Brew and Boarding Passes: Travel Q&A with Beer Journalist Ale Sharpton
For Dennis Malcolm Byron, better known by his alias Ale Sharpton, beer is a way of life. For more than 15 years, the journalist, blogger, beer authority and all-around cool guy has been using his writing talents to educate the masses on the wide world of beer. His passion for beer has taken him all across this great country and beyond, where he drinks the best craft brews, test drives cool cars, eats amazing food then spreads the word through interviews, articles and his popular beer blog alesharpton.com. Seriously, he's a walking beer encyclopedia. In the midst of attempting to convert me into a beer drinker at Atlanta's Porter Beer Bar, I got the chance to talk travel with the spirited beer personality.
How often do you travel and is it for business or leisure?
Whenever I travel, I try to make it fun, even if it's for business. It's usually business oriented because I travel to review cars or write for magazines. Right now, I travel about once a month, but it's heating up, so it's going to be my third time traveling this month.
What's the first thing you do when you get to a new city?
I love hotels so I am excited to see what kind of hotel they are hooking up for me, then I see what the beer selection is. Some hotels have really good selections while others are really limited. The beer selection shows the mentality of the hotel. A lot of times, hotels take pride in pairing beer with their cuisine, which is important to me. Besides looking at the room and making sure there are no bed bugs, I go out and start exploring. If I have time, I'll walk around and look for the dopest breweries. The local beers reflect their environments. They may use the water source or hops that are local, so you always want to try and buy local whenever you can.
How do you decide on which bars to visit?
A lot of research. I have a group of friends and we discuss the best breweries to visit in cities. It's a group of beer geeks. We have a sitting and we trade notes and emails. Beer Advocate also talks about cool spots and I talk to friends who happen to live in the city. If I'm going to a certain city, they're going to let me know what's good and meet me there and have one with me.
What is your favorite beer destination?
I want to let people know that Atlanta has two of the best beer bars in the world (The Porter Beer Bar and Brick Store Pub), with more to come. I love showing this city off. But besides Atlanta, San Francisco because the weather is dope and they have some cool breweries and bars there. Asheville is also fantastic.
Worst Travel experience?
Getting robbed in Orlando! I saw red that whole night while driving back to Atlanta (read the robbery story here).
One item you can't leave home without
Bucket list destination:
I have to touch grounds somewhere in Africa sooner or later. I don't know which country or city, I just have to go. I've always wanted to see what it would be like to do a helicopter ride over Hawaii too.
What's your best advice for exploring the food/drink scene in another city?
Always talk to locals. They will tell you the best way to get somewhere, and how to avoid traffic. Bars are also really dope. People like to have conversations at bars so if you get a craft beer, you may end up striking up a conversation with a local. It's all about the experience.
Tell me your idea of the perfect vacation
It has to have fantastic beer because I don't drink anything else. I need a gangster crab cake of some sort. I have to have something I can't get here in Atlanta like water...and mountains. The lighting has to be perfect so I can capture all of this stuff. There also has to be some level of spirituality, and of course, great company. No complainers. Everyone has to be happy.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in another city?
For beer, Atlanta. When people mention top 10 beers cities Atlanta never gets any love. I think Atlanta is a top 10 beer city and I'm making sure they know it. The south is still developing its presence in the beer scene, but ATL needs to get more love.
Favorite travel experience abroad
I love Montreal. Montreal takes food seriously but it's also like a frugal spender's way of going to France. I have some good friends there and I love that it's near water, and has good ass food and beer. The French language is so beautiful. There's an unwritten rule that everything has to be written in both English and French on the menus so you know what the hell you're ordering. The people are interchangeable with the language and I'm kind of jealous. I wish I could do that.
Green Bay, Wisconsin. I'm a big football fan, so I'm going to check out Lambeau Field, see the players ride bikes out to the field, which is a big tradition there, and of course, explore the beer scene. There's one called Titletown Brewing Company that I'm looking forward to checking out. I'm kind of wide-eyed about this trip because I'm trying to go to every state, so that's another one I can mark off. I have about 10 more to go.
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