Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interview Series: Meet the Geeks: Florida Edition: Gerard Walen

Gerard Walen of Roadtrips4Beer!
Name: Gerard Walen

Hometown: Clermont, Florida. Born and raised in Tampa.

Favorite Beer: It’s easier to name my favorite child because I only have one of those. As far as “go to” beers, there’s Cigar City Jai Alai IPA and the standby Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I enjoy  a lot of seasonals, and love big imperial stouts.
Favorite Beer Haunt: Another tough one because I live in a craft beer bar desert, so I don’t really have a “haunt.” However, within an hour’s driving distance from my home, I’ll give a nod to Redlight Redlight in Orlando. If I want to make it a day trip, I’ll head to Sarasota and hit the Cock & Bull, a favorite haunt when I lived there.
What was the first craft brew you ever tried? What did you think?  After a long time being a friend of A-B followed by an extended dalliance with Corona Light, a friend turned me on to an import: Young’s Ramrod Ale. It had taste! It had character! Thus began my craft-beer journey.
Do you homebrew? Yes, I just started last year. I’ve only made three batches, but hope to amp that up in 2012. All of them turned out decent and drinkable, so that’s encouraging.
How’d you hear about the pdxbeergeeks? I was aware of the group through the Twitter hashtag, but then got to meet some of you in person at the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference. Great folks and enthusiastic craft beer advocates.

What does being a beer geek mean to you?  The macrobrew offerings are monochromatic in that there is little to no difference between them in taste, appearance or brewing techniques.
The big brewers’ attempts at tapping the craft beer market – Shock Top, Blue Moon, Killians, etc. – introduce shades of gray and pale pastels to the spectrum, in that the beer drinker will find slightly more taste and variety, but the range is still limited. 

Craft beer, though, is like Dorothy opening the front door in “The Wizard of Oz.” Suddenly, there is a colorful rainbow of tastes and styles, each different from the other, that opens up a seemingly infinite number of choices on what to put in your glass. Being a beer geek means immersing oneself in that glorious rainbow and being open to new taste experiences and adventures. No one will like all of it, but there is something there for everybody.
If you could change one thing about beer culture in the US, what would it be? Just one thing? I’d like to see more mainstream acceptance, I suppose, such as more craft beer offerings at restaurants, availability at more hotel bars and on airplane flights, more shelf space at grocery stores, etc.
What do you love about Portland’s Craft Beer scene?  Though some outside the area may think there is an air of smugness or superiority among Portland beer geeks, it is not at all true. The people and venues of Portland’s craft beer scene opened their arms wide to welcome all of us who attended BBC11, and that impressed me immensely. This is not exclusive to Portland, though; I’ve seen it nearly everywhere I travel, but perhaps I did not expect such a high level of enthusiasm from folks eager to educate us out-of-towners on what Portland has to offer. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Where can we find you on the web?

I have two beer sites, so here’s the info for each.
Road Trips for Beer
Twitter: @roadtrips4beer (note the numeral!)

Beer in Florida
Twitter: @BeerInFlorida