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Oakes Weekly - Feb. 27th
Stephen Beaumont Interview, part one
February 27, 2003
Written by Oakes
Stephen Beaumont is Canada’s best-known beer writer, and a regular contributor to publications such as Saveur, Wine Enthusiast and Malt Advocate. He has written several books, including A Taste for Beer, The Premium Beer Drinker’s Guide, and two editions of The Great Canadian Beer Guide. He also publishes a website, <a hrefhttp://www.worldofbeer.com>Stephen Beaumont’s World of Beer. Ratebeer editor Josh Oakes sat down with Stephen at the Bow & Arrow in Toronto and in the course of conversing over a couple of St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stouts, conducted an interview.
JO: The first order of business is I wanted to know what you’ve been up to lately.
SB: What I’ve been up to lately? I’ve got three book proposals in the works. None of them signed to contracts. I’m developing a television project. Again, it’s still in development - nothing signed.
JO: For the Food Network?
SB: Nothing’s been signed with anybody. I’m working with a colleague down in New York. I’ve no books coming out. I’m just about to start a pretty extensive tasting tour. I’m going to be in LA in the middle of this month. In March I’m going to be at all but one of the Flying Saucer chain locations, hosting beer tastings.
JO: In Dallas?
SB: All over Texas, Memphis, Nashville, Raleigh, a couple others. There are nine in total.
JO: The reason I ask is that the manager of the one in Dallas in a Ratebeerian.
SB: Ok. There are three in the Dallas area, and I’m doing two of them. They didn’t want to cannibalize. And then I’m finishing that tour in Philadelphia. We’re doing a beer dinner at Monk’s.
JO: When is that going to be?
SB: That will be Tuesday the 18th of March. And then my next appearance will at my mother’s 70th birthday. Other than that, I’m just doing the regular stuff, writing for magazines. I’ve got stories coming out in Saveur, stories in Wine Enthusiast...
JO: Those magazines, those are not typical beer magazines.
JO: You write for a different audience in a lot of your publications. How do you see the audiences in those being different, and the same, compared with say, writing for All About Beer?
SB: Well, in a way its very similar, because All About Beer, people who are picking up All About Beer are interested in beer. But they don’t necessarily have basic knowledge, much less advanced knowledge. So when I write for Saveur or Wine Enthusiast, I’m writing for people who are interested in new tastes, in new things. So I pretty much have to write from the ground level, no matter who I write for. I always write for the consumer. Sites like Ratebeer, the Babblebelt, and Beer Advocate are fabulous. I think it’s great that people are out there talking about beer. I want to get more people over to that side of things. So when I write for Wine Enthusiast, it gives me a chance to say to those people ’There’s something over here that you should be trying’. When I write for Saveur, I get to take foodies and say ’Look, you’re used to having wine with your meals, and experiencing wine country. Here’s something that’s different, and equally good’. I’m evangelical - I like to convert people. And the best way to convert people is to write to people who already have an interest in flavours.
JO: One thing I wanted to touch upon, is that there are people out there who say. ’Stephen Beaumont, he doesn’t even write for beer people, and they sort of have a critical viewpoint towards someone who goes out and writes for the non-beer audience. This is stuff that I hear, I don’t know if you hear it or not... I find some people who come to beer from other aspects, like history or agricultural tradition or guys who enjoy the technical and mechanical aspects of brewing, they view beer and beer writing differently. I was just wondering how you view the different approaches to beer-loving?
SB: There are different levels of that question. One is me, personally, and I love taste. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a beer, or a perfectly roasted steak, or buffalo or horse or if it comes from a glass of wine, whiskey, gin or rum. I love to experience different things. But yeah, I’m passionate about beer. I’ve been writing about beer for thirteen years. I couldn’t have gone this far without being passionate about it. Beer to me, beer is not a gospel. It’s more about getting free of the tyranny of what you’re supposed to have - that’s my gospel. Anheuser Busch sent me two press releases today, touting their support in the USA for two touring acts, and how this was their way of conveying their image to the public. Which is fine for those touring acts, but is complete and total bullshit, because it has nothing to do with how the beer tastes. And that’s what I’m all about - I’m all about flavour. On another level, I write for Celebrator and Malt Advocate. I publish online for anybody who wants to read it - and I make nothing out of that. And I’m trying to make a living doing this. This is what I do - I write. If I tried to make a living off of Celebrator, Malt Advocate, Ale Street News and the brewing newspapers, and All About Beer, I’d be living in poverty. I’ve got to approach it as a businessman as well. And here’s this beautiful plus-plus situation. I get to write for publications like Saveur, American Heritage, Wine Enthusiast, Hemispheres, converting new people into the fold, plus I get to make a living doing it. To me, that’s a win-win all round.
I know that I get a bit of flack for not being more beer-community minded, but Michael’s not either. And I ’m not putting myself in Michael’s class. If it wasn’t for Michael, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. He writes for All About Beer, and Malt Advocate, I write for Celebrator and Malt Advocate, so we’re even there. Then he does consumer stuff. And I do consumer stuff. So that’s what bringing more people into the fold is all about.
JO: What about the restaurant consulting, are you doing any of that right now?
SB: I’m not doing any of it. The Beer Bistro, as you know, is on temporary hold. I don’t know when that’s going to get off the ground again. The Biermarkt is over. I’m too busy working on stories, developing books, doing speaking engagements, hosting tastings to do any of that now anyway. I’ve actually never looked for consulting work, it’s always just come to me.
JO: You do a lot of travelling. I think our readers would be curious to know what a professional beer writer does in terms of travelling - how many days are you on the road in a year? How many breweries do you visit? How many beers do you taste in a year?
SB: I would say I’m on the road about 3 to 4months out of the year in total, maybe a bit more than that. I do visit breweries on a regular basis, but that is never my focus. My focus in on tasting the beers. I write for consumers. The average reader of Saveur or Wine Enthusiast is really not that terribly interested in the capacity of the mash tun, or who did the equipment, even what hops they’re using. You really can’t go that far with this audience.
JO: So only the really "good story" breweries like a Crannóg Ales, Rodenbach, Cantillon...
SB: Yeah, Cantillon, New Glarus. The places that are doing something a little different and how are they doing it - that’s part of the story. But ultimately I’m after a story that can reach a wide audience and interest a wide audience to go out and try this beer. So I probably visit in a basic year, 30-50 breweries, but that’s never my focus. The number of beers I taste over a year - Christ - a lot.
Part Two next week...
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So I probably visit in a basic year, 30-50 breweries, but that's never my focus. The number of beers I taste over a year - Christ - a lot.
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