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Kate Sazon is a sophomore at the University at Albany studying biology. While her studies are mostly science-focused, Kate enjoys writing in her free-time. She is currently the editor-in-chief for the Honors College Newsletter. In her high school, Niskayuna High School, Kate occasionally wrote for the newspaper there which she believes inspired to keep on writing. 

Kate Sazon

A taste of the craft beer and spirits discussion

By Kate Sazon

On September 14th, 2019the New York State Writers Institute held its 2nd annual Albany Book Festival at the University at Albany. The event went without a hitch. Hundreds of bookworms wandered around campus carrying stacks of books and with excited smiles.

The festival was packed with multiple events each hour ranging from panels to workshops. In between those events, authors were selling and signing their books in the ballroom of the Campus Center.

“I love books and seeing everyone else loving them too is amazing,“ said attendee Jeanette W. Samuels who traveled from Cleveland, Ohio. She said that one of her favorite parts of the event was the variety of different panel discussions. One particular panel that she mentioned was the “Craft Beer & Spirits” discussion.

Lew Bryson and Craig Gravina

This panel featured two authors, Lew Bryson and Craig Gravina, both experts in the history of beer. Bryson has been writing about beer and spirits since the early 90s. He described himself as a “world-class beer lover since my college years.” Interestingly enough, his family was not huge alcohol drinkers but did have the occasional drink on New Year’s Eve.

Growing up in a small Pennsylvanian town sandwiched between an immigrant German population and an Amish County gave him a unique view about drinking. Despite his life circumstances, Bryson notes the moment in his life that made him fell in love with beer. He went to one of the oldest breweries in the nation at the age of 23 and just was star-struck. 

Gravina had a similar upbringing in terms of drinking. His family also wasn’t huge drinkers but “they didn’t shy away from it on special occasions,” he said. College is the time when he got into beer, jokingly he said, “Doesn’t everybody?” As soon as he graduated from college, Gravina managed to get an advertising job for a newly developed beer brewery in Albany. When asked why the town was installing a new brewery, he said that the town’s thinking went something like this: “What should we do with downtown Albany? Open a big ass bar.” This is when Gravina dove into looking at the history of beer and spirits. He is co-founder of the Albany Ale Project and a frequent writer about beer culture and its history in America.

Both Bryson and Gravina mentioned that they both didn’t start as writers. They had non-traditional first tries at writing: Gravina with writing blog posts for his friends and Bryson writing emails to his co-workers. However after they started their first pieces of work about beer and spirits, they couldn’t stop writing. Bryson described it as “a bug that keeps biting you to write."

The Craft Beer and Spirits Panel was among the many others found at the Albany Book Festival. Attendees all agreed that the festival was a success and they were already counting the days until the next one!

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