DRINK WITH THE WENCH PRESENTS:
The Beer Blogger Interview Series
Curious what goes on in the minds of your favorite beer bloggers? Well, The Beer Wench is and she has embarked upon a mission to interview as many beer bloggers that she can — from all over the world. Are you a beer blogger? Do you want to share your story? Send me an email!
INTRODUCING: CHIPPER DAVE
AUTHOR OF: FERMENTEDLY CHALLENGED
Beer Blogger Interview
Full name: David L. Butler
Internet nickname: Chipper Dave
Twitter handle: @ChipperDave
Name of blog: Fermentedly Challenged
Current location: Greeley, CO -near the heart of beer country!
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up along the shores of Lake Michigan in a tiny town called St. Joseph, MI. I lived there from 1959 until 1977 when I went off to college.
2. What sports if any did you play growing up, through college and beyond?
I played local league softball for several years, also 3 years on my high school tennis team. I also was in bowling leagues for many years, both as a kid and an adult. Later on, I played USTA team tennis for a while. I also enjoy downhill skiing for fun. My most extreme sport was Paintball.
3. How old were you when you had your first beer?
My first full beer was probably at the age of 16 in high school (1976). Drinking age was 18 back then but you could always find a friend to buy it for you much earlier.
4. If you can recall, what is the story of your first beer? Where did you have it? What style and brand was it?
My first beer was a Miller High Life I believe. It was cheap swill and I didn’t know any better. On occasion I’d get some Heineken because we thought foreign beer was a treat. We thought that the skunky beer was supposed to be good.
5. Where, if applicable, did you go to college? What did you study? What additional activities, organizations, sports did you partake in during college?
My undergraduate degree was in Business Administration from Valparaiso University in Indiana. I originally studied Electrical Engineering but it just wasn’t me. Switched to Business Admin with a minor in Information Systems. Graduated in 1982. I was heavily involved in a Music Fraternity on campus (Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia). Our specialty was men’s chorus and Barbershop Quartet singing. I also played in a rock band during college days. I was a keyboard player.
Later, I went to graduate school at Colorado State University. My major was Computer Information Systems. Within 18 months I had studied and interviewed with Hewlett Packard, who had several plants in the area, and landed a job with them doing Information Systems work. I started working for them in 1984 and have worked for them to this very day (26 years).
Craft Beer Epiphany
Every craft beer enthusiast has at least one pinnacle craft beer experience that completely changes ones perspective on beer. I refer to this mind-blowing moment as a “craft beer epiphany.”
1. What was your first craft beer epiphany? Recall as many details about it as you can:
I was satisfied drinking macro lagers for the longest time. It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s when a buddy at work invited me over and offered a beer to me. It tasted great. I asked him what beer it was and he said that he had made it himself. I never knew people still made their own beer up until then. He told me about how he made it and how he had patterned it after a local microbrew - an Odell 90 Shilling. I later bought some 90 Shilling for myself and loved it. Since then I have been trying as many different craft beers as I can find. I also later started brewing my own beer from time to time.
2. Have you have additional craft beer epiphanies since the first? Detail as many of them as you wish:
This isn’t exactly about craft beer but a lesson in drinking local. I was on a 2-week camping trip excursion in Banff, Alberta, CA one summer back in 1979. My dad, brother and I had just gotten back off the trail and wanted to find a place to eat and have a beer. We found this old run down bar that served burgers and had a sign on the door that said “Check your knives at the bar”.
The place was full of locals who look like they lived in the woods most of the time. We ordered burgers and a beer each. They had a whole selection of local Canadian beers and one American beer. I had only had the American beer before and ordered that. Soon after, a local with a gruff look came over with a beer and slammed it down on our table and said - “Here - try this!”. He seemed pretty serious.
It was a Labatt’s Blue (I believe) and I tried it and was pleasantly surprised that it tasted better than my American lager. I thanked him for the lesson in drinking local and from then on I vowed to drink as the locals do.
