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It's All About The Hunt

The caricature you see all over the website is me, Lew Bryson. I'm not that hairy anymore, but I'm afraid my nose is that big, and my mouth is usually open: either to drink beer and whiskey or talk about it.

Writing about beer and whiskey is how I make my living. I taste them, I travel to where they are made, I talk to the people who make them, sell them, serve them, and drink them. The people in the drinks business are, by and large, a great group. I am a lucky man, but I like to think that some of it is because I write well about it all. "You make people thirsty," said one fan of my writing, and that's the nicest compliment I've received.

I am passionate about beer and whiskey with character, drinks that are made with some spunk to them. That doesn't mean I always drink insanely bitter beers or 20 year old $50-a-bottle bourbons. It just means that I look for something different in a drink sometimes subtle, sometimes clear as a bell that shows care and skill and thought in its making, drinks that are made with the will for greatness, which is the single most important ingredient. 

I like food that's made that way, too, which is why exposing the blight of chain restaurants is my other, growing passion. 



One thing I don't like is drinks dogma. There are lots of assumptions you'll come across in print and in conversation about beer and whiskey. Here are a few:
"Light beer/malt liquor isn't really beer."
"Scotch-Irish distillers created bourbon in America."
"The best beers come from (insert country here)."

Nonsense. I look at every one of these things, every time I find one, and I grab it and shake it until the truth falls out. Sometimes others have been there first, and I can pick up the truth they've left. But I can also track truth to its lair myself and find an answer.
My writing is always about The Hunt. I came to love good beer in a time when it was elusive in America. I would drive for hours just on the strength of a hint in an old newspaper clipping to find new beers. Together with other enthusiasts and a few early writers, we mapped the new landscape.

Now I'm looking for the best, not just for the new and different. I'm looking for everything, really, and evaluating it as I go. There's a lot of travel, a lot of time on the phone, and increasingly, a lot of time at events. And yeah, there's a lot of free beer.

 

Does it sound great? Sound like a lot of fun, what you'd like to do if only you could get away from your 9to5? Well, think of it as being a cheese writer. Sure, you get luscious samples of Double Gloucester, Maytag Blue, and chevre all the time...but there's also these gaudily-wrapped 5 lb. blocks of process American that come every month, and you've got to try them, too.
Here's something I wrote to a friend who wrote and said what everyone always says: "I want to be your assistant!" This is what it's like.

Yeah, yeah, I'll put your application with all the others... There are big downsides. When I do PA and mid-Atlantic and New England visits, I'm driving, and trying to hit as many places as possible while staying sober. So it's plan the trip with phone calls to everyone three weeks before, then call 'em again two days before I leave to remind them. Get up at 6:00, drive like crazy, meet the brewer, stay for an hour in which I have to drink 3 oz. samples of up to 12 beers (while cramming down two full pints of water) AND get at least six pages of notes about the beer, the brewer, the place, the owners, the town (and the bathrooms) in only an hour. Then it's back on the road to the next place (and did I mention I have to get directions to all these places I've never been?) and the next place and the next place and a cheap motel, then two more days of that.

Then finally I go home, write stories on the breweries, the towns, the beers, AND trends, changes, laws, etc. ... if I can sell them. And I have to make these trips and spend the money even if I don't sell the story, because I have to stay up-to-date. If I do sell them I get paid a pittance for them. Finally, more often than not, I get up the next day to read outrageously stupid crap about beer in the newspaper written by someone who's on staff and said "hey, I like beer, why don't I write it?"

I'm telling you, if I was a beer, I'd be about a 145 IBU IPA.

But I'd be a liar if I said I didn't love it.

Because it's still about The Hunt.

 

Copyright 2008 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.
Revised: March 04, 2003