The Life of a Professional Beer Taster

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Ken Weaver gets a visit from Andy three or four times a week. It’s been this way for more than a year.

Occasionally they’ll see each other at Weaver’s favorite local bar, but almost exclusively, Andy stops by Weaver’s house in Petaluma, California. He never comes empty-handed, either. IPAs, wheat ales, sours, stouts. Restocking a fridge has never been so easy or convenient when you know someone like Andy.

“I see a UPS or FedEx person here every single day,” said Weaver.

Andy, who works for UPS, is a regular at Weaver’s home, where he drops off boxes of beer. Sometimes he’s not the only one making that stop, either. Weekly – if not daily – cardboard boxes full of freshly packaged brews appear on Weaver’s doorstep. They’re unwrapped or pulled out of packing peanuts, the boxes are broken down and placed in the garage and later that day, Weaver pulls a bottle or can from his fridge and gets to work.

He’s no ordinary lover of beer, after all. He’s a professional taster.

Yes. He gets paid to sample beer.

“The best parts of this job are exactly what you’d hope for them to be,” Weaver said. “It’s neat to have beer arriving on your doorstep. I have access to just about anything you’d want. That’s fun and exciting and what’s most interesting on social media, and that’s the part of my job that brings people behind the scenes of what’s going on in the beer industry.”

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I went to GABF with a Plan. I Found This Story Instead.

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I may have made a beer fest faux pas. I had a plan for the Great American Beer Festival.

Not necessarily a long, marked up sheet with beers I wanted to try – that can simply be disastrous with the pressure you put on yourself – but a short list of breweries I wanted to see. I was interested in their booths and what kind of attention they may receive from the thousands of committed beer lovers milling about the Colorado Convention Center.

The idea was to find these tables with hope of acquiring fodder for stories for All About Beer. I had good intentions. Things did not go as planned.

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The Pleasant Distraction

There are always other things to do.

We have jobs and friends and responsibilities of life. But even then, there is always something else pulling us toward the multitudes of interests and passions we hold close. How we divide our time, through internal formulas working to extrapolate wants and needs, equates to each of our unique personalities.

If we pursue our goals both professional and personal, then the sum of our efforts shape who we are.

In recent years, I’ve sought to balance the many fractions of my life with help of this blog, and increasingly, work with the talented editorial teams at All About Beer, Beer Advocate and Good Beer Hunting. I’ve achieved so much because of the opportunities presented to me through research and relationships built off This is Why I’m Drunk. It has helped me only further grow my passion for beer, its industry and its culture.

But, the truth is you’re as much to thank for pushing me as my own internal drive. Sharing an education in beer comes in all sorts of ways.

This past weekend, the North American Guild of Beer Writers announced I had finished first in the category of “Best Beer Blog” at its annual awards ceremony. I’m thrilled to share this recognition with Robin Shepard, second for work at Isthmus.com, Carla Jean Lauter, third for The Beer Babe, and Jay Brooks, who received an honorable mention for Brookston Beer Bulletin. I’m so happy to be included with them for the same award.

But most of all, I’m excited to share this with you. Whether you’re an everyday reader sorting through the archives, a commenter who has shared in conversation or simply stopping by for the first time, I’ve been lucky to find my voice and learn new things because of interactions with people like you.

There will always be something else trying to gain my attention – often deservedly so – but I love using this space as a way to grow with you through a greater appreciation for all things beer.

Please know, Dear Reader, that I’m forever appreciative of how you influence me. I strive to think creatively and provide my love of beer in a unique way, and it means so much that I get to share that with you.

There are lots of shiny objects floating around all of us, reflecting constant reminders of where we should focus our attention. Thanks for letting me distract you.

The Data Behind Your GABF Beer Samples

Heading to Great American Beer Festival? Hope you like hops.

Thanks to Porch Drinking, festival goers have an advance preview at the many beers that will be served to thirsty enthusiasts descending on the Colorado Convention Center. Want an idea of what to expect? I crunched some numbers pulled from a continually updated list at Porch Drinking, as submitted by breweries.

