(All pictures used in this interview are via the Beer Pedaler’s awesome and entertaining Instagram account)
Tell us about yourself in 140 characters or less: Bicycle, banjo and craft beer advocate. Traveling TX & the US on a mission to bring craft beer to the forefront of American taste. Shitdang! (I have never written a haiku in my life, so I opened Twitter, typed until I ran out of characters and gave you what you see above)
TRP: If beer drinking was your “job” what title would you give yourself? If beer drinking is your job, tell us more!
Tony: Beer drinking IS my job, I suppose. While apparently no one in the business knows exactly what it is that I do, and I do a lot to cultivate the mystery, I work as a consultant for craft beer. Not for one brewery or bar, but for all of them. I don’t make a lot of money, but I don’t have to buy much beer, so it kind of evens out. I have been called a beer evangelist, sherpa, trapper, etc. I like to say that, in the beer world, there are three kinds of people: Those who drink beer, those who make beer, and those who make beer happen. I have been known to do all 3 of these things. I don’t have business cards, but that’s on purpose. I have likened our team to the A-Team: If you need help, and you can find us, maybe you can hire us. Not to be exclusive by any means, but this type of service isn’t for everyone. I also do work with Paste Untapped Festival, Texas Tavern League and am an adviser for NTX Beer Week, as well as many other craft beer related ventures and adventures. TRP: How did you get involved in the craft beer industry? and why do you love it?
Tony: I started out as a Master Plumber running my own plumbing business. I had some friends in Fort Worth that owned bars, so I offered up to them a deal: I fix your plumbing, you give me a tab. As the success of this unique barter program grew, so did my customer base. I ended up meeting the folks at Rahr and doing some small repairs in exchange for tour admission and a case of lowfills here and there. About the time I got all the small stuff repaired, they suffered the great roof collapse of ’10.
In the aftermath of that, I convinced them to hire me on as the plumbing contractor to help rebuild the overhead plumbing system in the ‘new’ brewery. After working on that job for 2 months, spending time in the brewery every day, I decided I really liked it, even though I enjoyed my plumbing business and the money was way better. I then convinced them to hire me on to work part time in the brewhouse as a grunt and part time as the Austin/Houston/San Antonio sales rep. Working for them for 2 years, I met so many awesome people and found a passion behind each of their stories.
Once I left Rahr, there was no turning back. I had a thirst for craft beer and the love and drive behind each and every one of them that each brewery makes. I spent most of the next 12 months traveling to every brewery in Texas and beyond that I could get a ride to and meeting all of the great people behind the beer. Through this, I gained many new friends, great experiences and experience, and a reputation as a guy who ‘probably knows just about everyone’.
TRP: How did the moniker Beer Pedaler come about?
Tony: I have been riding bicycles since I learned how when I was five, and I grew to have a great love for craft beer. In the time before Twitter, I had a bike with a rear rack that I would often strap a case of beer to, putting a trash bag inside the box, replacing the beer and icing it down. We do a social ride in Fort Worth called Night Riders, and I was the guy with the beer, on the bike. Thus, BeerPedaler. Funny side note, when I did go to work for Rahr, my official title was Beer Peddler, a nod to that.
TRP: How did you get involved with The Beerliner? What does piloting it entail?
Tony: Davis Tucker, the owner of NXNW Brewery & Restaurant, Red’s Porch and The Beerliner was looking for someone to help him make the annual trip up to Denver for GABF. I was familiar with the bus, but only kind of, since the last time I had been on it was at the first GABF I had ever attended and it was very late and there had been many, many beers. Through our mutual connections, he came to me and asked if I could take off and help drive the bus in exchange for a GABF brewers pass. Of course, I said yes. I’m always up for an adventure.
Piloting it entails, well, adventure. You are probably very well aware of how different it is to drive something much longer than a car. Imagine driving a 40′ loaf of bread down the road at 55mph. You can never be in a hurry and you must always be thinking at least a mile ahead of yourself. Both hands on the wheel and eyes front, hands upon the most giant steering wheel you can imagine… with no power steering. For all its glory, and there is a lot, underneath it all still lies a 1974 Bluebird school bus with a 502 Chevy V-8 gasoline engine. I fell in love with that bus the very first time I sat my happy ass in the cockpit. It really is an amazing machine in many ways.
I think that the best part about it though, is the reaction it brings out of all kinds of everyone everywhere you drive it. Every stop we made along the 1400 Miles trip, and there were many since we only get about 4mpg, took at least 30-45 minutes. It takes a long time to fill gas and generator tanks and people just can’t help but notice the bus and have curious questions. The two most asked questions: “So, you brew beer in there?” (No, we don’t), and “Can I go with you??!” (No, you may not). Lots of opportunities to meet new and interesting people all along the way, much different than just rolling in an unmarked RV.
TRP: Tell us about 1400 Miles. What it is? How you got involved? How did it go?
Tony: 1400 Miles is a campaign put together by Davis Tucker (NXNW, Red’s Porch, The Beerliner) and a group of film makers who made ‘Beer Culture: The Movie’ and ‘Crafting A Nation’. It’s intent is to raise funds for research and awareness about prostate cancer, with 100% of the proceeds going to Pints For Prostates. Davis was looking for a way to make the annual trek in the bus to GABF a little slower to ease the burden on the old machine, met the producers of the aforementioned films, and drawing inspiration from the brewmaster of NXNW, and longtime friend, Don Thompson who is a prostate cancer survivor, decided to organize the project.
