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: MICHAEL AGNEW
AUTHOR OF: A PERECT PINT
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, home of Anheuser-Busch. I learned to love the smell of a brewery from a very young age.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
I played little league soccer for two years in elementary school. That was a mistake. I was not an athletic child. More of a geek.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
Do you mean my first whole beer or my first tastes of beer? The first tastes are more important to me than the first beer. In fact, I don’t even really remember when I had my first full beer. For the first tastes though, I was but a tiny lad – maybe four or five.
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 dad would give me sips from his can of Hanley Lager as he worked in the yard or sat in his chair after work. I loved it. I do remember my first full beer with family. It was thanksgiving. I was in high school. I looked around at a certain point and realized that I was the only sober person in the room. My grandmother offered me a beer. I accepted.
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 Webster University in St. Louis. I studied Acting and Directing for theatre. The theatre program I was in was an undergraduate conservatory program. It was very intensive. There was no time for other activities. Webster had no Greek organizations. Webster had no sports program until I think my junior year. But it didn’t matter. I still was not an athletic person. I was on the Bored Board for a few weeks. We planned parties.
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:
You know, I have always liked good beer. In high school we would try to get the “good stuff” which meant St. Pauli Girl or Lowenbrau. But growing up in St. Louis, a lot of Bud was consumed. I spent a year in Germany right after high school and drank a lot of great beer, but I can’t say there was really an epiphany moment for me there. It just all seemed really strong. And I thought that Hefeweizen tasted like battery acid.
The first real epiphany was probably in college. This was the early 80s. The craft beer revolution had not yet happened, especially in St. Louis. For a brief time the liquor store down the street from the dorm had McEwan’s Edinburgh Ale. I believe this was a strong scotch ale. Dark, sweet, rich, full of flavor.
It was our go-to beer if we were feeling a bit wealthy. We adored it. We drank it whenever we could afford it. It gave me a taste for what beer could be. Then after a couple months it was gone, replaced by McEwan’s Scotch Ale. We tried this and it wasn’t at all the same beer. I have never seen the Edinburgh Ale again. Internet searches for it turn up nothing. It’s a mystery. I would love to try it again. Anybody out there know anything about it?
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
The next craft beer epiphany has to be when Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Anchor Steam first hit the bars in St. Louis. I believe I was already out of college. This would have been the mid to late 80s. To an, at the time, satisfied Bud drinker, these were some big and flavorful beer. They became the thing I would drink if I wanted something special or wanted to impress someone. My interest grew from there.
The third epiphany was my introduction to sour beers. The first one was New Belgium LaFolie that I had on a brewery tour. I had never had anything like it. It was odd and stinky and sour…and I knew I wanted more. The next was Duchesse du Bourgogne at a BJCP class. This was one of the first beers of sour beer night. My response to the first sip was, “Oh…this is delightful.”
The last epiphany happened two years ago at a friend’s house. We were brewing and he had invited some friends over. We purchased a few beers to sample as the night progressed and I found myself teaching the others about all the beers we were drinking. The next morning my friend’s wife said to me, “You know a lot. You should do something with that.” I went home, wrote a business plan, started A Perfect Pint to do beer tasting events, became a Certified Cicerone (trademark), and the rest is history.
Beer Blog History
1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?
I published my first post on December 19, 2008. Just about a year.
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
I had started A Perfect Pint, my beer tasting and beer consulting business, about a year earlier. It was starting to get going and I saw blogging as an extension of the beer education mission as well as a way to promote the business.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
I called the blog A Perfect Pint because that was the name of my company.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
I guess my goals for the blog are pretty much the same as when I started it; educate people about beer and promote my business.
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
I get free beer on occasion.
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
I don’t really read that many beer blogs. I like The Zythophile. The person who writes it gets pretty geeky sometimes and has this kind of nerdy “I know more than you, you blithering idiot” attitude when other bloggers get their facts wrong. I kind of find that amusing. I look at MNbeer.com pretty much every day. It’s a local site that lists all the beer goings on in the Twin Cities. I have been enjoying reading the posts at the Hop Press. Otherwise I sometimes look at Andy Crouch, Pete Brown, or Stephen Beaumont.
1. Top Three Favorite Beer Styles are:
#1 – Best Bitter, #2 – Flanders Red Ale, #3 – Saison. Of course this answer will likely change if I answer it again tomorrow.
2. Top Three Favorite Breweries are:
#1 – Jolly Pumpkin, #2 – New Glarus, #3 – Founders Brewing Co. Of course this answer will likely change if I answer it again tomorrow.
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
I would probably want to work for New Glarus. They do everything and they do everything very well. I like that they want to remain a small regional brewery. I have heard Daniel Carey talk and think that he sounds smart. He would be interesting to work for/with.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
I am a homebrewer. I have been brewing since 2003. I think the most unique brew I have made remains one of my best, a gigantic Cherry Imperial Stout with Brettanomyces. The starting gravity was 1.093 and it ended at 1.008 when I bottled it. I made it three years ago. I still have a few bottles in the basement. It just keeps getting better. This summer I made an all brett beer that is fantastic. Rhubarb wheat was also good. Had one of those for dinner tonight.
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)??
I am a Certified Cicerone™ with the Cicerone Certification Program and a National level BJCP judge. Going for Master in both. May take a bit of time to get there.
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
I don’t think I have a “favorite” beer/food pairing. I recently taught a holiday beers class at a cooking school in Minneapolis with a chef. He made beer braised short ribs with a charred tomato BBQ sauce. I paired it with (and he cooked it with) St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. It was fantastic. I once paired Ommegang Biere de Mars with Cereta Alt Urgell washed-rind soft cured cheese. Really stinky stuff. That was also nice.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
I am self employed and basically do three things:
A) For my main gig I own a theatre company called GTC Dramatic Dialogues. We do interactive, issue-based performances on college campuses across the country. We do three different shows on diversity issues, sexual assault, and substance abuse. (Yes, I am a beer evangelist and a substance abuse educator. The irony of that is not lost on me.) For these shows I am the host/moderator. I lead discussions between the audience and the actors who stay in character. You can see video of the shows here.
B) I do theatre in corrections projects where I work with prison inmates and ex-offenders to create original theatre performances based on their own stories. Read about one of those projects here.
C) Finally, I own A Perfect Pint (it had to get back to beer sometime). With this company I do beer tasting experiences for private parties and corporate events. Most of my clientele are not beer geeks. I am evangelizing to the un-anointed about good beer.
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 don’t think I would want to change my career. I love what I do. All of it.
3. Are you married? Children?
I am not married in the legal sense. I have been living with the same woman for going on twenty years. We have no children nor do we intend to have any children. I’ll enjoy my nieces and nephews.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
I love to go hiking, camping, and backpacking. Southern Utah is the most beautiful place on earth.
Off the Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be and why?
Right now I think I’m an American Brown Ale. Understated but not lacking in flavor. Sweet, but with an underlying bitterness. Darkly opaque unless you hold it up to a light. A bit toasty.
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?
Right now I would choose Ommegang Rouge. Why? Because DAMN! It’s so good. I drank a ton of it while it was available here in the Twin Cities. Now it’s gone. I would drink a ton more of it if I could.
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 don’t really know you, but my impression is that it would need to be something big, brash, and bold. Maybe a DIPA with loads of grapefruity Centennial hop and a bit of acetobacter and brett for a sour tang.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Fly. I have always wanted to fly. As a kid I was deathly afraid of heights. Not because I was afraid I would fall, but because I was afraid I would jump.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
I became impromptu security at a punk rock show in Germany. I got to toss the skinheads from the stage. As an American in Germany, the skinheads didn’t like me, and I didn’t especially care for them either. It was a lot of fun. I’ve done some other stuff too, but I wouldn’t put it in print on the internet.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
A slice of bacon explosion makes a great burger topper.
SPECIAL THANKS TO MICHAEL FOR AN AWESOME INTERVIEW!