What was the first beer that made you think about beer? Was it the first time you saw a magnificent Guinness pour? The first time you decided you wanted something different and picked up a Chimay Blue from the bottleshop? That (unintentionally) Brett-laced sticky homebrew a university mate handed you – a beer you can still taste in the back of your throat?
It’s that beer – and the five beers after that – that sit at the heart of Ian McNally’s podcast The Chosen Brew. It’s a craft beer journey similar to Zan Rowe’s excellent Take Five podcast and one where Ian is able to use those beers as an anchor to explore how his guests came to be working in the industry.
For close to three years now, Ian’s being asking his guests to tell their stories through the beers that have taken them there. He’s managed to find an impressively diverse list of people to appear on his show, too, from writers (this one included), brewers, designers, Facebook group admins and tour operators.
On Thursday (November 7), The Chosen Brew is celebrating its third birthday with Ian’s first live podcast and this site’s founder James Smith as his guest. Recorded at Burnley Brewing, James has lined up beers from across the planet for his six beers, with guests able to try each of them while listening in on “silent disco” headphones.
Before that celebration takes place, here’s Ian to tell us more about his podcast.
Who are the voices behind The Chosen Brew?
I'm Ian McNally (pictured above), the host of The Chosen Brew.
From the outset, I have tried to interview as many diverse voices in the industry to give a well-rounded background to the scene. Whether it is the people "on the tools" in the breweries, the can art designers, forum admins from Facebook or beer historians, I want to hear stories from all aspects of the beer world.
What’s the story behind the name?
The Chosen Brew Beer Podcast was finally decided on as it seemed to say exactly what the podcast is. The only other alternative that got close was The Six O’Clock Swill but it lost out due to some negative connotations and it didn’t really give any clues to what the podcast was about. It did have the number six in though and it was a curious Australian phenomenon so I gave it serious thought.
However, I’m happy with the name and it has seemed really familiar from the very start, which is always a positive.
How would you describe the style of the show?
The tagline for the show is: "The six beers that changed everything". That probably sounds a little dramatic but the show is a relaxed conversation about people’s beer journey. It is focused on the guest and their viewpoints, outlook and personal story. I would hope the format would allow someone with very little knowledge of beer to still get a lot from listening.
WHY DID YOU START PODCASTING ABOUT BEER?
I was a big fan of the local beer podcasts such as Ale of a Time, Radio Brews News, Sessionable, Inebriation Nation, Brunswick Beer Collective amongst others. I had never thought about making a beer podcast until I noticed that the topic of people’s beer journey kept arising. I kept thinking that I would love to listen to a podcast that explored just that – a personal beer journey.
I waited for a while for someone to make it before realising that, if I wanted to listen to it, I had to make it.
ARE YOU AUTHORITY OR INQUISITOR?
I am certainly an inquisitor. I love listening and learning. It is a particular privilege to talk to people who are so passionate about the subject area.
Guests sometimes start off nervously but really open up when they begin to talk about what they love. That is a special thing to be a part of.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR GUESTS?
I choose people who I admire, people I’d enjoy spending time with, and people who I want to learn from. I think it’s crucial to invite people from every area of the industry to share their beer journey so we can learn the scope and skills required to keep the industry growing.
DOES MUCH PREPARATION TAKE PLACE OR IS IT A CASE OF PRESS RECORD AND LET'S SEE WHAT HAPPENS?
I generally research before recording but I steer away from having a list of set questions. I want to be in the moment and really listen to the guest. Being able to respond to them and allow the conversation to happen organically hopefully allows everyone to relax and express themselves.
I generally don’t know the beers that are going to come up so there is some reliance on my beer knowledge that has to be drawn upon at a moment’s notice.
WHAT'S THE BEST QUESTION YOU'VE EVER ASKED A GUEST?
The best (and worst) question in every episode is: "What’s your sixth choice?" because it means that we have been on a wonderful adventure but that is the end of the line! It sometimes feels like the conversation has just got into its stride. However, like drinking beer, when the night is at its highest point, it is often the best time to finish!
AND THE BEST ANSWER ANYONE HAS EVER GIVEN?
I love when a guest really gets into a rich vein of knowledge and unleashes. I loved hearing the history of Samuel Smith’s Brewery from Dan Hall, of Tallboy and Moose, or the reason why Nic Sandery, of Molly Rose Brewing, decided never to have tasting paddles at his venue.
The best answer, however, is always the most honest and open one. What comes through, time and again, is the life-changing impact beer can have. To people who are not beer enthusiasts this idea can seem very strange but I’d ask them to listen to the podcast and try to contest this notion. When I interviewed Dollar Bill Brewing (pictured at the top of the article), Fiona’s story of never really finding a job with meaning before beer was a wonderful example of the power of good beer.
AND WHO WOULD BE YOUR DREAM GUEST?
There are many great beer people from around the world who I’d love to listen to as they talk through their beer journey. I suppose the big names from Belgium, Germany, Britain and the USA would be fascinating due to the differences in approach. But with so much talent in Australia and New Zealand I still have a lot of people I’d love to have on the show more locally. Even guests from outside the industry who are just really passionate about beer would be a lot of fun too.
DO YOU DRINK WHILE RECORDING; IF SO, WHAT'S THE IDEAL BEER TO HAVE WHILE IN ACTION?
I made a point of the podcast not being a "drinking" podcast. I never really enjoyed listening to other people slurp through beers, particularly when they are beers I can’t get hold of or I was listening on the way to work. That said, there have been times when guests have shown up with beers and we have had a fine time recording as a result.
Given a choice, I am actually much more content drinking water during the record and then having a beer afterwards.
FOR THOSE OF A TECHNICAL BENT, WHAT IS YOUR TECHNICAL SETUP? HAS IT EVOLVED OVER TIME?
I record with the Zoom H6n and use some Samson microphones. I bought some little microphone stands this year and some pop-filters. I’m not 100% sure what they do but they look cool. The essential thing for me is to get everything into a backpack so I can record anywhere and sometimes at short notice.
Where can people find your podcast?
You can stream every episode directly at The Chosen Brew website and see what's up and coming through Facebook too.
If you're a sports nut, then check out my other podcast The Wheel of Sport.
You can read other entries in the Podcast People series here. Photo at top features Ian with Fiona and Ed Nolle of Dollar Bill Brewing. In the photo on the wall is Dereck Hales of Bad Shepherd, Ian's first ever guest on the show.