When I posted this photo on my Facebook, the main people asked was, “WHAT?” What was a guy who writes about beer for a living doing hanging with with two of the most legendary figures in rock’n’roll, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley? It had nothing to do with one of my prior “careers,” writing about music. So here’s the answer. My inbox fills up with press releases, most of them only slightly tangentially connected to anything I’d ever write about. I know some of my beer writing colleagues and friends received the same release. But I responded.
My favorite beer-related quote in AAB (vol. 34, iss. 4, 2013) by Simmons, a notorious teetotaler?
“I like to be in control of myself,” he says from behind a pair of sunglasses (and black jacket and pants to match). “If I was high or drunk—and I’ve never been either—there’s no way that I’d be witty. I would not make any sense, and I may wind up throwing up on your shoes. [A buzz] doesn’t make my schmeckle bigger.”
AAB has a fun running feature, “Pull Up a Stool” where the reader gets to figuratively sit down at a bar with some awesome brewer or person in the beer industry and just chew the fat. The first one I wrote was on Breakside Brewing’s esteemed Ben Edmunds. He’s made beers using duck carcasses, whole pies, and, y’know, fresh hops. That’s what led to this quiet exchange:
So you maintain a classical approach without sticking to the classics?
I always like to point out that we make a lot of “normal” beers, too.
It seems that shandies and radlers–light beers mixed with soft drinks such as lemonade or fruit soda–are becoming all the rage in the United States. Alan Newman, already ahead of the curve as the founder of Vermont’s Magic Hat, realized that we’re actually way behind this refreshing style of summer sipper compared to all of Europe, so he launched House of Shandy.
For this first-person-account-as-written-by-third-party profile, I got to interview this guy in Colorado who’d been doing his graduate thesis on Brettanomyces. It turned into an open forum and from there, the student, Chad Yakobson, had just launched Crooked Stave, an all-Brett all-the-time brewery. Jump forward ahead just a few years and Crooked Stave is the all the rave. I’m happy to say I was able to enjoy his first couple of releases to help get his story straight;-)
A recurring feature in DRAFT is “BeerMe,” a first-person narrative about a brewer, but one that’s sometimes told to and written by a third party. In this case, the subject is a guy named Yuri Green who was about to launch a brewery initially called Cherry Voodoo (and later launched as Triple Voodoo. Without Yuri. This story (vol. 5.6, 2010) may or may not have something to do with that.) Did I write this as a dark comedy? You bet! But was what I wrote built around actual quotes and approved by the subject? Yeppers.
I only knew of Charbay Distillery since they make the best infused vodkas–flavors like green tea–so while I don’t recall how I first heard about their experimental whiskey made from distilled pilsner, I knew I had to try it and get the story (for DRAFT, vol 5.5, 2010). Days after reaching out to them, I found myself on their Napa Valley property, talking to the father-son duo of Miles and Marko Karakasevic, master distillers, and, yes, sampling an array of beers spun into golden whiskeys (and some white ones).
Thinking back, I honestly don’t remember how Tom Griffin, aka the Barrel Guy, even landed on my radar. He flies under almost every radar. This one guy–he doesn’t like the term barrel broker because spent barrels are more like a canvas to him than a commodity–helped shift the direction of the craft beer business in the 21st century but no one outside the brewers really knew about it. Certainly no one had written about him. Nor was he trying to be written about. I think it was an off-handed comment by Matt Brynildson, Firestone-Walker’s brewmaster, where I casually heard his name and some time later that set me off looking for him, but he doesn’t have a website or anything. That’s why how we first met face to face is part of this story, my first for DRAFT Magazine (vol. 5.4, July, 2010). Of course, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, but this remains one of my favorite stories.
Cheers to Tom, wherever he may presently be driving.
Kids in the Brewhouse is the first story I wrote for this magazine in 2008 (Vol. 30, Iss. 2, 2009) about the second generation of craft brewers. Not the men and women who opened the second-wave of craft breweries, mind you, but the first wave’s founders’ kids.