DRINK WITH THE WENCH PRESENTS:
The Beer Blogger Interview Series
Curious what goes on in the minds of your favorite beer bloggers? Well, The Beer Wench is and she has embarked upon a mission to interview as many beer bloggers that she can — from all over the world. Are you a beer blogger? Do you want to share your story? Send me an email!
INTRODUCING: JON ABERNATHY
Author of: THE BREW SITE
Beer Blogger Interview
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bend (Oregon)—well, technically, I grew up outside of Bend in Alfalfa—aka the boonies, an agricultural community. My school years were actually spent in Redmond schools, though we lived closer to Bend, thanks to some quirk of the school districting.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
I didn’t play any sports in school (other than recreational).
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
Well officially, I was 21—though I remember as a kid being allowed to take sips of my Dad’s beer, and I’m sure (though I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when) I drank a full beer occasionally during my teen years. All American macro lagers, of course.
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
My first “official” beer (at 21) was on my 21st birthday, at a restaurant in downtown Bend called Stuft Pizza. I honestly don’t remember was the beer was, but I’m pretty sure it was microbrew; it may well have been Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, considering they were located just down the street. (Deschutes is still here, Stuft Pizza is not.)
5. Where, if applicable, did you go to college? What did you study? What additional activities, organizations, sports did you partake in during college?
I went to Central Oregon Community College (again, here in Bend) for two years, and finished my college education at Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Washington (just outside of Spokane). I studied French and even have my Bachelor of Arts in French, with a minor in Computer Science; however, computers and internet was the field I ended up in. (Long story short, by the time I decided I was doing computers for a living, I was already closer to my French degree, so I went for it.) There weren’t too many other college-related activities I participated in other than going to school; I was also working full-time (graveyard shift!) so I didn’t really have the time.
Craft Beer Epiphany
Every craft beer enthusiast has at least one pinnacle craft beer experience that completely changes ones perspective on beer. I refer to this mind-blowing moment as a “craft beer epiphany.”
1. What was your first craft beer epiphany? Recall as many details about it as you can:
I’m copying what I wrote up on The Brew Site back in Session #15
I have two answers, and I can’t say for sure which came first because the mists of time have worked their magic on my memory and my chronology is a bit mixed up. Both answers related to things happening within a fairly short period of each other which is why I can’t quite remember… it’s a bit of a “chicken and egg” problem in that sense, I guess.
It was the mid nineties, we were living in Spokane, and—being in my early twenties and going to school—the cheaper the beer I could get, the better. Sadly, I was a big drinker of Keystone Light, mostly because it was available at Costco for $7.99 per case. But I wasn’t overly particular; sometimes I’d “splurge” and pick up Miller Genuine Draft—in bottles!—and at some point I graduated to Molson Ice. (Had the higher alcohol content, natch.)
I was certainly aware of the existence of craft beers; Deschutes was a big thing in my home town of Bend, and I’d probably tried various micros from time to time. But—well, it’s a familiar story, so I won’t bore you any more with it. One of the first things to raise my beer awareness and start me down the path was my friend Geoff insisting I try some microbrewed beer one night while we were at Ichabod’s North, and he bought a pitcher of Widmer Hefeweizen. The beer was orange and cloudy and smelled like fresh bread. My first impressions: thick, yeasty, bready, crisp, bracing, and the most delicious beer to pass my lips ever, at that point. Seriously, it was that good, and it really opened my eyes to what was happening with craft beer.
The other thing that happened was my introduction to homebrew. This was around the same time, and my friend Justin—who was also getting into good beer—brought over some homebrewed beer that a friend of his had made. It was Toad Spit Stout, the Irish stout recipe from Charlie Papazian’s New Complete Joy of Homebrewing. That Stout was far better than I frankly expected it to be, and opened my eyes to homebrewing the same way that Widmer’s Hefeweizen opened my eyes to microbrew. I was hooked. I bought Papazian’s book and it became my bible. I started homebrewing—clumsily at first, naturally—and explored Spokane’s tiny craft beer scene.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
Well, I could cheat and say every time I try a new craft beer, it’s an epiphany, but that’s too easy. But there were memorable moments over the years:
- First drinking Pyramid Apricot Ale around the same time I discovered Widmer Hefeweizen in Spokane—that was a freaking great beer then—which was eye-opening to what a fruit beer could be…
- The eye-opening hoppiness of BridgePort IPA…
- The first time I tried a Fresh Hop ale—Deschutes’ Hop Trip, I believe it was…
- Discovering Pumpkin Ale…
- And so on…
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing The Brew Site?
