To McCarter Theatre goers, he is best known for his role as Ebenezer Scrooge’s only living relative, the kind-hearted, cheerful and optimist Fred in “A Christmas Carol.” But to beer, wine and spirit aficionados, James Ludwig is better known as that happy hour guy.
When Ludwig is not on the stage, he is busy producing a new episode of his web show The Happy Hour Guys, which he co-hosts and co-produces with fellow actor Mark Aldrich.
The motto for The Happy Hour Guys is “Laugh. Learn. Drink”, but it could just as easily be “Drink local.”
The show, which has been in production since 2006 and is showcased on Blip tv, started out featuring happy hours at area bars. More than 200 episodes later, the show highlights bars and craft beverages across the country.
Two Princeton bars, Triumph Brewery and the Achemist and Barrister, were featured in the shows earlier days in 2008 when Ludwig was playing Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol. The two-part episode was fittingly called “Cratchit’s Crawl”. Ludwig suggests viewers also check out more recent shows online to see how the program has evolved.
Ludwig, a Michigan native, has appreciated the distilling process since his childhood. “My family didn’t distill booze,” he said. “They distilled maple syrup.”
Like most performers, he began working in the food industry as a teen and became a bartender to support his acting career. He developed a passion for bars that only grew after he became successful as an actor. He just finished his seventh year as a member of the cast of A Christmas Carol, which he looks forward to every year.
“Princeton is a great place to be and McCarter is such a wonderful theater,” he said. “What really makes A Christmas Carol at McCarter special is the kids who do the show with us.”
One reason Ludwig is such a fan of Princeton is the local business focus. “Local business are an important part of what makes a community special,” he said. Ludwig has been pleasantly surprised to see the Princeton bar scene evolve in recent years, with many local bars now offering a variety of craft brews instead of just the usual suspects.
Triumph Brewery is a close to his heart for a local beer, and the Alchemist & Barrister and Winberies are two of his favorite stops when he wants a good regional microbrew. He also likes The Yankee Doodle Tap Room at the Nassau Inn and the Witherspoon Grill. On a recent trip to the A&B, the bar was offering, among other brews, 21st Amendment Fireside Chat Spiced Winter ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, and Ithaca Nut Brown Ale.
Asked what beer we should try when we visit his favorite Princeton bars over the holidays, Ludwig’s advice was this:
“Trust your bartender,” he said. “A good one knows what is local, what is new, and what beer people are talking about.”
If you are picking up a last-minute six-pack of beer for a New Year’s party, he suggests you try a local pick like River Horse or a regional craft beer.
For 2012, Ludwig, who is also a master of whiskey for Johnny Walker, is anticipating a change in New Jersey state law that would allow for small boutique distilleries that would produce beverages like cognac or single malt whiskey. The legislation has been introduced, but has not been reviewed at the committee level yet.
“It’s a whole new area that is really booming all over the place right now,” he said.