Aaron Fournier competed in the 1st Annual Philly Beer Geek Finals Competition 2008. After a tough first round, he was chosen as one of the three beer geeks for the Final Round, in which he went head-to-head against Steve Robson and Wardell Massey. We all would like to know what makes a Beer Geek tick. In the following interview by the Beer Fox, perhaps we'll find some answers.
Beer Fox: What is your Name?
Aaron Fournier: Aaron Fournier
BF: What is your location?
AF: Beautiful Fort Washington, PA
BF: Briefly, tell us about yourself. What do you do in your “proper” job? Are you married, have kids, go to school, take careof your aging millionaire uncle, have hidden talents you’d like the world to know about?
AF: I'm a warehouse manager when I'm not chasing down and drinking good beer. Every year I take a road trip vacation visiting breweries, brew pubs, and beer stores, to further my beer knowledge and cellar collection. My one talent is easy. I guarantee that I have at least 10 beers in my cellar that somebody has never had or even heard of. I love giving tours of the beer cellar.
BF: Impress me with your philosophy about beer. What’s sogreat about it?
AF: As with my life, I like to keep it simple. My beer philosophy echoes the the great poets. Take a simple experience (i.e. drinking a beer) and turn it into art. Some people remember great things that happened to them by name, location, or who was with them. I remember by what beer I was drinking, or what beer I drank afterwards. I'll always remember the Philly Beer Geek competition every time I sip a Stoudt's American Pale Ale, as that was the beer I was drinking during the competition.
BF: Is life worth living without beer?
AF: Absolutely. To say otherwise is blasphemous. Life is a cake, and beer is the frosting. Sure, cake taste good by itself, but icing makes it that much better.
BF: What is the most addictive part of beer?
AF: I would say the flavor, honestly. Sure, who doesn't love that there's alcohol in there? But I would drink non-alcoholic beer if they could make it taste as good as real beer.
BF: How did you become associated with the “geeky side” of beer?
AF: I can tell you the exact day. I was sitting in a dive bar years ago, drinking a Dogfish Head 60 Minute. A guy next to me asked what IPA stood for, and why they call it that. I busted into a 20 minute history lesson about it. The pub goers around me listened in awe, as if I was somebody important. Every time I drink a 60 Minute, I think of that day.
BF: Are you certified in beer tasting, or have you had any
formal education about beer, or is your approach purely through self-motivated experience?
AF: I have no formal beer education, nor am I a certified beer judge. I prefer not to get any formal education, as beer is my passionate hobby. I prefer to learn on my own, as experience is the best educator.
BF: Do you maintain a beer cellar? If you do, how extensive is your collection? What do you tend to store in your cellar?
AF: I've sent you some pictures, its pretty self explanatory.
BF: Is your approach to beer more scientific or organoleptic – based in the technical or the overall “feel-good” aspects?
AF: I approach all beer with an open mind. There are many 'craft' beers that are just awful, just as there are 'craft' offerings from Bud, Miller, and Coors that aren't that bad, and can go neck and neck with some of the small guys. Beer is beer, it’s just a matter of how it tastes. I don't want to get caught up in the technical aspects. Beer is fun, it’s my hobby, but it’s not my job.
BF: Do you homebrew? If so, do you belong to a club, and have you won any awards yet on the local or national level?
AF: I do homebrew, and I'm studying under a prized and knowledgeable homebrewer by the name of John Harris. He's taught me darn near everything I know. He's the only person I know who's made a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout clone that trumped the one made by Garrett Oliver.
BF: Do you collect beer stuff? Beer coasters, neon lights, glasses, bottles, bottle caps, napkins, etc.?
AF: I collect empty bottles of beer, which works out great considering I like to drink the contents beforehand. I probably have 200 obscure bottles of beer in my collection as of right now. I have a collection of bottle caps and coasters, but they're sitting in a box waiting to be displayed.
BF: What was it like competing in the preliminary round at yourlocal bar/brewpub? Were you the favorite? Did you expect to win or did you surprise everyone?
AF: It was fun to sit in my local bar and compete. I'm not a 'regular' in the sense that people knew me and they thought I would win. It’s just my local bar that I frequent fairly often. I honestly did not expect to win, as there were around 20 people playing, so I knew I had some competition. And the only person I surprised was myself. As they say at the Oscars, just being nominated is an honor. And it’s true with the Philly Beer Geek as well. Just making the preliminary round was awesome.
BF: How did you prepare for the Philly Beer Geek Finals Competition?
AF: I didn't prepare at all. I took a cue from my SAT's where I took them hungover, and scored through the roof. All I did was drink some awesome beer and write my beer philosophy. My Beer Date story was completely extemporaneous, as are most people's Oscar acceptance speeches. I didn't think I would make it to the final round.
BF: Was it unnerving to have random questions thrown at you by the eight celebrity judges?
AF: I didn't think it was unnerving, but just fun. It was a very distinguished panel, and it was awesome to share the stage with them.
BF: How badly did you want to “stump the chumps”?
AF: I wanted to stump them badly. Beer is my hobby, so to stump a person 'in the biz' was awesome. I can't believe my question stumped them, I was shocked and thrilled at the same time.
BF: What was your favorite part of the Philly Beer Geek Finals Competition?
AF: My favorite part was the Beer Philosophy. No answer was the even remotely the same, and it really said a lot about the participants. Beer means something different to everyone.
BF: When you described your “Date with a Philly Beer,” what beer did you date? Your description was pretty sexy. Is beer a sexy beverage?
AF: I dated a Yard's Love Stout, in honor of the City of Brotherly Love. And I don't think beer is a sexy beverage at all. I think alcohol is a sexy beverage, and beer is its personality. It might not look good, but it sure tastes good.
BF: Time constraints forced us to cut out the“Tasting” part of the competition with Beer A and Beer B. Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to test that part of your geekiness?
AF: I was a little disappointed, but after drinking a few Stoudt's Pale Ales, it might have been for the best.
BF: The judges had a tough time choosing the winner. The playing field was highly competitive and all three of you, as finalists, were worthy of winning. Competitors in the Beerdrinker of the Year Contest in Denver come back year after year, in the hopes of seizing the crown. Will you try again next year?
AF: I will be there next year with metaphoric bells on. One day, I will win the crown. It’s not a matter of how, it’s a matter of when.
BF: Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Aaron! We wish you the best of luck next year.
Photos are Courtesy of Aaron Fournier (from top): Aaron in his beer cellar; a section of the Fournier Beer Cellar