Over five years now.
2. What inspired you to start writing The Brew Site?
I’d been blogging on my original blog for awhile and I had grander ambitions to make The Brew Site an “ultimate beer portal” type site—a là BeerAdvocate or RateBeer—but that never got off the ground. So it seemed the logical choice to turn it into a beer blog, especially since there were so few beer blogs out there at the time. Plus, I’m a writer at heart.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
I was lame and trying to pick an all inclusive type name for my Ultimate Beer Site. You can tell I have more of a background in computers and software than marketing, because if I had to do it again, I think I would have picked something shorter and cleverer.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
Ideally I’d love to be able to make a living as a full-time beer blogger/writer, and use The Brew Site to do so.
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
Several things: getting to meet (online or in person) many other really great beer bloggers and writers; getting free beer as PR to review; and getting “media” (free) access to events like the Oregon Brewers Festival.
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
Tough question, I follow a ton of beer blogs that it’s hard to pick just 3… I really like Stan Hieronymus’s Appellation Beer blog. Another blogger I consider “can’t miss” is Jeff Alworth in Portland. You can view a list of my current beer list HERE (what I follow in Google Reader), but even that isn’t complete, since I also follow a bunch of breweries blogs and they’re not on that list. My favorite non-blog beer site is BeerAdvocate… (I know, I’m a Hop Press Featured Writer for RateBeer so I’m supposed to say RateBeer is a favorite, but frankly I like the features/format BeerAdvocate offers better.)
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
Ugh, a beer geek’s favorite question… gun to my head, I’d pick Barleywine, American Amber Ale, and, er… Pumpkin Beer. Sure.
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
Another tough one. Overall, my favorite is Deschutes Brewery. In terms of favorite breweries based on the beer and how much I can drink/have available to me, Deschutes Brewery, Widmer Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing (and this list can and does change.) In terms of pure location, then Pelican Pub & Brewery, Stone Brewing, and, um… Deschutes Brewery. (These are all west coast breweries since that’s where I have 99.9% of my experience.)
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
Eh, I’m going to change the boundaries of this question. I’d rather be a “free agent” and work with any brewery from a writing perspective, and I’d be happy to consult with any brewery looking for advice on blogging, the web, social media, beer trends, or whatever else I could get away with.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
I’m an avid homebrewer, been doing it for years. Unique and interesting recipes include: my (annual) pumpkin beer; Coconut Cream Stout; my latest apple ale. At some point I plan to experiment with indigenous Oregon High Desert ingredients like sagebrush and juniper (which I’ve used before), as well as cultivating wild yeast.
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
Beer with a meal. Seriously, though, it’s a topic I haven’t explored much. I attended Deschutes Brewery’s chocolate beer pairing dinner last year and that was pretty great.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
2. If you could change your career at this very moment, without any restrictions on what you could do, what would you want to do and why?
Writer and beer blogger. My writing focus would be primarily beer, but not necessarily limited to it. As to why… it’s who I am. Plus I would totally dig being the “traveling beer writer.”
3. Are you married? Children?
Married with two children, ages 10 and 8.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
Those two take up a lot of my time! Web development, reading, child rearing all have a role…
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be and why?
Barleywine: quietly mellow, deep and complex without being too flashy.
2. You were caught smuggling beer illegally, which has now been made punishable by death. Right before you are sent to the executioner, you are offered one last beer. What beer would you chose and why?
Samual Adams Utopias. I figure might as well aim big—plus, it might be so hard to get that my execution would be delayed… giving me time to come up with an escape plan.
3. If I contracted you to brew a beer (or design a beer recipe) called “The Beer Wench” — what style would you chose and what, if any, extra ingredients would you add?
The name “Beer Wench” makes me think of Medieval imagery so I think I’d craft something along the lines of an Old Ale with warming strength, and spice it with juniper berries, heather tips, lavender, and maybe cloves.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Doesn’t every guy want to be Superman? No?
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
Filled out this interview without drinking a beer.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
SPECIAL THANKS TO JON FOR HIS COMPELLING INTERVIEW!