A. Craft beer evangelist & social media puppeteer on a mission to revolutionize the beer industry through education, innovation & advocacy.
Q. What are your three favorite things?
A. Assuming that this does not include people: craft beer, boutique wine and artisan spirits. Food is a close 4th.
Q. If beer drinking was your “job” what title would you give yourself? If beer drinking is your job, tell us more!
A. I am very lucky to have a career in craft beer. My official title is “Director of Awesomeness and Beer Mixologist” at Bison Brewing in Berkeley, CA. Essentially, I am a Jack of All Trades at the brewery. My multiple hats include marketing, public relations, event planning, social media, website management, brewing, washing kegs, administrative work — you name it, I do it.
Q. What drew you into the craft beer community?
A. The people, hands down. Although I love all the beverages and the communities that surround them, my heart belongs to craft beer.
Q. How long have you been seeking out craft beer when you travel? What was your first craft beer travel memory?
A. For about 4 years now. Hands down, the most memorable — no, not good enough — the pinnacle moment in my life as a craft beer drinker occurred during a trip to Chicago in 2008. At the time, my blog was barely a few months old, and my “beer palate” was, admittedly, amateur at best. I was traveling to attend the NRA show (food kids, not guns) in Chicago for work. At the time I was employed by a creative marketing agency and we were pursuing, rather intensely, a restaurant client. The restaurant group invited me to come to the show with them because of both my restaurant background and marketing skills, so I found myself eating and drinking my way through Chicago for five days.
One fortuitous evening, the group and I were hanging around the bar and one of them started to chat up some men who worked for Merchant Du Vin, one of the country’s best importers. Naturally, I was called over to join in the conversation. But instead of high-fives and a pat on the back, I was welcomed with disdain.
You see, at that point, I was, admittedly, ignorant about beer. I was a thrill seeker and a treasure hunter. I was obsessed with Imperial anything and all beers with and exorbitant amount of hops. I knew the names of the trendy beers, and I had no qualms with dropping them. I was that guy.
Luckily for me, one of the men took pity on my young 24-year old ignorant palate, and took it upon himself to rectify my state of beer ignorance. His name is Brian Van Zandbergen and I will always be in debt to him for steering me to this very path that I am following.
And so, young, naive and barely a beer blogger, I found myself on quite possibly the most crazy beer journey of my life.
The first stop we made was at Goose Island’s Clybourn brewpub, where I met Stephen Beaumont, a man whom I worship and will forever call my mentor. It is here that I tasted my first Saison — a style that has now become one of my favorites. But the story does not stop here. After swerving in and out of city traffic, and possibly through a few red lights, our motley crew found ourselves at The Map Room.
One would have thought The Map Room belonged to Brian, with the way he went about the place grabbing bottles and glasses. Before any of us could sit down, we had a spread of beers laid out on the table. That I night I had my first gueuze and the greatest beer epiphany of my life. And I was never the same again.Q. Where all have you been? What breweries have you visited?
A. Damn, this question is pretty damn hard, reflecting upon how much I’ve traveled and all the cities that I’ve visited in the past few years. The first brewery I ever officially toured, was Victory Brewing Company. I went to Dogfish Head the day after that. Since then, I’ve visited and even brewed at several breweries all over the country.
Q. What are some of your favorite breweries that you have visited?
A. I’m a brewery rat, so I’ve gotten around. As for favorites, that is really hard to determine.
I have to give love to New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, MI. They were the first brewery to allow me to help design and brew a recipe, which meant more to me than words could possibly express. Fred from New Holland (@Beervangelist on Twitter) is one of my greatest friends on this planet, and he and his team took great care of me when I was there.
To this day, New Glarus stands out as one of my favorite brewery visits. Not just because they make amazing beer, but because of how spectacular and immaculate the brewery was. I swear it was like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — but instead of chocolate, there was beer. And amazing beer at that. It was the first mostly automated brewery that I had visited, which in itself completely blew me away.
Other memorable brewery visits = Russian River, Dogfish Head, Goose Island, Great Divide, Stone, Commons Brewery, Ninkasi, Lagunitas, Captain Lawrence and many more.
Q. How do you find craft beer when you travel?
A. Twitter! For the most part, when I travel, I tweet and Facebook my adventures in advance, asking for tips and recommendations from fellow beer geeks in those cities. These days, most of my travel is beer and work related, so I typically have hit lists and events lined up before I visit!!
Favorite Beer City to travel to:
A. Damn! What’s with the hard questions? My best beer memories and experiences have been in Denver, Chicago, San Diego, and Portland (Oregon).
Best Beer State in your opinion:
A. California, duh. And I know all my Oregon friends are going to fight me on this one, but I am firmly planted in the California brewery camp. But don’t take my word for it, count the medals 🙂
Brewery you want to visit:
A. Oooh good question! On the top of my list: Short’s Brewing, Boulevard Brewing and Jester King.
Tell us about your most memorable brewery visit:
A. The memory most dear to my heart was probably visiting Russian River’s brewpub. Although I’ve been there a million times since, a girl never forgets her first time. My best friend Shana helped me move across country, from Florida to CA. We embarked upon a 2 week adventure, visiting some amazing watering holes and meeting lots of awesome people along the way. Our end destination was RRBC, where we met up with several of our wine blogger/ social media friends. Words cannot express how happy I was in that moment, happy to start a new life in CA, happy to be with my friends, and oh so happy to drink some of my favorite beers on this planet. That was a really special night. Le sigh.
Q. What do you look for when deciding what pint to pour next?
A. My mood, the weather, and food usually impact my beer decisions the most. I usually go for style first, brewery second. However, if I’m at a bar and I see something new that I’ve never tried before, I’m more likely to order it than something readily available.
A. Breakside Brewing’s Gin-Barrel Double-Wit comes to mind first. “Strong Belgian-style wheat, aged in Old Tom gin barrels from Oregon’s Ransom Spirits.” Gin is one of my favorite spirits. Barrel-aged gin is pretty rare, but Breakside was able to secure some barrels from a local distillery for aging its Double-Wit (a unique style in itself). It was corked and caged, super dry, very floral and all around awesome. And if you don’t mind me making a bold statement, I am going to say that beer geeks should keep their eyes on Ben Edmunds, as he is one of the most talented brewers in this generation.
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 would take another shot at dinner and beers with Ray Daniels. The first time I met him, I was a meek little student of beer, intimidated and impressed all at once by his knowledge and palate. Now, I feel a bit more confident in my experience and would love to discuss and debate food & beer pairings with him in person.
Q. Where can we find more about you online? Twitter/Facebook/Website etc.
A. Well, I typically stay away from the social media limelight… jk, we all know that isn’t true.