Michael Kiser is the legendary man behind Good Beer Hunting, a blog of how he crafts the story of beer around the world — not from the outside looking in, rather, from the center of the movement. Good Beer Hunting is his chronicle of the most compelling people, places and products he has ever encountered on his travels, and right in Chicago.
A brewer in Chicago introduced me to Saisons, those big, funky, herbal beers from Europe that inspired so many of our brewers. From that moment, I was obsessed with great beers, and started a journey that’s taken me all over the country and all over the world.
What was the turning point for your blog? When did you realize it was successful?
People love reading great stories, and Good Beer Hunting has always been dedicated to taking my audience on a journey. But once I started producing photo essays, everything changed. These big, beautiful images, sometimes 30 or more in a single article turned GBH into much more than a beer blog. Suddenly it was content people couldn’t get even from the best magazines.
What’s your personal advice about food blogging to new bloggers?
Make it personal, and put in the effort. Everyone wants to follow some formula for quick success. They worry about how often the should post, how to use social, making popular top 10 lists and such. That’ll work for some, but you won’t love what you’re doing in the end. Audiences respond best to content that’s true, has a personal point of view, and has clearly been considered from start to finish in terms of production quality and a deeper storyline. Don’t set out to be a blogger — be a real storyteller. We need those more than ever.
What was your readers’ most favorite blog post? What do you think is the reason why the post got people’s attention?
People in craft beer love to celebrate their passion, and there’s no greater day than Dark Lord Day for meeting, sharing, and reveling in craft beer. Newcomers complain about the insane lines, but seasoned DLDers know that the line is the point. People from around the world bring bottles of their greatest beers from the cellar and share them with anyone they meet. The day is also a sort of spectacle — a post-apocalyptic scene in a light industrial park in Indiana — that people love to reminisce long after, so readers are constantly coming back and sharing the story with friends.
Where do you see food blogging in five years?
Most successful blogs are developing into omni-channel content sources. They don’t just write posts and link to them in social anymore. They’re using Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to share different content, and they’re scaling for the mobile experience, e-books, iPad apps, and print mags and products. In short, the new food blog will need to be as sophisticated as something like the Martha Stewart Living brand of 5 years ago. And it’ll have to find a way to do it without advertising. Ads are a crutch on the internet that keep people from exploring more relevant and interesting ways of making money.
What’s the craziest recipe you ever cooked or baked? Why?
On Good Beer Hunting, we try to keep cooking simple to accompany or include a great beer. But the Anchor Liberty Ale Blue Cheese Dip was crazy good, even if it was crazy simple.
What’s your favorite Restaurant? Why do you love it?
Publican in Chicago. Chef Paul Kahan has created one of the most approachable high-end menus in the city, full of rustic pork and seafood dishes that pair perfectly with beer. They also age their own lambics in the basement — amazing.
Most people don’t realize that it’s a great bar too. I love to stop in the early afternoon and post up at a highboy for a drink or two. It’s the only place in the city where I can walk in, describe what I’m in the mood to drink, and they’ll pour me their recommendation, no questions asked.
What’s their best dish you could recommend? Why?
The charcuterie plate is my go-to accompaniment to a great beer. Always stunning.
If you do not like a particular dish at your favorite restaurant, what will you do?
At a great restaurant, you’re not just paying for a particular dish — you’re paying for access to a menu worth exploring and we should respect the privilege. So if a dish just isn’t for me, that’s part of the risk. Unless there’s something particularly wrong with the dish, I consider myself better for the experience and order something else next time.
Name your favorite food blog and tell us why.
99 Bottles Blog out of Sweden. It’s rare that I find beer blogs worth paying attention to — most people just don’t put in the effort. But Tobias from 99 Bottles is telling a beautiful craft beer story from the European side.
If you could banish any food from the earth, what would it be? Why?
Oysters. Mostly because it’s a communal plate and people always rope me in to ordering with them. The first one will taste amazing, all brine and citrus, but by the second one my gag reflex kicks in.
Your favorite photo on the blog that you shot yourself. Why do you like it?
Sunset at Hangar 24 Brewery — this image perfectly captures the mirage-like quality of the taproom in the middle of the California desert.
What’s your food guilty pleasure? (Something you love to eat, but feel guilty right after)
I work in beer, one of our most-loved vices — guilt is a foreign concept as long as you accept the consequences.
What’s the most exotic meal you’ve had?
Fresh grilled octopus in tomatoes on the coast of Portugal — it was hauled in from the ocean that afternoon and cooked by the fisherman himself. Exotic shouldn’t be a gimmick, it’s the purest truth of a dish.
Another favorite photo on the blog that you shot yourself. Why do you like it?
Pippin, named after the heirloom apple, strolls through Virtue Cider’s tank room. Like the cider maker himself, Pippin is a bit of a homesteader in Fennville, Michigan.
What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with?
I’m obsessed with fermentation, even in food. Pickled vegetables, kimchi, even eggs and fish, are all fascinating to me.
Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Why?
Jamie Oliver — Mostly because he’s done it his own way. He’s authentic, articulate, and lets his passion for food inspire bigger ideas. His show devoted to school lunches in America set him apart from every other “celebrity” chef.