This is an episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast.
Our third interview, in the 3rd day of Balticon, was with Randy Chertkow, co-founder of Beatnik Turtle, author, teacher and a good friend of mine. We led off with a discussion of musical geekery arising from pulling Randy onto a panel the day before and having to share a mic. The panel went so well, I received a compliment from a woman who worked at the Library of Congress. That and even though the copyright panel was in a larger room, we still manage to fill it despite the very technical topic. Randy shared some of his thoughts on the two classes of questions that drive the discussion part of the panel, the portion for which I as a moderator prefer to allow the most time. I mentioned a couple of the acronyms, SOPA and PIPA, for which I am often called out when discussing down in the weeds activity around fraught laws. (In a post, as I promised in the recording, I can link to terms of art.)
To bring us on topic, I described the Idiot Sauvin from Elysian that we were sharing with Randy. Appropriately enough there is a monkey, always fun, on the label but in goggles which is highly appropriate for a con. As a single hop beer, this beer serves its purpose, letting us compare the Sauvin to other single hop varietals we’ve tried recently. John liked how the simplicity of the recipe avoids the problems that can arise from a beer with too many different hops in the mix.
Randy and I shared an encounter from the previous evening, one that had us a bit gobsmacked. Can you imagine someone who is allergic to hops? We met a man whose wife has this affliction. None of us felt we could sacrifice beer for kisses.
We chatted a bit about single malt as all three of us are enthusiasts. I mentioned the A’bunadh, which I had picked up for the con. Randy received a new to him malt, Highland Park, at his small gaming con, RandyCon. He found this Scotch to be a bit smoky, I admitted my palate has acclimated so I tend to like the smokey malts a bit better. We dug into some other malts we like, comparing as we do the elements in them that recommend them, like the Balvenie Carribean Cask, the Bunnahabain, the Lagavulin, the Macallan, and more.
Not surprisingly we moved from there to chatting about rye. John brought a full bar, including the titular dirty weasel juice and three different ryes. Sadly, Randy is allergic to rye making us feel lucky we didn’t choose the rye beer to share. As strong as it may be, the Fernet Branca has no rye and John tried to convince us of its other appeals. John suggested some other herbal liqueurs that may be easier to get into. He also offered some recipes for interesting cocktails that he is always ready to prepare.
John gave a bit of the history of this interesting liquors. We were delighted at the commonalities with beer, that monks were often involved in collecting and preparing the herbs. Given the strong self sufficiency and investment in craft and cultivation common to monastic life, this is hardly surprising. Speaking of the craft, John also got into the very meticulous aspects of distilling and how the right exercise of skill and technique yields so many different products from the same inputs.
We discussed a surprising counter-intuition, how great skill can produce beers we might not choose to drink. John insists that the mass market barley pops are just as demanding in their design and execution, arguably more so than homebrew. I mentioned the book we had been discussing with Chris Miller, Designing Great Beers.
We wandered from their into regionalism, talking about the environs in St. Louis around the macros and how the talent tends to flow more freely than expected between the big and the craft breweries. This put us in mind of the home brew and food scene in Chicago. I admitted to being a deep dish convert thanks to District of Pi. This DC pizzeria is a delightful intersection of Chicago, for the pizza, and St. Louis for the custom beer designed and brewed for them by Schlafly’s. Randy clarified that Uno’s outside of downtown Chicago is distinctly not the same as Uno’s and Due’s to which Randy took John when he visited.
This was Randy’s first Balticon. We chatted a bit about why this was so and his experiences. Many of the regular podcasting crew have been asking Randy to come to our hometown con for years and he admitted we were right to do so.
Speaking of Worldcon being in his hometown, we got into a discussion of the forthcoming next edition of Randy’s book, the Indie Band Survival Guide. He gave us the back story about the first edition, how it evolved from Randy and his bandmate, Jason Feehan, writing up a free e-book that was the sort of material they would have liked to have when starting their band, Beatnik Turtle. Their success is a testament to living the open media ethos, a rebuttal of claims that Creative Commons erodes the marketability of works–seven printings of the first book and a second edition when a lot of authors are not getting the chance at a follow up edition.
Randy is justifiably proud of the fact that the name of the book has gotten out. He explained how he continues to take care in shepherding this brand and ensuring that he is being respectful of his audience, rewarding them for supporting his success. Expect some more news around September around what sounds like a great set of plans for celebrating the new edition.
We talked a bit more about what is new and different in the forthcoming edition. The original version definitely was the sort of book you threw in your music case and dog-eared the useful bits. They really expanded that, making it far more of a reference, like a Hitchhiker’s Guide to indie music production. Randy explained how it is now much more step-by-step, covering in a concise way what the labels used to do for musicians and updated to cover developments in the last couple of years. They interviewed a lot of folks to improve the new version including the Gregory Brothers, the guys behind Epic Rap Battles of History, and George Hrab. He mentioned trying to interview POGO but how that was at the time he was dealing with visa problems.
We hope to have Randy back on, soon. Better yet, we invited him to join us at our next brew day when he is in town, as he sometimes gets out to the DC area throughout the year.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.