This was the inaugural run of the trip in this capacity, and in spite of ‘first year problems’, was a great success and we’re already planning for next year. 1400 miles is roughly the distance from Austin, TX to Denver, CO via bicycle. Davis and his bike crew, with the film crew in trucks in front and behind them, rode bicycles ALL the way. Quite inspiring and a daunting task even for a seasoned pro. Averaging 100 miles per day for 14 days straight, they rolled through TX into the NM desert and then on into the mountains of Colorado. We had events set up at breweries all along the way, with The Beerliner full of donated beers from breweries all across TX.
It was so much fun and I made so many new friends in the craft beer community, all while raising awareness for a great cause. I got involved because, other than Davis, who was on the bike, I am likely the only person who knows how to drive that bus that was crazy enough to think it would make it out of Texas without breaking down, much less over the mountains and all the way back home. In fact, several of the Texas breweries had pools going, betting on how far we’d actually make it. (Note: The bus does have a history of breaking down nearly every time you drive it. It’s just part of its charm.) Nevertheless, we DID make it and I’ll soon be hitting all the naysayers up for my winnings.
TRP: How do you define “beer travel”?
Tony: Beer travel, to me, is getting outside of your normal hangouts and your routine to find whatever lies beyond. Beer travel almost always includes many other forms of fun.
TRP: Why do you travel for beer?
Tony: I envision pre-Prohibition America, before beer was distributed like it is today. If you want to taste the best, freshest beer possible, go to where they make it and enjoy it there. You’ll likely be able to do so with the people who actually made it and learn why their beers are what they are and who their brewery really is. That’s one thing I enjoy most about craft beer. It is about the beer, but more than that, it’s about the people that make it, and all the things beyond the beer. I most often travel for beer to experience firsthand the community of it.
Also, it’s nice to be able to bring beers back home to share with friends. In Texas, most breweries are fairly small and many of them self-distribute, making it difficult to find in markets where they don’t produce. We often take 24-hour trips to Austin or Houston from Fort Worth to pick up beers for bars that wouldn’t normally be selling them. My goal is to connect the dots in Texas and raise awareness of the craft beer revolution that is at hand. I don’t think all bars necessarily need to be craft beer bars, but the ones that aren’t could be doing a better job of keeping better beers for the growing number of people that are tired of drinking the same ten beers you can buy at any gas station. Nearly every trip I plan now is built around what breweries we can visit along the way, regardless of the reason for taking the trip in the first place. TRP: What was your first craft beer travel memory?
Tony: I went to college in Oklahoma, and as I’m sure you know, the beer scene up there isn’t great, although it is really starting to thrive now. I had already developed a taste for Shiner Bock, being from Texas, and was lost in a wasteland of 3.2% macro swill. Halfway into my first semester, I decided I’d had enough, so I packed up my truck and my roommate and I made a trip down to Texas solely to buy as much Shiner Bock as we could afford to bring back. By the time we made it home, we had some great stories, no money and about an 11 pack left. It was the first of many Smokey & The Bandit type runs, and they just keep getting better all the time.
TRP: What is your favorite form of beer travel and why?
Tony: Without a doubt, driving The Beerliner. And for many reasons. Mostly because it’s The Beerliner and it doesn’t get much cooler than that. It’s huge and has lots of space to store whatever you are bringing home, plus a cold room! Also, if you pull up to any brewery in that bus, I can guarantee you that you will have a foot in the door.
TRP: What’s the story behind “shotgun Friday”?
Tony: The #shotgunfriday movement (as some have called it) really started out as kind of a joke. When I was working at Rahr, one of the new brewers, who had come from Wynkoop Brewing, told us a story about how they used to shotgun Wynkoop beers on Fridays at the brewery. This was a funny concept to me, mainly because the focus of craft beer is typically quite serious. The discussion turned to all the dumb things that we used to do with beers like keg stands, beer bongs, shotguns etc. Naturally, we went and bought a six pack of Dale’s Pale Ale, shotgunned them, then posted pics of the holey cans with our knives on Twitter… and ‘the crowd went wild’. People either loved it or hated it and we got lots of funny responses from both sides. So we decided to keep it up.
Here we are a few years later and folks all over have embraced it, bars, breweries and beer drinkers alike. I’ve even convinced some pretty big time people to shotgun craft beers with us including Adam Avery, Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium and Garrett Oliver (pics attached of the last two), in addition to some lesser known head brewers like Alex Violette of Upslope… INSIDE the brew kettle (pic also attached). New Belgium has embraced this cultural movement a few times on their Instagram, subtly giving nods to #shotgunfriday (pic from their Instagram from Shark Week attached). While it is quite ridiculous, it is a tremendous tool to keep the fun in craft beer. I think it’s important to not forget that, for the most part, none of us grew up drinking craft and we mustn’t get too high and mighty. Nothing like poking a hole in the bottom of, say a Ten Fidy to remove all the pretentiousness from a circle of craft beer geeks.
TRP: What is on your beer travel wish list? Tony: While I have done quite a bit, there is much more to see and taste! I’m currently plotting an Oregon trip and a San Diego/SoCal trip, and would really like to get up to Michigan to the land of Founder’s and Bell’s and others. Honestly, I can admit that I’d really like to just keep going until I’ve seen them all at least once.
And my ‘home base bar/office/HQ’ is The Bearded Lady in Fort Worth, TX.