Steve Hawk, Philly Beer Geek 2010, talks with the Beer Fox about his big win at the Philly Beer Geek Finals Competition, held on June 10, 2010 at Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
What does it feel like to win the prestigious title as Philly Beer Geek 2010?
I can tell you it feels pretty darn good. Not to mention how awesome winning the grand prize was! Surprisingly, it still hasn’t fully set in yet, but after working so hard for the last 3 years – it’s definitely a sweet victory.
How did you feel that night?
During the finals, in particular, I felt ‘eerily’ calm. The last few years I was really nervous during the competition nights. But going into this one, I was totally calm and just anxious to get started. Then as more and more friends started to pile into the bar, my comfort level went way up. By the end I felt like I was at one of my home brew club meetings.
How did you get so much support from your fans?
I had such an amazing turn-out of support, it was awesome. In my “Beer Phila’sophy” speech in the finals I mentioned how close-nit the beer community is and it was definitely on display that night. Most of the people who came to support me were members of the ALEiens Home Brew Club and the Hulmeville guys actually organized a 15 passenger van to bring everyone to the finals. Lots of close friends and family were there too. It definitely put me at an advantage. I even had friends from England in town to cheer me on, as well. I couldn’t ask for a better night.
This was your third attempt at trying to win the title. Last year’s loss was tough. What kept you motivated to keep on trying?
I knew as soon as I was announced as second place last year it was going to be hard to keep me away from competing again. And of course, the crazy support of my friends helped – they wouldn’t let me back out, even if I tried. And we figured if the Hulmeville Inn became a Beer Geek sponsor – it would be a no-brainer for me to give it one more try.
Your wife seems like your biggest supporter. Does she like beer, or does she just dig you so much?
My wife is amazing – not only does she put up with the beer passion, she totally supports it. She and I met shortly after our 21st birthdays, and we actually ended up discovering craft beer together. Over the last 7 years she’s been with me at every beer event, every contest, and has been supportive every step of the way. She earned the title as my coach pretty easily - just about every night of the week leading up to the contest she would help me with blind tasting and, of course, made sure I did all of my studying. And after helping me with all my so called ‘training’- I think she could totally give the city a run with what she knows.
Jeff Lavin looked pretty happy that you won. Did he have any memorable comments before, during, or after the competition?
Throughout the whole competition everyone at the Hulmeville was so supportive. I really can’t thank them enough; it felt like the whole bar was pulling for me. The day of the finals I ended up stopping by the bar for some last minute encouragement. Jeff kept saying I had nothing to worry about – just get up there and stay focused. He even threw some random trivia questions at me and some of them actually ended up being asked during the competition.
I’m afraid though about what he has in store now that I won the competition. I keep over-hearing awful conversations about them making me wear some sort of outfit with a sash every time I enter the bar – and knowing these guys it’s probably going to happen, but I think I’m going to hold out for a parking spot.
Was it unnerving to have random questions thrown at you by five celebrity judges?
By far, that’s the hardest round of the competition. How do you prepare to answer random and completely free form questions (especially if they came from Lew Bryson’s blackberry)? – there’s just no way! In the last 3 years I’ve been asked all sorts of questions from technical brewing ones to ‘what type of beer I would replace water with at an amusement park’ – all really tough. But I decided, going into the finals, I just wanted to stay calm and have fun with it and I think it showed in the finals.
What was your favorite part of the Philly Beer Geek Competition?
Beer trivia is my ‘thing’ – I actually won a couple other contests earlier in the year that Philly Beer Scene magazine held, but for this particular contest my favorite has to be the speech/passion rounds. Being able to mix humor with being geeky about beer is always fun. The topics have been really interesting from proposing to a beer, to sending a beer into space and of course naming a beer for mayor of Philadelphia. I figured this was the part of the competition where I was strongest, so I felt that I had to put a lot of effort in to every speech I wrote.
At what point did you answer a question that made you proud to be a beer geek?
I felt like I did really well with the trivia round, but I think the questions that made me feel most proud were the Philly related ones. Contestants were asked to give details about two fairly big beer events held in the city; the Royal Stumble and Friday the Firkinteenth. One of which I haven’t missed in about 6 years.
Can you recap for me why you picked Yards to be your candidate for Philadelphia mayor?
This was a fun speech to write, my first thoughts were: the beer must be brewed within city limits; a beer that is well known; and of course, it had to be a good beer. The Philly Pale was perfect for it. I’ve been visiting the Yards brewery for years and the guys actually spoke at our homebrew club meeting a couple times. We even got Tom Kehoe to dance with an empty firkin at the Hulmeville. They definitely earned the nomination. Plus I can’t wait to see what they do with the Campaign poster! It would be cool if the beer actually did run for mayor … they’d have my vote.
Next: Secrets Revealed: Steve Hawk, Philly Beer Geek 2010, answers questions about his personal connections to beer; then, reveals secret plans for his future.
Photos are (from top): Steve Hawk wins Philly Beer Geek 2010 - he is flanked by Carolyn Smagalski & Jason Harris; Crystal Hawk shows affection for her husband, Steve; Steve Hawk and Sponsor Jeff Lavin; Steve Hawk enjoys the 2010 competition.