Beer Blog Background
1. How long have you been writing your beer blog?
To be honest, I’ve only been writing Fermentedly Challenged since October 2007 but I had been blogging since 2004. I was previously known as a poker blogger. I covered the online poker scene soon after Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker. Online poker was a big craze until the Feds shut down the flow of money into those sites. I had been drinking plenty of craft beer during those days and decided one day to keep a blog about the beers I tried. One thing led to another and Fermentedly Challenged was born.
2. What inspired you to start writing your blog?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. In high school, I used to write my own short stories for fun. Later on, when I got into Paintball, I submitted an article for a nationwide Paintball magazine and they published it. When I discovered Google’s Blogger, I began writing about my poker experiences. I loved to blog and I wanted a way to track all the beers I was trying. So I started Fermentedly Challenged. At the time, I didn’t realize that there were so many beer blogs out there. I started getting to know some of them and it quickly became a great hobby and outlet for me.
3. Why did you chose the name of your blog?
I suppose I was looking for a unique and funny kind of name for a beer blog. With so many blogs out there I wanted to find one that nobody else had taken. I finally came up with Fermentedly Challenged primarily because I felt that I had a lot to learn about craft beer and was a bit “challenged” to find a favorite. The name stuck and I’ve used it for the last couple of years. The pen name “Chipper Dave” is a left over from my poker days. I used to collect casino poker chips as a hobby. Chip collectors are known as “chippers”. I was Chipper Dave in the poker circles longer than I’ve been Chipper Dave in the beer circles.
4. What are you personal goals for your blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
My goals for Fermentedly Challenged have changed a lot during the last 2 years. At first, I was content in using the blog as a diary and logbook for my beer adventures. Then one day I found that I found interest from people in my stories about the local breweries and other regional beer news and added that to my regular writings. I still had my poker blog and was making a little money here and there and thought I could apply some of that experience to my beer blog and make a bit of money on the side. I’ve started adding articles about homebrewing to my blog and am finding that there is a great interest from readers in that. I’d like to eventually use my blog as a secondary income source and perhaps a few years down the road transform it into something I can do full time. Writing, reporting, traveling, taking videos and trying all the different beers I can is a lot of fun.
5. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger?
I think the coolest thing (and there are many of them) have been meeting a lot of new people that I had previously only had known from their blogs and web sites. I’ve met several commercial brewers, beer bloggers and beer podcast people. The annual GABF in Denver is probably the best place to meet people in the industry. The other cool things is that I’ve gotten to know many of my local brewers. They’ve given me personal tours and let me try some of their experimental beers before they go to market. It’s fun being given access to their insights and of course their beers too.
6. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
That’s a hard question. I literally subscribe to over 100 beer blogs that I read regularly. There are so many interesting writers out there. I maintain a favorite’s list out on my blog. There are probably around 50 or so blogs out there, and those are just the tip of the iceburg. I’ve always enjoyed following “Drink with the Wench” and hope you continue to grow in popularity.
But if I’d have to pick a few out I’d mention these: Dr. Fermento aka James Roberts - a writer from Alaska who does a regular newspaper column as well as maintain a beer blog. I recently traveled to Alaska and found his blog while searching for local beer and have read him ever since.
Another beer blogger I’ve followed for a while is The Beer Philosopher aka Shawn Connelly. He’s the founder of the Aleuminati - a social community on the Ning network. Shawn is now branching out as a writer for the new Beer Connoisseur Magazine. I’d admired his dedication to craft beer. One other blogger I’ll mention is Eli Shayotovich, the mad man of beer. He is a writer for the Examiner and is the Colorado Springs Beer Examiner. Eli is also part of the BeerTapTV.com team. He and Erik Boles and Dusty Frazier put out weekly videos about craft beer. I’ve gotten to know Eli and enjoy what he does.
1. What are your top 3 favorite beer styles?
I most enjoy Imperial Stouts, Sour Ales and Barrel Aged beers (of all kinds). I find myself writing about these kinds of beers the most.
