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: JONATHAN SURRATT
AUTHOR OF: BEER MAPPING & BEERINATOR
Beer Blogger Interview
1. Where did you grow up?
Clinton, North Carolina
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
In High School I played soccer and golf. In college I did a small amount of intramural sports and drinking.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
I had some tastes growing up, but my parents really didn’t drink very much. My first real full beer was actually in college.
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
It was a Bud Light and I remember somewhat vividly struggling to finish it. But I championed through it and I think I ended the night wearing one of those orange vests that the guys working on the side of the highway wear. STAY IN SCHOOL KIDS.
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’ve been to a few colleges and I’ve had more than a few majors. Started in graphic design, moved to english/journalism and then finally finished after a ten year break at DePaul in Chicago with a degree in E-Commerce Technology. I didn’t really participate too much in college life but I did end up with one of those ‘cum laude’ things.
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 think one of my first craft beer epiphanies would have to be a Scaldis Noel (this one was labeled Bush Noel). It was 12% and a friend brought it over to drink. I was still in NC at the time (probably around 1998 or 99) and we still had a 6% cap on alcohol by volume. So this beer was HOT. I think this was the first time I really got an alcohol burn from a beer and because of this and the other flavors, I was pretty inspired to seek out new beers that pushed the boundaries.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
The first beer I brewed myself was a pretty big deal. We named it Balk Pale Ale because believe it or not, we forgot to pitch yeast at first and just left the yeast packet on the counter until the next morning… I probably tasted a third of the bottles before they were even fully carbonated, because I was so excited. It was a Sierra clone that an ex-brewer friend of mine helped me come up with. I really didn’t do too many kits at the very beginning because he was able to help me and we weren’t fully in the world of online shopping carts. At that time, we had to use these things called “books”.
Beer Mapping Project Background
1. When did you first launch the Beer Mapping Project?
October 2005 I started using the google maps api to map out breweries. I started a blog for it soon after and really didn’t get the whole thing more automated for adding locations and reviews for another year.
2. What inspired you to create the Beer Mapping Project?
I had recently moved to Chicago from NC and I didn’t totally know where things were. At the time I was both a BeerAdvocate and a Ratebeer user, but at that time both of those sites really only showed you lists of locations (Ratebeer now has maps too). I am a visual person and if you showed me a list of locations in the Chicago area, it didn’t help because I wasn’t familiar with all the suburbs, so I started mapping locations. Maps were much more helpful for me, and it turns out they were a lot more helpful for others as well.
3. What are you personal goals for the Beer Mapping Project? What do you hope to achieve with it?
My goals now are pretty much what they were from the start. I want our users and myself to be able to find the beers, breweries and bars near them. Along the way I have found out that what I have done has actually helped people find breweries and brewpubs to visit and has possibly helped the craft beer community in some way. So for this, I am proud. We have a few other strong helpers that volunteer to approve and maintain locations on Beer Mapping and I truly appreciate their help (Shoutout to @BahHumBrew, @TheBeerNut and @BeerPrincess!).
4. What are some of the coolest beer destinations you have uncovered while working on the Beer Mapping Project?
Some of the cooler places I actually haven’t been to. I like it when we find a strange restaurant or bar that is serving a great craft beer selection. I really haven’t been in this business as long as some of my friends, but I still know what it was like 10 or 15 years ago when you couldn’t find a beer list anywhere.
Now I see locations added to our site daily and some of them are definitely not places where you would expect a good list. But we go through the approval process and learn that this tiny Vietnamese restaurant has a solid selection (here is the location I am thinking of but haven’t visited).
Now, in a city like Chicago, it’s almost impossible to find a restaurant that has no craft beer at all. It’s a great time to be a beer lover!
5. What is one place that you’ve never been to but really want to visit in the name of beer?
I haven’t been to Seattle. I think that may be next on my list. I’ve been to many of the big beer cities in the US but Seattle is likely next on my list.
DRAFT MAGAZINE BACKGROUND
1. How long have you been working for Draft Magazine? I’ve been with DRAFT for 1 year and 3 months.
2. What exactly is your role in Draft Magazine?
I’m DRAFT’s Web Director (often internally called Web Producer).
