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Meet the Beer Traveler: Joe Stange

Meet the Beer Traveler: Joe Stange
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Meet the Beer Traveler: Joe Stange

Meet the Beer Traveler: Joe Stange

Q. Tell us about yourself in 140 characters or less. OR busta rhyme:

A. I work for money. I wish it were more. I love to drink but hate to get drunk. I married well. I love it when my 2-year-old talks about beer.

Q. What are your three favorite things?

A. Slow-roasted meat. A glass of fresh saison. Sex. No particular order.

Q. If beer drinking was your “job” what title would you give yourself? If beer drinking is your job, tell us more!

A. I like the sound of “independent journalist.” I specialize in beer and travel, as far as that goes. Started writing Around Brussels in 80 Beers and haven’t managed to quit the topic, even though I’ve been doing it from Costa Rica lately.

Joe and Ben

Joe and Ben

Q. Tell us what drew you to the craft beer industry:

A. I’d like to think I’m outside the industry, looking in as a reporter or drinker’s advocate. Plain and simple hedonism pulled me toward writing about it. In Brussels I’d been taking notes on beers, breweries and pubs just for fun. Or so I thought. I was a journalist but had no plans to apply my work toward anything I loved, like beer or sports, thinking that it would kill the joy. I was wrong. I can’t remember which fool suggested I started writing about beer. It’s been tons of fun and almost totally unprofitable. Advice to aspiring beer writers: marry well.

Q. Why do you primarily travel?

A. We live abroad for my wife’s job, so I’m a trailing spouse. That provides a lot of chances for foreign travel, and then we come back to the States as tourists, with a whole new perspective. Loving travel is a given in this lifestyle, a prerequisite. It helps to also love home, and that may mean more than one place.

That’s the long answer. The short one: to discover new foods.

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. In my home state of Missouri and later in D.C., I drank craft beers but also drank Bud. When traveling I would drink whatever was available and enjoy it. Then Belgium burdened me with a highfalutin palate, and I started hunting for the local beers wherever we went. My wife rolls her eyes, or occasionally objects, but she enjoys it too. And a bonus, as we all know, is that local beer is one the best ways to find better food.

My first craft beer travel memories are from Missouri. I visited Flat Branch in Columbia and Schlafly in St. Louis and thought they were just about the greatest places in the world.

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

A. Too many breweries to count, although breweries don’t hold a special fascination for me. I prefer a good pub, brewery or no, one tap or 50. Besides Belgium we’ve hit big chunks of Germany, France, Holland, the U.K., and the U.S.

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

A. Besides great beer I’m looking for character, uniqueness, something different. I want a good story to tell (and one that I can sell).

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

A. Drie Fonteinen. Cantillon. Vapeur in Pipaix, for its ridiculous banquet lunches once a month. The truly rural Blaugies tavern for its grilled pork belly and Saison d’Epeautre. And since I had jambonneau at the restaurant near Dupont, I think we have a pork-and-saison theme developing here. Mahr’s in Bamberg was very memorable, simply for the beer, and all the Altbier brewpubs in central Düsseldorf. You have not had Altbier unless you’ve had it there. You just haven’t. For my American choice I’ll go with the Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Ore. I’m partial to cask ale.

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

A. I just look for a hipster and follow him. And/or do an unhealthy amount of advance research on the Internet.

Favorite Beer City to travel to:

A. It’s a tie between Brussels, where I know the nooks and crannies, and London, where there is so much more I’d love to explore.

Best Beer State in your opinion:

A. I’m partial to Missouri for sentimental reasons, but I’ve been to Oregon and it’s the place to beat.

Brewery you want to visit:

A. Fuller’s.

Tell us about your most memorable brewery visit:

A. Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, with friends while in college, was my first brewery tour. Later I lived in the Soulard neighborhood and took the tour 13 times. It’s a beautiful place and just oozes history. Plus, when I was in college, free beer could still move me to tears.

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

A. Lower alcohol, more often than not. I value quantity and endurance.

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

A. The great ones are all unique in their subtle ways. When a beer gets unique in an obvious way, it is often a recipe for disaster. Mongozo Coconut is unique. It is also my nominee for worst beer ever made. On the other side of the coin, a brewery here in Costa Rica recently made a low-gravity wheat beer with sour cas, a fruit that is virtually unknown outside of Central America. Really refreshing, lightly tart, and the first of its kind.

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. I’d take a bunch of fellow writers on a tour of Brussels dives.

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

A. I blog at www.thirstypilgrim.com, tweeterizing @Thirsty_Pilgrim. You can find the Brussels guidebook, co-written with Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne, at www.booksaboutbeer.com. I write for various beer magazines, most often for www.draftmag.com. No nude pics yet, but like I said, I work for money.

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