Review the Brew

Life is too short to drink bad beer. That is the message Kate Fickell, a senior studying photojournalism, is spreading through her YouTube series, Craft Beer Fridays. What originally...
Amanda Damelio

Life is too short to drink bad beer.

That is the message Kate Fickell, a senior studying photojournalism, is spreading through her YouTube series, Craft Beer Fridays. What originally started as a couple of photos on Snapchat blossomed into a weekly show in which Fickell reviews specialty drafts and shares her perspective and advice on the craft beer community.

Fickell says she wants to create a show that not only reviews craft beer, but does so in a way that is casual and funny, unlike other craft beer YouTube channels that can be very technical. Her vibrant personality and deep passion for good beer drives her reviews, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

“Craft beer doesn’t have to be a whole serious thing. … I want to give the viewers more and make them laugh in the process,” she says. “[Craft beer] isn’t just some stuck-up community.”

Fickell sees her channel as a way to learn from other people who love craft beer and also an opportunity to do her own research into new beers and breweries. Viewers aren’t required to have an extensive knowledge of craft beer to enjoy and learn from her reviews. Even though she has been drinking craft beer for almost two years, she has so much more to learn.

“Even though you think two years is a long time, [it’s not],” she says. “… Craft beer is like an extensive, huge universe of just crazy beers all over the place.”

Quinn Shaller, owner of And Beer, is one of Fickell’s craft beer mentors and recommends new drafts for her to review on her show. And Beer, the store connected to Big Mamma’s Burritos, features artisan brands from across the country. Shaller and Fickell became friends after she worked on an audio project that featured And Beer for one of her photojournalism classes. Since then, their friendship has grown, and Fickell is lovingly referred to as Shaller’s favorite customer.

Having a craft beer bottle shop in Athens is unique because certain craft beers can be difficult to find. Shaller sends regular email updates when he obtains new drafts, and the store draws craft beer connoisseurs from all over the country.

Many people travel to purchase craft beer because certain alcohol percentages are only available in certain states. For example, in West Virginia the alcohol by volume limit is still 12 percent, whereas in Tennessee, it’s 5 percent.

In May, Gov. Kasich enacted House Bill 37, which eliminated Ohio’s previous 12 percent alcohol by volume limit. That means breweries can now create and release beers that have a higher alcohol content. Fickell is excited about the new legislation.

“Now breweries can … really experiment and give the people different stuff besides having to be limited on alcohol percentage alone,” she says.

Although that excites many craft beer enthusiasts, Shaller says the changes in the beer scene will be minimal. Many of the beers with higher than 12 percent alcohol by volume already existed, just not on the shelves of a bar.

“A lot of times when small breweries and when craft brewers are experimenting, they end up with beers that are over 12 percent,” Shaller says.

Customers may have an increased interest in ordering the new brews because of the high alcohol content. The only deterrent, Fickell says, might be the price tag.

On average, craft beers are more expensive than domestic beers, such as Bud Light or Coors Light. Due to the specialty nature of those purchases, craft beer has created a subculture of people who are willing to pay the extra money for a taste they love.

“I think that’s what makes the community is that people who like craft beer truly enjoy drinking that beer,” Fickell says.

She admits to spoiling herself with craft beer because many domestic beers don’t match up in quality of taste. But she’s not alone. Particularly in Athens, there is a large subculture of people who become interested in craft beer after drinking craft brews at Jackie O’s, a local brewery that offers a wide variety of well-crafted beer.

Fickell intends to take advantage of living near a brewery with such a large portfolio of different beers. She has interviewed brewery employees on her show before and has even discussed filming an episode at Jackie O’s in the future.

“There is a community here in Athens,” Fickell says, “But it’s hard to know if they’re just enjoying Jackie O’s beer because they like the atmosphere or… they actually like craft beer.”

Connecting with the Athens subculture of craft beer enthusiasts is what prompted Fickell to ask her subscribers and friends to send in Beer Selfies. Throughout the week, fans of the show send in pictures of them having a drink of their favorite craft or domestic beer, and Fickell includes them in her weekly videos. She appreciates getting feedback and suggestions from viewers who love craft beer as much as she does.

“It’s great to learn something new and always be on the lookout for new beers because it is a big, broad topic and I don’t know everything about it,” Fickell says.

The support she gets from fans of the show and fans of beer in general goes a long way. Fickell uses that network of advice and feedback from other craft brew fanatics to help shape her episodes and tastes.

“When I started the channel,” Fickell says, “I started learning more about the breweries and about the beer itself and just the different properties of craft beer.”

Fickell now has a deeper appreciation for craft beer and the work that goes into it. She plans to follow her passion for craft beer after graduation, working either for a brewery or its media team.



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