Many moons ago, we decided it would be a good idea to approach what was then a relatively new local podcast for a feature on The Crafty Pint. For some reason, it never happened. Thankfully, Sessionable has proven to have fine staying power and continues to offer its inimitable take on all things beer.
The team of faces familiar to anyone who has inhabited the Sydney beer scene over the past few years has expanded in that period and also moved beyond the recording and dissemination of shows to become involved in events and more; if, for example, you pick up a Bucket Boys 2018 Advent Calendar, you'll be able to join the Sessionable crew as they blind taste the beers live in the days leading up to Christmas.
So, in a case of better late than never (but in time for Sydney Beer Week 2018 when they'll be hosting a live podcast from the Royal Albert Hotel on October 29 and Style Roulette with Bucket Boys on October 31), here's the Sessionable team to tell us all about their motivations and highlights as part of our occasional Podcast People series.
Who are the voices behind Sessionable?
Initially, Adrian Pua, Liam Pereira and Tom Evans provided the voices of the podcast with Lee Webb behind the scenes. Through the various guest episodes we realised we were not the only ones with the same passion, which resulted in Brad Bonser joining the team as a permanent host.
Why did you start podcasting about beer?
Before we started, we had an obsession with listening to podcasts and talking about beer (to those who wanted to listen and also boring those friends and relatives that probably didn't), and the only good podcast about the Australian craft beer industry was Radio Brews News – which was, and still is, excellent. There was a realisation that there was room for at least one so we figured: "Why not record our own and put it out to the world?"
Around that time, we were at a beer event with Leo from Birra del Borgo when their beers first started being imported to the country. It was really awkward as it was just a bunch of beer nerds in a room with Leo and everyone was just too shy to ask him anything. After a while, Liam just started asking him a bunch of questions about the brewery and it turned into a really interesting chat. It was then we knew we could make this podcast idea work.
Are you authority or inquisitor?
One hundred percent we are inquisitors. When we started, we always wanted for Sessionable to be a positive podcast about Australia's great beer scene.
We look to create discussion rather than tell people what to think, and are lucky enough to have great guests who know more than we do who we can learn from.
How do you choose your guests?
A good portion of our guests are from the thriving Sydney beer scene – but we grab the opportunity to have interstate/overseas guests when we can – and we have an ever-growing list of interesting people that we want to chat to. We also like to think that if we want to hear what our guests are talking about, our audience will too.
Does much preparation take place or is it a case of press record and let's see what happens?
When we first started we would sit down and make a rigid list of what we were going to discuss before each episode. Over time, we developed and became more comfortable so now we'll have an idea of what the episode will be about and how it will start, but once the conversation starts it becomes more freeform as we let it develop organically rather than trying to steer it around a given set of dot points.
Has your approach changed over the years?
Whilst the core positivity and style of the podcast hasn't changed, we spend more time these days focusing on consistency, such as improving the sound quality and editing, and a more regular recording schedule.
And what's kept you doing it so long as many blogs and podcasts tend to fade well before five years is up?
Our love for catching up over beers and just talking endlessly about them is what got us to start the podcast in the first place and that's the main reason we've kept at it.
We're also very humbled by the positive feedback from our listeners, and the amount of awesome guests we have had on, which makes the experience even more rewarding.
What's the best question you've ever asked a guest?
We prefer to think of the conversations with guests as a whole more than specific questions. For example, when we sat down with Topher from Wildflower Brewing and Blending before he opened, he had just secured the site and we're not sure he even had the power connected yet. So we just sat inside with the roller door open to get some light, cracked open some awesome beers and wine, and just recorded a really interesting conversation.
On one of the many times we had Darren "Doc" Robinson of Doctor's Orders Brewing, we asked him to identify which of his own beers that we supplied were from draught vs packaged in a blind taste test – to which he got all of them wrong. The resultant discussion was both entertaining and educational.
And the best answer anyone has ever given?
It'd be difficult to isolate one particular answer. The best are those that allow us to delve deeper into the given topic in a way we didn't envisage – we believe it's what keeps the show interesting.
Who have you most enjoyed having on the show?
We've been very lucky to get so many great guests on the show and feel some of our best episodes are when they're both fun and educational. So, it was great to get Shane Welch from Sixpoint Brewery during our first live episode who's a fascinating guy with an immense depth of knowledge about his craft.
It was pretty epic when we had Mitch Steele when he was Brewmaster at Stone Brewing, and then Ray Daniels (the founder of the Cicerone program) providing us with one of our most informative and interesting episodes.
And who would be your dream guest?
Basically, anyone who knows more about the topic than we do (granted, it's a long list).
It would be awesome to get Olivier Dedeycker from Brasserie Dupont (given our group fondness for Saison Dupont), Mikkel Borg Bjergsø from Mikkeller, through to great beer writers like Pete Brown or Martyn Cornell.
All have a cavernous range of knowledge that we feel would make for great listening.
Do you drink while recording? If so, what's the ideal beer to have while in action?
One of the original excuses to do the podcast was to catch up and drink beers so not having some whilst recording would just feel weird. We generally try to have beers that match the content of the episode (for example, we'll have a guest brewer's beers) although, over time, the focus has become less on the beers we're drinking and more on the conversation.
For those of a technical bent, what is your technical setup? Has it evolved over time?
We started out with some cheap Logitech USB headsets that we connected up to whichever laptop we remembered to bring along.
Over time, we included a Behringer Xenyx Q1204 USB mixer but, as we don't have a set recording location, it was all becoming a little too bulky.
We currently use a bunch of Shure PGA48 microphones that we hook up to a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder which, combined with our consistent editing process, has helped us to improve our sound quality.
Where can people find the Sessionable podcast?
We're on iTunes/Apple Podcasts as well as a few other podcatchers (we can recommend Overcast and Pocketcasts). In terms of social media, we're on all the main ones.
Our website - sessionable.net - has all of the links.
Are there any non-Aussie podcasts you'd recommend? And any non-beer podcasts?
Adrian Pua: 99% Invisible is the podcast that got me into podcasts so I will always recommend it to people. It's a bunch of mini-stories about architecture and design and it's always fascinating and beautifully produced. For a bit of fun, No Such Thing As A Fish from the QI team is good value.
Brad Bonser: For a bit of irreverent, silly music-based humour, I can recommend The Horne Section Podcast with Alex Horne.
Liam Pereira: There are a few international beer podcasts I get into. I don't listen to every episode, more if there is a guest I'm interested in. Good Beer Hunting and The Sour Hour are great to nerd out on. It's been a while since they released an episode but The Belgian Smaak Podcast is also great.
As for non-beer podcasts, Hollywood Babble-On is always good for a laugh. I do miss The Tuesday Club, which was comedian Alan Davies' podcast about English football club Arsenal.
Tom Evans: I really miss Strange Brews, which was a Chicago public radio craft beer podcast that was cancelled a few years ago. Non-beer I have a huge list. My favourites would be QI No Such Thing as a Fish (for a funny, general knowledge trivia show).
You can find other entries in the Podcast People series here. Photo at top shows the Sessionable team with Marie Claire Jarratt of New South Ales and this parish – listen in here.