“Beer Geek” sails frothy sea of brews in search of new flavors

Justin Adkins, assistant director of gender, sexuality and activism, loves beer. While this is not an uncommon passion, Adkins took it much further than most people do. In 2010, he started a blog at beergeekdude.com, celebrating and reviewing different types of beer, with the idea that he would test one beer every day for an entire year. In typical fashion, he chose not to start on Jan. 1 but instead on Jan. 29. “I am not into New Year’s resolutions,” he said.

When Adkins started his blog, he had heard of similar projects where others had “tried and failed.” Adkins’ “beer goals” involved drinking a beer a day, studying for and taking the Beer Judge Certification Program exam and brewing at least one batch of beer. Adkins completed his project in January.

Adkins titled his blog, “Beer-Geek, dude: Adventures in a year of beers.” He feels the name is fairly descriptive. “I’m a geek, I think of weird projects all the time!” he said. In part, he chose to start this project because he wanted to learn more about the history and nature of something he enjoyed so much.

Along the way, Adkins has tasted beers from all over the U.S. as well as imported beers, primarily from Germany, Belgium and England. He discovered some gems that he would otherwise probably never have tried. He raved to me about sour beers, which at first tasted “disgusting.” Later, “you realize there is all this depth,” he said. He also discovered a Scottish beer company, BrewDog, which sells beer fermented in barrels used for single-malt scotch, making it taste just like scotch with a much smaller price tag.
Adkins generally buys his beers locally, mostly from the Williamstown spirit shops. He did, somewhat geekily, explain to me the benefits of buying beer in Vermont. There, laws written during the Prohibition era allow for a larger variety of beers to be distributed.
Although his reviews are thorough and descriptive, Adkins’ discussions of beers are often funny, too. Talking about another beer by BrewDog, he wrote, “The aroma is like wet peat, buckets and buckets of wet peat moss smoking in a pile. And the flavour, kinda like burnt cigar or cigs in the bottom of your beer. The really odd thing, I kinda liked it, as an experience.”

In pursuing this project, Adkins said he wanted to encourage beer consumption for pleasure, in part by informing people about the quality and diversity of beer – especially for friends who claimed they hated beer. “Some part of my mind did it for students,” Adkins said. He expressed the desire to show students what makes beer cool and that drinking beer is about the tasting and enjoying, not about getting drunk as quickly as possible. Once, after finding a can of Keystone Light on campus, Adkins decided it was time for a “Sh*tty Beer Week.” His review of Keystone says it all: “One day I asked a student, ‘Why Keystone?’  … The student said to me, ‘[Beer Geek, dude], it is cheaper than water, why not?’ Ok, good reason,” he writes in his blog. “Everyone needs to stop drinking that stuff, its sh*t,” he reiterated in person.

Adkins had a few other themed weeks over the course of the year, including the “15 Beers of Christmas” and a series on Belgian beers. For the most part though, he drank whatever was available. Drinking a beer every day was not always easy or as fun as it might sound, however. On nights spent with friends at a bar, where he had already sampled all the available options, going home just to have another beer was often tiresome. “I’m glad I’m done,” Adkins said. On only two instances did he miss a day: one because he was at a board retreat and could not leave the campus he was on. On both days he wrote posts about alcoholism, including one about alcoholism in the LGBTQ community.

This is an issue Adkins is concerned with. “There are some people who have one drink and can never drink again. [Some] people are alcoholics. I am lucky not to be, which is why I could do this project,” he said. He emphasized that his blog was by no means encouraging underage drinking or drinking for people who have problems controlling their consumption. “If anybody needs somebody cool to talk to about these issues, I am here and I can help you out,” he added.

Adkins has already started his next project, this time focused on clothing. “I’m wearing suits for a year!” he proclaimed in our interview. On this blog, totheopera.com, Adkins hopes to learn more about the history of the suit as well as investigate whether people treat him differently when he wears one. And after that’s done, “who knows! I’ll probably be on to the next thing already,” he said.