Mike Rizzo has always liked talking about beer.
So, he figured, why not start recording it?
Rizzo, along with his wife, Michelle Rizzo, started the Northwest Brew Talk podcast in January out of their home. The show is a mixture of beer news, taste test and in-depth interviews with owners and brewers of local Washington breweries.
“We saw a number of blogs out there focusing on beer, but no podcasts,” said Rizzo. “We felt it was an opportunity to do something that was unique and fun.”
Rizzo has a background in media. He wrote and produced a public access show for seven years in the 1990s in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. He also co-authored a book called “Buffalo Beer: The History of Brewing in the Nickel City” that chronicled beer production in upstate New York starting in the early 1800s and led cemetery tours of famous Buffalo brewers.
The simplicity of podcasts drew Rizzo to the format. The free-flowing, conversational tone is easier to create and the equipment and cost of doing a podcast is small. Mike and Michelle spend 3 to 4 hours a week writing and editing content and do most of the recording in their dining room with nothing more than a mic and a laptop.
“This is nothing compared to doing television,” Rizzo said, laughing.
Accessibility helps as well. When he was in television, Mike was forced to physically send tapes to the six cities the show was syndicated in. Now he records the show, edits it and throws it online for anyone with an iTunes account to enjoy.
So far Mike and Michelle, and their 5-year-old son Gerlando, have visited breweries from Bellingham to Spokane to chat about beer. Most of the interviews last about 20 minutes and cover topics from history to brewing technique. Some aren’t with brewers. In last week’s episode, Mike talked about growing barley and malt with Brigid Meintz of the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center.
Rizzo has interviewed a number of local brewers, including Grady Warnock, of Snohomish’s Sound 2 Summit, and Jim Jamison of Foggy Noggin. The most recent episode features the new head brewer at Edmonds’ American Brewing, Adam Frantz, and Wednesday’s will focus on Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing.
Mike said the highlights so far have been his interview with John Hotchkiss of Tacoma’s Odd Otter Brewing and his two-part interview with Will and Mari Kemper, who talked about their long history in craft beer, from their beginnings at the Thomas Kemper Soda Co. to their current brewery, the award-winning Chuckanut Brewery.
Everett’s Lazy Boy Brewing holds a special place in the Rizzo’s heart. It was the first Washington brewery Mike visited after moving to the state and it was where Michelle learned to love craft beer. A non-beer drinker before, Michelle was convinced to try a few beers by Mike after he dragged her to Lazy Boy on their anniversary. She was shocked.
“I tried it and thought ‘Oh my gosh, beer can actually taste good,’ ” said Michelle. “I had no idea how good beer could be.”
Recently Mike sat down and interviewed Lazy Boy owner and head brewer Shawn Loring. That episode is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
Ironically, soon after the Rizzos decided to start the podcast Michelle found out she was pregnant. So, for now, the beer taste tests on the podcasts are all Mike.
“I’m due in August so I’ll be able to try beers again after that,” said Michelle, who prefers dark beers like stouts and porters.
The Rizzos moved to Washington two years ago after living on the east coast for seven years. (Michelle grew up in Skagit County.) Mike, who is currently writing a book on the history of Washington beer, said he’s been surprised at the quality and depth of beer choices in Washington.
“Buffalo is nowhere near Washington in terms of craft beer,” Mike said.
“We’re glad we can shine a light on so many quality breweries and allow them to tell their story.”
Northwest Brew Talk
Listen to the Northwest Brew Talk podcast on iTunes or at nwbrewtalk.podbean.com.