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: THE BEER WENCH
AUTHOR OF: DRINK WITH THE WENCH
Beer Blogger Interview
Full name: Ashley Virginia Routson
Internet nicknames: The Beer Wench & Wenchie. (Do not even ask me how, why and when people started calling me Wenchie. The Beer Wench was meant to be a BADASS name … but somewhere along the road people decided to give me a cutsie little nickname. Crazy kids.)
Twitter handle: @TheBeerWench
Name of blog: Drink With The Wench
Current location: I am a gypsy. (But currently reside in Berkeley, CA)
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Denver, but grew up in the town of Montgomery — just 60 miles north of Manhattan in the very beautiful and historical Hudson Valley, NY. And despite what all the the city folks love to say, I am not from UPSTATE New York. I am from DOWNSTATE.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
I swam competitively from age 6 till I was nearly 21. My swimming career ended with a debilitating bicep injury while in college and I was forced to quit just 6 weeks before the Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships. (I tore my bicep in the weight room and trained on it until I could not lift my arm. I couldn’t even write. It was bad.)
In middle school and high school, I was on the track team. Although sprinting was my forte, I dabbled in almost every single field event — hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put, decathalon and I’m proud to say that I was the VERY FIRST female polevaulter in my school.
After quitting swimming, I played intramural ice hockey for a quarter at Ohio State. Then my senior year at Ohio State I joined the novice rowing team. After a month on the novice squad, the varsity coach moved me up. An ankle injury was my ultimate downfall and I got surgery just one month before the season started. Instead of quitting, I ended up holding my place on the varsity squad as a coxswain. And no, I did not just yell “stroke stroke stroke” the entire time.
What else? I grew up on a river and have sweet canoeing skills.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
Technically, I had my first taste of beer while in the womb. Apparently, my mother’s doctor told her it was safe for her to have a half of beer a day during pregnancy. And naturally, my mother indulged. My father wasn’t too thrilled about coming home to a half of a warm beer sitting on the counter, though.
To this day, my mom attests that beer sent her in labor. Whether or not this is true, is debatable. Regardless, I was born to be The Beer Wench.
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
The first beer I actually remember drinking was Samuel Adams Boston Lager. My mother went to Boston College and my parents eloped in Boston. Despite the fact that my mother was born and raised in NYC, she has a weird loyalty to Boston (picks the Red Sox over both the Yankees and the Mets).
Samuel Adams was my mother’s beer of choice. Spaten was my father’s beer of choice. Those were the only two beers that I saw in my house growing up.
Speaking of Spaten and my Dad, that is a great story as well. My Dad rarely ever drinks anything other than Spaten. I’ve never known anyone so loyal to one brand of beer than my father. Our garage refrigerator is always stocked with it. Like always. My Dad brings his own beers to parties because he does not trust anyone else’s tastes. On my 21st birthday, instead of getting kegs of cheap beer for my college-aged cheap friends, he got Spaten. My Dad even brought Spaten to my cousin’s wedding.
Needless to say, I grew up being exposed to “good” beer and craft beer growing up.
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 love this question. Why? Because I love to live in the “glory days.” I am extremely proud of my achievements at The Ohio State University. I graduated with two B.A. degrees, varsity letters in 2 different sports and I was also involved in several school organizations. I guess you can call me an overachiever.
For this question, I will copy and paste from my resume:
The Ohio State University, 2001 – 2005, Columbus, OH
B.A., Psychology/B.A., Criminology, GPA: 3.6, Cum Laude
*Big Ten Scholar Athlete Award 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
*Ohio State Scholar Athlete Award 2002, 2003, 2004 ,2005
*Ohio State Varsity Swimming & Diving 2001-2004
*Ohio State Varsity Rowing 2004-2005
*Most Improved OSU Female Swimmer 2002
*Buckeye Power Club Award 2003
*Student-Athlete Advisory Board, Marketing Chair
*Romophos Sophmore Honorary (social chair)
*Bucket & Dipper Junior Honorary
*Mortar Board National Senior Honorary
*National Society of Collegiate Scholars
*Golden Key International Honor Society
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 first craft beer epiphany was with DogFish Head’s Midas Touch. At the time I discovered it, I was managing a restaurant in Columbus, OH. I was also studying for sommelier certification and extremely into wine. This was back in the day when DogFish Head did not have a wide distribution and its specialty beers were extremely limited and hard to find. My restaurant was able to secure two cases of Midas Touch (which back then was a lot to get).
