Monday, June 22, 2009

Interview with Lew Bryson

Alright, todays interview is special because it is with Lew Bryson, The managing editor of Malt Advocate magaizine and a regular contributor to Ale street news magazine, Beverage magazine and New Brewer magazine. Lew had this to say about himself...
"I started drinking out of the mainstream in 1981, went to my first brewpub in 1986. Started beer writing in 1993, went full-time in 1995. I live in the far northern suburbs of Philadelphia. I grew up among the Amish, and I have not shaved since the morning of my wedding."
Normally I let the guest speak for themselves, but as Lew is being overly modest, I have to step in and brag for him. In my opinion, Lew is the most important beer writer in the business. He has written a number of books and his beer blog <http://www.lewbryson.com/> is simply amazing. He is also a fierce advocate for lowering the drinking age, something I fully support. Lew Bryson is one of the most respected people in today's beer world.


1. There is a lot of talk about the hype surrounding certain beers. Some people take a lot of pride in acquiring them. Other people feel the beer is over hyped and pride themselves on liking less hyped beer for the merits of the beer not the hype. What are your thoughts on this?
"“Acquiring” a beer for any reason other than you wanting to drink it, to taste it, to experience it, is bullshit. We have a saying around the Malt Advocate offices about whisky collections: “They make it to drink.” Worry less about other people. In fact, worry less. You’re drinking beer; how bad a day can it be?"

2. A lot of brewers are turning a decent profit now, the Boston Beer Company comes to mind, with Sierra Nevada, Stone, and Dogfish Head not far behind. Do you feel that as a brewery grows in size its product quality tends to suffer, or is it possible for to turn out a world class beer in large quantities?
"Are we talking about size, or profit? A small brewery can make a good profit. If you’re talking about making profit while making a lot of good beer, well, yeah. I know it’s considered daring to diss Sierra Nevada (and pretty much de rigeur to diss Boston Beer), but Sierra has been kicking ass lately with the Chico Estate, Torpedo, the Brown Saison…and Boston Beer will be taking more control of their beers once the Upper Macungie plant comes fully on-line. It is definitely possible to turn out “world class” beer in large quantities. It’s also possible to turn out average suds in small quantities; it’s happening every day."


3. A lot of the craft brew sales are coming from big beer, imperial stout and the like. How do you feel about a brewer brewing a beer for the purpose of keeping up with market trends?
"A brewer has the option to brew a significant beer, an innovative beer that establishes the brewer’s – and the brewery’s – bona fides, even though it may not be a huge commercial success. A brewery can also brew a beer similar to others. If a brewery does not keep up with market trends, they may find themselves out of business."


4. On a related note to the previous question,beer is getting hoppier, especially on the West Coast, while in the east a more balanced approach is taken. In your opinion which speaks more to the skill of the brewer, brewing a big huge hoppy beer that still has flavor despite the lack of malt to balance out the hops, or a flavorful balance beer with a lot of hops but not as much malt?
"I don’t see that either one can be said to be more evident of the brewer’s skill."


5. lots of craft beer lovers participate in online forums. Do you feel that sites such as beeradvocate and ratebeer are the base of the craft beer industry?
"Of course not. Breweries are the base of the craft beer industry. Brewers innovate, brewers create, brewers make. The beer webs publicize, criticize, and over-analyze. I’m reminded of a description of the Pentagon as 25,000 ants, crawling on a log that’s floating down the river, each of them sure that they’re steering the log. Seriously, the regulars on these sites are a tiny fraction of the people drinking craft beer. A loud and feisty fraction, but yes, tiny.



6.A lot of people complain about the rising cost of beer, saying the brewers should have taken the hit on grain hops yeast etc and kept the price the same for their customers. What’s your stance on this?
"That’s crazy. Brewers have been keeping the price tamped down for years, and a lot of material cost increases hit at once. An assistant brewer should not get medical to save me a buck on a six pack? That said, yeah, some beers are over-priced. I don’t buy them, and neither should you."


7.Many people drink both craft beer and BMC (Bud Miller Coors) products, others refuse to drink BMC. Where do you stand on this and why?
"If it’s gotta be mainstream lager, I go with a regional brewer: Yuengling, Lion, Straub. I just like to keep it local when I have the option. Otherwise…I try not to let politics get into my beer-drinking. It’s a good idea not to let beer-drinking get into your politics, too."


8. What do you think the craft beer industry should be doing to attract more customers, if anything at all? What could we as craft beer drinkers be doing to convince our friends to try it, if anything at all?
"Stop trying to get everyone to drink double IPAs. Helles and kölsch are two perfectly respectable beer styles: why not make one? A lot of times people want to support their local brewery, but if all they’re brewing are imperial stouts, it’s going to be tough. Stop forcing our beer down their throats. And stop with the “Here, try Prima Pils. That’s what your beer would taste like if it wasn’t pure shit!” Not real effective."


9. There are 1400 breweries in the United States alone. Lots of them make great beer but never seem to get off the ground. What makes a brewery do well while another fails?
"Luck? Will? Picking the right market is a lot of it, and then making beer that market likes (or educating the market about beer the brewer wants to make). Realistic business plans help."



10. Lots of people talk about what brought craft beer to their attention, but what caused you to remain a fan, and you to become as passionate it about it as you are?
I got laid off and I had to do something. I wanted to tell more people about good beer. Writing gave me the chance to do that.

38 comments:

  1. Great stuff -

    I agree that people need to ease off the beer evangelism. I'll admit to it myself. People tend to feel as though they are being judged for the beer that they drink and who wants to feel judged when they are relaxing with a beer?

    I can understand it - we all get excited about finding a great beer, but you don't need to wallop the next person you see drink a Coors with it.

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  2. I liked that interview but you need different and better questions. I loved comments of his about how unimportant beer web sites are, but its still funny he blogs and reads them. The answer to #8 is priceless.

    #7 question is worthless to a non brewer. JUST my 2 cents.

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