I know a few people. I’ll just say it: I’m kind of a big deal. But I’m really nothing compared to Gary Kost, a man to whom I’ve given the official TBBN monicker “Beer Rater Extraordinaire.” But it’s not like I even know much about him: I just know that he’s consumed enough Cigar City beer to have rated more than 500 distinct beers from that one brewery alone. Armed with this little tidbit and my official TBBN press credentials, I sought an interview with the elusive yet kind and gentle Mr. Kost.
What follows is a mildly edited transcript of a conversation we had over email.
John (me): so, I got your email address from CCB after I learned that you rated your 500th beer from their brewery. I get it, you like beer. Let me buy you one, then you can tell me your life story and the intricate details of each beer you’ve ever consumed.
Gary (beer rater, extraordinare): uhm, I don’t know you from Adam, so lets do this over email.
John: OK, here goes: Tell me about yourself. Where do you work? What do you do?
Gary: I work as an Art Director at an advertising agency in Tampa. I’m also Executive Director for Tampa Bay Beer Week. (n.b. TBBW is kind of a big deal in these parts. . Check out their upcoming event “Halfway There: A Rare Beer Festival” — ed.) I moved here from NJ in 2004 and met up with the local beer tasting group (out of sheer boredom and lack of friends) organized through Ratebeer.com. Great group of guys. A lot have moved away, had kids, lost interest etc … so the “Old Guard” isn’t really around anymore, but the group, combo of old and new, still meets once a week to share beer that they picked up or traded for. Might be THE most generous group of beer geeks on the planet. I dove into the ADDICTIVE trading scene, but the idea of packing up boxes made that short lived. These days I find myself meeting up with friends at the local spots and drinking a nice Florida Weisse or a pale ale.
John: Nice. I have to say, the beer community in Tampa is really warm and welcoming. A great group of people. OK – next question: When did you start reviewing CCB beers? Which was your first one?
Gary: Cigar City Humidor Series Imperial Stout on 3/29/09! I’m glad you asked this. I had no idea what my first one was. In fact I still have an original bottle of this. They were filling 750s like growlers and crowning them on the spot in the old warehouse tasting room. I gave it a 4.5/5. Still love this beer.
John: From your profile on ratebeer.com, I can see you’re a big fan of imperial stouts; we’re lucky to have a world class stout-factory here in our back yards. 🙂 OK, third question: Which is your favorite CCB beer, and why?
Gary: The One Percentor!!!!! Kidding. CCB let me brew a beer with Ben Romano (former CCB pilot brewer, now Angry Chair head brewer) on the pilot system when I hit 300 rates. We brewed a super low gravity (1% ABV) Florida Weisse aged on peaches and mango. It was served at the Berliner Bash at PEGs. My TRUE favorite CCB beer is Invasion. I love IPAs and Pale Ales. Invasion is so drinkable. My days of Imperial Stout and massive Barley Wines are over, but I still like to taste them.
John: Yeah, I like those heavy beers too, but they ultimately catch up with you. So when you’re not drinking Invasion, who’s beer are you drinking? Which one?
Gary: 7venth Sun. They make some killer IPAs and solid Belgians. My favorite beer from them is a no-brainer … Intergalactic Pale Ale. I LOVE Galaxy hops and Intergalactic is all Galaxy. Big fan of FYA and Mangrove as well. 7venth Sun is not afraid of hops and it shows.
John: Thoughts on a craft-beer bubble? Does Tampa have one?
Gary: It’s WAY too soon to call anything around here a bubble. We have less than 20 breweries in this area. San Diego will have near 100 by years end. Portland has around 70 give or take. With our number of breweries and breweries in planning, we are far from a “bubble.” Let’s forget the bubble and call it a “boom.” Craft beer was nearly non-existent around here a few years ago. Now we have all these great local breweries, beer bars, brewpubs and bottle shops. Breweries outside of Tampa see our growth. There’s a reason our out of state distribution has grown. Founders, New Belgium, Green Flash, Sweetwater … they are here because the Bay Area is savvy enough and can sustain them.
John: Wow, that’s the enthusiasm man. Bottle that stuff up and you could sell it (pun intended.) And seriously though, that’s the vibe right now. Tasting rooms are opening up everywhere, breweries are popping out of the woodwork, and great things are happening locally. That being said, what’s next for the Tampa Bay Craft Beer scene?
Gary: I’m not sure. More breweries for sure. It’s becoming a destination. Tampa Bay Beer Week is growing. Hunahpu’s Day is getting bigger and bigger. The beer is getting better and better. I’m excited to say the least.
John: Thanks Gary, I enjoyed that.
Gary: Cheers man. This was fun!
Do you do something extraordinary with beer in the local beer scene? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk.