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!
Beer Blogger Interview
Full name: Barry Masterson
Twitter handle: @BarMas
Name of blog: The Bitten Bullet
Current location: Muenster, Germany
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
None! I was never the sports type, not even caring to watch sports. I’d like to say I followed more cerebral pursuits, but that’d be a complete lie!
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
I always get the feeling I was a late starter at the tender age of 16, or maybe it was 17. It seems so long ago!
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
Ah, now that’s easy. It was a school friend’s birthday party, out in her house in the countryside, County Wicklow, south of Dublin. Several cans of Carlsberg were consumed and I was king of the world. And, amazingly, I didn’t puke!
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 studied Geo-Surveying in the Dublin Institute of Technology. Most of the extra-curricular activities in my college life related to music, smoking, drinking and playing cards.
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’d love to be able to say I had one, but I think it was a more gradual process. I always think that my attitude towards beer started shifting after I visited Germany for the first time, around 1995/1996. Till then I had been subsisting on the likes of Carlsberg, Heineken, Coors, Miller, hard cider and Jack Daniels — oh my, lots of Jack Daniels at one point — but a couple of weeks in Germany with my not-yet-girlfriend-who-would-later-be-my-wife gave me a chance totry some local pilseners, weizens and the like. I still think it was the Weissbiers that did it, what with the tall glasses and the huge, creamy head and that very different taste to the Euro-lagers or international Pils I’d been drinking till then.
Around the same time my best friend and I had started visiting the Porterhouse brewpub in Dublin. Not only did they produce a range of nine beers of their own, but they had, and indeed still do, a vast selection of bottled beers from around the world. In hindsight, I think the Porterhouse, a trip to Bruges, and my friends’ and my tendancy to never drink the same beer twice in one night really started opening my tastes. I’ve never looked back.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
So, assuming my Road to Damascus was a gradual affair, I think there have been some occasions where I’ve taken turns in different directions. One of my favourite bars in Dublin, The Bull and Castle, was the place where I first had an American IPA. It happened to be Goose Island IPA, and I have to say it opened up a huge new vista of those big American C-hops. i love them, and while GIIPA still remains a kind of benchmark, it was merely an opening gambit on those kinda brews.
Sour beers are another one I love, and while the Porterhouse had opened my mind on Lambics from Belgium, just last year I had a real Wow! sour beer with a De Dolle Cosmos Porter. It really has no business being called a porter if you want to be a style nazi, but man, that was one of those few beers that really made me stop and go, shit, this is good. Really unexpected, complex, almost balsamic vinegar and sherry flavours. I wish they’d make it again.
I’m sure I’ve had lots of little ones along the way, but it’s the overall journey that counts for me.
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?
I started The Bitten Bullet in August 2008.
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
I had been contributing to IrishCraftBrewer.com since it was founded in early 2007, and while that is an outlet for writing about home brewing and talking about beers in an Irish context, once I moved to Germany I felt like I needed some kind of beery outlet to let me describe the beer and life experiences since my move. I had been living in Germany for about five months at that stage, so rather than spamming IrishCraftBrewer.com with tasting notes, I decided a blog would be the best approach.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
Well, I definitely bit the bullet when we decided to move to Germany, so it just seemed to fit. Although I had intended to write more about life experiences in general, the focus has been through the beer lens, but I’m still happy with the name.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
I don’t think I have any really. It feels like a more personal thing, or writing to my real-life beer-community friends since I don’t physically see them very often since moving. As long as I enjoy it I’ll keep writing. As for what I want to achieve, well, I’m happy if it either entertains or informs anyone happening to pass by.
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
I could be flippant and just say “getting free beer”, but while I love getting free samples and trying beers that I would otherwise have a hard time finding, it can be a double edged sword as it seems some brewers think you owe them more than a fair review.
In reality, the best reward for being a beer blogger has to be the sense of community. This connection that you can make with some people, and the generousity and willingness of the beer blogger community to share is the coolest thing.
