend deep enough that the smoke could drift up to the nose easily for sidestream olfaction, all at barely an ounce of weight—as fine as any Dunhill in my collection, not to mention a repository of fond memories. There’s a lesson to be learned here: before finding just the right pipe, the blend would score below fair-to-middling; after, it was sweet euphoria. Finding the best drink pairing for such a sweet blend proved challenging as well. Sometimes the notions come to me and I test them out to find they work perfectly, other times it’s down to a more Edisonian approach: determine the prevailing notes and alkalinity, then find drinks to congenially act as foils or amplifiers through brute force trial and error. In general it’s a good start to look for mildly acidic drinks, […]
Another great interview!
I have the first edition signed by Gary and it is a really good book. Every pipe smoker should read it.
I need to pick up the second edition.
This was a very informative interview because it provided a glimpse of Mr. Schrier’s personality and how it might be projected in his writings. Producing a book that deals with pipe smoking lifestyle issues, and not just another “how to” guide, is going to go a long way toward promoting the image of pipe smokers in the upcoming generation, and it is a welcome development.
Cynthia is fast becoming a familiar face, and that’s a welcome development too!
Gary is a real cool guy. He is soft spoken, very intelligent and witty.
Great interview! Looking forward to more!
Nice guy! I’ll have to look into finding copies of these reprints. I could be wrong, but that’s a mighty nice Panerai on his wrist!
Like Bob, I have a signed first edition, but can’t wait to read the second that apparently has a lot more content. Third edition on the way? Great to actually see Gary “in the flesh” so to speak. Gary has done a lot to further the pipe world, especially as it relates to the re-issuance of classic pipe literature (e.g., 1928 Dunhill Catalog “About Smoke”, and the fabulous BBB issuance). Every serious pipe smoker should pick these up, and to support Briar Books, as smoking a pipe is, as we all know, a lot more than just about smoking a pipe! PS: Cynthia is nice too.