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: JEFF ALWORTH
AUTHOR OF: BEERVANA
Beer Blogger Interview
1. Where did you grow up?
Idaho. “Famous potatoes”—this indicates all the great things going on in the Gem State.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
Hoops, which gave way to high school debate when I discovered my brain was more agile than my body.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
The first time I tasted beer was when my father allowed me a sip of his Coors when I was in the mid-single digits. The first full beer was a decade later.
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
Budweiser, I’m sad to say. Though that might have been the last time advertising played a role in a beer purchase. The circumstances were secrecy and friends’ elder brothers, who delivered us the elicit package. We drank two. When my father later held aloft the remaining, poorly-hidden four, he said, “Well, I always got caught; what made you think you would get away with this?”
5. Where, if applicable, did you go to college? What did you study? What additional activities, organizations, sports did you partake in during college?
Lewis and Clark (Portland) as an undergrad, UW-Madison for grad school (we burned effigies of the hated Buckeyes when they came to despoil our beautiful campus—just sayin.) I studied religion/Buddhism in both places. I think most of the activities involved beer, and I would strongly deny any claims by casual observers about other intoxicants that may have been imbibed.
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:
While I heartily endorse the “epiphany” theory of beer conversion, mine was more gradual. I was first getting into good beer in the 80s (yes, I’m old) and edging closer to craft through imports. I moved to Steinlager and then a now-extinct beer called Smith and Reilly’s Honest Beer. At some point, stout entered my world and all bets were off. It was either Sheaf Stout or Terminal Stout from the nascent McMenamins empire. The McBrothers described their beer as “alive” and proudly declared that since it was handmade, each batch was different—a fact that only many years later gave me pause. At the time, I thought it was rockin’ cool.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
The moment you stop having epiphanies is the moment you’ve forgotten why you like beer. Just last night I had a bottle of Ninkasi Maiden the Shade and was transfixed by the dance of lively hopping. These regular epiphanies are why people start blogs.
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?
First post was January 20, 2006. It was my fourth blog, and understanding as I did their ability to overtake one’s life, the entirety of the first post read “Well, this spells doom.”
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
I used to write beer columns for a local paper and Celebrator, but quit round about 2000. I had been blogging about politics and decided something lighter might be in order.
3. Why did you choose the name of your blog?
“Beervana” is a name Portlanders claimed for their home town. The usage grew so that it was sometimes used for Oregon, not just Portland. For anyone starting a blog here, it would have been an obvious choice, and I was just lucky to have started one of the first beer blogs.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
Goals? You understand that I’m a blogger, right? If I had goals, I’d be trying to get paid for writing, not blogging. Oh, I suppose I should mention the Honest Pint Project here, too. It was launched inadvertently after a post on Beervana led to a raft of attention. You should check it out: honestpintproject.org.
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
Bloggers are treated as real media in Portland, which still blows my mind. As a consequence, we get invited to observe pretty cool stuff. Some of us were once sent on a junket to the city of Astoria by the Chamber of Commerce. Last month I got to go on not one but two tours of the Oregon hop fields. Every time something like that happens, I am booth shocked and delighted.
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
I read about ten beer blogs every day, and check in with probably another 40 every week. Since some of the higher-profile blogs get all the attention, I’ll give my nods to three good local ones: It’s Pub Night, The New School, and Portland Beer and Music.
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
Three? Three? Impossible. Okay, wait, I know how to get out of this: British ales, Belgian ales, and American ales. I suppose if waterboarded I’d confess to lamic, stout, and cask bitter, but I’d deny it the next day. And saison.
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
Three? Three? Impossibler. Seriously, I couldn’t do it. Even if you waterboarded me.
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
This is an intriguing question. I assume you don’t mean that brewery I’ve had in my mind for the past few years—the one called “Farmhouse” that combines a seasonally-sourced, locavore cuisine with Belgo-Oregonian ales, right? (Seriously, rich investors, email me.) I’d probably go for an traditional European brewery like Cantillon, Sam Smith’s, or Weihenstephan. I’d be learning an ancient art, but mainly I just like to travel.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
Yes. I am, unfortunately, a better writer than brewer, so my successes are modest. A high point was the time I invented dry-hopping. In an early brewing debacle, my co-brewers and I had spent too much time relaxing and having too many homebrews. We found our finishing hops on the counter after the beer was in the carboy as we were cleaning up. In a fit of panic, we jammed them down the neck of the carboy and produced our best beer ever. Later I learned that other brewers had beaten us to this discovery by 500 years.
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?
I am a proud member of the fictional Associated Brotherhood of Portland Beer Bloggers local 503.
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
In honor of local icon and beer writing pioneer Fred Eckhardt, I will cite stout and chocolate. He also turned me onto, if not invented, the beer float. Vanilla ice cream and Black Butte Porter—amazing.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
Unemployed! For 14 years I was a researcher at Portland State University, but when my grant expired earlier this year, I had the crazy idea to try to write a beer book. We’ll see just how misguided that was in the months to come.
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?
Novelist. Because that’s what I wanted to do until my first novel was unceremoniously dumped by all credible publishers and agents. I wouldn’t mind being Jim Jarmusch, either.
3. Are you married? Children?
Yes, none. Sally makes regular appearances, both in pictures and text, on the blog. She hates it.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
A blogger must retain certain of his secrets.
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?
I am mild and subtle, so I’d be an Imperial Flemish red.
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?
Am I being executed in summer or winter? I’d definitely drink a beer produced in a country other than the one killing me. I wouldn’t feel right supporting such a repressive state. I might possibly try to have a beer smuggled in that was spiked with the antidote to the lethal injection.
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?
English strong ale. This actually reminds me of my high school English teacher, who had put her way through grad school while being a barmaid. She earned her doctorate that way and we could only call her Doctor Scanland. She was baudy and frank and easily my favorite teacher. It may be owing to her influence that I became a beer blogger. In any case, she’d want nothing less than a beer of twenty proof. I suspect old-timey ingredients would enhance such a beer, like brown sugar, oats, and soot.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
No question: flying. Lunch in Paris? Done. Unless we’re talking powers from the TV show “Heroes,” in which case I’d go for Hiro’s ability to bend time and space. That was pretty cool.
5. What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
I once danced on the minaret of the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India. I have done many crazier things, but none so poetic.
6. What are your thoughts on bacon?
Overexposed. Corned beef is the new bacon; I’m telling you, get on the bandwagon while it’s still cool.
SPECIAL THANKS TO JEFF FOR AN AWESOME INTERVIEW!