Oh, that and getting that package of peat-smoked malt from the Bruichladdaich distillary, sent to me by Eddie Gadd, the brewer at Ramsgate, and being able to send him back a bottle of beer I made with it. That was cool
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
As a co-founder of IrishCraftBrewer.com, I’m very proud of the community there, so ICB has to be in my top three list. We recently announced the launch of a beer consumers group, Beoir, that will put a focus on supporting craft beer in Ireland. ICB will merge with this new organisation, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can develop this. The reaction has been great so far, and we’re not due to launch till July 2010.
A person who has been instrumental in this is a fellow admin on ICB, a friend, former neighbour and also, in my humble opinion, Ireland’s best beer blogger: The Beer Nut. Entertaining and knowledgeable, I like his style and he’s a good drinking companion. Plus he’s not afraid of a good argument
I can’t choose a third. Look at my list of favourite blogs on my own blog, and make your own mind up.
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
I hate making lists. If I had to choose, I guess it’d be Imperial Stouts, IPAs and Lambics or other Belgian sour beers. Even then, there’s so much more to like, so don’t hold me to it, I’ll probably change my mind next week.
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
Right now, De Molen in the Netherlands because of their powerful, wonderful, varied stouts; Williams Brothers in Scotland because of their heritage beers and their new line-up which I was privileged to taste last year; I’ll have to add Pinkus Mueller, simply because they’re local, and the tap room is great. In reality, I’ve lots of favourites, but a brewery can produce both great and no-so-great beers, so I really end up with a list of beers I really like, and breweries I prefer. And it’s always changing!
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
De Molen, because I want to know how they make those damn stouts! Otherwise, my own brewery, so I could do what I like!
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
Yes, but what I consider interesting may not be to others, and is probably far from unique. I made an American-style barley wine in December 2008, heavily influenced by a bottle of 2007 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. I aged some of it on oak chips for a bit of variety, then locked it away for a year before drinking. Hardly unique, but I was pleased.
Perhaps a little more unique was a pale ale I made using wild hops I picked close to my home last year. I played it safe and used a cultivaed variety for bittering, but the wild hops definitely gave a different flavour and aroma. That was nice to try, and I’ll do it again this year.
More recently, I made a stout using a portion of peat-smoked malt from the Bruichladdich distillary in Scotland, kindly donated by Eddie Gadd of Ramsgate Brewery, Kent, and the very same malt used by Menno in the De Molen Blood Sweat & Tears Bruichladdich version. It didn’t go exactly where I wanted, but I like it nonetheless. I need to try it again though!
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?
While I cook with beer (especially when making Chili or a hearty beef stew) and will drink the beer used to make the meal, the combination that gives me the most pleasure is terribly simple: a strong, hard cheese, some nice salami, strong mustard to dip into and chunks of fresh-baked bread with almost any beer. Simple, but bloody lovely.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
My business card tells me I’m a Senior Consultant in the field of Geographic Information Sytems and Spatial Data Infrastructures.
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?
As with most home brewers, owning my own brewery would be rather nice, for obvious reasons.
3. Are you married? Children?
Yep, married with one son who just turned five.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
Brewing, of course, but that’s beer-related, I guess. Cooking, baking, cigars and reading are things that I do in my spare time. Travel, especially for work, but it does get me to nice beer destinations. My family take most of my non-work time, which is as it should be.
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be and why?
Oh, probably some kinda lawnmower beer. No bullshit, what you see is what you get, and honest. Oh, and simple.
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?
My own barley wine. I’d have to brew it and age it for 10 years first though.
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’d go medieval with a Mumme or some other gloopily thick, sweet, strong, pre-hops beer. Proper wench beer!
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Sending people who cut lines (skip queues over this part of the world) into the deepest, darkest pit of Hades.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
Moving to Germany.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
I love bacon, but not to the extent that I’d sleep with it. Unless it was very pretty bacon, perhaps.
SPECIAL THANKS TO BARRY FOR AN AWESOME INTERVIEW!