Beer Interview: Duke Geren – Brewtography

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.

Several years ago (and a few pints), Duke Geren and I met through a mutual friend over what would become a long-standing series of virtual happy hours. Many conversations ensued about everything from craft beer, to Doctor Who, and all over our favorite libation. His blog, Brewtography, allows him to share experiences and general awesomeness about all things craft beer.

Sonoma County Beer

Tell me about yourself

Well the short version is that I spent 23 years in the airline industry.  I have been a craft beer fan for almost 17 years.  My gateway beer was Widmer Hefeweizen.  When I realized that there was something out there other than Macro beer,  I was hooked.  Fast forward 10 years, and my girlfriend bought me a home brew kit for my birthday and I started to brew at home.  That’s when I gave myself body and soul to craft beer.

I’ve never been artistically inclined.  I can’t paint, draw, sculpt or play a musical instrument.  But brewing sang a siren song to me.  When I walk into the grain room of a home brew shop, I start imagining the beers I can brew in some sort of strange beer technicolor.  Grain, hops and yeast are the palette that I paint with now.

Three years ago I started working for a homebrew shop in Portland, Oregon part time that also caters to the professional brewing industry through our draft department.  I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people in the craft beer industry and I realized that I had missed my calling.   A year ago, I left the airlines for good and went to work full time in the beer biz.  I don’t think my girlfriend saw that coming when she bought me that home brew kit several years ago.

What is your preferred craft beer style?  Why?

I was originally drawn to IPA’s and big Stouts. The thing is, if you get good at brewing, you can have a very good understanding of how the beer will turn out at the end. While that it’s a good thing to be able to craft a beer and know how it’s going to come out every time, after a while, there is not much surprise and wonder left in the process.

Over time, I started to become more enamoured of wild fermented or sour beers and now it is my go to style.  I think the idea that a brewer makes a beer with an idea in mind of what it will the beer will at some point down the road and then gives it over to wild yeast and bacteria and lets it set sail on a somewhat unpredictable journey is an amazing thing.  Releasing control of something you’ve worked so hard on to something somewhat unpredictable can be an incredibly freeing experience.

How did you get into craft beer?

See answer #1.

What made you choose your blogs name?

Well, originally my intent was for my blog to be very visually oriented.  As I mentioned, I’m not artistically inclined.  I consider myself to be a pretty decent photographer and that has always been my other mistress.  Naturally, that draws me to the visual arts.  I love photography, film, painting and the like.  I’ve Sonoma County Beeralways been a very visual person and seeing things, and seeing how things are done, has always been my primary means of learning.  So I decided to combine my love of photography with my love of craft beer.  I haven’t been as dedicated in this regard to my blog, and as a matter of fact, I’m in the process of reinventing it right now, but you can see my thought process through my Flickr and Instagram feed.  I try to always like the pictures I take to my Twitter and Facebook feed.

What is your favorite beer / food pairing?

I’ve always been somewhat of a foodie, and in particular charcuterie and cheese.  I love pairing beer with both as I think beer pairs far better with these two things than any other beverage.  I also love cooking with beer as an ingredient.

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

Well for one, I gave up a pretty decent career in the airline business.  My father was a pilot in the Marine Corps and I grew up around aircraft, so aviation is in my DNA to some extent and I always knew I wanted to be around airplanes for a living.  Unfortunately, the aviation industry has changed post 9/11 as you can well imagine, and if you fly much at all, not for the better. It finally got to the point that, in the words of a friend who has been in the airlines far longer than I “What used to be a really great career, is now just an OK job.”  Leaving the comfort zone I had been in for over two decades was a tough change.  The airline industry is very strict and regimented.  The beer biz, not so much. And that is not a bad thing.  Overall, mental health-wise, I am in a far better place these days.  The craft beer family is amazing, and in the end, I don’t regret making the switch one bit.

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

Well for one, I discovered there was already somebody out there doing a photography based beer blog, John Kleinchester of www.beertography.com.  So in the interest of not trying to recreate the wheel or infringing on what he has already done, I pulled back and focused my work on Twitter and Instagram.  I’ve been focusing lately on what’s new and interesting in the brewing world and broadcasting that via Twitter, Instagram and Google+.  Now I’m in the process of creating a new blog in a similar vein, yet different.  I have a lot of respect for what John has done and I have no desire to step on his toes as it were and I want to do something that’s still visually oriented, but different.  Stay tuned.

Do you home brew?  If so, how often?

I do home brew, even though homebrewing is now my living.  I teach all grain brewing classes for the home brew shop I work for at a minimum once a month and we always brew a batch of beer during the class.  Apart from that, I usually brew at home once or twice a month although that has slowed down considerably in the last few months with the birth of my second child.

What’s your favorite style to brew?

I’ve been working on a Scottish Wee Heavy for a few years now and have finally dialed in the recipe to where I’m happy with it.  Scottish style ales are definitely my go to beer style.

Should you age craft beer?

That all depends on the style.  For me, I only collect and age really big beers like Imperial Stouts, Baltic Porters or anything wild fermented.  Anything else just doesn’t really hold up over time.  Even Barleywines have a tendency to have their hop character fall off quickly over time which leaves them cloyingly sweet.  Anything barrel aged also is a good candidate in my mind.

In next week’s installment of my Beer Interview Series, you’ll meet Ryan Hopkins of Thoughts of Hops.



Categories: Interviews

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