It isn’t very difficult to find out what Chip The Beer Guy is deeply passionate about; the answer is right there in his name. The Archbald resident has immersed himself in the world of hops and barleys since the late 1980s and has observed the recent growth of brew culture in northeastern Pennsylvania from the front seats. His featured beer show on Thursday mornings with DiRienzo and Prospector on Rock 107 recently entered its seventh season. Chip travels for beer, researches beer, brews his own beer and, most importantly, spends time talking to people about beer. He’s no beer geek; he’s trying to help people find the right beer. Meet Chip The Beer Guy…
How did you get into beer?
In 1989, my cousin took me to the Baltimore Brewing Company. I never had a micro-brewed or craft brewed beer before. The first craft beer I ever had was the DeGroen Märzen, which is the Oktoberfest beer. I said “Wow! This is what beer is supposed to taste like!” I was a college kid who had shaken the couch for the old obligatory 12 pack of Busch many times. When I found this beer, it was something I really liked and appreciated, and it tasted better than any beer I had before. I had to do further investigation. It started there, and expanded.
Not only do you enjoy the beer, but you also enjoy the educational aspect of being a beer connoisseur.
Sure. Learning about the beer was the most important part. It fascinated me. It’s not just about the taste of the beer, but what made the beer what it was. Why did it taste different and how was it made? What kind of ingredients were in it?
What is your beer education and training?
I wouldn’t say I have any formal training, which is kind of hard to come by. Formal training would mean Siebel Institute in Chicago or Doemans Academy in Germany or Weihenstephan in Bavaria. There are people who do that, but that isn’t me. I was all curiosity. It was easy for me to meet people and learn more because everybody was new to it and the brewers and the breweries were more than happy to explain themselves to you. They were trying to get every person to try their beer. It wasn’t made by the big three. It was made by someone in a small building in town.
You are highly involved in the beer community and also offer beer class?
We hold our beer school (in conjunction with Rock 107) at Jessup Beverage on the third Friday of every month. We developed quite a nice following up there. We get 30 to 50 people who come every month and we try five different beers. I’ll talk about them, how and where they are brewed, and why they taste the way they do. It’s a beer class that is made for the entry level person. We don’t talk over their heads. It’s not a chemistry class. It’s more or less, “do you like the beer? What do you like about the beer? What do you think?” We don’t get too beer geeky. We keep it simple.
What do you like most about talking to people about beer?
I don’t like to bore people about it. If I could just get them to listen to one thing I have to say about a beer and have them say, “Oh, OK. That’s interesting.” I would leave it at that. I don’t like to push further than that. Some people are open minded enough to give anything a try. I would never force any beer on any person or look down on people if they did not like a beer. That is not what it’s all about. I believe in local beer 100 percent — that supports our local brewing community and economy and everybody wins. If I can get one person to drink Susquehanna Brewing or Breaker Brewing or Three Guys and a Beer’d or any of our local breweries, that’s great! If I find a person who doesn’t like beer, I always say, “There’s a beer for everyone out there, you just haven’t found it yet.”
Your passionate about beer, but your interactions with people about beer is special.
I don’t like to be considered a beer geek, because it’s not necessarily about the rarest or most exotic or the one-of-a-kind, the great white whale of beer that I’m really interested in. I like to drink more than one beer, so a 12 percent or 10 percent beer doesn’t do me much good because you really can’t sit down and have conversation with somebody over those beers for any length of time. I’m a big proponent of session beers on the 4.5 to 5 percent alcohol range that people can enjoy and have conversation. To me, it’s all about communication and talking to people. I don’t think you need T.V.s in bars. I think people need to talk to each other more, whether it’s talking about beer or what is going on in the community.
Your face lit up earlier talking about the local brewing companies. How important is that, and how excited are you?
I think it’s very important. When I first started doing the show on Rock 107, I used to have to go to Philadelphia to get the beers that I wanted because they didn’t come up here, and very few places at that time had a quality beer selections. The beer community has developed over the past six years and now you can go into almost any corner bar and find a selection of some good micro-brewed beer. Susquehanna Brewing Co., The Lion Brewery and Yengling and you see the Breaker Brewing Company, The ShawneeCraft, Three Guys and a Beer’d along with other breweries like Nimble Hill; all of these little brews make NEPA a beer destination. Now people want to come here from Philly to try beers they can’t get down there.
Where has your love for beer taken you?
I had the pleasure of being invited by Anheiser Busch in St. Loius to participate in their first Brewers’ Heritage festival as their guest. In 2009, I had the chance to go to Munich and participate in Oktoberfest. We saw the breweries in Bamberg, Germany and I got the chance to go to Weihenstephan, the oldest brewery in the world. I was sitting at tables and thinking, “This place has been here for over 400 years and 400 years ago, someone sat at this very table and drank this same beer I’m drinking now.” Many people sat there and shared good times or bad times over a beer. Beer is more than an intoxicating agent for me. It has a lot of social meaning, too.
Your first craft beer changed your life.
Absolutely. It was an Oktoberfest beer that really awakened my beer taste.
I think everybody has a passion for what they like. You have to find that passion. Once you find something that you really care about, it’s not hard to be passionate about it.
— tom graham