Lance Bell -- also known online as Lance the Lush -- is an Akron resident who does beer reviews on YouTube. He also has dreams of launching his own brewery. We sat down to chat recently over a beer at Ohio Brewing Co. in Akron, touching on everything from his online reviews to why the craft beer scene is so lily white.
Question: How did you get into reviewing beers on YouTube?
Answer: I have to thank Bernie Kosar of all people for that. I found out that he was releasing a craft beer in his name and I decided to do a review on it as a one-off video, not even knowing there was a community online for this. I did the review and was telling myself "This is easy," so I started to do some research and it was off to the races and I have been doing them ever since.
Q: Name some of your favorite beers that you've reviewed and explain why they were your favorites.
A: This is the tough one for me. One of them has to be Millersburg Brewing French Ridge. It says that it is a West Coast IPA, but I have always considered it a borderline DIPA because it is so deceptive. The final one (I can talk about this all day) is R. Shea Brewing Merriman Mile. I will be the first to admit I had this only once at Rubber City Brew Fest, but with a collaboration with SAAZ, it was one of the most complex brews I have ever had. It was very easy to drink and very dangerous if you are not careful.
Q: You're now in the process of wanting to launch your own brewery. Why do you want to be a professional brewer?
A: For me and my mindset, it is the only logical conclusion. I have a business mind, so I must take the nessasary steps to make that happen. I know going in that this is a very long game for me. I also need the experience.
Let's be honest, I need the experience because I refuse to be some places (which will rename nameless, but I see it) just opening for a money grab. Brewing is exactly like cooking, just in a different context, so you are always tweaking the formula and I can bring something to the table.
Q: We've talked before about the craft beer industry being dominated by white guys. As a black man, why do you think there isn't greater diversity in the industry and do you think that will eventually change?
A: To answer your first part of your question: It is knowledge. If we are talking about the World of Beer, humans have been making it around the world since before history has been recorded. They know that it is there, but they decided to not be a part of it for some strange reason unknown. Is that changing? Yes, but at a very slow pace. Black Frog in Toledo does very well and I know that there are others.
I do not think it is even a financial issue for the most part. I honestly think that it is fear. They know that it is a huge gamble, and the community at large knows it also. Education is the key in all of that.
To answer the second part of your question: I wish I could give you an honest answer, but I am not sure. The fear factor is there for sure, but it will change over time. As an example, Black Star Line Brewing in North Carolina checks all the boxes, even if I think they are going about it the wrong way. It can be done and done well and be very respected in all communities at the same time.
Q: Which beer -- any beer in the world -- do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: It has to be West Coast IPA. Who knew that it would blow up in the way it did. I honestly thought that it would fall on its face, but it proved me wrong time and again. This is a sub-genre that just will not die, even with the NEIPA craze that is happening at the moment. I just wish that I was the one that created that movement with shandys being a close second.
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