Dennis Byron, aka, Ale Sharpton, knows everything about beer. IPAs, Porters, Pilsners, you name it, Ale, as he likes to be called, is the beer authority. Dennis began blogging about beer several years ago and has turned his love of beer and writing into a career. He now travels around the country doing beer seminars and has been featured on local tv stations and even the Weather Channel talking about beer.
1. How did you get started with writing about food / drinks?
When attending Cornell University, I took it for granted that I did so well in my writing and communications courses. It wasn’t until I finished my college career when I actually considered making journalism an actual profession. Since I have a long line of chefs and caterers in my family—we’re talking generations—I embraced that with my passion for exploring the world of beer. To add, Atlanta is such a great city for this, so it was a no-brainer to make that my focus.
2. What’s your favorite type of food?
I went with the simple formula: If there is a food I couldn’t do without, what would it be? Hence, I came to realization that I am a seafood fanatic. Specifically, baked or broiled salmon and crab (specifically legs and cakes). If beer was considered a food source, that would be first.
3. Where is your go to spot in your city where you know you can always have a great meal, whatever it may be?
Having a great meal in Atlanta is pretty easy to do, but having it balanced with a great beer selection is another story. So with that being considered, you can’t lose with Cook Hall, Georgia Pine, or JCT Kitchen for starters. I’m a Libra, so I am a bit indecisive. Sorry!
4. Tell us a little about what your career involves.
I thrive on informing my readers that there is more to beer than ratings and criticism. I cherish writing in my own voice what I consider great beers, breweries, gastropubs, restaurants, attractions, hotels and most importantly people to meet in any city I visit both nationally and abroad. With this framework, it’s virtually unlimited what I can write about.
5. What is something you wish you knew before you started blogging? Or something you wish you learned early on?
Truly, nothing comes to mind. Blogging is an ongoing learning experience and I cherish every minute. If anything, I wish I started earlier. It’s a fun challenge to build your identity as a blogger and candidly share your experience while broadening your audience.
6. Tell us what your 3 favorite tools or online resources are.
One, I enjoy tweeting because it’s my way of doing what easily could be a blog post in a limited amount of characters. Two, I love having the ability to research any beer through various reliable platforms including BeerAdvocate.com, RateBeer.com, BeerSTreetJournal.com, and BeerPulse.com. And three, in general, I love Google.
7. What do you do to stay fit?
I do 100 push-ups and 100 sit ups daily, run two miles every three days, eat small portions, no desserts, no soda, no breakfast, and only taste beef and pork. Oh, and three servings of quality beer. We can call that the Ale Sharpton diet. (DVDs are available.)
8. Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?
Do not be afraid of expressing your voice, but just do so tastefully…and factually. Also, do your best to know AP standards. This is a great framework to help structure your writing and keep things in check. People will be turned off by too many grammatical errors and unnecessary rambling. Last, know the difference between writing for magazines and Web writing. They are totally different fields. Oh yeah, besides having a Twitter account, being a great photographer surely helps too. Evidently, with all of these new apps, people like pictures!
9. Who is your hero?
My mother, Brenda. She was fearless, spoke her mind, loved teaching and was simply a downright genius. She made me what I am today. I miss her crazily.
10. What do you love most about blogging?
The ability to meet people, set your own deadlines, be your own boss, speak your voice, and explore the world due to the power of the pen—err…keyboard. Having a camera in tow to document your experiences and post your shots later is also very rewarding. I wish anyone reading this good luck.