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Meet the Beer Traveler: Brad from Hop Cast

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Q. Tell us about yourself in 140 characters or less. OR in a haiku

By day I’m a motion graphics artist in Chicago and owner of LooseKeys. Then by night I co-host the video beer series with Ken Hunnemeder called The Hop Cast.

Q. What are your three favorite things?

My soon to be wife Maeve, working, and traveling. I love what I do for a living, few people have that luxury. You have to pull me away from my computer or phone and a few beers usually help with that.

Q. If beer drinking was your “job” what title would you give yourself?

Adventurer, because every pint, bottle or can is a new discovery.

Q. Tell us about HopCast and how you got to love and promote craft beer:

I had a previous podcast I did with a friend and Ken was one of the only people that really listened. When that ended I wanted to do another one. In 2008, Ken and I were both really into craft beer. It wasn’t just about drinking a better product then, it was also about trying and exploring as many beers as possible. We would find ourself getting together with these beers and always trying to one up each other. We chatted about doing a podcast to share with people what we were drinking, we didn’t know if anyone else was doing it at the time, so we set up the camera and put out our first episode is August 2008. Its been almost 4 years, almost 200 episodes, we’ve interviewed some great brewers, highlighted some excellent breweries and craft beer bars and drank a lot of craft beer.

Q. How long have you been seeking out craft beer when you travel? What was your first craft beer travel memory?

The first time I recall traveling and visiting a number of breweries and craft beer locations was 2006 in Portland, OR. This was the first time I visited Portland with Maeve and it wouldn’t be the last. After we landed at PDX, the first brewery we went to was Alameda since it was down the street from Maeve’s sisters house. On that trip we also went to the Rogue Brewery and got a flight of beers (possibly my first beer flight ever).

Q. You recently returned from attending CBC in San Diego, tell us about your trip. How do you plan your beer travels to such an incredible beer city like San Diego? There are so many great places to visit! Where do you start?

Well we were there for the Craft Brewers Conference so a lot of the really fun beer events are sort of planned for you. Some of those events are open to the public and others you need to have your conference badge in order to attend. For the most part we went to a lot of the events that were already scheduled like the tap take-overs or a night on the greens with Lagunitas. Which was a blast. Drinking Lagunitas Pils and listening to some great music. Other then that I knew a few people from the San Diego area so I of course asked them for a few of their favorites. Toronado, Bottlecraft, and Pizza Port were highlights. There are so many places to check out in San Diego it’s a bit exhausting, you can’t make it to every bar and brewery and still enjoy yourself. Slamming a pint and then moving onto the next location doesn’t always make for a fun or relaxing trip. You have to leave something for when you come back next time.

Q. Besides San Diego where else have you traveled to for beer? Your engagement video says you’ve traveled over 150,000 miles since Oct. 2006! Why do you primarily travel?

In the last couple years I’ve been to Portland, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Anchorage, San Francisco, LA, Atlanta, Nashville, Baltimore, DC, Pittsburgh, Asheville, Cleveland, Detroit, Madison, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Kalamazoo, Seoul, Cambodia, Bangkok, and Malaysia (and a bunch more I’m probably forgetting). Some of these places I visited for beercations or for Hop Cast road trips where we would go on road trips to interview brewers. I mostly travel to experience different cultures and just to get out there and see what else is out there.
And it just so happens that the best way to really get to know the culture of a city or country is to see when, where and what people drink.

Q. What do you look for in a beer destination when you travel?

If there is a brewery in that area or at least somewhat nearby. I want to drink local beers when I’m in a new city. Just because I can go to Portland and drink 21st Amendment doesn’t mean I will. I’d rather drink something local to the area like Hair of The Dog, Cascade or Hopworks.

