Josh Stewart believes that having a beer with someone can be “transcendent.” “Treaties have been worked out over beer,” he explained. “The worst parts of life, when you lose a loved one, beer's there to help you through that sorrow. When babies are born, [it's] there to be in that joy with you.”
Stewart's podcast, InterBrews, aims to tap into that feeling, as Stewart travels to different craft beer breweries and beer festivals around the Houston area and interviews, as he calls them, “craft beer notables.” That's his favorite part of the podcast: “I get to meet all these people that have put their money and time and all this stuff on the line and open these breweries, and do it in this local way.”
Stewart originally worked in radio, but between the low pay and the “obligations of life,” he ended up switching careers to work in TV. Still, he never lost his interest in radio or its offspring, podcasts – so a few years ago, he started swapping ideas with a few friends about potential podcast subjects.
Around that time, Stewart watched a documentary called How Beer Saved the World, which argued that people's taste for beer led to a variety of civilization-changing innovations in fields like agriculture and mathematics. Stewart had been intrigued by craft beer since he had moved to Houston at 22, when he spotted Saint Arnold beer in a grocery store, and had even considered becoming a home brewer. “It hit me one night, sitting at my kitchen table, like this light from heaven,” he recalled. “'This is a worthwhile thing to talk about. You already love it. You're already curious about it. So, that should be it.'”
That was more than four years and 120 episodes ago.
A typical InterBrews episode features a freewheeling, hourlong conversation over beer, touching on topics like Reuben sandwiches, Stewart's childhood in a dry Arkansas county and the various nicknames of sports groupies – and, of course, diving into a brewery's background and how its beers came to be.
“I'm not even married to the point that they have to be in the beer industry,” Stewart said of his interview subjects, as he's interviewed everybody from mead makers to the hosts of beer-centric radio programs. Still, he estimates that he's interviewed the people behind all of Houston's nearly 30 breweries, sometimes more than once. He'll often go back if a brewery has a new event or flavor coming up, or if it's just been awhile since he last chatted with them. “There's only so much beer you can drink in an hour,” he said.
“You get a better understanding of the beer when you hear a brewer's approach to it,” Stewart continued. “It's kind of like a movie. If you see a movie you love, and then you hear the lead actor and you hear the director and the main script writer and the story writer…you have a better appreciation for the movie as a whole. You see more of what went into it. It's not just the hour and 45 minutes on the screen; it's hundreds of people and thousands of hours that went into that. And same thing with beer.”
If you're looking to get more into the Houston-area craft beer scene, Stewart warned, it can be hard to know where to start. There's no one best beer, because it all depends on your personal palate. “If you can think about what you enjoy, what flavors you enjoy – not just with beer but with food across the board – start with that,” he advised, explaining, “There's over a hundred styles that are defined by the Brewers Association. And then the brewers, the actual craft brewers, they're not hemmed in by style. They take each of those styles and do their own interpretations of it. So you're talking about thousands of combinations of flavors.”
However, as long as you don't mind a bit of a drive, Stewart does recommend Huff Brewing Co. in Bellville for lagers, Richmond's Texian Brewing Co. for sour beers and “of course, Lone Pint [Brewery] in Magnolia.”
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InterBrews doesn't necessarily come out regularly, since Stewart might drop one a week or one a month depending on his schedule. It takes about ten hours of production to create just one hour of InterBrews, and Stewart also happens to work full-time and have three kids. But Stewart says he doesn't really think about that, or even recently looked at the number of listeners he gets, because he just really enjoys podcasting.
He also currently produces another beer-themed podcast, Liquid Lunch. Every Thursday, he gets together to have lunch and beer with Catherine Contreas, the host of She's Crafty, a craft beer podcast based in San Antonio. At one point, Stewart was even producing four podcasts at once. (That didn't last long.)
“You're not committed to a clock like in radio,” he explained. “You can go deep. Like with InterBrews, we talk for an hour; it's an hour conversation. So on the radio that would be almost two hours of radio content, but you get to delve deeper. You're not worried about throwing to a commercial.”
When asked if he'd ever seriously thought of switching industries again to start his own brewery – after all, he's talked with enough brewers to know the business – Stewart said definitely not. “Reality of it is, you know, man, it's hard. I could just talk to them, get to try the beers,” he explained with a laugh, adding, “You have to be self-aware enough to know where your skill set lies, and mine's in talking and bullshitting and the drinking. So I get to do all those things with the podcast.”