[After many years of initiative and involvement within the world of craft beer, brewvana editor J. Wilson won the 16th annual Beer Drinker of the Year competition at Wynkoop Brewing Company on Feb. 25, 2012. Here’s a look at the resume that brought him to the finals, where he outlasted the fierce competition of Warren Monteiro of New York City and Greg Nowatzki of Las Vegas:]
—BDOTY 2012 Beer Resume—
Living life in search of brewvana, an ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy, I seek to educate and advocate on behalf of craft beer, folding good beer into a good life.
- Award-winning homebrewer (1996-present)
- BJCP Certified Judge (2007-present): Judging since 2003, I took the test to become certified in 2007. I’ve judged in North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
- Homebrew Club affiliations (CARBOY [Cary-Apex-Raleigh Brewers of Yore] and AC/BC [Adams County Brew Crew]): I became involved with Raleigh, NC’s CARBOY in 2003 until I moved to Iowa, where I founded AC/BC in January of 2011.
- Blogger at brewvana (2007-present)
- Active participant in North Carolina’s Pop the Cap effort (2005) and Iowa’s Lift the Limit push (2010), both successful endeavors to raise ABV limits on beer
- Frequenter of beer festivals as both a beer drinker and volunteer
- My January, 16, 2008 post on brewvana, “Over-analysis Syndrome”—written in tandem with then-Flossmoor Station Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk—prompted a Stan Hieronymus Beer Rule on his well-regarded Appellation Beer blog:
BEER RULE #8: Always take beer more seriously than yourself.
- Industry Experience (Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, NC) I worked for a little over a year as Minister of Selling, (2006-07) doing sales, packaging, brewing, conducting tastings, planning and executing events and working at festivals.
- Staff Morale Officer in my workplace (2009-present), organizing morale-boosting efforts around beer, doughnuts, bacon and whiskey. But mostly beer.
- Brewed over 350 gallons of beer in 2011
I started blogging at brewvana (www.brewvana.net) upon leaving North Carolina in 2007, to contribute to the beer dialogue in a positive way and stay involved in the beer community at large—since I’d be moving to Budweiser-soaked rural Iowa. While it’s a “beer blog,” it’s really a “lifestyle blog,” one in which beer is integrated into recreation, the kitchen and family life in a positive and conscientious way. In conjunction with the blog, I have orchestrated a number of events or projects over the years, some of which will be detailed later in this document. I have a worldwide readership and have attended both Beer Bloggers Conferences held in 2010 and 2011, and I was asked to deliver the keynote address at this year’s conference in Portland, Oregon.
Beer Education Project: Though I’d done informal tastings in my home with family and friends for years, minor projects as part of my blog and work-related tastings when I worked for a brewery, the Beer Education Project was a monthly tasting I did for two years (2008-09) in conjunction with a local restaurant to educate my local community on the world of craft beer, serving and discussing flights ranging from stylistic families to temperature studies and blind tastings.
Opera House BALL: The Opera House BALL is an event I’ve done twice as a fundraiser for the historic preservation of my community’s 1903 Opera House. It’s a “creative black tie” Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry that pairs a misunderstood-yet-delicious cuisine with craft beer and good times.
Opera House Beer Breakfast: Another event to raise funds for our local restoration effort, the Opera House Beer Breakfast pairs local homebrews with pancakes, eggs, sausage and all the trimmings.
Manning Oktoberfest: For the last two years, I’ve worked with the folks at the German Hausbarn in Manning, Iowa at their Oktoberfest celebration, providing an Oktoberfest Beer Tasting, as well as judging a small, informal local homebrew competition.
Pints & Poses: Pints & Poses is a monthly “yoga happy hour” event at Prairieland Yoga, which pairs a yoga class with a BYOB wine and beer social time. This year, we took the event “on the road” for the first time, coordinating an event at Metropolitan Brewing Company in Chicago.
AC/BC: In January of 2011, I took the lead on founding a new homebrew club to support the small contingent of homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts in our rural Iowa neck of the woods—AC/BC. For our inaugural event, we purchased a Templeton Rye barrel and held a brew-in to conjure 53 gallons of Baltic Porter to age in it. Ten months later on Black Friday, we packaged our precious 6,784 ounces, more than satisfied with the resulting elixir.
Diary of a Part-Time Monk:
This spring, I launched an historical research project into the origins of the doppelbock style of beer, investigating the well-known beer legend that says that 17th Century monks developed doppelbock to sustain themselves during their Lenten fasts. To explore this possibility, I embarked on a 46-day fast, consuming nothing but my own Illuminator Doppelbock (and water), chronicling it in real-time on a blog, and following with a book, which was published in November.
