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Featured Beer Blogger: J. WILSON

Featured Beer Blogger: J. WILSON


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: J. Wilson
Internet nickname: I’m sometimes called Izzy
Twitter handle: @brewvana
Name of blog: brewvana
Current location: Adams County, Iowa

Background “Snapshot”

1. Where did you grow up?

I moved around a lot as a kid—Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska—but home base was always in Southwest Iowa, and I graduated from a little town called Villisca.

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

Mostly baseball as a kid, and a little basketball and golf. I got into cycling in high school, but haven’t ridden seriously in years. Somewhere along the line, rock climbing emerged, but hiking has always been the real constant.

3. How old were you when you had your first beer?

The occasional sip as a youngster, the occasional beer but a few years 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?

Because there was the occasional sip here and there, it would either be no story or a shift to the story of my first session, which was probably in junior high with my parents foolishly leaving me behind while they went on a camping trip. My friend and I had been skimming beers out of the fridge for many months, as well as hard stuff, a variety of whiskeys, vodkas and schnapps that we mixed altogether in Pepsi bottles hidden in our closets. It was one of those deals where we both told our parents that we were staying at the other guy’s house.

Brand? Probably Bud Light. I also remember pear schnapps and Black Velvet. Later, in high school, we were quite devoted to Milwaukee’s Best Light.

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 the University of South Dakota. I was a theatre major for the first seven days, and then switched periodically until I settled in on English. I partook in drinking beer in college, worked a lot, and did some work with the student newspaper.


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:

Perhaps a quote from a past blog post would answer this one: “In college, getting into coffee and cooking in restaurants got me more tuned into flavor, so I started to show interest in a better beer. Ale seemed an illusive entity. I tracked one down here and there, though a college budget doesn’t allow much of that. I took an advanced public speaking course, and that’s where the light bulb flickered more brightly. One of my classmates did a demonstration speech on homebrewing. While my cheesecake speech wowed the class, his inspired me to strive for a new hobby as soon as I graduated and got a “real” job.

That’s what happened. I moved to the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona to teach, hit the homebrew shop in Flagstaff and began brewing right away. It was a German Altbier, and though I forgot to add the hops, it was bottled glory. Like every first homebrew.

My early commercial transition beers included the likes of Bass and Newcastle. And sampling at brewpubs revealed the beauty of stout. No more cheap beer. It was an exciting time. My inborn predisposition for loving beer was one thing. But it was choice that brought me Good Beer.” Here’s the link to the whole post: How Did It Start

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

Yeah. One: Belgian beer in general; and Two: Flanders Red. I was first exposed to these at my old North Carolina homebrew club, CARBOY. Life has been better since.

Screen shot 2010-03-09 at 12.50.42 PM

Beer Blog Background

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

I’ll hit three years in April.

2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?

I was transitioning out of a beer job and away from my homebrew club to what I figured would be the beery wasteland of Iowa. I wanted something to stay connected to the beer world, to challenge both my beer life and my writing, and I wanted to make it a point to have something positive going out into the beery clutter. I felt like I could accomplish that.

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

It felt a positive play on words, incorporating beer into the definition for nirvana: an ideal condition of harmony beer and joy. It seemed to sum up a better way of living.

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

Fame, riches and glory. Failing that, having it help me to source good friendships, the eventual book or two, a TV show and some work as a beer/travel writer wouldn’t be bad.

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

I don’t know. No offense, but that question feels goofy. But to answer it, I guess I’d say that it’s satisfying to have unsolicited samples show up on my doorstep. It’s cool to meet folks, professional brewers even, who know and read the beery ramblings of some regular guy who writes in a farmhouse just north of tiny, little Prescott, Iowa. It’s cool to get emails or comments from across the country, as well as Belgium, England, Australia, Hungary, etc. I’ve made good friends—some whom I’ve actually met.

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

I’m a fan of Jonathan Surratt’s Beer Mapping Project, Ron Pattinson’s Shut up about Barclay Perkins, and have always been connected to Boak and Bailey. I also enjoy the photography on Beer and Nosh, as well as Beer at Joe’s and—you knew three was too small a number to ask for. There are a lot of other good ones.

D-R crew ski trip

Beer Talk

1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?

Pretty hard question…trying really hard… I’ll just say Flanders Red, the porter/stout family and wee heavy and know I’m being incomplete.

2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?

Pretty hard question…let’s try Unibroue, New Glarus and I don’t freaking know. Dogfish Head? Too many great breweries out there for this list to be for real.

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

Another tough question. I’d have to believe in the both the beers and the people. I like Dogfish Head in that regard. To that I’ll just add Sean Wilson’s Fullsteam and The Drinking and Writing Brewery, both which aren’t even open yet, but I’m sure other people could woo me. Certainly other beers could…

4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?

Yes, I’ve got a coconut schwarzbier fermenting right now. I’ve done some fun Belgian stuff, barrelly stuff, sour stuff.

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

I’m BJCP Certified.

6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?

I’ve said before that RIS and roasted marshmallows are pretty good, but loving both beer and food, the possibilities are so endless.


The Personal Side

1. What is your current day job?

Editor of a small weekly newspaper.

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?

A beer travel show wouldn’t be a bad thing to host…

3. Are you married? Children?

Yep, with two boys.

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

Hiking and camping, music, cooking


Off The Beaten Path

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

Belgian dubbel, I guess because I’m complex and delicious.

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?

Rodenbach Grand Cru, because it’s freaking delicious.

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?

Seems that should be a real palate punisher, and I just think of the bitter variety over the thought of deeply sour. So I’d pack in the hops something fierce.

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

You sound like my boys. I guess I’ll just say super strength, with a little Jedi jumping ability thrown in.

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

Mistakes have been made far worse than jumping off of cliffs and out of airplanes and driving demolition derby cars and car surfing and drinking far too much. But I’ll just mention these.

6. What are your thoughts on bacon?

Bacon’s importance can’t be overlooked. That’s the short answer.



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2 Responses to “Featured Beer Blogger: J. WILSON”

  • Look, Mom! « brewvana March 10th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    [...] here to learn all about [...]

  • Mike March 15th, 2010 at 10:20 pm


    Nice interview.

    Congrats on the 3 years. That is pretty awesome!

    The thoughts you presented about what you liked most about being a beer blogger are spot on. I think a lot of us go into blogging because of the passion we have for beer and it sure doesn’t take very long to find out that there are a lot of other people out there with that same passion that are probably some of the coolest people in the world.

    That is pretty cool that you get free beer without asking by the way.

    I’ll be checking out your blog.

    It was nice meeting you!

    Mike’s Brew Review

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