Being the “beverage manager,” I made sure to do my research about the beer before it came in. The concept of the beer completely blew my mind. I learned that it was brewed based on an ancient recipe from a DNA analysis of scrapings from barrels in King Midas’ tomb. The ingredients themselves were so weird for beer: honey, saffron, white muscat grapes and barley.
Now you must remember, I was an uber wine geek at that time. So they idea of a “winey beer” really excited me. The flavor delivered as well. This beer completely changed the way I thought about beer and encouraged e to push my beer palate to the extreme.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
The next beer epiphany was Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. It was my first taste of an American IPA. It was this beer that turned me into a total hophead. Over the course of two years, while still in Ohio, I probably consumed at least one pint of it a day. No joke. My two favorite beer bars (in my early Drink With The Wench days) always had it on tap. And I used to drink it like water.
My greatest craft beer epiphany BY FAR has to be the first time I ever tasted THE GUEUZE. It was at The Map Room in Chicago in May of 2008. I was in town for the National Restaurant Association Show. Somehow my coworker stumbled upon Brian VanZandbergen of Merchant Du Vin and raved to him about me being a beer blogger.
At this time, I was a total hophead and extreme beer fan. The closest I got to drinking Belgian beers was Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde and Trois Pistols — which are Belgian styles, not Belgian beers. And I most certainly never touched English of German beers. I wanted my crazy hoppy, big alcohol, over the top flavored beers.
You see, I consider myself to be of the “DogFish Head Generation.” I started drinking extreme beers and completely skipped over the “classic styles.”
Once Brian realized how amateur my palate actually was, he made it his mission to school me on beer. And so my coworker and I piled into his car for a memorable night of beer bar crawling and beer tasting throughout Chicago.
As fate would have it, we ran into Stephen Beaumont — renowned beer writer — at Goose Island brewery. Since then, Stephen has served as an inspiration, tremendous resource and mentor to me. Stephen was also there for my gueuze epiphany.
Long story short (okay I guess it’s a bit late for that), we found ourselves at The Map Room. Brian set us up with a line up of 8 different Merchant Du Vin imported Belgian beers. One of them was Cuvee Renee, Lindeman’s gueuze. From the first sip, I became consumed and obsessed by the gueuze.
And the rest is history.
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing Drink With The Wench?
I started the website in February of 2007. It was originally titled “The Columbus Beer Wench.”
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
I am a writer. I love writing. And I happen to think that I have an affinity for it. I used to write a random stream of thoughts blog but, after a few months of doing that I decided to really focus my writing skills on one subject.
So I chose beer. Why? Well once I started studying beer, I became obsessed. After I left the restaurant for the marketing and advertising world, I still wanted to be involved in beer. I started hosting tastings and events around town. And then I started my website to help promote my events, recap my events as well as record my tasting notes and experiences.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
Around the time I started writing her blog, I was working for a marketing and advertising agency. As a result of my job, I understood the importance of establishing a brand (as well as the proper steps of doing it).And so, I sat down one night and forced myself to come up with an Internet beer identity. I wanted something that was relevant to beer, yet playful and ‘rough around the edges’ — just like me. To me, the name Beer Wench is unpretentious and rowdy. However, don’t let the word Wench fool you. The Wench knows her beer.
