Questions I am asked

September 2001

By Gary Monterosso

There is a surefire way to locate me at a beer event. Look for a person with a camera around his neck, a small notebook and pen in one hand and a tasting glass in the other hand. This image of myself became obvious recently as I attended a festival in Pennsylvania. Winding my way through the crowd, I was approached by a fellow who said, "With that pad and camera, you either are a writer or you take this very seriously!" He was correct, as both are true.

Not more than a half-hour later, I was taking some pictures when another person came to me and asked, "Are you a writer?" When I confirmed his suspicions, he then voiced the first of a series of questions that seem to be inevitable once my cover is blown.

With deference to David Letterman, here are the top ten questions asked of me (and, as it turns out, so many other beer writers):

Do you need an assistant?
In my eight years of writing about beer professionally, I must have heard that one at least fifty times. Frankly, I never have had so much fun "working" as I do with this vocation. I get to go to as many festivals, tastings, dinners and so on as I desire but there are deadlines to meet and plenty of long hours sitting at my computer. For the time being, I can handle this by myself, though I appreciate the interest. As I tell people, "America is a great country. I drink beer and get paid to do so!"

Can I come with you to an event?
Hey, why not? By the way, I give points if you'll get me there. If you are driving, you must stay sober.

Do you drink a lot of beer?
There are days when I don't drink any. Generally, I have the equivalent of one or two bottles, however. Sometimes, the beer I am sampling is for review or a feature. And not all the beers I try are to my liking.

How much beer do you have in your home?
I have a second cooler that is devoted to beer storage. My bottle-conditioned beers are kept at cellar temperature, though. The amount of beer I have varies greatly. At the present, I would estimate I have about 200 bottles or so, with very few doubles. The oldest beer I have is a 1982 Anchor Brewing "Our Special Ale," given to me by Phillies announcer (and part-time Anchor employee) Andy Musser.

Do you homebrew?
I have but on rare occasions. Actually, some other writers and I have brewed with Tom Baker of Heavyweight Brewing. Our result is called "Stickenjab," done in an old German style known as "Alt." The beer is available on tap in parts of NJ, the New York City area and into eastern PA.

Have you ever met Michael Jackson?
This question only could have been asked by a "beer geek" as this would be in reference to the famed beer writer from England, also known as the "BeerHunter." Yes, I've met him and toured breweries with him. In fact, he stayed at my house this past April.

What's the best beer?
If there were one "best beer" there would be no need for any other. There are dozens of beers I enjoy, dependent on the season, company I am with, food eaten and so on.

Which country makes the best beers?
There are exciting things going on at many craft breweries here in the U.S. I drink more American-made beers than from any other country. I greatly appreciate Belgian ales for their complexity and uniqueness. There are notable beers produced worldwide.

What's the worst beer on the market?
Once more, that's a subjective topic. I don't prefer most mass-produced beers though large breweries were, at one time, small. And there is no rule declaring that just because a beer comes from a microbrewery it has to be good.

How do you keep up with all the beers on the market?
I don't. There are a ton of beers I've never tried though I feel it is my job to sample those readily available to me. I do keep tabs on local happenings.

So, if you go to a beer festival somewhere in the Delaware Valley and see a guy with a camera, notebook, pen and a tasting glass, there is a decent chance it could be me. And if I pause when you ask, "Do you need an assistant?" you'll know why.

®Gary Monterosso. All Rights Reserved

Gary Monterosso