Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Meet the Beer Bloggers - Alan McLeod

Part 2 of the Meet the Ontario Beer Bloggers

A Good Beer Blog.  Simple title that speaks the truth.  It is a good beer blog.  It was one of the first such sites that I started reading before starting up my own.  In fact, when I was considering writing about pubs and craft beer almost four years ago I contacted Al to see if he'd be interested in me submitting stuff for him to post on his blog.  In the end I decided to start a blog of my own, but I continue to read Al's site on a daily basis.

Unlike the other Ontario beer bloggers that will be featured in the upcoming days, Al and I have only met in person on two occasions.  Al lives in Kingston and doesn't make his way to Toronto to often and I don't find myself in his beautiful city that often either.  It was a Southern Tier beer dinner hosted by Roland and Russell a couple of years back where we first met and then last year he came to Toronto for work related reasons and we got together for some drinks at barVolo.

Al's a great guy with strong opinions who doesn't back down from any comments...which is why his blog is read by brewers and beer industry people the world over.

Without further ado, meet Alan.

Describe the moment when you first saw the craft beer light?
Hard to say when craft beer got my attention because craft beer only become a common term after I started liking good beer. I grew up in Nova Scotia, hitting legal age in the early 80s. At that time, good beer meant Newcastle Brown or that weird malty pale lager from Norway the Liquor Commission shipped in for some reason. But around the mid-80s the Granite Brewery started up on Barrington Street and a guy south of Moncton NB opened a micro called Hans Haus that quickly got on the shelves. After a few backpacking trips to the UK, a few of us started homebrewing and the obsession had begun.

What made you decide to blog about beer?
Like a lot of bloggers at the time, I had a connection to an IT firm. I started a culture and politics blog in 2003 but noticed I had regularly posted on beer. Year in or so, I got the stand alone beer blog set up at a time when there were a few home brew blogs but no other beer fan blogs that I could find. 

Who long have you been blogging about beer and how long do you think you'll continue?
So, I have been blogging about beer for around seven years now.  At first, it was howling in the wilderness and really mostly about me recording my own education.  It got more exciting a few years in when I got quoted in the New York Times in 2005 and was hailed in an article published in 2006 by the Associated Press as something of the instigator of the beer blog movement.

Since then, I have written outside of the blog and gained enough ad revenue that beer pays for itself.  More importantly, I have also gotten into the conversation. Brewers and professional beer writers consider my views - even if they don't necessarily agree. Growing that sort of role interests me so I don't really see any end to the blogging.

What has been the biggest change in the Ontario brewing industry since you started blogging?
That is hard to say. Certainly there are more craft brewers now but there has been a limited expansion of the sorts of beer available. No one really needs another amber or pilsner on the shelves. The biggest change in retail is the LCBO's efforts to stock more good beer but their selection and institutional knowledge about good still leaves a lot to be desired.

If you could change one time about the industry here in Ontario, what would it be?
Beer in corner stores. Ontario is surrounded by jurisdictions which prove there is absolutely no issue with private beer sales. Go to a Wegmans in New York, a speciality food and wine shop in Michigan or a dep in Quebec and you do not see the end of law and order. You see civilization. Ontarians treat themselves as sheep as far as alcoholic beverages go.

What beer book would you recommend to someone looking to learn more about beer?
That is tough. For a newbie with a keen interest, Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer is a great start. If you want to start into beer history and culture look to UK authors like Martyn Cornell and Pete Brown. But if you are already there and want to get into the big leagues, find Prof. Ungers books on medieval beer brewing in the low countries or Hornsey's massive text on brewing history from the earliest cultures of the Middle East to the present day.

When you're not drinking, writing, or out at the pub, what else preoccupies your time?
I have a life. I am full time legal counsel as well as one half of a team of parents and foster parents. I am a foodie who loves to smoke his own ribs and pork roasts. I play 1860s re-enactments of old school baseball. I love to get in the car with the family, hunting for beer, minor league baseball, diners and swimming holes. 

Best beer festival or event you've attended?
Because of my life, I don't really go to beer fests. Not the most family friendly activity and, honestly, not a great way to consider good beer on a reasonable budget. 

Name your favourite beer blogging experience.
My favorite thing about beer blogging has been helping others get into it.  I know I encouraged you and Greg Clow but I also gave Knut of Norway and Evan Rail in Prague posting opprotunities as they were starting out.  My favorite convert, however, was Ron Pattinson in the Netherlands who, after he and I disagreed on something rather strongly, I got him encouraged in June 2007 into blogging as a way for people to assimilate his huge wealth of knowledge. I like that the blog has been both an example of what is possible for others in their own explorations of what good beer means to them.

Best time for a pint?
Saturday at 11:15 am on June 27th after mowing the lawn sitting in the shade considering what to smoke on the BBQ.

No comments:

Web Analytics

Winter Ale