Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting - Chicago, IL
Six years ago, my friend Michael Kiser started a blog as a way to track the different beers he’d try. It became his obsession. In the time we’ve known one another, I have admired Michael’s perspective on a number of subjects. Though he trained as a poet, until recently, his life’s work has been devoted to industrial design. Whether we’re discussing an iamb or an IPA, Michael offers unparalleled insight, and he does so with incomparable polish.
With a desire to expand his knowledge of the beer industry, he attended classes on the subject and eventually, he began to travel to breweries. On Good Beer Hunting, the beer is just the story’s beginning.
As Michael explains it, growing up in Pennsylvania, he had access to some great, locally made beers.
“In college, I lived down the road from a microbrewery in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I didn’t appreciate how rare that was until I moved to Chicago.” Upon arriving in the Windy City, he began attending something known as “beer school” and caught what he calls “the beer bug.”
“We’d learn about saisons and bières de garde. Pair that with my instructor’s knowledge and abilities as a storyteller, a romance with beer was sparked.”
As his interest grew, he began traveling to breweries throughout the country and eventually the world.
“I have been able to collect the brewers’ stories in these fortresses built out of concrete and steel, these stunning vessels filled with wooden barrels, grain, and hops, where there is no end to the creativity.”
“Beer has been brewed since the Egyptians built the pyramids, and we’re still innovating.”
Now, everywhere he travels, he makes a point to track down the local beer people.
“It’s become the way I get to know a place. This industry attracts dedicated, hard-working, creative individuals, each with a point of view and an independent spirit.”
As our conversation turned to bourbon, he lit up.
“I drink beer daily. I drink bourbon weekly. In order to really appreciate it, I work up to it after enjoying a couple IPAs or a barrel-aged beer.”
“When I’ve exhausted my palate on hops, coriander, or coffee in a beer, the heat of a nice bourbon can revive it, tapping into previously untouched synapses.”
When pairing bourbon and beer his advice is to “go for contrast.” Pair the sweet flavors of a bourbon — vanilla, toffee, oak — with the bitterness of a pale ale or a bitter brown ale. Avoid the citrusy hop profiles.”
When enjoying bourbon with higher gravity beers like barley wines and stouts, he explained that “you want one drink to be smooth and the other to be hot. Too much of either makes everything muddy.”
I asked Michael about something I call the “John Lee Hooker Dilemma.” Any time that song plays, I become curious. Which bourbon? Which scotch? Which beer? And in what order?
“Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon is so smooth and silky with its beautiful toffee and caramel notes. Pair it with a peaty Scotch, something that tastes like a campfire and dirt. Ideally, the beer would have a similar contrast with some deep, earthy bitterness, like a Scotch Ale or an IPA. You’d pick up bitterness from the hops, with a strong, malty backbone from the barley and brown sugar. I’d start sweet and smooth with the Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon, cut it with some hops and barley, and finish in a dry bog on fire. Perfect.”
As brewers continue to experiment, adding more exotic ingredients to beer, I was curious to hear where Michael sees the industry heading. His answer surprised me.
“We’ll see the return of tradition: things that aren’t exotic beyond the obscurity of their origins. The dark ages of brewing have some incredible, lost-to-history recipes ripe for revival. How are bourbon makers keeping up with so much action? Mostly by standing still. It’s a bright, unwavering stance by which the rest of us chart the night sky.”
Did I mention the man has a Masters in Poetry?
Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting
Enriched by a hint of peppermint, it impresses with notes of pepper balanced by slight citrus overtones, and a spicy, warming finish.
Connect withMax Wastler
A Chicago-based storyteller, keeper of a whiskey blog and shop-owner who's known for his appreciation of America.