Kenny Gould is all about beer.
The 26-year-old Pittsburgh returnee heads Hop Culture (hopculture.com), an online lifestyle magazine geared for “a new generation of craft beer drinkers.” The digital read, which is operated and headquartered in Pittsburgh, went live on Jan. 17. During its first month, Hop Culture attracted more than 60,000 views. (To put that number in perspective, if views were beers, then that’s 10,000 six packs.)
Hop Culture’s audience is “largely young, intelligent millennials who live in an urban setting,” said its founder and editor-in-chief.
“Maybe they’ve tried a Sam Adams or a Dogfish Head, but they don’t know what a Heady Topper or a Dancing Gnome is, and we’re here to tell them.” With articles titled, “The Legend of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout,” “What’s an American Pale Ale?” and “Combining Booze and Heat, Defining the Chile Beer,” the site offers scores of insightful and entertaining reads.
Those pieces reflect a “second wave of beer writing,” explained Gould. As opposed to reviews and subjective opinions, today’s beer journalists are working on stories, profiles and interviews “but in a fun way.”
One particularly interesting tale, which doesn’t necessarily find its way onto the pages of Hop Culture, is the story behind the magazine’s brewer.
Gould, who is completing a Master of Fine Arts at Chatham University, was on a Peruvian train riding back from Machu Picchu. While staring out a window, surrounded by tourist literature, he decided that someone should write a guidebook to American breweries.
And then I thought, “Maybe it should be me,” he said.
It was only natural that Gould reached that conclusion given where he had been before.
As an undergraduate at Duke University, the millennial participated in a program called “Beer of the Week.” As the name suggests, each week group members would purchase two six-packs, a “light beer and dark beer,” and then “drink the six or 12 beers together,” he said.
It was a laid back and beneficial enterprise. However, it was during travel abroad that the pursuit fermented.
During Gould’s junior year, he left Duke to study at Oxford University. Of the many takeaways, “they respected beer in a way that I hadn’t seen before.”
“The English pub culture was very different than we have here.”
Upon returning to the Durham, N.C. campus, Gould took over “Beer of the Week” from a graduating senior. With that responsibility, Gould’s knowledge of American craft beers grew.
By the time he graduated in 2013, the English major had developed a niche area of expertise. He went to work at Gear Patrol, an online men’s lifestyle magazine based in New York, and discovered that some of his best stories concerned beer.
“Beer was something I knew about.”
One of Gould’s most recognized pieces was about the search for an elusive highly rated beer. The article, which recounts an adventurous journey from New York to Vermont and includes details regarding a minor car accident on the way out of Manhattan, trying to set up camp in a cold field and cooking steaks over a weak fire, ended up being incredibly instructive, he said.
“At the end of the day, a drink is a drink.”
The journey itself, though, was “pretty fascinating. That lesson really stuck with me, that it’s always the story.”
Though he is young, Gould has plenty of tales to tell. Some of the anecdotes have found their way onto Hop Culture, others you have to hear straight from the tap, like how Gould taught creative writing to jail inmates or how he became a sports announcer at Chatham University or even that he is a yoga instructor at the Friendship Circle.
Gould “almost likes to downplay his abilities. He doesn’t want to make it sound like he’s a jack of all trades, but he is,” said Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, executive director of the Friendship Circle.
Gould would rather shift focus onto his site and the subject that it covers.
People should know that craft brewing is a “friendly welcoming community that you can be a part of,” said the sage of stouts.
“There are so many lessons in this industry.”
And here is one of the sweetest: “Beer doesn’t care who drinks it.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.