Up Close & Personal with Mathew Dapkins

The Art of Beer
All beers are not created equal. That’s one reason why Mathew Dapkins started Massive Beer Reviews. He wanted to share his opinion on well-made and not-so-well-made beers. He also created the reviews as a way for like-minded brew enthusiasts to find new beers. So he started the series on YouTube with just himself, a camera and some bottles of beer. That ended up opening a trove of new beers from around the world, through networking and researching. It all started more than a decade ago, when he had his first good beer. And when he talks about a good beer, it comes down to more than just taste. He covers everything from the density to the bottle label. You can check out his videos yourself by searching for Massive Beers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or just head right to his YouTube page. When he’s not drinking beers and talking about them, he works in body piercing at Guerilla Studios in downtown Scranton — something he’s been doing for 17 years.
Meet Mathew Dapkins …
How did Massive Beer Reviews get started?
I’ve been into beer for a long time. I started the series last year around April. About 15, 16 years ago I had my first good beer and I was always into it. I had a circle of friends that were into it. But over the years with them moving away, there was an outlet missing for me to find new beer. I started doing more research online and I started watching YouTube video reviews of beer and I’m like, ‘A lot of these people like beers that I don’t like.’ So I started to go out and network with different people and I came to the realization that maybe there’s someone out there like me. Beer is subjective — it’s like art. You may like one thing, another person might not like it. So I said, “well maybe there are people out there that like the same stuff I do and they can’t find new stuff.”
Why did you want to start your own reviews?
A lot of beer reviews or beer shows, national beer shows or even radio shows about beer talk about beer, but they always talk about it in a good way. They say ‘this beer’s good, this beer’s good, this beer’s good.’ It just bothered me. Not all beer is good. That’s one of the big reasons I started doing it. I’m not going to say I like beer just to get if I like it or I don’t like it. I know there are people that hate the beers I like. But if they like the beers I like, then they’ll know if I say I like it, I’m not just saying it just so some brewery contacts me. And even if I don’t like a beer, I can tell if it’s made well. I’ll still give it a really good score, but it’s not for me. I you’re into these types of beers, then you’ll like this beer because it’s made well. While I’m very opinionated about what I do like, I’ll still say if something is good or bad, regardless of whether I like it or not.
What kind of beers do you like?
A lot. My favorite kinds of beers are typically higher in alcohol. In order to bring out huge flavors and bold tastes, you need to make a higher alcohol beer — typically — but there are exceptions to the rule. I like things that are very strong and forceful in taste. My favorite styles would be Barleywines, English old ales and Imperial stouts. That’s what beer is all about — flavor.
What goes into a beer review?
When I review a beer, I explain where it’s from and who made it. Then I’ll go over bottle label art because I’m a big label art junkie. Then I pour it and look at it and see how it looks in the glass, the color, the density, the carbonation. If you break it down just from that visual standpoint, most of the time, I could tell you if I’m going to like that beer before I even smell it or taste it, based on look. So looking at a beer is like looking at a piece of art, where smelling it is like listening to a song and tasting it would be like dance. Where you have the visual art, audio art and physical art, it all encompasses into beer being awesome I guess you can say.
How did you first get interested in beer?
My parents owned a bar when I was growing up, so I was always around beer. Right around the year 2000, I went to Canada. When I got there, I asked them “Hey, I hear you guys have good beer up here?” At that point there weren’t very many outlets in this area that I knew of, because I wasn’t very knowledgeable at that point. We went to a local beer store and I said, ‘I like this one.’ It was a beer called Unibroue Maudite. You can buy it anywhere now, that’s how things have changed. I had it and I was like, ‘Why am I not drinking this at home?’ The person who pretty much got me into good beer was a guy by the name of Ian Hunter, he worked at a local bar in Wilkes-Barre called Elmer Sudds. I knew Ian through mutual friends, so I want to his bar and asked him ‘Do you have this beer I had in Canada?’ and he said ‘Actually, yeah.’ And from there it was just a matter of him kind of schooling me on what’s what as far as beer went. And that was kind of a crash course.
How do you find out about new beers?
The way the Internet is now, it’s super easy to reach out and find new things. Websites like RateBeer.com or BeerAdvocate.com are two big ones. YouTube itself is big, too. I didn’t know there were that many beer reviewers on YouTube. Through doing the reviews, I’ve probably met about a dozen, to 20 different beer reviewers. We go back and forth telling each other new beers that we’ve discovered or beers that we like. We’re finding beers we would never, ever hear of, because beer is super regional. It’s a network online of talking to people, finding stuff, beer trading with people. That’s one way. Another way is more locally. I do a lot of what’s called “bottle shares.” Over Christmas break, my friends and I decided to host a bottle share at my house. Each friend brought a friend that likes beer and then each of us brought beer that we didn’t think anyone else ever had. Then we’ll just sample everything everyone brought.
What’s in store for the series?
I’m constantly reviewing beer. I like beer, so I mean if I’m going to drink it I might as well talk about it. If I try something new, I record it, and that’s actually the coolest thing I’ve gotten out of it. Drinking beer for a really long time, I was set in my ways. I’d be like, “I like this, I like these specific styles and these specific beers.” I stopped exploring. Now with this, I have a new mindset where I’m constantly looking for something new. I’m trying a lot of beers I normally wouldn’t have. That’s the cool aspect I’ve gotten out of it — just trying new stuff.
To find out more about Mathew Dapkins and Massive Beer reviews, visit youtube.com/massivebeers and on Instagram @massivebeers.