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January 22, 2011


Talking Craft Beer on NBC in New York

by JHoll

Watch the video of John Holl talking about high alcohol content beers on Channel 4 in New York.

NEW YORK — There are few places in American television that are more famous than 30 Rockefeller Plaza. For decades the National Broadcasting Company has been beaming out television programs from the famed art deco building. Johnny Carson did his Tonight Show from Studio 6B (now used by Jimmy Fallon), Studio 8-H is home to Saturday Night Live. David Letterman and Conan O’Brien did their shows in the building as well.

More than just late night, it’s home to NBC News and regular viewers of the Today Show, Nightly News and Dateline are familiar with the building known as 30 Rock. Plus, there is a pretty funny sitcom that bears the same name.

The building is also home to the NBC flagship station WNBC, which airs on Channel 4 in New York and broadcasts out of the relatively new Studio 7E.

With all of the history, information and entertainment that’s happened in the building, it was a real treat to show up at 30 Rock last weekend to discuss some craft beer on Saturday Today In New York. This fun but seemly random appearance had a pretty causal beginning. I’ve know the anchor Pat Battle for quite a while. When I was a daily newspaper reporter covering New Jersey, Pat had the same job for Channel 4. We became friends while covering press conferences, the news of the day and politics and have remained close over the years.

Setting up for the broadcast at WNBC.

A few months back, while talking about something else, I suggested coming on to the program to pour some beers. The origional plan was to pour Christmas specific brews, but the timing didn’t work out so we opted for some higher alcohol beers to stave off that winter chill.

Keeping in mind that this program is of the “general interest” variety I wanted to pick some craft beers that could appeal to a large group of people and hopefully get some non-beer folks into the fold.

In the end I chose:

1) Alaskan Brewing Co. Winter Ale. 6.4% ABV.

I like the sweetness of the beer and that it’s brewed with spruce tips. I mentioned that it shows the inventiveness of today’s brewers and how they are not afraid to try different things and often wind up with great results.

We met Produce Pete who gave us actual produce to bring home.

2) Oskar Blues Gubna I.I.P.A. 10%

This beer packs a wallop and has great flavor. The Summit hops give it those great citrus notes (and coincidently Produce Pete – a regular fixture on the show – was talking about grapefruit that morning so it worked out well) but I also wanted to talk about the trend that craft brewers have in canning their beers. I thought it important to note that just because a beer is in a can, it can be an excellent product. Again, I was trying to inform a lot of the non-beer people.

3) Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Big Foot Barley Wine Style Ale (2010) 9.6%

This is a great winter style and Sierra Nevada makes an excellent version year after year. In my effort to educate I talked about cellaring beers from year to year to see how they develop and mature over time.

4) Flying Fish Brewing Co. Exit 13.

The latest in this New Jersey brewery’s ongoing series is a Belgian Chocolate Stout named after a Turnpike exit for the Port of Newark and Elizabeth. Despite 600 lbs of imported chocolate in the batch, the flavor is present but subtle. It’s got great malt charastics and is one of these beers that I really enjoy settling into after a nice hearty dinner on a cold night.

The Perils of Live Television

I would have loved to pour the 15.95% Avery Brewing Mephistopheles Stout but it likely wouldn’t have played well in the 9 a.m. hour. Same for a few others that crossed my mind in the days leading up to the appearance.

Pat, who admitted she does not know a lot about beer, seemed to enjoy the segment and even had me pour some extra for the closing part of the show. (I’ll post that clip, which features a cameo from my lovely wife April and a great plug for my upcoming book Indiana Breweries in the coming days.) The co-anchor and weather reporter got into the act as well and enjoyed some Gubna as the show came to a close.

Despite getting tripped up a little at one point in the middle, this was a great experience and I’m really looking forward to coming back to the show in the coming weeks.




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