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.
Along with many others in 2010, I first met Carla Companion of The Beer Babe at the 1st Beer Bloggers Conference. Her blend of intellect and wit make for fascinating conversation on most any topic. I continue to follow her work, which provides insight into the East Coast craft beer scene.
Tell me about yourself?
My name is Carla Companion, and I write the blog The Beer Babe (www.thebeerbabe.com) and a blog for the Portland Press Herald in Portland, ME. I have been writing about craft beer since 2007, and have been exploring the NH, Maine and New England beer scene as much as I can.
What is your preferred craft beer style? Why?
I will drink pretty much every beer style if it is a good beer. Right now I’m very into Berliner Weiss beers – the more tart the better. They’ve been becoming more available in the last year and you can say I’m kind of addicted to them. My favorite of the summer was Blue Lobster Brewing (Hampton, NH) Hamptonweiss – made with kiwis and apricots – delicious! My tastes tend to swing wildly – sometimes I’ll be on a sour beer phase and then just want the hoppiest things I can get my hands on. Depends on my mood, my tastes, the time of year.
How did you get into craft beer?
A few things aligned for me that put me on the craft beer path. I used to live in a house with 5 other roomates, and there as a great little beer store around the corner from where we lived. I used to stop in and pick up a six pack of something we’d never heard of, and we’d all have one and chat about it. After a year of doing this, we really couldn’t remember which ones stood out or what we had thought was boring. So I decided to start writing it down, and thus, my blog was born. I’m lucky to have a great partner in life that has been exploring craft beer with me all this time, so we are always up for beer adventures and trying new things. I think that’s why I got into it – the adventure was fun, but low-risk, and gave me things to talk about with new friends. Plus, it gave me a great excuse to keep writing.
What made you choose your blog’s name?
I can’t remember the friend that suggested it, but it was suggested because it’s easy to remember and say. I also (mistakenly) thought that I’d remain anonymous forever – kind of like the “phantom gourmet” – so the fact that my name implied that I was a “babe” wasn’t a problem, it just told people I was female. Well, after I realized what a social and tight-knit community the craft beer world is, I knew that anonymity was not going to work. What I’ve done now is tried to re-claim the name from its sexist connotation. I want “beer babe” to mean a woman that’s all about beer, not a busty broad that’s just here to serve you beer. I think my voice has helped with that, which is why I’ve kept the name, even though some have objected to it. However, as I go forward and write more often, my byline in most print publications is still my real name, Carla Companion. As a side note, when I get married this spring, I’ll be taking the last name of Lauter (no joke!) so beer will be a permanent part of my name wither I’m “The Beer Babe” or not. 🙂
What is your favorite beer / food pairing?
Oh, so many. I am only starting to get into food and beer pairing, but some of my favorites are the ones that go with desserts. I once had Dogfish Head’s Theobroma with a rich, home-made chocolate cheesecake. It was perfect – the beer cut through the deep chocolate and was even better than a glass of milk could ever hope to be.
What sort of challenges have you overcome in doing what you do?
I feel like my biggest challenge is time. If I could make a living as a full-time beer writer, chasing the new breweries, trying new things, traveling, I certainly would. As it stands now, I have a day job that I adore and wouldn’t give up for the world, so I always feel like I’m a little behind with the rapid pace that craft beer is taking. Other than that, the people in this community are some of the most friendly, welcoming and straightforward that I’ve ever met – I just wish I could meet more of them!
Based on what you originally envisioned for your blog, how have things changed? Why?
When I first started, I reviewed anything and everything that I could find. I had a lot of Dogfish Head, Stone and Weyerbacher reviews on there. It was scattered, inconsistent, and all over the place. At the second beer blogger’s conference, I got a chance to chat with Julia Herz of the Brewer’s Association. She pointed out that I could be one of the few people focusing on New England beer that’s actually been around long enough to have the background needed to cover it. I started to “zoom in” my coverage on New England (which is still too large of an area to cover!) and got a lot more attention, traffic, and reputation for knowing the area’s beer. This focusing eventually made me a good choice to cover an even more local area, which is how I got the Portland Press Herald job and several other print opportunities through NH Magazine and other publications.
Do you home brew? If so, how often?
I know people get disappointed in me when I say this, but I really don’t. I have a small apartment, no backyard, garage or other area, and a really inconsistent work/life schedule. Just don’t have the time – and I like to leave that to the folks that have the time/attention the process deserves. However, I do have several close friends that homebrew and I will always help to create and/or consume whatever they brew.
What’s your favorite style to brew?
Should you age craft beer?
Some beers age well, others don’t. Beers with lots of hoppy goodness don’t stand the test of time, but those that are sour or very high ABV stouts just get better and better. I have a bottle of 2009 Kate the Great that I’m hanging on to, but I don’t have a lot of storage space. I have a scientific background, though, so vertical tastings always intrigue me at the mysteries of what happens to beer when aging.
In next week’s installment of my Beer Interview Series, you’ll meet Shana Bull of ShanaRay.com.