As for the name Drink With The Wench, that used to be the name of the events I would host around Columbus. When I realized that The Beer Wench URL was taken, I opted for Drink With The Wench.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
The original goal of the blog was to force me to learn more about beer. When I started it, I was an amateur. I learn best when I take notes and, more importantly, when I teach others. The blog was originally a “virtual notebook” of my beer studies as well as a resource for me to organize beer tastings and beer events where I would teach others what I had learned.
I’m proud to say that I’m no longer a novice and, at the moment, I consider myself to be a beer connoisseur. The goal of my blog now is to spread the good word of craft beer — whether it be through beer tasting notes, beer news, beer event coverage, beer industry interviews, beer & food pairings, recipes with beer.
I love writing. I hope that my blog will help me turn my hobby into a career. Ideally, I would love to write about beer for a living (aka get paid for it). Michael Jackson is a huge mentor and inspiration of mine. I have said this many times before — my ultimate goal is to become Michael Jackson meets Ray Daniels with a little bit of Anthony Bourdain thrown in. I would love to get paid to travel the world, touring breweries, attending beer events, judging beers, hosting beer dinners & beer pairings etc… and then write all about my experiences. Eventually, I want to be published as well.
So if anyone knows how to make this dream a reality, please PLEASE help a Wench out!
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
I would say it definitely has to be all the people I’ve met. I have traveled all over the country and have met a tremendous amount of important beer industry folks — brewers, writers, bloggers etc. I love the beer industry. The people in it are truly amazing. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate their life to craft beer!
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
This is a really hard question. Especially since I started this beer bloggers series. I have been finding all sorts of exciting & interesting beer websites as a result.
For news, my favorite beer resource is: BeerNews.Org
For podcasts, my favorite beer resource is: The Brewing Network
As for blogs, my “favorite” beer resource is: Brookston Beer Bulletin (Jay Brooks has been blogging about beer longer than I’ve been legal to drink. He has a HUGE archive)
I know I said 3, but I must throw in a fourth beer resource. My favorite (alive) beer writer is Stephen Beaumont from The World of Beer. He is “new” to blogging, but has been writing about beer professionally for decades. And he is damn good at it!
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
- Gueuze — I grew up in a “dairy country” New York. The smell of barnyard funk is relatively nostalgic for me. My neighbor across the street had horses as well. I’m oddly attracted to “manure” and grassy hay smells. My favorite wine regions — Rhone, Burgundy and Piedment — are known for producing “Bretty” wines. What can I say? I heart Brett.
- American IPA — Specifically, the American IPAs hopped with Pacific Northwest varietals. I’m a huge fan of super high alpha acid hops. Love pine, resin and grapefruit flavors and aromas.
- Saison — Back to the “barnyard” funk obsession. I love this style because of the Belgian yeast fruity esters aroma as well.
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
This is a really tough question. American or European?
American (in no particular order) =
- Russian River Brewing Company
- DogFish Head Brewery
- 21st Amendment
European (in no particular order) =
- Drie Fontien
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
Where would my skills and talents best be used and appreciated? Probably with DogFish Head. My writing in fairly witty and they “get” social media. I think it would be really fun to work in the Marketing “department” of DogFish Head. I love their creativity and passion. And I would love to work along side Mariah Calagione!
However, I have fallen in love with living on the West Coast. (Although, I would leave it for a job in the industry — hint hint). So if I was to stay on the West Coast, I would probably enjoy working for Stone Brewing Co. Same idea as with DFH. They are creative and “get” social media. And I love Dr. Bill and Greg Koch.
Can I do one more? New Belgium in Fort Collins would be an awesome place to work. I really admire their dedication to sustainability. I ride my bike every chance I get and would love to work somewhere that not only appreciates that, but encourages it. And I would love to help them take their social media presence to the next level.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
Not yet. Being a gypsy has made it hard to aquire the proper equiptment and I have no yet had the proper room for it or storage space. Soon, though. Soon.
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?
Cicerone Certified Beer Server!!!
I’m in the process of pursuing Cicerone Certification. Follow my adventures at In Pursuit of Cicerone Certification.
