Thursday, March 6, 2008

Seen Through His Glass - Lew Bryson Interview

If you're unfamiliar with the name Lew Bryson, don't worry, you can get inside of his head in a jiffy. He is the Philly region's premier beer writer, he would be in a class of his own if we didn't have such other great beer writers around town to join him.

His books individually highlight the breweries and brewpubs of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. His magazine articles cover, well...everything. Check out the latest issue of All About Beer for a thoughtful history of craft beer. His blog, Seen Through A Glass is a daily stop for Philly beer drinkers. From news to opinions to tastings, Lew keeps us all well informed. He's an advocate of the little guy and gets us great details and interviews with brewers tucked away in the tiniest of corners. Lew is also a whisky enthusiast and writes on the subject extensively.

He has an amazing line up of events planned so check the calendar and get to them. These will be some of the coolest events of the week.

I caught Lew in some rare downtime just before Philly Beer Week gets its start tomorrow night. To read the interview, click the link to

So Philly Beer Week is just about here, I'm sure there is a lot of last minute, behind the scenes scrambling. Are you ready for this thing?

Not at all! We're still pulling beers together, I'm still cramming for my Tria presentation on the new research on the origins of stout and porter talked to Brit blogger Ron Pattinson ("Shut Up About Barclay Perkins")at the Zythos Beer Festival in Belgium last week, and tried his historically brewed porter), and changing some things on the fly. But that's normal.

Overall? Yeah, it's going to come together.

Do you think Philly Beer Week has come up at just the right moment, industry
wise, or do you think something like this could've have come together with
as much hype and participation say, 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

Maybe three years ago, but not five, and not 10. There were just not enough people interested to even think about pulling off something like this 10 years ago. Back then, the only thing that really drew folks was a beer festival. Philly Beer Week is a lot more than that, although we have...what, three or four beer festivals included in the events? Philly Beer Week is the sign of a beer culture that is finally reaching some kind of maturity.

Regionally and nationally, what kind of impact do you hope Beer Week has?

Regionally, it's already started to do what I hoped for: put beer and Philadelphia's love of it in front of a lot of mainstream press readers. The coverage has been great in the past two weeks, and it's going to get better. Nationally? It's making cities that thought of themselves as the best beer city in America look to their laurels, a friendly competition that I hope will encourage people to think about what makes a local beer scene great. In Portland's case, for instance, it's a plethora of excellent brewpubs. In Philly's case, it's the easy availability of an incredibly wide variety of types of beer. One is not necessarily better than the other...but it's our Week, so we're saying we're better!

In putting your own events together for this, what led you specifically to host the type events that you are? Was it availability of the topics, maybe beers from your personal stash that are ready to be shared? You've got such an array of things going on. The Grey Lodge stuff is downright mouth watering.

Some of it was venues coming to me and asking what I wanted to do, some of it was sitting down with folks and discussing ideas, and with Jay Misson at Triumph, we both wanted to do the same thing: that one was EASY. And I've got a whole list of ideas and venues for next year, including one that I really wanted to do this year, but just couldn't pull together quickly enough. There are going to be more people playing next year. Some venues will drop out, more will join in, and we'll have a better idea of what works and doesn't work.

With the schedule that you have as it is, plus all of the other events going on (plus recovery time) should we just plan to catch up with Seen Through A Glass some time around the end of the month or are you going to try to blog through the madness?

Oh, I'll do a little bit, but I've got a fair amount of work to do while I'm doing Philly Beer Week, plus I've got Holy Week: I'm a Catholic cantor, and there's a LOT of singing in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, which starts on the last day of Philly Beer Week. Blogging takes last place. I'll get something up for The Session tomorrow, but otherwise, it's going to be just here and there.

What events are you really looking forward to checking out as just a beer drinker, not a host?

The Real Ale festival, for sure, and I'm really looking forward to the Lager Gala, period, whether host or drinker. I'm also curious to hear what my wife thinks of the Ladies Beer Tea!

Do you see a lot of crossover between those who prefer craft beer and those who prefer fine whisky or is that just a John Hansell thing?

I'd wouldn't say "a lot", but it's definitely there. I think it's more an interest in flavorful and different drinks than a malt connection, though. I know a fair number of craft beer drinkers that like fine wines, too, for instance. I'm starting to get that way myself, and I'm developing a love for aged rum. Good stuff leads to good stuff.

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