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!
(A few weeks ago I posted the interview with Eugene Kolankowsky of a Tale of Two Brewers. Naturally, as one would expect, a Tale of Two Brewers involves … wait for it … wait for it … TWO Brewers. So here is the second interview in the mini-series!)
INTRODUCING: NICK TANTILLOON
AUTHOR OF: A TALE OF TWO BREWERS
Beer Blogger Interview
1. Where did you grow up?
Poughkeepsie, New York.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
I played Baseball in Middle School, but that’s about it. I also fenced briefly in College, but getting poked repeatedly with a 4 foot antenna lost it’s luster after a couple months.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
18, which puts me in my Freshman year at Lehigh
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
Throughout high school, I was pretty straight-edged about alcohol. On New Years, I’d have champagne with my mom, but that was about it. Lehigh really loosened me up, although I didn’t have my first beer until I was home on Spring Break. My mom always kept some Molsen Amber in the fridge, and as a sort of right of passage we had one with dinner. It really made me feel like an adult (one of those “parent-child” to “friend” relationship transitions.) Molsen Amber is a pretty generic Lager.
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 Lehigh University in Bethlehem Pennsylvania to study Computer Science Engineering. I was only in two official clubs or sports, “The Gaming Club” and “Fencing.” However, there was something going on every weekend. Between the stand-up comedians, musicians, free movie nights, and parties, I kept pretty busy. I also became somewhat of a gym nut; I would have joined “Crew” if it didn’t mean getting up at the god awful hour of 5 AM.
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 friend Curtis raised our standard of beer from Natural Ice (Natty) and Milwaukee’s Best (Beast) to Spaten and Lowenbrau. Although an astronomical improvement, it wasn’t really the eureka moment; we were still drinking low end beer (although the lowest end in Germany is a heck of a lot better than anything from the Wisconsin rice beer syndicate). Strangely enough my group of friends started getting into finer things, including cigars and top shelf (for a short person) liquors.
This, by natural extension started to make us question the quality of the beer we were drinking. I ran into a website called BeerPal.com, which I still consider a great review resource and we started our own Quest for the Holy Ale. We printed out the top ten beers and tried to find them at various shops. What really stood out was #3 at the time, “St. Bernardus Abt 12.” We all split one, and it had the same miraculous effect. We instantly became beer snobs; my personal affinity being for Belgian Abbey Ales.
I still rank that first sip as one of the only times I have sampled mana from the heavens, with a slight hint of ambrosia from the gods. For whatever reason (maybe it was just a good bottle) I haven’t quite reached that flavor Hyperion again, not for lack of trying. That striving desire has lead me down this beer blogging and brewing road: my own personal search for El Dorado.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
Although this doesn’t deal with any specific beer, I did have an epiphany about craft beer when I started trying to find good beer on vacation. When I lived in Poughkeepsie, I was near a huge distributor called Halftime, which basically had everything I could want. Likewise, when I was in Pennsylvania, we were near Shangy’s.
They sold cases of Rochefort, which should speak to their quality and selection. I took it for granted that these types of stores were everywhere, but that simply is not the case. There are places in this country where you really need to dig to find anything of quality. The epiphany is, some parts of this country might buy good beer if it was more available, but Anheuser Busch basically defines what beer is across whole regions. I never look for a cool crisp taste, I want flavor (it’s only ice cold because it tastes bad warm, good beer isn’t like that.)
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?
I started writing for Gene’s blog in March. It’s been great ever since.
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
Gene started this blog as he became passionate about the science of making beer. I love to write and I love beer, so naturally being able to combine the two means I never run out of material. I’m grateful he chose to include me in this.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
Gene originally was going to write the blog with another friend, but he didn’t write a single post. Eventually he sort of fell off the face of the earth, but his original intention was to write about beer with a partner.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
I’d really like to become a published author. This blog gives me a great chance to demonstrate my style and sense of humor while simultaneously encouraging me to delve deeper into homebrewing. I’d really love to find an agent who would be interested in reading my book proposal and sample chapter (for my recently completed humorous guidebook.)
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
We were chosen as Google’s “Noteworthy Blog of the Day” and started getting 500 visitors a day. That was pretty amazing.
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
Abbey Ale, IPA, and Christmas Ale
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
Dogfish Head, St. Bernardus, and Rochefort
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
I really agree with Sam Calagione’s philosophy at Dogfish Head. I consider myself an off-centered person, and really like their signature styles. If I could learn to brew from one of the great masters, it would be him.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
Yes, but I’m still finding my feet and making a lot of mistakes. I have a Red Ale in the primary right now which looks promising.
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?
You can’t beat good chili and beer. I particularly like Stone Smoked Porter with any type of red meat dish, spicy or not. Although, for anything truely hot, I like Double Bastard. Nothing puts out the fire like hoppy beer.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
I work as a Marketing Manager and Technology Advisor for a Fiber Optic retailer.
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’d love to be an author, but not a starving one. I could write for hours on end; when I was unemployed I spent joyous twelve hour days on my book. It’s really the financial realities of being a recent graduate keeping me from pursuing it full-time right now.
3. Are you married? Children?
Married yes, children no.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
I love to cook, especially Greek and Mexican food. I’m really interested in learning the Tin Whistle, although I sound about as bad as a third grader right now. Lastly, I got some leatherworking tools for Christmas; I loved making my King Arther costume from The Holy Grail (for Halloween.) Learning to make leather items seems like it would be a very relaxing hobby. Plus, I just love the smell of leather.
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?
I’d be a Trappist ale, since I love changing people’s perspective on what true beer is. I want to bring about those beer epiphanies.
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?
I’m still chasing down that elusive first taste of St. Bernardus that I had in college. I think that if I was about to die, I’d give it one last shot. I bet it would taste even better.
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?
Much like Dogfish Head is resurrecting ancient beer recipes (like Midas Touch,) I’d create a recipe that might have existed in a tavern in the middle ages. They didn’t always use hops back then and were much more creative with their bittering herbs. I’d probably include wormwood and honey, with some spices and fruit.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
I would want to be extremely lucky; I could have riches if I wanted them, great teachers when I needed them, and no unfortunate or untimely events would happen to me.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
I had to climb a shaky ladder while wearing a heavy backpack up to the roof of a derelict building to take pictures of a solar installation. It was about 150 degrees up there and there were no railings. I’m not usually afraid of heights, but it was frightening.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
Bacon is delicious, but I’m starting to lean more towards the Canadian variety. Nothing beats a bacon egg and cheese muffin on a lazy Saturday morning.
SPECIAL THANKS TO NICK FOR AN AWESOME INTERVIEW!