We are very happy to introduce to you this week’s Featured Beer Traveler, Win Bassett. Win has been one of the most socially active members of the craft beer community, especially in North Carolina, and has been seeking out craft beer since his epiphany in 2007. We are honored that Win took the time to talk to us and share his stories since he is one busy man! He’s the Executive Director of North Carolina Brewers Guild, leads the Social Media & Beer Education at All About Beer Mag, is the Co-founder of ncbrewing.org, a regular contributor for Southern Brew News, SavorNC Magazine, and WRAL, and after all that still finds time to be a runner! TRP friends, meet Win Bassett:
Q. What are your three favorite things?
A. Running. Beer. Writing.
Q. If beer drinking was your “job” what title would you give yourself? If beer drinking is your job, tell us more!
A. I have a few beer-related jobs. I’m Executive Director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild, a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization focused on protecting and promoting North Carolina beer. In other words, I lobby (formerly a practicing attorney), advocate, and promote beer crafted in North Carolina to ensure that our state’s beer community continues to thrive. In my other day job, I lead Social Media and Beer Education for All About Beer Magazine (which, for over thirty years, has been the most respected source for the growing beer culture) and its three World Beer Festivals.
I’m also a regular contributor to Southern Brew News, SavorNC Magazine, and WRAL, and I’ve been published by the Brewers Association and the News & Observer. I’ve appeared on the ALEHEADS’ podcast several times and have been a guest on Beer Session Radio™ on the Heritage Radio Network. I serve as Interim Secretary of the North American Guild of Beer Writers and was a finalist judge for the 2012 SweetWater Brew Your Cask Off competition. I’m also a Certified Cicerone™ Beer Server.
Q. Tell us about your connection to the craft beer industry:
A. Other than the fact that I’m now in the industry (still have to pinch myself when I wake up in the morning), I got my start by co-founding and writing at http://ncbrewing.org about the North Carolina beer community. I found myself devoting more and more of my time and energy to writing about beer and advocating for small, independent craft breweries while I continued my day job as an Assistant District Attorney in Raleigh, NC. I came to the realization that my life’s work was going to be in the beer community, and I made the leap. I started practicing my passion full-time approximately three months ago, and I couldn’t be happier or more excited.
Q. Why do you primarily travel?
A. I primarily travel to cover beer-related events for All About Beer Magazine, to visit the North Carolina breweries that I represent as Executive Director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild, and to attend industry-related conferences and festivals to interact with the incredible beer community.
Q. How long have you been seeking out craft beer when you travel? What made you want to seek out craft beer when you travel? What was your first craft beer travel memory?
A. I’ve been seeking out craft beer when I travel ever since I had my craft beer epiphany as a first-year law student at the University of Chapel Hill in 2007. That moment, when a friend ordered a Rogue Dead Guy for me at Tyler’s Taproom in Carrboro, NC, made me want to seek out other artisan-made beers that each had amazing people and a wonderful story behind him.
My first craft beer travel memory occurred when I visited Sorrento, ME, a tiny island about forty-five minutes north of Bar Harbor, one summer. I made my hosts stop at a bottle shop on the way from the airport and picked up several bottles of Atlantic’s Mount Desert Ginger and Shipyard’s IPA. The entire week was a scene from an L.L. Bean catalog. We stayed in a cabin on the water, ran in the mornings, kayaked in the afternoons, and cooked amazing meals in the evenings outside while having excellent beer.
Q. Where all have you been? What breweries have you visited?
A. Too many beer-related places to name each one, but out of the breweries/brewpubs:
- North Carolina—almost all 60
- South Carolina—COAST, Palmetto
- Georgia—SweetWater, Twain’s
- Maine—Atlantic, Bar Harbor
- California—Ballast Point, Green Flash, Karl Strauss
- Colorado—Equinox, Denver Beer Co., Great Divide, Wynkoop, Oskar Blues, Funkwerks/Crooked Stave, Left Hand
- New York—Brooklyn, La Birreria
- Virginia—Starr Hill, Blue Mountain, Devil’s Backbone, Wild Wolf
Q. What do you look for in a beer destination when you travel?
A. Quality of beer, the people, and overall atmosphere. Food is typically an afterthought because I’m vegan, and beer destinations with vegan food options are few and far between. I’ll give a quick shout out to Lee Chase of Tiger! Tiger! and Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego for having great vegan options on the menu.
Q. What are some of your favorite breweries that you have visited?
A. Picking a favorite brewery is like picking my favorite beer. It can’t be done. One brewery experience that particularly sticks out, however, is Chad Yakobson’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. He’s in the process of moving to Denver, but at GABF in 2011, he brewed out of Funkwerks in Fort Collins. Chad was gracious enough to show me around his barrels and put up with me geeking out over his setup. The beers in his Wild Wild Brett Series are breathtaking.
Q. How do you find craft beer when you travel?
A. I primarily rely on personal recommendations, but I also take a look at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer for tips.
Favorite Beer City to travel to:
A. It has always been Asheville, NC—amazing beer, incredible food, and awesome people.
Best Beer State in your opinion:
A. Is that a real question? North Carolina, of course.
Brewery you want to visit:
A. Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon. I’m a wild ale fiend, and Jean Van Roy is an artisan genius.
Q. What do you look for when deciding what pint to pour next?
A. I consider several factors, including time of day, weather, ABV, whether I’ve previously had the particular beer, and the company I share.
Q. What is the most unique beer you’ve enjoyed?
A. That depends on how you define “unique.” One that immediately comes to mind is Dogfish’s Black & Red, an imperial stout “dry-minted” with 100 pounds of organic mint.
Q. If you could have dinner and beers with anyone in the craft beer industry, who would it be and where would you go?
A. The late, great Michael Jackson. I never tire of his eloquent writings and his significant contributions to beer literature and education. I’d drag him to Brasserie Dupont to recreate one of his visits there.
When he opened a bottle for me to taste, the cork flew through the air. No sooner had one bottle appeared than another would be fetched. “Taste this” M. Rosier would suggest, every time I sought to probe the secrets of his beer.
“In your view, just how should a Saison taste?” I would demand. “It must be a good, honest beer. It should have character. It is essential that it has soul,” he would reply, with Gallic imprecision. “Here … try this one.” In their house character, Dupont’s beers are full of life. with a rocky, creamy, head; a sharp, refreshing, attack; a restrained fruitiness; and a long, very dry finish.
- Michael Jackson, The Seasonal Search for the Phantom of Brewing
Q. Where can we find more about you online? Twitter/Facebook/Website etc.
A. Website: http:///winbassett.com
North Carolina Brewers Guild: http://ncbeer.org
All About Beer Magazine: http://allaboutbeer.com
Special thanks to Win again for taking time to answer our questions! We love featuring beer travelers of all types, from “professional” to just starting out. Whether you’ve visited many breweries or just enjoy seeking out local craft beer when you travel, it’s just one more way to immerse yourself in the local culture and get to know the area/locals. One of the best ways in our opinion! If you know someone that you think would be interested in being a featured beer traveler, let us know! We love hearing from all types of travelers & the great stories they have to share. Cheers to good beer!