Q. What are some of your favorite breweries that you have visited?

I’ve been to some really fun breweries over the years. Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head, Lakefront, Sweetwater, Hair of the Dog (the old spot and the new one), The Bruery, 21st Amendment, Three Floyds (great food too), Sleeping Lady, Surly, Upright, Bells (love the outdoor area), Cascade (so many sours!!), Troegs, and SteamWhistle (nice Pilsner only brewery in Toronto).

Q. How do you find craft beer when you travel?

If I have friends or people I follow on twitter that live in the area I’ll ask them first for recommendations. Nothing beats a glowing review from another craft beer enthusiast. If it’s a new city or town, Yelp is my biggest resource. Love it or hate it, it has a complete list of all the places to eat and drink. When you’re out and are in need of another place nearby, I haven’t found anything better. I’ve also used beermapping and I look at the calendar on beer advocate to see if any events are happening in the area while I’m there.

Favorite Beer City to travel to:

Chicago has become an amazing beer city so it’s hard to not just stay here and drink at all my favorite spots. But I do love visiting Portland, OR. I go there several times a year. Almost every place you go to has local beer on tap. Even some food carts have beers on tap. Having family and friends there makes it that much more fun too, you’re able to get the scoop on all the new places. Which really keeps you up to speed on what’s happening.

Best Beer State in your opinion:

It’s hard not to say Illinois. The number of great breweries that continue to open and the ones like Goose Island that just pump out award winning beer after award winning beer. If you take Illinois off the list, I’d say California. It’s such a large state and the amount of amazing breweries there is staggering.

Brewery you want to visit:

I still haven’t been to the New Glarus brewery and it’s not very far away. I hear its massive. I visited the old location a few years ago but still haven’t made it the new one, I’m pretty sure I’ll make it this summer though. Other then that I’d love to make it out to Belgium and do a drinking tour there, so many to see.
 

Tell us about your most memorable brewery visit:

SweetWater, those guys welcomed us in. Must have been that southern hospitality. We were originally there to shoot an episode of the Hop Cast and once we were done they showed us all over and let us just wander around. We got to add some hops into a batch they were brewing and even got to pull a taste straight from the fermentor. The size of their tanks was insane. Since I can’t get their beer in Chicago, I had no idea how much beer they were putting out. It really makes some other breweries look so tiny.

Q. What do you look for when deciding what pint to pour next?

Typically the ABV or just something I haven’t had. I’m not looking for the highest ABV, I’m looking for the lowest. That may have been different when I was younger but most of the time, especially on vacation you have all these places you want to see and visit and having a couple 10 % beers would make me pass out early. So I’m looking for a session beer that I haven’t had and can enjoy, I’m in it for the long haul there’s always time for those big beers later on.

Q. What is the most unique beer you’ve enjoyed?

That would have to be the Jade beer from a Chinese brewpub called Man Han Lou in Phnom Penh, Cambodia that was green. And not just died green like your bad St. Patrick’s Day beers. They said it was made with seaweed and that’s why it was green. After doing a little research I don’t think that was the case, I think it was actually the spirulina extract in it that made it green. Either way, drinking a strange green beer in a unique culture like that made for quite an experience. And the beer didn’t taste too bad either.

Q. If you could have dinner and beers with anyone in the craft beer industry, who would it be and where would you go?

The best thing about hosting the Hop Cast is all of the passionate, interesting and genuinely nice people I’ve been able to meet in the industry and many of them are now friends. So although I’m always interested in meeting and chatting with new and cool people in the industry I would really pick any of the local Chicago brewers to get dinner and beers with, they are a blast to hang out with. There have been a number of fun nights at places like The Publican and Haymarket that I’d love to recreate. Outside of the craft beer industry, I would pick Mark Cuban. I have some start-up ideas to pitch him and if he’s footing the bill then we’d head to Belgium and hit up Cantillon.

Q. Where can we find more about you online? Twitter/Facebook/Website etc.

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/beerad
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bradchmielewski
Personal Blog – digitalhitchhiker.tumblr.com
and Hop-Cast.com

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