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Some Details Forgotten in Latest AB InBev Buy

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Whenever one beer company takes over another, there is always reflection. Especially if it’s by someone like AB InBev.

What will happen to Brewery X? How will this impact their beer? Should I care about them any more?

From my American point of view, it’s been an interesting case trying to track the recent purchase of Belgium’s Bosteels by AB InBev, which was announced earlier this month. Bosteels, maker of Kwak, Karmeliet and Deus, is a 225-year old brewery.

Immediately after the announcement, people seemed to ask: but how much of the “family” aspect will be left?

During this week’s discussion on The Beer Temple, I got to chat with host Chris Quinn and others about the purchase. As is often the case, there’s plenty beyond the top-level assumptions or quick reactions.

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Get Buzzed: Coffee is Ready to Take Over Your Pint Glass

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Joel Kodner used to rely on energy drinks to get him through the day. What spark he couldn’t muster on his own would come from a 12-ounce can of Red Bull or 8 ounces of Redline.

Until he came bean-to-face with a new obsession.

In 2014, the brewer at Florida’s Due South Brewing Co. traveled with coworkers to Fort Lauderdale’s Argyle Coffee Roasters, which focuses on specialty grade, single origin coffee beans. Through an afternoon of “cupping,” the coffee-specific slang for a tasting, Kodner experienced bold flavors he never would have expected from Maxwell House or Folgers as he sampled coffees made with beans from Costa Rica and Brazil.

“It blew my mind how these guys at Argyle talked like brewers,” Kodner said. “A few extra minutes of roasting or few degrees in brewing temperature can really change the flavor profile of the same exact bean.”

After sipping his way through various roasts, Kodner was hooked. He doesn’t rely on energy drinks anymore.

Joel Kodner, left, poses with Manny Carrera from Argyle Coffee Roasters. He’s holding a bag of coffee sold in the Due South Taproom from the same roast used in Java Mariana Trench, the coffee variant of the brewery’s yearly imperial stout.

Joel Kodner, left, poses with Manny Carrera from Argyle Coffee Roasters. He’s holding a bag of coffee sold in the Due South Taproom from the same roast used in Java Mariana Trench, the coffee variant of the brewery’s imperial stout.

At the time, Due South’s Cafe Olé Espresso Porter was Kodner’s favorite beer. The stage was set, but it was that trip and its serendipitous outcome that created a tighter attachment to the coffee-forward brew. Perhaps fittingly, you can probably draw a direct line from that experience to today, with Kodner acting as the man behind Twitter’s @TeamCoffeeBeer, a handle dedicated to championing all things its name suggests.

“Coffee beer is kind of my favorite thing right now,” Kodner said. “It’s definitely something that’s getting bigger.”

He’s not the only one thinking that way. From new brand rollouts to festivals celebrating all things coffee beer, the style is showing American drinkers that life exists beyond the hop. As the coffee industry trends upward alongside beer, a natural partnership is forming. The small beans most associated with travel mugs and morning commutes aren’t just an afterthought for beer lovers or brewers any more.

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How to Become a Respected(?) Beer Writer in Just 500 Easy Blog Posts

I’m a lucky guy.

On Nov. 3, 2011, I launched this blog. I honestly don’t remember why I thought people would care that I took the leap. I just wanted to use the space as a way to share my thoughts on beers I liked. The first year is littered with pointless posts sharing tasting notes with an occasional travel log thrown in.

Then, perhaps fittingly at the “milestone” of my 100th post, I slowly started to branch out. I wasn’t just writing reviews that anyone could find on Beer Advocate or RateBeer. I was trying to share partially formed thoughts on events, homebrewing and participated in The Session, a monthly collaborative blogging effort bringing people together from all over the world to write about industry topics.

Maybe I thought I was supposed to write for others, or at least offer what others might have wanted to read. There was a small circle of people I read and an even smaller circle that read me.

