Friday, April 1, 2011

Week #13 - David Turley

Heading up the coast from North Carolina, where most of these interviewees are from so far, I'm pulling the car over in Virginia and hanging out with a great blogger from Fredericksburg, VA. David Turley's 'Musings Over A Pint' is a great blog to keep informed about what's happening with the state of beer in Virginia, but it is also considerably more than that. David is one of the rare bloggers that allows all of his thoughts, curiosities, and beliefs to hold equal space on his site, rather than shelving them to be beer and beer only. David covers a wide range of topics so you never know what you're going to get when you go to the blog, which keeps things fresh and quite interesting. There aren't an abundance of folks blogging about specific beers and events from the region spanning from DC to Richmond, so Musings is one of the few places you can read about the great beer coming out of that area.

Raise a pint and let it be your muse. Ladies and gents...David Turley.

I've made this note for a few different blogger interviews now and not really done much with it, so here goes: Why blog? What was the reason you started a beer blog?

I had not planned on starting a beer blog specifically. Initially I was just going to chat about my thoughts on many subjects, hence the "musings" in the blog name. However, I was focusing a lot of my activities at the time around craft beer, so that's the direction it which it took off, covering craft beer, especially around Virginia. I've recently made an effort to expand the posts to include other interests and topics that might come up as I am "musing over a pint with friends." Rest assured, it will be still be mostly about craft beer.

How much do you think beer culture has changed in your area since you started blogging?

The craft beer culture in Virginia, and the Fredericksburg region, in particular, has exploded in the past few years. When I started writing "Musings Over a Pint" the only local brewery was Blue & Gray. There were a couple of pubs here that had some of the more widely distributed beers (Bells, Sierra Nevada) as well as Virginia beers such as Blue & Gray, Legend, Old Dominion, but it really was a craft beer desert.

Since that time Battlefield Brewing started brewing at a local pub, named of all things, The Pub. Blue & Gray Brewing opened Lee's Retreat Brewpub at their brewery. We even got a few decent "beer bars." Capital Ale House opened in Fredericksburg bringing a wide selection of craft beers, both draft and bottles. The Fredericksburg Pub (not to be confused with the aforementioned The Pub) is another new local establishment that has a decent selection of beers.

At the retail level, Total Wine, Wegman's, and two locally owned shops, kybecca and Virginia Wine Experience, all help to make a wide variety of beers available here without the need to travel to Richmond or Northern Virginia.
Virginia breweries such as Blue Mountain, Devils Backbone, Starr Hill, and Mad Fox have been bringing the spotlight to Virginia with increasing frequency in recent years. Smaller breweries such as Wolf Hills, Wild Wolf, Shooting Creek, are frequently in the news. What's great is that beers from even these small regional brewers are showing up at restaurants throughout the state. It's an exciting time to be a craft beer fan in Virginia.

2008 was a huge blogging for you, Musings Over A Pint average close to a post a day for the year. Is there a 'pre-production' phase to your blogging where a post ends up being expansions of notes or blue prints you've written down or do you let an idea rumble around your head until it's time to sit down and post it to the blog?

Yea, 2008 was insane. I was intensely focused on craft beer and it showed on the blog and the traveling to support it. Of course, that took time away from my many other interests. I took a bit of a break in 2010 from regular blogging. It wasn't something that was planned, it just happened. In 2011, so far, I've been posting regularly, often multiple times a day. Even though I remain extremely busy with family and career commitments, I've found that sitting down a cranking out a blog post or two is a great way to unwind.

I rarely write blog posts in advance. I get an idea and run with it. On occasion I keep an idea in my head for a day or two until I have time to sit down and write. But there's no long editorial process. Blog posts are typically published the same day they are written. If I get an idea or come across something that I think might be interesting to someone else, I'll simply run with it. After all, we're just musing.

One aspect of Musings Over A Pint that I really like is how much Virginia beer news I can read on the site. There are a lot of great brewing outfits in VA that seem to get over shadowed by larger breweries in neighboring states. What do you love about your local brewers? Is there a feeling that you've got some of these breweries all to yourself?

I might have had it to myself, but I started blogging. :-) Seriously, I get lots of email from folks coming to Virginia and Fredericksburg who are looking for advice when visiting. The Fredericksburg region is a major tourist destination. It's a thrill to get those notes and I love sharing ideas and information. It's really funny though, I often feel that Virginia breweries are more well-known outside of Virginia than they are to the "locals." Blue & Gray Brewing has been around for nearly nine years and I still run into folks that live here who have never heard of them.

As far as being overshadowed by larger breweries in neighboring states, I really think that it's mostly a matter of distribution. We've seen the number of awards won in recent years by Virginia brewers; the quality is definitely there. But you have to search out some of these local beers. Even drinkers who go for good beer and eschew the factory beers are influenced by what they see on the local retail shelves. It's only us fanatics that subscribe to magazines and travel to beer fests! I hope in some small way "Musings Over a Pint" helps to spread the word. The posts get picked up by the local interest and tourism blogs and I think that's been beneficial in letting folks know what's going on in their back yard.

If we're travelling to Fredericksburg where should we be going to sit down to good food and good beer?

It's really where your tastes lie. Good food and fresh local beer? Lee's Retreat at Blue & Gray Brewery offers both, and has become my neighborhood pub of choice. The Pub is a worthwhile stop, and there's beer brewed onsite as well. Can't get a wide selection of beers in your hometown? Then it's Capital Ale House. There are few beer bars anywhere that match the selection there.

Heck, it's a small town, you can easily visit all of these places, and more!

Given your location almost smack dab between Washington, DC & Richmond, VA do you have a preference for either if you're travelling with beery intentions?

That's a tough question to answer. I rarely travel to either destination specifically for beer. It so happens that we have some good friends in Northern Virginia, so that's the direction we end up going when we get out and about. Northern Virginia has many great beer spots, but we really don't get up there much. The Dogfish Head Ale Houses and Mad Fox Brewing are stops that we've recently enjoyed.

Parting shot: Favorite Virginian beer & why?

Trying to get me in trouble are you? I typically don't answer the "favorite beer" question, there are just too many to choose from. My "favorites" usually revolve around those beers I've recently enjoyed. Blue & Gray Stonewall Stout is a local favorite I've enjoyed for years. It has a good balance of roasted malt with a hint of sweetness. Also, I never missed getting Blue & Gray's Oktoberfest the day it's released each fall.

Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA is another favorite. I'm a hop-head at heart and Starr Hill created an exceptional IPA that's "up front" enough to satisfy that craving, yet balanced enough to keep drinking. It used to be a seasonal release, but I'm glad they make this year-round now.

In fact, as I write this I'm drinking a Starr Hill Pale Ale and finding it quite satisfying. So, at this very moment, it's my favorite Virginia beer. :-)

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