It’s not difficult to draw a connection between beer and college. For Vassar, this link is practically written into its founding. Yet few take the Brewers name as seriously as Kevin Gish ’15 and Kiran Chapman ’15.
This past October, the pair launched their blog “The Imbible,” dedicated to all things alcohol.
Although still in its beginning stages, Drinkmorehops.com consists of Gish’s and Chapman’s energetic reviews of stouts, ales, lagers and beyond.
“One night [Chapman] approached me with an idea he had brewing in his mind about starting a nanobrewery and a kind of taproom after graduation. I was completely taken with the idea and that night we excitedly searched for beer-related activities to productively wile away the time until we could start really working towards our dream. The Imbible was the first fruition of that evening’s hysteria,” wrote Gish in an emailed statement.
Keen on the idea of jumpstarting their postgrad goal, Chapman agreed The Imbible would be a good way to get their feet wet. “It occurred to us that the only way we’d cultivate the skills to describe beers and expand our palate would be to just jump right into it,” he added in an emailed statement.
The writing style of the beer reviews certainly reflects Chapman and Gish’s experimental outlook. Amid their critiques of flavor profiles is a larger stream-of-consciousness narrative, full of invented dialogue, crude jokes and pop culture references.
Chapman’s most recent post takes the form of a space adventure, beginning, “You wake up in your backyard to the dulcet tones of Billy Idol’s iconic single Rebel Yell, your iPhone resting comfortably against your upper cheek,” and ending with, “You and Steve [McQueen] ride off together, along with Gonzo Imperial Porter (Flying Dog), and have the best first space date ever.” It may be unconventional to a seasoned beer sommelier, but Chapman and Gish know no other way.
“Beers are generally quite evocative, from their flavor profiles to the way they’re named and branded, which gives them very unique characters,” explained Chapman. “Our narratives begin after our first sip. We take our initial flavor notes using the A.S.T.M.O. scale (appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and overall impression) and then brainstorm with one another.” He joked, “Kevin only speaks in reverent alliteration when he’s drinking.”
Gish elaborated, stating, “…For the time being we’ve come to the conclusion that we could better serve our readership by explaining how we think a beer feels more than how it tastes. We found it much more fulfilling to take a mental journey with our first sip and save scrawling down relatively meager tasting notes for the end of our reviews, and I think that’s much more enjoyable to read.” He thinks this approach keeps their audience in mind, too, composed not of industry veterans but of college-age readers looking to procrastinate.
“We know we can’t rival the monolithic beer review sites at this point, and until then, we’re going to use our particular set of skills to provide a distinctive and (we hope) hilarious read for anyone putting off a 15-page research paper. And we wanted the narratives to be so vivid that they stay with you, so that when you see a beer somewhere you’re immediately able to connect it with an experience, and I think there’s something really magical in that,” Gish continued.
Accompanying their cheeky prose is always a rating, recommendation and literary counterpart for the Hemingway in everyone. Known to pair reading and drinking, Gish finds the combination relaxing. “I think that the literary counterparts arise from thinking about novels we wish we could have written so that we could insert a mention of that particular beer into the plot somehow,” he explained. “It’s all about enhancing and adding texture to the experience of life: the beer enhances the book, the book the beer.” Currently, Gish’s favorite beer is the Imperial Black IPA, which he described as “Richard III in your mouth.” Also a fan of dark beer, Chapman’s current number-one is Lagunitas Nighttime Ale, a coffee-infused black ale. Informed by these tastes, the two have been taking on their own nanobrews.
“The process of brewing beer requires a lot of patience and extreme cleanliness,” said Chapman, whose Town House kitchen serves as the site of this undertaking. “While every beer is made differently, we’ve been brewing mostly American Ales. Our Demeter IPA is made with two-row malted barley, English roasted barley, caramel malts and Cascade and Chinook hops.”
Though it can involve tedium and guesswork, Chapman described home brewing as a labor of love. He continued, “I love the process of understanding how every action and variation within the brewing process will affect the final product. I’m striving to get to a point where I’m totally cognizant of these variables and can begin to predict the exact flavors and qualities my beer will have while I’m brewing.”
Gish echoed, “[It] takes the mystery out of something we so often consume and yet adds more mystery to it than we could ever have imagined. We have some idea of what our beer is going to taste like, but we can’t be entirely sure.”
As they work toward their dream of opening a taproom and nanobrewery, Chapman and Gish’s aim is a simple one.
“I’d love the site to expand to encapsulate an actual physical space where the various beers we brew can be found. We want to create an inviting social space for drinking, live performances and beer education,” said Chapman. Gish finished, adding, “I want people to start thinking about the beers that they drink more creatively and bringing the act of storytelling back to social gatherings. Homer is dead, but The Imbible is just getting started.”