Featured Beer Blogger: STEPHEN RICH

Written by The Beer Wench. Posted in Blogger Interviews

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Featured Beer Blogger: STEPHEN RICH

Published on August 31, 2010 with No Comments


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: Stephen Rich
Nickname: Steve the ProfessionAle
Twitter Handle: @DefinitionAle
Name of Blog: Definitive Ale (transitioning to Definition Ale)
Current Location: Toronto Ontario

Background “Snapshot”

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in London Ontario, and moved to Toronto for University.

2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?

I played competitive baseball for 14 years, then played high school and varsity Football.

3. How old were you when you had your first beer? The first beer I ever had was most likely not a memorable one. London is home to the Labatt Brewery, and as such the city was filled with commodity-grade beers. I do remember though when I enjoyed my first real beer. I would have been in 2004, and I had stumbled into Beer Bistro in Toronto quite by chance. The bartender recommended to me the Schnieder Weisse Aventinus, and it changed me forever.

The first beer I ever had was most likely not a memorable one. London is home to the Labatt Brewery, and as such the city was filled with commodity-grade beers. I do remember though when I enjoyed my first real beer. I would have been in 2004, and I had stumbled into Beer Bistro in Toronto quite by chance. The bartender recommended to me the Schnieder Weisse Aventinus, and it changed me forever.

4. 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 Business and Finance at Ryerson University. We had no football or baseball team to speak of, so my activities mostly involved weights and a gym.

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 went through high school assuming that I was drinking great beer – I was drinking the higher end commercial beers and imports expecting that this was as good as it gets. Then, it took just that first sip of Schneider-Weisse Aventinus in 2004 and I was changed forever. I had no idea you could enjoy flavor like this from beer. The Aventinus, and the beers that followed it opened my palate, my mind and my heart to a spectrum of flavors that I didn’t even know existed!

I went to see a movie on a Tuesday night with some friends. After, we were looking for a place to grab a beer. We must have passed 3 or 4 closed restaurants and pubs before we stepped into the recently opened (at the time) Beer Bistro. The Bar Manager and Part Owner, Dayna, was working, and charmingly enchanted us with stories of amazing beer. The first beer she served me was the Aventinus, and all of a sudden my –mouth and soul was filled with a rush a complex flavors that I had never known. This was a remarkable beer. Little did I know (until later that night), that there were hundreds, even thousands of beers that can do exactly that!

2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:

It was a miraculous thing for me in 2004, the first time I ever tried an Innis & Gunn; I was enjoying a beer and a meal at my favorite restaurant and beer bar in Toronto, the Beer Bistro. At the time I was just getting into real beer, and the Beer Bistro was the catalyst for that new found passion (obsession). Around then I was just beginning to learn the differences between mass produced commercial beer and craft made beer; there was really no better place for me to do that either.

Then one night not unlike any other a beer caught my eye on the expansive beer menu called Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer, which explained that it had been aged in previously used oak whisky barrels. Now, while this may sound very commonplace these days to the avid beer connoisseur, in 2004 oak ageing was still very fresh, and to me it was exceptionally exciting. There wasn’t really a question in my mind; I really loved whisky, so I had to try this beer.

If the Beer Bistro was the catalyst for my ascent to beer appreciation, then the Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer without a question was my guide. The first time I enjoyed this beer (and still every time) it absolutely floored me! I was then beginning to learn about and appreciate all the flavors that beer could posses, and the Innis & Gunn came along and just swept me off my feet! I was speechless, even still I am in awe of how delicious and fantastic this beer is. In fact, I have spent the last 6 years introducing my friends to Innis & Gunn and explaining to them why it is so exceptional – and have easily converted commodity-grade beer drinkers into real beer aficionados! Thanks Innis & Gunn!

Beer Blog Background

1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?

I left my job in Finance with a Mutual Fund Company in February 2010, and since then have began my career as a beer journalist operating my blog.

2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?

One of my original inspirations was Ken Woods, the owner of the Black Oak Brewery in Toronto. Ken had spent much of his life as a corporate accountant, but one day realized that he hated it, loved beer, and decided to open up a brewery; one of the breweries that taught me about what craft beer truly is. Ken inspired me to make this move now, rather than waiting until I am 50.

3. Why did you choose the name of your blog?

For a long time my brother and I have dreamed of what we would name our brewery if/when we open one. Many names had floated around, but Definition Brewery is what stuck. We knew we wanted to brew real, craft, unfiltered and unpasteurized beer – sort of defining what beer should be. So the name made sense, without being too arrogant (we hope). Definitive Ale was to be the name of the blog, hence allowing people to come and explore the definitive role that beer can play in everyone’s life. The transition from Definitive to Definition is purely for branding purposes.

4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?

My goal is to share my passion and enthusiasm for real beer with everyone who is sick of settling for the ordinary; people who are tired of having expensive ad campaigns force feed them mass produced, commodity grade beer. I am using Definitive Ale as an outlet for my creative beer juices, and to help me build content and improve my skills. I’d like to contribute to beer, and food & drink magazines, even cigar magazines on how to properly pair beer with cigars. I’m also looking for the opportunity to host a show about real beer.

5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?

