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: STEPH WEBER
AUTHOR OF: BREW.COOK.PAIR.JOY
Beer Blogger Interview
1. Where did you grow up?
Northern NJ, in a beautiful lake town called Lake Hopatcong (Yes, NJ can be beautiful if you go to the right places! It’s not all turnpike and shopping malls.)
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
I played softball growing up, and I threw discus and javelin in high school track. But I was mostly into music. I’ve played quite a few instruments, but I mainly played piano and sang in high school and college (and I still do, in fact). I’ve been in about 15 different choirs, from regular high school choir to NJ All-State.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
Hmmm, well, my first full beer (as in, I sat down with a can of beer and finished the whole thing) was the first weekend of college, so I was 18.
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
Like I said, it was the first weekend of college, in some random kid’s dorm room down the hall. He had a case of Miller Lite. It was awful, and I remember thinking to myself, “Well… better get used to this.”
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 the University of Delaware. As an undergrad, I studied Math with a minor in Computer Science, then continued on to receive a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, which involved writing a grueling 110-page thesis titled “The Piecewise Log Normal Approximation and Its Application to the Kinetic Collection Equation.” It was… difficult. I also sang in a choir for two years as an undergrad, and had a short stint on an intramural softball team with my friends one spring.
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:
My beer epiphany was Dogfish Head Chicory Stout. I had just turned 21, so I went to a large beer/wine/liquor store. I wasn’t into beer at all at the time, but I saw an incredible amount of fancy-looking six-packs there, which piqued my interest. I had heard of Dogfish Head before, and Chicory Stout sounded pretty darn interesting. So I took a chance and picked it up. When I tried it, that was it for me. My love of craft beer began to spiral out of control right away, and life has never been the same since!
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
(Can’t think of any.)
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?
I started brew.cook.pair.joy in May 2008, so about a year and a half now.
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
Well, I had just finished grad school, gotten married, and started a new job within a span of one month. I began working at a large government contractor (where I still work) and was waiting for my security clearance (read: I was being paid to sit in a room and wait for 40 hours a week). I was bored out of my mind for 6 weeks. I had been into craft beer, brewing, and cooking for a while at that point, and thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I should write some of this stuff down!” So I started a little blog on Blogspot. When I realized I was really enjoying writing, I decided to buy a domain, channel my coding roots, and redesign my site in WordPress.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
I didn’t want to limit myself to writing about just beer or just food, but I also didn’t want a disjointed site covering two different topics. I had recently read The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver and was getting really into beer and food pairing. Pairing quite literally brings beer and food together, and similarly brings my blog together. Beer, food, and pairing bring me joy, hence brew.cook.pair.joy.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
I just love writing, and it’s a great creative outlet. Plus, it doubles as a journal for me, and I frequently refer back to old posts. So far, brew.cook.pair.joy, along with Twitter, have helped me to build a network in the craft beer world, which I hope to continue expanding. My husband and I plan to start up a brewpub called Twin Leaf Brewery sometime within the next 5 years (we hope), so getting contacts within the industry is definitely a goal!
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
Being approached by RateBeer.com to write a weekly article is absolutely the coolest thing that’s happened so far. I get a major kick out of seeing my face pop up on the main page of RateBeer every Friday!
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
This is a tough one, as my RSS feed is full of great beer blogs and I visit a ton of other beer sites… I frequent Probrewer.com since I’m an aspiring brewpub owner. I love skimming through the photos on Beer & Nosh. And of course (shameless self-promotion) RateBeer’s new Hop Press is a collection of some truly excellent beer writers. I’ve had a great time writing for it and reading everyone’s articles!
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
For beers that I brew myself, I’d go with ESB, Bohemian Pilsener, and IPA. For beers brewed by others, I’d say Imperial Stout, big IPAs, and beers that don’t fall into a style category. (Sorry, totally copped out on that one!)
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
These are the worst questions! I, like most other craft beer lovers, am promiscuous in my beer drinking, so it’s hard to choose a top 3 anything! *sigh* Okay, the first that pop into mind are Victory, Great Divide, aaaaand I don’t know, Stoudt’s.
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
I’ll say The Bruery, simply because their style of brewing is so completely different from my own, and I feel like I could learn a lot there.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
As of the moment I write this, we have brewed 108 batches of beer. Since we brew about once a week these days, this number climbs pretty quickly. Again, it’s hard to choose, so I’ll go with what’s freshest in my mind. The last beer we brewed isn’t really in a style category, but I’d call it a strong Wit. A friend of the family gave us about 60 lb of Comice pears, so we added 10 lb to this Wit (the rest is being used for a pear mead and a pear cider). It’s still in the fermenter now, so I can’t say how it turned out yet!
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?
Not yet, but I’m taking the BJCP exam in February (provided that they don’t run out of spots for the exam). Also, my husband and I are enrolled in the Intensive Brewing Science & Engineering program at the American Brewers Guild for 2011.
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
Thinking about beer and food pairing just made me crave a pork roast and an ESB. But it’s 9:00am right now, so that’s not gonna happen. Thanks a lot.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
I’m a software engineer at an enormously enormous government contractor. It’s… boring.
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?
I would open my brewpub right now at this second, and I would travel around the country to festivals with my husband to talk about our beer with anyone who would listen.
3. Are you married? Children?
Married, yes. Tim and I met at UD when we were 19 years old. Children, not yet (I’m only 25, for Pete’s sake!).
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
I cook (obvs), play piano, ski, and occasionally play Rock Band and Wii games. I recently tried to get into mountain biking, but then it got cold outside, so spring will tell if I stick with it!
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?
I’d be an ESB. It’s got a little bit of everything. Smooth, caramelly malt backbone, a respectable amount of bitterness, floral hop flavor and aroma, goes down easy. Sometimes it’s a little higher in alcohol and catches you by surprise. Basically, all-around awesome… You can tell I’ve got great self-esteem
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?
Our ESB. I seriously could drink it all day long, I love it. It’s going to be our flagship for Twin Leaf as well!
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?
Something really bitter… Just kidding Maybe a coffee stout with some hot chiles added for a little subtle heat.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Teleportation. I’d see the world and waste no time traveling.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
One of the hikes I went on in Colorado – Lookout Mountain. I’m not much of a risk taker when it comes to that sort of thing, so for me, it was pretty crazy!
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
I’m probably going to get crucified for this one… but I’m not really into bacon. I’ll eat it with breakfast if it’s given to me, preferably microwaved to a crisp, but even that is a rare occasion. I think it’s kind of a silly trend… Sorry, everyone else in the world but me!
SPECIAL THANKS TO STEPH WEBER FOR BEING A KICKASS BEER CHICK!!!