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Meet the Beer Traveler: Gerard Walen

This is why. At Savannah Craft Brew Fest, Labor Day Weekend 2011.
This is why. At Savannah Craft Brew Fest, Labor Day Weekend 2011.

Meet the Beer Traveler - Gerald Walen

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

A. Don’t tell me what I can’t do. You’ll see it’s futile after you learn what I’ve already done.

Q. What are your three favorite things?

A. My family.
Common sense.

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

A. Beermaster General of the United States of Fermentation. And there would definitely be fancy epaulets on my uniforms.

Q. Tell us about your beer blog, what made you decide to start it?

A. I wanted to make a lot of money! As it turns out, that was an extremely poor motive. But seriously, I had worked in the newsrooms of daily print newspaper for about 14 years, and was an indirect victim of the economy. I wanted to establish an online venture to pursue my passions. After several false starts, I met the woman who owns a network of Road Trips sites. Her name is Sheri Wallace – her site is RoadTripsForFamilies.com target=”_blank” – and she was ready to start Road Trips for Beer and sought someone to run it. Seeing as how it combined two of my passions – travel and beer – I went for it.

Q. Why do you primarily travel?

A. Other than seeking craft beer I’ve never tasted before, I travel for new experiences, to broaden my world, to gain new perspective and to meet new people. Now that I have a elementary school-age daughter, I try to bring her along as much as possible to help her learn things she won’t learn in the classroom.

Bluegrass and Beer Festival in Keystone CO. August 2011

Bluegrass and Beer Festival in Keystone CO. August 2011

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

A. Probably my first “craft beer travel memory” is of a family vacation to Estes Park, Colorado, in 2006. I was well on the road to craft beer geekery, and took my first tour of a craft brewery at Boulder Beer. Hazed and Infused is still one of my favorites.

At the Stogies and Stouts festival, Dunedin FL

At the Stogies and Stouts festival, Dunedin FL

Q. Where all have you been? What breweries have you visited?

A. Wow, I suppose I’ll start the list with Florida breweries and brewpubs, since that’s where I live, and try to recall as many as possible in other states: Orlando Brewing, Shipyard Emporium, Lagniappe, Cigar City, Dunedin Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Sarasota Brewing Co., Mount Dora Brewing, Brooksville Brewing, Big River Grille and Brewing Works, B.J.s Brewhouse, Schlitz (now Yuengling), Tampa Busch brewery at Busch Gardens (when I was a young ‘un).; Moon River in Savannah, Ga.; Highland Brewing in Asheville, N.C.; Turoni’s in Evansville, Ind.; Great Lakes, Fat Head’s, Buckeye Beer Engine in Cleveland; Black Horse in Clarksville, Tenn.; Anheuser-Busch, Schlafly, Urban Chestnut, Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis; Boulder Beer, Oskar Blues, Avery, Mountain Sun, Breckenridge, Dillon Dam, Backcountry Brewery, Pug Ryan’s, Walnut Brewery, all in Colorado; Widmer Bros., Lucky Labrador, Old Lompoc, Bridgeport Brewing in Portland, Oregon. I know that there are several that I forgot.

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

A. Beer. Other than that, I don’t necessarily look for something in particular because I like to see what’s there, not what I expect to be there. But one thing I’ve found in every beer destination is a bunch of great people eager to let you know about their community and their brews.

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

A. It would be easier to list my least favorite, but for the sake of diplomacy I won’t. Nearly all of them have something that makes them great.

I once took a can of Black Star Beer on a road trip in Florida.

I once took a can of Black Star Beer on a road trip in Florida.

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

A. I’ll research on the internet, and use social media to connect with local beer geeks to seek recommendations. There are some great guidebooks being published now, too.

Favorite Beer City to travel to:

A. Cleveland. This may surprise some of your readers, but the city has a thriving craft beer scene that really took me by surprise the first time I visited, and I’ve made some good friends there whom I never would have met had it not been for beer.

Best Beer State in your opinion:

A. I’ll give the nod to Colorado because I’ve probably spent more time there than any other state besides Florida. It’s got a great beer, a fantastic beer culture and so damn much beauty. That said, there are other states I’ve yet to visit for beer, and I haven’t spent enough time in others to form a good opinion. I also have to say Florida because there is some awesome beer being made here, and the craft brewing scene is growing by leaps and bounds.

Brewery you want to visit:

A. Quite a few – thousands, actually – but for the sake of this interview I’ll single out The Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish, Montana. I’ve written several times about their unusual and creative promotions, and they have been kind enough to have sent me a few samples of their beer, including the very tasty Black Star lager. I’m willing to bet that it’s a fun place to visit, plus I’ve never been to Montana. Of course, I would make a side trip to Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, which makes Moose Drool, one of my all-time favorite brown ales.

Presenting at the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland OR

Presenting at the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland OR

Tell us about your most memorable brewery visit:

A. One that sticks in my mind is when I went with a small group to Avery Brewing during a lunch break at the 2010 Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder. A couple of the brewing staffers took us to the barrel room, pulled the nails out of a few barrels, and poured us some samples. I’m not a big fan of sours, but those were heavenly.

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

A. Depends. What’s in my fridge is a big factor, but I also try to find something that’s appropriate for the weather, the meal and/or the company I’m keeping.

The stoat and I. Carressing the bottle of The End of History at 2010 Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder CO.

The stoat and I. Carressing the bottle of The End of History at 2010 Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder CO.

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

A. Thanks to Erik Boles of Beer Tap TV, I was able to take a sip of BrewDog’s The End of History. (the one with the bottle in the taxidermied roadkill) at the 2010 Beer Bloggers Conference. With a 55 percent ABV, it’s one of the foulest beverages ever to assault my taste buds, so I suppose I didn’t enjoy the beer – just the experience of being one of the few people in the U.S. to have tasted it.

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. This is a tough one. There are so many folks in the industry whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person: Sam Calagione, Jim Koch, Garett Oliver, Ken Grossman … the list goes on. Make me choose one? OK. How about Jack McAuliffe, who started New Albion Brewing in the mid-‘70s? I have a soft spot for pioneers, and we’d go wherever he wanted.

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

A. I actually run two websites, so I’ll list them separately.

Road Trips for Beer
Twitter: @roadtrips4beer

Beer in Florida
Facebook: BeerInFlorida
Twitter: @BeerInFlorida

Thanks for letting me take part in this. Hope to meet you on the road sometime. – Agreed Gerard! Loved reading your responses, thanks for taking time to talk with TRP!


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