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
My favorite pairing, by far, is beer mussels & gueuze (or saison).
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
Aye, therein lies the rub. I have no day job. No income source. Sigh.
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 I said earlier, my ideal job would be Michael Jackson meets Anthony Bourdain. I would love to travel the world writing about beer (possibly doing videos as well).
I would also love to do social media marketing, copy writing and traditional marketing for a craft brewery. I am super bummed that I missed the opportunity to do so with Stone, but hopefully another craft brewery will create a similar position (hint hint).
3. Are you married? Children?
Oh hell no. And hell no. I want to trade my uterus for an extra liver.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
I am still a wine connoisseur, although it has been quite some time since I’ve truly wine geeked out. I’m an avid cook and and even more avid eater. I love developing recipes with beer. I like taking beer adventures on my bike (not a good combination, I know. Hence all my scars). I also love hockey skating, but rarely get the chance.
During college football season, I spend a good deal of time watching football. I am obsessed with Ohio State Football — to a fault. I can throw a better spiral than most boys I know (but I just can’t throw the ball as far).
I am also getting into both scotch and cigars.
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?
If I were a beer style, I would be Orval — the only beer that is its own style. My creation story is stuff of childhood fantasies (the Countess, the wedding band, the trout). I am the only Trappist beer to be dry-hopped, which makes me earthy & spicy. The Belgian candy sugar gives me an underlying sweetness.
But the real kicker, is the Brett. Since I was inoculated with Brett at bottling, I am constantly changing in the bottle. Today I taste like an English IPA, but tomorrow I might be sour and reek of horse blanket. The wild yeast makes me funky and unpredictable, Yet, since I was purposefully inoculated by the Monks, it means that there is method in my madness.
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?
Definitely a gueuze. Although Drie Fontenien is my favorite, I might go for Lindeman’s Cuvee Renee because it was my first gueuze and it holds a special place in my heart. I would die after a moment of nostalgia and great memories.
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?
Ah yes, I finally get to answer this question. I’ve been really impressed by a few people’s answers on this question. The best answer by far was by Alex P. Davis. I was going to steal his idea, but instead I’m going to make my own recipe.
The base beer would be a Saison. I would brew the beer in Colorado because that is where I was born and I want to use Rocky Mountain water. Primary fermentation would be with traditional Saison yeast. The beer would then be put into Chateauneuf-Du-Pape wine barrels (my all time favorite wine region) with Brettonomyces and Hudson Valley unpasteurized apple cider (for extra fermentable sugars … not sure if it would work because I don’t know the technical details of Brett and re-fermentation in barrels). The final product would be dry hopped with rose petals (my birth flower).
Yeah, that sounds pretty cool to me.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Flight of teleportation. That way I can travel the world and do all the things I dream about doing.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
Jumped off an 80 foot cliff. I was one of those kids growing up (okay maybe I’m still that way) that tried to out-do everyone. “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Cliff jumping was a hobby of mine in my later high school days. Naturally, it was illegal and very dangerous.
My friends and I went to a new spot that we heard about. We all started on the small cliff — about 30 feet. Then me and a few others decided to bump up our game and try the 50 foot. No biggy.
I decided it would be awesome to swim across the river, climb up the steep hill and attempt to jump off the 80 foot cliff. Why? Because I had to show off. I though I was such a badass.
I slipped when I jumped and ended up hitting the water at an angle. You have to understand, water becomes as hard as concrete from that height. When I hit the water, my contacts blew off of my eyes, my wind was completely knocked out and I was completely paralyzed. I thought I was going to drown. And as a competitive swimmer, drowning is your greatest nightmare.
Some boys across the river (on the small cliff side) jumped in the water and pulled me out. I could not walk for almost a week. And the whole left side of my body was a giant black and blue bruise. My ribs were bruised. I was a mess.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
I am utterly obsessed with it.
Thanks to everyone for reading “my story”! Sorry my interview was so long winded. But what can I say, I am a writer after all. And the one subject I can write a lot about is myself