But here I am, closing in on five years writing This Is Why I’m Drunk, and I *think* I’ve started to find my voice as I publish this, my 500th post.  There was a lot experimentation, a lot failure and a lot of hours spent banging away at a keyboard.

Because of this blog, I’ve twice been recognized by the North American Guild of Beer Writers. Because of this blog, the folks at All About Beer have trusted me with pages in their magazine and on their website.

Somehow people found me. Somehow I found myself. Here we are. Lucky us.

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Poppa Don’t Preach: Do We Need ‘Craft Beer Evangelists’?

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This summer, I presented at the annual Beer Bloggers Conference, sharing the spotlight with some talented writers.

In the day leading up to the presentation, I flipped through Twitter profiles of many other attendees, trying to match faces I’ve met with online identities I had known. Among many, there was a common denominator that connected writers.

“Craft beer evangelist”

I don’t know how many times I saw that phrase, or some variation thereof, captured in bios of social media accounts. It bothered me.

So when I stepped to the podium and had my chance to offer insight to the crowd of 150, I wanted to drive home a very specific point.

“We are advocates for our readers first,” I told them. “And then what we love.”

Increasingly, I’ve come across enthusiasts who put the idea of beer – specifically “craft” beer – on a pedestal. It’s Good vs. Evil or not fit for criticism.

That’s problematic.

Yes, we are fans. Yes, we have passion for this community and industry. But is “evangelism” necessary?

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A Return to ‘The Pleasant Distraction’

There are always other things to do.

We have jobs and friends and responsibilities of life. But even then, there is always something else pulling us toward the multitudes of interests and passions we hold close. How we divide our time, through internal formulas working to extrapolate wants and needs, equates to each of our unique personalities.

If we pursue our goals both professional and personal, then the sum of our efforts shape who we are.

Most days, I seek to balance these fractions of my life with the help of this blog, which has become part of a weekly ritual. I may not be able to write every day, but through research, and more important, conversations, I’m able to further ferment my passion for beer, its industry and its culture.

That is to say, you’re as much to thank for pushing me as my internal drive. It’s why as I celebrated an award for my work this weekend, I have nothing but appreciation for the people I’ve met along the way and the things (I hope) we learn together.

On Saturday, the North American Guild of Beer Writers announced I had finished first in the category of “Best Beer Blog” at its annual awards ceremony. I’m thrilled to share this recognition with Oliver Gray, finishing second for Literature and Libation, and Jeff Alworth, placing third for his contributions at All About Beer. The work of both these men educate and inspire me and I’m so happy to be included with them for the same award.

But most of all, I’m excited to share this award with you. Whether you’re an everyday reader sorting through the archives, a commenter who has shared in conversation or simply stopping by for the first time, I’ve been lucky to find my voice and learn new things because of interactions with people like you.

There will always be something else trying to gain my attention – often deservedly so – but I love using this space as a way to grow with you through a greater appreciation for all things beer.

So as I revel in an awfully exciting moment for me, I want you to know, Dear Reader, that I’m forever appreciative of how you influence me. I strive to think creatively and provide my love of beer in a unique way, and it means so much that I get to share that with you.

There are lots of shiny objects floating around all of us, reflecting constant reminders of where we should focus our attention. Thanks for letting me distract you.

This is an updated repost of last year’s announcement. The year may have changed, but my feelings about receiving this recognition has not. I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for those that read my blog, the friends I’ve made because of it and the opportunities it’s presented me. I am humbled and grateful.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

The Man Behind the Motion

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Trevor Carmick at his computer, touching up the his latest animation.

If he had it his way, the work that gained Trevor Carmick attention from renowned photographers to the New York Times never would have happened.

Or, at least, they never would have seen it.

His once personal project, started for fun and jest, would have stayed just that: personal and private. But then a coworker caught wind of his efforts and after some poking and prodding, a blog was born.

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