Good Beer Hunting

The Third Place

The Third Place — Gwendolyn Chang

Gwendolyn exudes a passion for craft beer. I've gotten to know her over Instagram and on a recent trip to Nashville, I finally got to meet her in-person. But nothing prepared me for how deep her love of beer really goes. 

It's easy to write off college students as consumers of mindless swill. But in the past decade, the craft beer industry has done a phenomenal job of attracting and converting even the youngest, most inexperienced palates with flavor, fun, and in Gwendolyn's case, a real future. Because see, Gwendolyn isn't just a fan of beer, she's already putting her Vanderbilt education to work in the field. Over the summer, she worked for Thermo Fisher Scientific as an intern, helping the firm connect with craft breweries in San Diego so they could show them a product called Pika FastOrange, which detects beer spoilers using a simple color change (the agent changes from from dark purple to bright orange).

She and the team helped breweries like Stone, Ballast Point, and smaller starts-ups set up QA labs, some for the first time. Gwendolyn explains: "QA labs are not the first thing on a lot of breweries minds, especially if they are small and have limited funds and physical space to set up a lab. However, I think that as craft beer becomes more popular, bottling and novel methods of brewing such as making sours through the deliberate and controlled introduction of a beer spoilera and barrel aging will make QA labs invaluable to breweries that are trying to maintain a constant level of quality and taste." 

She gets it. 

And now you an get to know her a little bit. Here's Gwendolyn's Hunter / Gatherer profile. 

What's your favorite beer style or particular beer?
As a San Diegan, I absolutely love IPAs, but every time there is a sour on tap, you can be sure that I will be getting that. Overall, I just love trying new beers and appreciating all styles of beer! I recently tried a Mayday Boro Blonde from Murfreesboro, TN because it had some great reviews. It did not disappoint! It was so smooth and went great with my hot chicken!

What's in your fridge right now?
I live in a college dorm with a classic college mini-fridge stocked with two (probably rotten) avocados and America's favorite smooth pilsner made with all natural ingredients — Natural Light. I try to not mooch off of people so every couple of weeks I like to treat myself and make my own six-pack. This can sometimes be a lengthy process for me because I spend at least 45 minutes consulting Beer Advocate in a refrigerated room trying to decide which beers are the best. Some of my favorites from my most recent six-pack have been the New Belgium Tour de Fall, Jackalope Thunder Ann APA, and the Fat Bottom Ruby Red. 

What was the first beer that clued you in?
I think the very first craft beer I drank was Stone IPA — not sure if I was of age. I think having an IPA as my first craft beer made it memorable because after my first sip I was pretty sure I hated it. I didn't like the bitterness at first, but after I had maybe my second or third bottle I started to appreciate the hop character. I think that's when I realized beer could have so many complex flavors and characteristics and that it didn't have to taste like glorified, carbonated water. 

What's your most memorable beer moment?
Winning ten beer-pong games in a row.

Favorite watering hole?
Hurry Back in Nashville! I had an amazing Yazoo sour my first time there and later got to meet you and the Goose Island guys there! I really like that Hurry Back has great high-gravity beers on tap and that they are always adding new beers. I also think its the best bar with the friendliest bartenders within walking distance from Vanderbilt's campus.

What was your greatest beer hunt? Where's it taken you?
I think my greatest (and coldest) beer hunt was in Chicago with my boyfriend, roaming the streets trying to find Matilda on tap. It was probably like 40 degrees with some crazy wind chill, which might make me sound like a bitch but I'm from San Diego! We actually did manage to find Matilda on tap in this little Irish pub named Dublin's Bar and Grill on State St. in the middle of the city. 

What's a brewery on your wishlist? 
I would really love to visit Left Hand Brewing Company in Colorado. Their milk stout makes the greatest beer floats.

Bonus: nerdiest thing you've done in beer
I'm not really sure if this is nerdy but I bought my boyfriend a Brooklyn Brew kit for our anniversary so that we could learn how to home brew. Maybe when I am out of college and can afford more than Natural Light I will do some cool beer nerd stuff! We just made the wort and boiled it last weekend so we are waiting for it to ferment, but we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. So far it's been going smoothly, but who knows, something might explode. We will have the results of our finished product in a couple weeks!