Monday, March 14, 2011

Blogger Interview: The Beer Wench

I have been a home brewer for 6 years now, but my involvement in beer have dramatically increased in the past 6 months.  I have started brewing in a local bar called The Quarter Barrel Pub and Brewery that serves Oxford, OH and the Miami University students and faculty.  Also, I have started this blog, to show my appreciation of beer and organize my tasting and brewing notes on beer.

A month ago, I got this idea to send Ashley Routson, The Beer Wench, a message to see if I could establish some contact with her.  The idea came because I wanted to see if I can establish a network, so if I decided to become a full time brewer, that their might be a possibility of being one through a connection (that is if I decided to do something else after getting a PhD in zoology).  Also, the idea came directly from The Beer Wench, because she sent out a tweet on twitter asking for bloggers to interview.  Instead of wanting to be interviewed, I wanted to interview her. What is really cool is that maybe we could exchange interviews, over e-mail, and it worked; which means that, she is pretty rad by my standards.

Ashley runs a very tight blog site called Drink with the Wench.  On her site, she supplies almost everything about beer and the industry that I could think of.  She has meet so many very cool people.  On her blog, she interviews both other bloggers and beer industry people, also writes on beer events, beer travels, beer topics, and wine.  She describes herself as "a professional beer writer, craft beer evangelist & social media whiz whose passion for craft beer and penchant for writing have sent me on a mission to drink my way through the world one beer at a time, harnessing the power of the Internet to spread the good word of craft beer.  Unfortunately, I'm cannot claim the title of 'beer afficianado' quite yet. Instead, I consider myself to be a beer connoisseur. While I'm not an expert, I'm no novice either."

For the interview, I sent her a set of questions, which she gladly answered them.  The questions and answers are un-edited, the way that journalism should be:

1.  Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Born in Denver, raised in New York, college in Ohio, lived in Florida, spent a few months in Seattle, currently call Napa and the Greater Bay Area home! 

2.  Describe the first instance in which you had beer?
Wow. Do you mean ever? I'm pretty sure it was something that my parents let me taste -- which means it was Spaten if it was my father or Sam Adams if it was my mother. Neither of which I remember well. My early experience with beer was crappy yellow fizzy corporate beer. I don't think I was really exposed to craft beers until post college. I must admit, I drank pretty nasty beer back in the day. But I was also broke, and uneducated about beer.
3.  Describe your first experience in which that you really enjoyed beer?
Oh wow, let's see. I probably first started enjoying beer with my parents in the summers home from college. We used to go hiking a lot, and then when we would come off the mountain, we would reward ourselves with a few pints at the local gastropub -- The Gilded Otter in New Paltz, NY. It wasn't until I managed a restaurant in Columbus, OH -- called The Northstar Cafe -- that I really began to understand craft beer and, ultimately, fall in love with it.
4.  What do you currently do?
I spend my days being awesome at life. Okay, in all seriousness, after 3 years of blood, sweat and tears, I finally landed a fantastic job with a great brewery. Technically, my title is "Sales Evangelist" at Bison Brewing Company in Berkeley, CA. However, I prefer to call myself "Assistant of Everything" because I have a hand in all sorts of projects, including brewing (which is a dream come true).
5.  Describe your college years?  Where you went to school?  What did you study?  Any other relevant information that you would like to include?
I am pretty sure that anyone and everyone who has ever met me knows that I went to THE Ohio State University. This is probably because I drop it within the first two sentences of meeting people. What can I say? I have a lot of Buckeye pride. My father went to Ohio State, as did my little sister. We are an obsessed family. College for me was pretty intense. I was an overachiever and got involved in as much as I could. I earned varsity letters in two separate D1 sports, was the marketing chair of the Student Athlete Advisory Board, on several honor societies, a member of the swing club, as well as graduated with two Bachelor degrees with honors. Now you can see why I have a lot of school pride -- I literally bled, sweat and cried for that school.
6.  What value do you get from writing your blog?
This is a really intense question. For me, my blog has a lot of value -- but none of it is monetary. My blog is my raison d'etre. It is the platform from which I launched my beer industry career. My website has given me more opportunities than I would have ever had otherwise. I've traveled to amazing places, attended awesome beer events, met soooooo many fantastic people and so much more because of Drink With The Wench. It has opened so many doors. But most importantly, my site has served as a soapbox for the advocacy and evangelism of craft beer. I use my site to promote and educate others about the world of craft beer.
7. What are your favorite styles of beer?
Saison, gueuze and American IPA are my top three. Milds, pilsners and porters are the ones I drink the most of at the moment.
8.  What is/was your favorite place that you have drank a beer at?
I'm a real sucker for environment. Craft beer is always delicious, no matter where you go. It is truly the people that make the bars/restaurants/breweries so memorable. I would have to say my favorite place to drink beer at is the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA. It is my favorite brewery in the country -- but, that is not the reason I love the brewpub so much. That place is like a "Cheers" for me, a lot of the staff know me by name... and I even have a special "blend" that one of the bartenders created "for me" (at least I tell myself that). Vinnie and Natalie are also amazing humans, and the food kicks ass.
9.  Describe your favorite talk that you have had over beer and whom with.
These questions are hard! Man oh man, I've had so many amazing beer conversations with so many different industry people. Some of my most memorable = listening to Ray Daniels analyze beer at the Hop Leaf in Chicago, talking to Fred Bueltmann for hours upon hours about beer evangelism, all my conversations with Julia Herz about women in craft beer.... and it goes on and on. If I had to name one person in particular, I would have to say that Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi blows my mind every time I hear him speak. He is so driven, so passionate about craft beer, and just so inspiring. That guy is radical, and I love it.
10.  Over the years, have your taste in beer changed much?
Very much so! My beer palate has changed in the same way that my wine palate has. When I first started getting into beers, I was an extremist. I wanted everything to be BIG BOLD OVER THE TOP SLAP YOU IN THE FACE crazy. Now, I prefer to quaff more session-able, balanced styles.
11.  What are your top three breweries that you have visited?  If you have visited breweries outside the U.S., please state them as top three U.S. breweries, then top three foreign breweries.
I am a very lucky person. I have visited a great number of breweries in my short lifetime. And way more than I can even list. They are all special to me, for one reason or another. I would have to say that New Holland Brewing Company is my favorite, because they were the first people to help me design and brew a recipe. That brewery holds a VERY special place in my heart. I also love The Bruery in Orange County because I love the entire company, the beers, and had a great experience bottling with them. Last but not least, Stone World Bistro and Gardens is one of my favorite destinations and I've always had a fantastic experience there.
12.  Describe some of your favorite beers that you have had.
My favorite craft beer is always the one in my hand :)
13.  What is your first experience in craft beer.
Working? Writing? Tasting? My first real exposure to craft beer was from my old boss, Kevin Malhame, at the Northstar Cafe in Columbus, OH. Kevin is a true evangelist of craft and artisan producers. He put me in charge of the beverage department because I was a big wine geek. And he refused to carry anything but craft beer, so I was forced to learn everything about it. A lot of my first major beer experiences came from that restaurant.
14.  Describe how active you are in promoting craft beer.
I call myself a beer evangelist for a reason. I am constantly preaching the gospel of craft beer, whether it be on the Internet or in person. Craft beer is more than just a product to me, it is part of who I am, it is a lifestyle, it is my raison d'etre. Every second of every day I follow the mantra: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Ghandi.

I was very glad that I had the opportunity to have a conversation with her, though not direct e-mail one at that.  I hope that the next time that she comes home to Ohio, I will be able to meet her and take her out for a that I can actually say that I "Drank with the Wench."

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