2. What are your top 3 favorite breweries?
Favorite local breweries: Odell Brewing, New Belgium of Fort Collins, CO and Crabtree Brewing of Greeley, CO
Favorite craft breweries: Bells Brewing (MI), Stone Brewing (CA), Dogfish Head (DE), Avery Brewing (CO)
3. If you could work with or for any one brewery, which one would it be and why?
If I had to choose, I’d work for New Belgium Brewing. Why? I admire their efforts at being environmentally conscious and also because they make some of the tastiest beers I’ve ever had! I love their work ethic and always feel welcomed when I visit their brewery.
4. Are you a homebrewer? If yes, what is the most unique and interesting beer recipes you’ve brewed as a homebrewer?
Yes, I do homebrew on occasion. I’ve only made about 4 batches of beer in my life and hope to continue to experiment more often in the past. I don’t home that often, but when I do I like to make dark beers (my favorite). I recently made a porter that I modified the recipe significantly (some of it by accident) and created a lighter, creamier almost Marzen-like beer.
5. Do you have any beer certifications (BJCP, Cicerone, Siebel, American Brewers Guild)?? If so, what are they?
I have none of these (yet) but hope to eventually earn the BJCP and the Cicerone.
6. What is your favorite beer and food pairing?
My absolute all-time favorite beer and food pairing is to make Imperial Stout Ice Cream floats! I use either ice cream with chocolate bits in it or on occasion with Raspberry Chocolate chip ice cream. Simply heaven! On occasion I like to pair IPA’s with spicy tacos too.
The Personal Side
1. What is your current day job?
I am a Web Hosting Engineer for Hewlett Packard. I’m part of the HP Enterprise Services team. I help support web sites for one of our biggest IT customers.
2. If you could change your career at this very moment, without any restrictions on what you could do, what would you want to do and why?
I would definitely want to write for a living and perhaps travel around the world to visit breweries. I’d also like to pursue creating more videos involving craft beer. My Flip Mino HD mini-cam and I are best friends.
3. Are you married? Children?
Yes! I have been happily married since 1982 to my one and only wife Julie. We met in college and fell in love. We moved out here to Colorado in 1982 and raised a family. I have 3 kids: Boy (23), girl (20), boy (16). Only 1 kid left in the house. I also have a black male cocker spaniel dog.
4. Outside of beer and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
I’ve been an adult leader in the Boy Scouts of America for the last 14+ years. We enjoy camping, hiking, photography and stargazing. I still play poker on occasion too. I am also a big Rockies baseball fan and Broncos football fan.
Off The Beaten Path
1. If you were a style of beer, what style would be an why?
I would love to be a tart, sour, barrel-aged beer made using Brettanomyces yeast. I’m a big fan of the sour funk these days. I think this type of beer has a lot of potential and seems to be growing in popularity right now.
2. You were caught smuggling beer illegally, which has now been made punishable by death. Right before you are sent to the executioner, you are offered one last beer. What beer would you chose and why?
If I knew I was going to die, I’d probably ask for a Tactical Nuclear Penguin from Brewdog (Scotland). It’s 32% ABV and I’d want to be totally liquored up before being executed - primarily because I wouldn’t care after finishing a bottle of that.
3. If I contracted you to brew a beer (or design a beer recipe) called “The Beer Wench” — what style would you chose and what, if any, extra ingredients would you add?
The image of a beer wench makes me think about someone who is smart, sassy and a bit of a tart. So perhaps the Beer Wench would be a highly tart, funky and of course a wild ale! I’d throw in some Grains of Paradise into it for just a good bit of spice too.
4. If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
I’d like the power of teleportation, kinda like that big blue guy in the Watchmen movie. That way, I could blink myself to any brewery I’d like to visit anytime I wanted and try all of the world’s beers. I wouldn’t have to drive afterwards either.
What is one of the craziest things you have ever done and lived to tell the story?
Once when I was 19 and visiting Yellowstone National Park, I crawled out onto a rock in the middle of a raging river just within a stone’s throw of the big waterfall there. If I had fallen in I would have been swept over the edge and killed for sure. Don’t think I’ll do that again anytime soon.
What are your thoughts on bacon?
It goes with everything! I’d like to see it brewed in a smoked beer.
Special Thanks to “Chipper” Dave Butler for an awesome interview!