Since blogging, slowly but surely craft brewers in Ontario, and even some from the United States have begun to send me beer to review for them. I mean, this is every beer bloggers dream; to have your favorite breweries voluntarily send you beer! The first time I opened my mail box to a package of beer from the Stone Brewery was one of the happiest days of my beer career!

6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?

The three beer sites I am absolutely on the most are BeerNews.org, Daily Beverage News (which is not specific to beer, but covers all beverage industry related news), and The Bar Towel, which is an Ontario Craft Beer new forum.

Beer Talk

1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?

Top three favorite beer styles is a crazy tough question! Damn. Ummm.. Ok. Rye Beers, Milk Stouts, and Weizen Bocks if I haaaaddd to narrow it down :D Or a Quadrupel. Or Oak Aged Beers… Done..

2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?

Again, this is a crazy question. But if I could drink beer from only three breweries it would be Innis & Gunn, the Stone Brewery, and Het Anker (Gouden Carolus). I really have to point out Unibroue, Dogfish Head, La Trappe, Ommegang, Schieder Weisse, Dieu Du Ciel, and North Coast Brewing .

3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?

I would love to work with the Stone Brewery. I love their philosophy on brewing, how they operate their business, and the type of creative and unique adventures that they involve brewing in. I’ve not seen a more beautifully brewery and brewpub either! I love the fact that they have old vintages of so many of their beers, and that they are so involved in the craft beer community. And most of all, I love all of their beers! Hire me Stone!

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, and some of my most interesting recipes I will not divulge on the internet before I can bottle and produce them myself :P But my last batch of beer was a Peculiar Ale brewed with allspice, whole cloves, stewed pears, roasted almonds, and was dry hopped with Williamette and Saaz hops. It is called Manifest Destiny, and was the first brew since I began this new career.

5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?

I am right now studying to get the BJCP certification, and one of Siebel’s programs may become an option for me in the near future.

6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?

Ok, to be consistent with the first two favorite questions, I will list my favorite three homemade food and beer pairings: 1) The Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer with Slow Smoked Beef Ribs. 2) Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Keizer Blauw with a Tripple Chocolate Cherry Trifle. 3) Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA with Steak and Roasted Potatoes.

The Personal Side

1. What is your current day job?

I am a Freelance Beer Journalist and Beer Consultant. Beer journalism is what primarily consumes my time, however I also host and organize beer tasting events, beer schools, cooking with beer classes, and consult to restaurants to improve their beer menu.

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 would host Top Gear with my Roommate and best friend. Top Gear is a BBC Car TV Show, and is the best in the business! I love beer, almost more than anything. But my first love was cars. The three Top Gear Hosts get to drive the best cars in the world, in the most extravagant places under the most ridiculous circumstances! It would take much more moola for me to buy all the cars I want than it would to buy all the beer I want. This way I get the cars for my job, and I’ll pay for the beer!

3. Are you married? Children?

I am single with no children.

4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?

As mentioned I am a huge car buff. I am also obsessed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, I love baseball, cooking, working out and bodybuilding. I love whisky, cigars, jazz, classic rock, and dinosaurs.

Off The Beaten Path

1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?

Facebook just asked me this question, my result: “Trappist Westvleteren 12. A Quadrupel. It’s open to debate, but the consensus is that you’re the best beer in the world! You’re reputation is big, but you don’t act like it. You are a rare classic breed that is admired; few can live like you do”.

Given the remarkable stature of this beer, I would hardly argue with Facebook’s authority over the matter. Although, I would say a Quadrupel is accurate. Not only is a Quad among my favorite beer styles, but I am strong, complex, spicy and rich, yet soothing, warm and elegant.

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 would ask for the Double Magnum of Gulden Draak that has been sitting in my cellar since 2006. By now is it at least 4 years old, and has hopefully built the most beautiful bouquet of flavors and aromas. I am saving it for only the most momentous of occasions, but if I have to go, I’m going to have to take it with me… All 3 liters of it!

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?

The Beer Wench would be a big spicy and herbal Belgian Style Saison, leaning towards a Tripel. The mash would be designed as a Tripel would, but the boil would be my caldron to work in some real spice. Sassafras root, nutmeg, white pepper, star anise, mint, cane sugar and sage would all find their way in there at some point. Primary and secondary fermentation would be facilitated by a Belgian Yeast Strain, but the final fermentation would happen with a lager yeast at warm temperatures in a wide open vat – like a steam beer. Wild yeasts would build lush and complex earthy tartness, and build on the power of the spices and herbs. Finaly, the beer would rest in Lagavulin and brandy barrels for 3 months, being dry hopper for the last 2 weeks. They would be blended and bottled in 750ml corked and crowned bottles. Enjoy!

4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

That’s easy, I’d be Superman – he has all the superpowers. The only thing he is lacking is the ability to read people’s minds. But he doesn’t need to, because he’s the man.

5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?

Quit my steady job with a Major Finance Firm to drink and write about beer. So far I’m still kickin’ it.

6. What are your thoughts on bacon?

I love bacon. I want to brew with bacon. Who doesn’t love a Marzen? I’ve marinated beef ribs in bacon fat, roasted a turkey wrapped in bacon, stuffed a chicken with it, and next up is a desert.



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