11 Questions: Andy Beer
interview by Brent Cole
There’s something incredibly special and unique about Andy Beer (the fact that his name is Andy Beer is a good start). It’s hard to define what makes him so interesting, and one of my favorite people in the music scene – maybe it’s because the dude is very genuine, honest, hilarious and talented. People love his band (Girl Guts), the beer he helps brew (he’s spent time at different breweries around town) and his hot sauce (which, in my estimation, is the best I’ve ever tasted and I have 20 different hot sauces in my fridge right now). To know Andy is to love what he’s about… And now you all get to know him a little more, as Andy is this month’s 11 questions.
Who are you and where did you come from? Tell us about yourself.
I’m an Andrew Beer from southeast Michigan. I come from a large family, third of seven kids. I spent some time overseas in Japan and Venezuela while my Dad worked for Ford. Now he still works for Ford in Michigan and I moved to Bellingham, where it xsmells better. I’ve been here eight years. I love creating and consuming things; namely beer, music, and food.
You make killer hot sauce! What is the secret to a good hot sauce and how did you start making it?
Once I tried to clone Taco Bell’s Fire Sauce. In my mind I succeeded and Poem Pitzer positively flipped out about it (thanks for that). So I started sharing variations regularly. I’m not a trained chef, strictly amateur. I’ve always been curious how food stuff works and I’ve worked in restaurants for the majority of my career, sharing space with some culinary wizards. They’ve always given me great advice, and it has always been a benefit to follow it. That being said, I believe the secret to good hot sauce (and almost everything in this world) is to not keep secrets. Sharing recipes and successes just means that the world gets better food (and beer, more on that later).
What is the “prettiest” song on your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod anymore, I gave two different iPods away two drunken nights in a row about six years ago. I don’t get to have nice things anymore. But I can tell you that the prettiest song that WAS on my iPod was Ramparts by John Frusciante.
What is your first musical memory?
I remember learning how to play a simplified version of Beethoven’s 9th symphony on the piano when I was six. I was super proud that I could read the music and play a song with both hands. I took my accomplishment to a piano recital featuring some other students. This other 6-year-old totally destroyed me skill wise. He played some legit Mozart. I wish I could say he drove me to be better. But I wasn’t a super competitive 6-year-old. I can’t even read music anymore.
When all is said and done, what is your all-time favorite band? What is your favorite memory of the band?
Pixies. They had already broken up by the time I heard them for the first time in 8th grade (1999). I was super into Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all that awesome 90s pop stuff pre Smashmouth and Hootie and the Blowfish. But years later after I graduated, they announced they were going to reunite and I flipped. I was gonna see the f#!king Pixies. The tour was appropriately called “Pixies Sell Out”. They originally had two dates in Detroit, then they were to move on to Ohio. I tried to get tickets and was out of luck. Sold out. Until they announced they were to cancel one of their Ohio shows and play a third show in Detroit. I snagged tickets to the extra show. I’m really glad I saw that show. Afterwards, I bought my favorite shirt which I wear during every show I play. It’s getting pretty ragged.
What is your favorite non-musical memory as a kid?
My Mom did quite well to make music an inseparable quality to my memory. At this point it’s kind of like a sense of smell. I’ll say my favorite memory is exploring along the river behind my apartment building in Hiroshima, Japan. I’d capture all sorts of critters like crabs and grasshoppers. Afterward I’d study them, and try and find differences, then let them go. I’ve since lost the fearlessness associated with handling large insects and such, so that’s a good memory.
It’s Sunday morning and you have the day off, what are you up too?
I’m drinking some tea, listening to records, and reading comics.
We’ve talked about the need for not just high-end craft beers, but a local version of “PBR.” As a local brewer, you’re working on that. Tell us about your love of beer and what you are doing about bringing the proletariat into beer making.
I love beer; from the shittiest skunkiest mass produced lager, to the rich and chocolaty complex stouts. Yet, at my heart I’m a mangy Midwest punk kid raised on PBR and Guinness. I drank a lot of it. It was cheap, and it was easy to drink. In recent years, I have been privileged enough to be immersed in the world of craft beer in Bellingham, and get paid to be there. After a while in the industry, I’ve noticed that drinkers new to craft beer often equate “craft beer” with IPA. Craft beer is obviously more than that. Craft beer, to me, means a style of beer for each individual, made with care and personality. It could be a hoppy IPA, or a stout with a viscosity of motor oil. For me, it’s anything that’s easy drinking. Bellingham definitely has some of the most drinkable beers in the world. I also believe there is a large group of people who would love to drink a Chuckanut Pils (for example) over a Rainier at a show, but can’t do it because they’re on a budget and can get two Rainiers for the price of one Pils. Trust me, I’m not trying to get Chuckanut to lower their prices. They are, like every brewery in town, worth every penny. On the other hand, I’d love to see a Bellingham brewery cater to that crowd, in regards to both price and style. If not just to give them a beer they want, but also to gateway them into other styles while they explore the world of beer. Obviously there is WAY more business that goes into a project like this outside of “I wanna do it”; but for now I’m super excited to be in collaboration with Ben Buccarelli of Menace Brewing with the goal in place to brew a Bellingham made light beer that stands to compete with Rainier/PBR in price, as well as demolish it in flavor. So that’s rad, because in the end it’s all about the beer.
PS. Until we in Bellingham get it worked out, the awesome Mike Armstrong from Skagit River Brewing down in Mt Vernon already makes a beer like this. It’s called Cold Beer, it’s affordable and it’s delicious. Let’s make one in Bellingham.
What is the key to good beer making?
I’m not an authority on that yet. So far; follow the basics of brewing, keep it balanced, and don’t overthink it. Also teach someone else how to do it. Chances are they’ll teach you something you didn’t know, and then you’re both better brewers because of it. To paraphrase a Zen proverb: If you’re going to make better beer, you should start with an empty cup.
If you weren’t making beer and playing in a band, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be making hot sauce as part of a Bellingham hot sauce, salsa, and BBQ sauce collective. Or sleeping.
What’s your last meal?
Anything, as long as I can put hot sauce on it. It should have red meat as well. So a burrito made by Sean Jerns.
Can you describe how sexy Streat Food’s James Pitzer really is?
That’s impossible. With luck, his name will become synonymous with super-sexy in the mainstream syntax.
Any last thoughts or pearls of wisdom?
Be nice, party hard.
Published in the January 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine