Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 6, 2013

Beer hits the Internet airwaves

BY NATHAN PAYNE npayne@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Four people piled out of three cars, a couple of six packs of beer in hand, a mini-processional that took place just a few hours after the last school bus passed Mike Moran's modest Victoria Street home one recent morning.

To onlooking neighbors — at least one of which paused to watch while mowing his lawn nearby — the recurring Tuesday morning visit from beer-toting friends might arouse suspicions that the professional musician is pilfering sick days to party. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Each week, Moran meets Carly Anderson, Shaun McKolay and Bob Miller at his front door. The friends exchange pleasantries, crack open a couple of fresh beers, clock-in and head for Moran's basement.

They are the cast and crew of "Drink My Brewcast", a weekly podcast that mixes a melange of beer critique, brewer interviews and bartender shenanigans.

Within a few minutes, Anderson, 26, McKolay, 31, and Miller, 27, were seated inside a sound booth in Moran's basement around a table littered with their notebooks, a handful of pint glasses and a few bottles of beer.

"It's time for the Drink My Brewcast show for Thurs ...," Moran said into a microphone that hangs above his table of mixing boards outside the studio before mumbling a curse under his breath. "I thought I said Tuesday."

The trio inside the booth laughed at and heckled Moran while he tried three more times to spit out the correct sequence of words for the show's introduction. All four of the show's stalwart characters once worked together at Northpeak Brewing in traverse City.

McKolay still works at the brewery, while Anderson and Miller work elsewhere. Anderson is co-owner of Brewery Ferment and probably the most experienced beer analyst in the group.

The focus of the show's beer selection is on Michigan brews that are available at stores in Traverse City.

They begin the show by tasting and critiquing the beer of the week. The analysis ranges from Anderson's detailed descriptions of the malt body of a beer to more Joe-on-the-street responses from McKolay.

"I would have two or three, well three to six," said McKolay of Right Brain Brewing's Hawkowl Amber.

"Dude, you'd be drunk (expletive) if you drank six," Miller shot back.

The group doesn't have to worry about censoring its language on air since the Federal Communications Commission doesn't govern podcasts. Still, despite an occasional four-letter word or overt innuendo, the foursome tries to keep the show from getting too raunchy.

All four have spent plenty of time around beer and breweries. And they all love a good beer. Still, none of them is a beer snob by any stretch.

"I think that's what makes this show great," Miller said. "We're not all beer gurus. People can listen in and experience with us, learn with us. We like to have fun and drink beer. And we do it at 10 a.m. on Tuesday."

The show is Miller's brainchild, but relies heavily on Moran's equipment and technical expertise. Since the first weekly podcast posted online in January, the show has clocked 7,700 listens, Moran said.

The download tally was enough to get the show featured at least twice on the front page of PodBean, a podcast hosting website, as a rising star.

But it's not all about tasting beers. The hour-long podcast features several regular segments, including food and beer pairings and the "stumble of the week," a segment which highlights one of the host's shenanigans.

McKolay and Miller also regularly recant tales of their most outrageous or obnoxious customers in an effort to help teach listeners some of the finer points of beer etiquette and more generally manners.

"I need a place to say it, and I can't say it there," Miller said of frustrating incidents at work.

They hope to eventually expand the show to a live call-in format, but have been taking developments slowly, Moran said.

"We all learned this on the fly," Moran said. "I've been in a band for 10 years and I've had more fun doing this than anything."

After the hours-long recording session, the crew frantically works to clip together segments and polish the audio. Moran then posts the podcast, usually by sometime later Tuesday, to the Internet.

They haven't sold any advertising yet, and the show isn't making anybody rich, but the foursome intends to keep making improvements and doing new things.

If you want to learn more about the podcast, or to listen to the show, go to www.drinkmybrewcast.com.