Beer Interview: Stephen Johnson – New Brew Thursday

As a Beer Blogger, I spend a lot of time in my own world. In this Beer Interview series, I spent time getting varying perspectives on the world of Craft Beer from others in the beer industry.

Stephen Johnson was one of the first Beer Bloggers I met after joining the ranks, and has been a strong influence ever since. His most prolific endeavor, New Brew Thursday, tops the Craft Beer media charts as a source of snark and education… and always a good time!

Sonoma County Beer

Tell me about yourself

My name is Stephen Johnson, I enjoy long walks on the beach, romantic dinners and perfectly poured craft beer… oh wait, this isn’t a dating site.  In relation to craft beer, I have been consuming “better beer” since 1994-ish.  Back then I lived in Minnesota, and there was not such thing as craft beer movement that I knew anything about, and clearly the liquor store in the small town of 2,000 people I was living in didn’t either, so I was left to enjoy all the delicious offerings from Germany and Belgium.  I do remember drinking a lot of Pete’s Wicked Ale, and Sam Adams.  So I guess there was a bit of good American beer back then.  When I moved to Portland, OR in 1999 I realized that there was a vast microbrew community that was creating some amazing beers..  That was my first foray into what we know as the craft movement now.  In 2000 I was living in Southern California and drank my first Stone Brewing Co beer, and well the rest is history.

Currently, I am the webmaster for UCR and host a weekly craft beer show called New Brew Thursday, as well as audio show about spirits, wine, craft beer and travel called Expert Drinking.

What is your preferred craft beer style? Why?

I am a hop head. The hoppier the better. IPA’s are so diverse, and so many various flavor profiles can come from a single style, that I just never get bored with them. I love pretty much every style of beer, some I need to be the mood for to really enjoy (Barleywines, Old Ales, etc.) but in most cases, set a finely crafted beer in front of me and I will love it regardless of the style.

How did you get into craft beer?

I wasn’t really into hard liquor or wine when I became legal to buy, and light lagers tasted like piss .. so, the only way to enjoy beer was to buy the better stuff, and since there was such a variety of German and Belgian styles of beer, it just seemed natural when I started seeing the craft beers coming around to explore and enjoy what they had to offer.

What made you choose your blog’s name?

I had a friend who was a BMC drinker, and we hung out every Thursday night cause of our schedules.. so I convinced him to let me bring a bottle of something he’d never tried before over and try it with open mind.  We started doing that every Thursday night, within a few weeks he was completely into and helping me pick out the beers.  Twitter was thing that starting to take traction then, so I created a twitter account ( @newbrewthursday ) and started posting pictures and what not..  at one point we both had vacations and missed a couple of weeks, and people started posting and asking what the new beer was that week.  It blew my mind that people were actually following along with us, so we started to think about how we could take it to the next level, and I went out and got a camera and the show was born.  It only made sense to call it New Brew Thursday.

Sonoma County Beer

What is your favorite beer / food pairing?

New York Style Cheesecake (plain) with Alaskan Brewing Co’s Baltic Porter.

What sort of challenges have you overcome in doing what you do?

I drink beer with my buddies and have a great time .. have met and become friends with some of the coolest people in the craft beer industry and have had hundreds of people come up to me at beer event and tell me how they stopped drinking BMC beers because of our show … so challenges to overcome … maybe the challenge of figuring out what I did to deserve such an awesome life. 😉

Based on what you originally envisioned for your blog, how have things changed? Why?

It really hasn’t changed.  Everything I wanted the show to be – fun, explorative, and educational – is what I feel it is and has been.  As long as we keep having fun with it, and people enjoy watching it, it won’t change.

Do you home brew? If so, how often?

I do .. not very often though.  I try, but I just enjoy drinking beer so much more than making it. haha.

What’s your favorite style to brew?

I don’t have a favorite style to brew, but my favorite beer that I have made so far is “Dark Passenger” ..  an 8.5% Oatmeal Stout brewed for the 5 season premier of Dexter.  It was so freaking delicious, and it aged really well. Wish I still had some of that.

Should you age craft beer?

Yes.  and NO.  A lot of beer will age beautifully and create completely different complexity and flavor profiles.  Some beer is not meant to age will just taste like garbage.  For instance if you drink a year old Pliny the Elder, you’re probably gonna drain pour it.. but last week I opened a 12th anniversary Old Rasputin and it was like unicorns and rainbows in my mouth..

In next week’s installment of my Beer Interview Series, you’ll meet Duke Geren of Brewtography.

Categories: Interviews

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1 reply

  1. Nice interview! I love me some Stephen Johnson. I can also agree that Dark Passenger was a fantastic beer and it needs to be made again. Cheers!

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