3. What does your typical day involve?
I do a lot of coding, building out web applications and pages. I do not do textual content (we have a Web Editor that handles this), but anything else that is required for our company online is what I am expected to handle.
We’re working through a full site redesign right now (look for it in the next few weeks) and I am doing everything from design to development. My strengths are database to web projects, but I have a very solid understanding of non-table based layouts and CSS. Basically if you use open source web software, you can bet I have played around with it.
And for those beer bloggers out there, I do a whole lot of work with wordpress and know how to call it my bitch. For those of you still reading this, I will stop now to keep you from getting bored and confused.
4. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of working for Draft (and The Beer Mapping Project)?
I get to meet a lot of beer people. It’s fun having people like Stan Hieronymous, Ray Daniels and Randy Mosher know your name and consider you to be one of their friends. The beer community is a pretty tight knit group and if you are a genuine person and you contribute more to the community than you take, it isn’t too difficult to get to meet a lot of the people who are the most well known. The Beer Mapping Project has definitely opened some doors for me, but I don’t really use it in that way. DRAFT obviously has helped in a lot of ways with this as well.
5. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
- BEER MAPPING
- DRAFT MAGAZINE
- And another site I run (my first): BEERINATOR (a North Carolina Beer Community site). After these three, I really rely on twitter to keep up with the goings on in the beer world these days.
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
Schwarzbier, Porter and IPA.
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
I don’t want to answer this question because I have so many friends in the industry, so I will turn it and say that my favorite 3 brewpubs to sit and drink beers in would be: Goose Island – Clybourn, Carolina Brewery – Chapel Hill and Bells Eccentric Cafe.
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
I would like to work for Dogfish Head because they are both large enough to support superfluous staff like a web developer and they are still pushing at the boundaries of what a craft brewery can be.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
I used to homebrew, but I quit quite a few years back. One of my better recipes was brewed for a friend’s wedding gift. I gave them 12 or so corked 750ml bottles of a strong dark belgian that I brewed and I kept a couple extra bottles for myself. A year later my homebrew club was having a competition and I found two bottles of this beer and submitted it and ended up winning a first place ribbon against 20 or more other belgian entries. I felt pretty good about this and did something sort of similar with a double IPA the next year.
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?
I passed the first level of the Cicerone Certification. I also built the website at cicerone.org so I probably have at least a third credit on the Certified Cicerone level (but I bet Ray would think otherwise). I’ve been inside Siebel a few times, and looked around and drank a few beers, but that is about it!
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
I had a stellar IPA paired with a Mango Sorbet at a Rock Bottom – Chicago brewers dinner that I still can remember to this day. But on a regular basis, I will have to say a good solid Pale Ale or a Mild and a Cheeseburger (bacon or otherwise).
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
DRAFT Magazine Web Director
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 think I’m happy right now. I can only think of a few other places in the beer world that could employ a web developer like myself.
3. Are you married? Children?
Married to @BeerPrincess with 2 small dogs that we don’t dress up, but they still act like children.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
I recently started running again, but other than that; I read a lot of science fiction and I watch tv and movies.
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?
I would be a Mild. I’m solid, approachable and supposedly pretty tasty.
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?
It would be a Founders Porter. The mouthfeel on that beer is superb and I could drink it all day. I’m a simple guy and don’t need crazy hoppy IPAs or Imperial Stouts to make me feel at ease. A straight up solid porter is what I would want.
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?
I think a person calling themselves the Beer Wench should be able to enjoy a working class beer as much as any other, especially considering the origin of the name. So a beer called “The Beer Wench”, from my perspective, would need to be a sweet brown, with brown sugar and nutty characteristics balancing out the English hops. It would need to be able to stand up to some tough situations, but it would also need to be soft enough to caress you after a long day.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
I think I would want the ability to control time. It would be nice to be able to relive moments in my life over again, or freeze moments in time to get their full appreciation.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
Well, other than jumping from a third story window into a tree in college (the first time I was in college), I usually don’t do anything too crazy. After the interview is over, I will probably think of something really awesome I did that one time… But I think for the most part my crazy activities are fairly tame or “mild” compared to others.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
Um, It is good. And I eat the hell out of it when I am able.
SPECIAL THANKS TO JONATHAN FOR HIS AWESOME INTERVIEW!