Beer Interview: Darryl Levi – The Beer Dolt

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.

Darryl Levi, owner of Darryl’s Couch, is the epitome of what all of us dream of. A beer geek/blogger who took a fun concept and turned it into a thriving craft beer bar in Southern California.

Sonoma County Beer

Tell me about yourself

Darryl Levi is the parent of two amazing kids, a technology geek who loves to play with gadgets, often finds the simple solution to complex problems, and enjoys puzzles. Founder and owner of Camarillo’s premier craft beer pub, website editor, award winning homebrewer who’s fascinated with the science, hockey fan, MCSE, dog owner, experimenter in the kitchen, motorcycle rider, soccer referee, volunteer, Army veteran, award winning photographer, fan of live music, scuba diver, hiker, and swimmer. He’s designed and maintained e-mail systems for tens of thousands, created solutions that others said couldn’t be done, has been asked for advice and guidance by friends, family, strangers, technology companies, and senators. He has solved Rubik’s cube in world record time. He is shunned by few, but loved and adored by many. He has successfully programmed a VCR, brought peace to enemies, and rescued a woman who drove off a cliff. He however does not have a degree.

What is your preferred craft beer style? Why?

I get asked that a lot when I’m behind the bar. There are many factors that influence my favorite style at the moment. Overall, I’d say that my favorite style are stouts. I like the richness, the full body and the flavor. But sometimes you do need something lighter.

How did you get into craft beer?

A friend of mine, Erin Peters aka The Beer Goddess, asked me to attend the Orange County Beer Festival on her behalf. She was unable to attend, and asked if I could write an article for her website. I told her I know nothing about Craft Beer and she let me know that since I know how to write and how to drink, I’d do fine.

I was shocked by all the different types of beer that were available; the variety of styles, flavors, mouthfeel. The experience was overwhelming. After writing the article for her site I created my own site: “Dolt”, because I truly knew nothing about beer at the time. I still know nothing (relative to how much there is to know).

What made you choose your bar’s name?

The name actually came out of a Virtual Happy Hour. Someone made a comment about my couch, Stephen Johnson made a comment (okay, probably more than one) about what he’d like to do to Darryl’s Couch. The couch soon had its own Twitter handle and would comment about things being said about it.

Sonoma County Beer

When I bought the bar I tried to think of an appropriate name, and Darryl’s Couch was the only thing that kept coming to mind. People would tell me that it wouldn’t work because it gave no indication that it was beer related. I cited other places that are great craft beer destinations: Tony’s Darts Away, Father’s Office, Mohawk Bend, and more. I settled on the name, and it ended up fitting well. The bar is a place that is much like my living room; a comfortable, friendly spot to see friends, play some pool, drink good beer, and just hang out!

What is your favorite beer / food pairing?

Don’t really have anything specific, though I do like good fish and chips with a sour.

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

There’s actually a few, but the one that is most significant in my mind is that there were restrictions on the alcohol license that transferred to me with the bar that I didn’t know about originally, forcing me to change my business plan. I hope to have those restrictions removed and modified so that I can actually accomplish my original plan, but I’ve been able to adapt very well in the meantime!

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

Without being specific, see above. Otherwise, things are going about as well as I expected and had hoped.

Do you home brew? If so, how often?

I do, but I haven’t had a chance to brew anything since buying the bar. In June ’12 I brewed an Imperial Stout, which got transferred to a secondary and since then has been sitting on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and French Oak bourbon barrel. I had planned to keg it in November, but I’ve been too too busy. So it still sits… hopefully doing well.

What’s your favorite style to brew?

I like playing around with most styles to try them out an learn more about them. I’ve done a Scottish Ale without knowing anything about the style, so I had to make a flight of mine with some commercial examples to see how I did. If I have to pick a favorite though I’d say I like stouts the best. There can be such a expansive selection of flavors in darker beers, and they keep well.

Should you age craft beer?

Sometimes. I think that there are examples of well aged beers out there, but I also think it can be a big risk; nobody knows what something is going to taste like next year. Today’s great beer could be wasted next year. When it comes to my personal cellar I try to keep a balance: You can save stuff in your cellar for a special occasion, or create the special occasion by opening the things in your cellar.

In next week’s installment of my Beer Interview Series, you’ll meet Carla Companion of The Beer Babe.

Categories: Interviews

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