Meet Thom O’Hearn, Beer Scout: The man who’s taking on the much-coveted beat. A Florida native, he’s worked in the New York publishing field, but has now wisely settled in Asheville. He edits at Lark, so we knew his copy would be clean. He offered us scoops in his cover letter, so we could tell he was paying attention. And, bonus! He home brews.
“As far as beer cred goes, I know y'all like my beer (I won the Mountain Xpress Brewgasm award at Just Brew It in 2011),” he wrote. “Seriously though, having a homebrew nerd run the column would give it that little something extra.” We hope you’ve enjoyed his articles so far, on Oskar Blues, Wicked Weed and Greenman. Got beer news? Send to him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @avlbeerscout. We asked him a few questions, so you could get to know him better.
How did you get into homebrewing?
O’Hearn: I think a lot more people would brew if the image of making beer on your stove was more romantic. Professionals use expensive, shiny equipment. It doesn’t seem possible that you can create the same beer using a stockpot at home. But beer isn’t wine. You don’t have to own the same land for generations and fuss with grapes. You can buy the same ingredients as the pros. That means with good sanitation and a little practice, you can make the same beer
Why do you think people are so fascinated by beer?
It's exciting partly because so many people can and are making it … Look at the number of people just in our town who are brewing, and whose parents didn't brew and [who] aren't brought up brewing. Anyone can do it. You can buy the ingredients that anyone else can buy. Because you have so many more viewpoints ... you get a lot more creative results.
Brewers are like chefs. They come up with recipes. There is so much variety in beer that if someone says, “I don't like beer,” really, the only reason is not liking carbonated beverages. It's hard to think of another product that has changed so much over the last 20 years, to the point that you can put five different beers down on the table and none of them have a ton in common. You can go from 4 percent alcohol to 15 percent alcohol or higher. One can be smoky; one can be hoppy; they can have all different flavor profiles, and people are really having fun with that. … I think we're more creative now than we ever have been.
What are you excited about covering this coming year?
First off, and not to be too corny: I’m excited to have the opportunity to cover beer in Asheville. I can’t think of a city that will experience more change when it comes to breweries in the next few years. It’s crazy.
But mega-brewery openings, expansions and Cold Mountain are only part of what makes this a great beer city. I’m also looking forward to covering things a little off the beaten path when I can. I’m not talking “secret” stuff here. But sometimes great beer just gets lost. For example, we’re spoiled from December to February with award-winning local Russian Imperial Stouts. But when is what available and where can you find it? I’m going to write about that.