For this undertaking, I collaborated on the beer with Eric Sorensen of Rock Bottom-West Des Moines, tweaking my award-winning bock recipe into the doppelbock realm and scaling it up to a commercial scale. We brewed eight barrels on Jan. 27, and released the beer on Fat Tuesday, drawing the biggest crowd at RB-WDM for a special tapping in over four years, ultimately turning folks away from the crawfish boil beer dinner after maxing out at 75 patrons. The beer has an A- rating on Beer Advocate, and the Barrel Reserve Illuminator, aged in a Heaven Hill Rye barrel, took a silver medal at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers (FOBAB) in Chicago on Nov. 12.
The project—which I successfully completed—drew worldwide attention, and I was afforded the opportunity to speak about this renowned style (and craft beer, in general) to a broad audience, which included pieces by CNN, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Des Moines Register, BBC, Gayle King, Toronto Star, LA Weekly, KROQ, KCCI-TV (and affiliates throughout the country), Iowa Public Radio’s The Exchange, Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya’ Know?, Men’s Health, craftbeer.com, The Brewing Network, DRAFT Magazine and countless other news sources and blogs around the world. The endeavor brought not only media attention, but also the opportunity to speak to a church youth group, high school history class, an octogenarian library book club, homebrewers, beer enthusiasts and industry bloggers. The endeavor drew the attention of The Iowan’s editor, and I was asked to write an article on the blossoming Iowa beer scene for their Jan/Feb 2012 issue of the magazine.
Following the publication of Diary of a Part-Time Monk in November I followed up with my “Barrel-Aged Book Tour,” which lasted for 53 gallons across three states. I signed books and talked beer while patrons took advantage of the opportunity to taste the storied beer. The release of the book brought a second wave of media engagements, again affording me the opportunity to tout traditional beer styles and the craft beer movement.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2011
I engineered special events at Rock Bottom Brewery, Haymarket Pub and Brewery, Metropolitan Brewing Company, Keg Creek Brewing Company, Peace Tree Brewing Company, Nebraska Brewing Company and El Bait Shop, as well as non-beer locations ranging from churches and coffee shops to libraries, art galleries and yoga studios.
I collaborated with a brewery and won a medal with my homebrew recipe at a commercial competition, judged at FOBAB with Randy Mosher and stood out among my beer blogging peers for what seemed like more than 15 minutes. I lived on doppelbock for 46 days and confirmed the Legend of Doppelbock. I wrote a well-received book on the history of doppelbock, and did countless interviews in mainstream (and beer) media on behalf of craft beer.
While 2011 has been a high point, due in large part to Diary of a Part-Time Monk, I have been homebrewing and advocating for good beer in a good life for over 15 years. I have 3 taps at my 8-foot home bar, Sam & Bull’s Publick House, fueled by a 10-gallon brewing system in my basement. I have tasted thousands of beers over the years, have won numerous awards for my skills as a brewer and have converted many drinkers to better beer and nurtured many homebrewers in crafting their first batches. Moreover, I’ve forged valuable relationships over the years with many in the beer community, which is, after all, what beer is all about.
But this year—I’ve been called, “inspiring,” “important,” and a “fucking champion.” This year, I lived to tell the tale. And next year, I won’t let up…
“J. Wilson deserves to be Beer Drinker of the Year because he went over and above the call of being a beer blogger by conceptualizing, creating and marketing his incredible campaign, Diary of a Part-Time Monk. This not only showed J.’s incredible passion for beer, it brought beer drinking and beer blogging incredible publicity in the mainstream press. We at the Beer Bloggers Conference were thrilled to have J. speak about his successes as a keynote speaker of the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference.”
-Allan Wright, Beer Bloggers Conference
“J. Wilson is an amazing beer lover. The world’s “part time monk” has gone way beyond the call of normal beer appreciation and into the depths, and back (!), as a full-fledged beer faster. I ask who else has put the beverage to the test like him? He put his beliefs and body on the line for an incredible (don’t try this at home) experiment. Plus, his musings to the world leave anyone who reads his thoughts that much closer to “brewvana.” And those smart souls who follow him truly have a chance to fully understand what that concept actually means.
-Julia Herz, Brewers Association
“J. Wilson deserves to be BDOTY because even when the local beer distributors wouldn’t bring Iowa beer to his restaurant, he called the brewery up directly to twist necessary arms and get it done, because he would rather drink beer through Lent than eat, because his beer blog has never been whiny or bitchy, because he knows every brewer in the state of Iowa on a first name basis, because he knows how to keep beer drinking responsible and real—demonstrates responsible consumption within family and faith, because he’s had a religious experience with his beer.”
-Dave Coy, Head Brewer at Raccoon River Brewing Company
and Iowa Brewers Guild President
Home pub: El Bait Shop, Des Moines, Iowa
T-Shirt Size: Large