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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meet the Beer Bloggers - Chris Talbot

Part Seven of the Meet the Ontario Beer Bloggers

Chris Talbot
Toronto Craft Beer Examiner
Beer Blogging: Roughly five years

Meet Chris Talbot, the man behind the Toronto Craft Beer Examiner blog. Talbot, as you will read below, has been blogging about beer for roughly five years, off and on, and now writes a great deal for the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association (CABA). Talbot is also doing video blogging, where he tastes and reviews beers and makes homebrew.

Meet Chris Talbot

Describe the moment when you first saw the craft beer light?
I'm not sure I had an “aha!” moment, but instead I became a more discerning beer drinker over time. Like most people, I started with the Canadians and Blues of the world, and if it wasn't blonde or golden in colour, ice cold and following a standard taste, I wouldn't touch it.

I think it was Creemore that opened the world of craft beer to me, but I'm still learning about different breweries and styles of beer. Perhaps the biggest moment in my education in craft beer was when I tried a real IPA (read: not Keith's). Buying a six-pack of the Sgt. Major IPA stubbies and sampling such a hoppy beer was one of the best new experiences I've had.

What made you decide to blog about beer?
I like to blog about my interests and hobbies. I've had a general blog since 2003 on my own website, and I've used that as a platform to blog about beer and homebrewing. I started writing articles for when someone recommended that I check the site out. I discovered didn't have a local beer writer, so I suggested the idea of a Toronto Craft Beer Examiner. I'll be participating in the upcoming Canadian Amateur Brewers Association blog on a regular basis, so watch for that.

How long have you been blogging about beer and how long do you think you'll continue?
Irregularly, I've probably been blogging about beer for five years on my website, with the golden years being the last three years (although I relaunched my website earlier this year and moved all the old posts to a Blogspot account). It was my interest in homebrewing that really started to get the creative juices flowing when it came to blogging about beer.

As long as blogs are still a form of communication on the Internet, I suspect I'll be blogging about beer. … Unless I suddenly develop an allergy to barley and hops, at which point life is over, anyway.

What has been the biggest change in the Ontario brewing industry since you started blogging?
The LCBO has become much more open about bringing in craft beer, and the organization is certainly more communicative about its efforts. This is something I'm happy about, even if you have to learn which are the good LCBOs and which ones are less likely to bring in new craft beers. Between the LCBO and the Ontario Craft Brewers' marketing, I think the beer-drinking public has become far more aware of craft beer and the different styles of beer available. I think that has fundamentally changed the market.

If you could change one time about the industry here in Ontario, what would it be?
I'm going to be clich̩ here and say the one thing I hope to see is the monopoly held by Brewers Retail being broken up. If there is one thing that would really help the craft beer industry to grow, it's the ability to have its own retail outlets Рor better yet, multiple private stores and chains owned by different interests. There's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, and the simple fact is The Beer Store doesn't carry enough craft beer. Someone else needs to pick up the slack, but for that to happen, changes in the liquor laws need to happen.

What beer book would you recommend to someone looking to learn more about beer?
I've been a homebrewer since 2007, and I've learned a lot more about beer by engaging in that hobby than I have by sitting in pubs or visiting LCBO locations (or even by visiting beer forum sites). The book that got me started was “Homebrewing For Dummies” by Marty Nachel, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the process.

When you're not drinking, writing, or out at the pub, what else preoccupies your time?
Writing and drinking go hand-in-hand with my chosen career. I'm a journalist (currently freelance), so I do spend a lot of time doing both. Hobbies occupy my time outside of my writing, pubbing and drinking, though. I'm a board game player and collector. I have a large DVD collection. I listen to an eclectic music collection (and I have music playing just about 24/7). I'm also an avid outdoorsman (although not necessarily a skilled outdoorsman). I enjoy hiking, camping (especially back-country camping) and fishing (but I am the worst long-time angler you'll ever meet; good thing for beer).

Best beer festival or event you've attended?
I hope to have a better answer by the end of the summer (as I plan to attend the Muskoka Beer Festival), but I'd say the best event would have to be the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show. I know, it's not really a beer event, but there are enough craft brewers that attend that I get in a good deal of beer sampling throughout the day. Sadly, I did not attend this year.

Name your favourite beer blogging experience
Shortly after I became the Toronto Craft Beer Examiner, I was invited to the Muskoka Cottage Brewery launch party for the Pilsner Light. Walking into that event reminded me very much of my early days as a reporter. Sure, I had been a professional writer for more than a decade, but I was walking into an entirely new community of people. I'm always keen to learn the ins and outs of a community or industry, so it was very exciting.

Best time for a pint?
It's five o'clock somewhere. … That's not much of an answer, though, is it? Some of my favourite pub visits have been on Friday afternoons in the middle of summer. Having a pint in the middle of a Friday afternoon, especially when it's a hot day and the sun is shining, generally leads to great conversation and good times.

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