Interview With Chad Polenz

Chad Polenz (or Chad9976, as his YouTube channel is entitled) is one of the most prolific and accessible beer reviewers on the web. With nearly 200 videos of reviews and beer information, there’s hardly a U.S. brew that’s been made that he hasn’t tried, particularly East Coast beers.

But unlike other reviewers who may come off as snobbish or unimpeachable, Chad remains a normal kind of guy whose reviews are accessible by both casual beer fans and connoisseurs alike. He is clear and down-to-earth but doesn’t sacrifice knowledge for convenience. All in all, he is a beer reviewer for the people.

Chad updates a few times a week, and took the time to answer some questions for the Brew Yorker over email. If you’d like to join his Facebook page, it can be found here.

1.) Could you give us some backstory: who are you, what do you like (besides beer), and what got you into beer?

I’m just a regular guy from Schenectady, NY (now residing in Albany). I was active duty Navy from 2001-07 and have been in the reserves for the last two years. I’m currently finishing up my Bachelor’s in English at the University at Albany. I’m not sure what I’m doing after that, though.

As Jon Lajoie would say, I’m just a regular everyday normal guy. Pretty laid-back and quiet for the most part, unless the topic at hand is something I’m passionate about – then I will argue about it forever. Anyone who’s seen my Facebook page knows what I’m talking about.

What got me into beer or what got beer into ME!? When I visited other countries in my Navy travels I would always want to try the beers they had there. More often than not they were better than the American beers I was used to (read: “The Big 3”). It would kill me when I would see sailors plunking down like 8 Euros for something from back home just because they were too scared to try something different. Idiots.

When I got back form my first overseas deployment I started getting my beer from the Navy Exchange “Package Store” which had a decent selection of imports and a few craft breweries, and that at least pointed me in the right direction.

When I moved back to New York in 2007 I discovered an outstanding beer store literally right around the corner from my house which carries 1100 beers from around the world and that REALLY expanded my horizons. It wasn’t until the spring of 2008 that I decided to give beer-reviewing a serious try and I’ve been doing it ever since.

2.) While I know it would be hard for you to pinpoint a single
favorite beer, do you ever recall a moment where you were just floored by a beer?

Yes, there have been quite a few beers that from the first sip to the last drop it was like a mouth orgasm. And a few of them have been captured on my YouTube channel, such as Rogue Chocolate Stout and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Magic Hat Roxy Rolles.

I also remember being at a sports bar on a Saturday back in 2004 drinking pint after pint of Newcastle Brown ale and just falling in love with the beer and never getting drunk off it. It’s still one of my all-time favorites.

2a.) On a similar note, was there ever a beer that made you not want to finish drinking it?

Umm… maybe back in my late teens/early 20s drinking Milwaukee’s Best ICE at parties. Ugh. I also remember drinking a lot of $1.75 plastic cups of Red Dog at dive bars back in those days.

I purposely avoid really bad beers these days, but once in a while I come across something I was expecting to at least tolerate but couldn’t. The last really BAD beer I had was probably Heineken – just liquid skunk.

3.) How would you categorize yourself as a beer drinker? Do you prefer beer you can drink a dozen of, or ones that you savor? What kinds of beers interest you on an everyday basis?

As my business card says, I’m “not quite an amateur, but not quite a connoisseur.” Let’s just say that I definitely know about and appreciate the craftsmanship of all the different styles of beer much more than your average Joe Six Pack. But at the same time I do realize I’ve got a long way to go to become a true connoisseur or expert. I would say my knowledge and the sensitivity of my palate doubles every six months.

What’s funny is, as much as I love beer, I very rarely drink it aside from when I’m reviewing it. I haven’t bought a six pack of something just to keep in the fridge in a long time. I told myself once I drink and review every beer my store carries then I can buy a sixer just to have in the fridge.

Now if I’m having people over or I’m at a party or a BBQ it’s a different story. I’ll try to bring something people wouldn’t expect for those situations because it’s always fun to surprise regular beer drinkers with something so much different and better than they’re used to. If it’s the other way around and all there is to drink is “The Big 3” I can at least tolerate a few of them, especially since I use it to wash down food.

But I don’t drink to get drunk. In fact, you could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been REALLY drunk in my life. Having a healthy buzz is nice, though.

4.) What is your favorite brewery in the New York area [that is,
someplace easily driven to within three hours of New York City] and why?

I’ve never been to any of the microbreweries in New York City, but I have tried most of the Brooklyn Brewery’s line and I really love their beer.

As far as all of New York State is concerned, I’d say Saranac is probably the best overall brewery because they make so many different beers and the quality is pretty high across the board. plus it’s available everywhere and it’s reasonably priced.

I also love our two microbreweries here in “The Capital District.” Evans Ales at the “Albany Pump Station” in downtown Albany is a great brewpub (their “Kick Ass Brown Ale” is outstanding). Brown’s Brewery in Troy is probably even better (their Oatmeal Stout won a World Beer Cup Gold in 2004!).

I know Southern Tier, Schmaltz, and Mendocino are making great stuff too, but I’ve only been able to try a few of them.

5.) What are some of your other favorite beer sites and beer reviewers online?

Too many to list! Seriously, before my computer crashed last week I must have had at least 50 various beer-reviewing websites bookmarked and befriended 20-30 other beer critics on YouTube.

I like how some people are funny and entertaining (i.e. “Imasofat” and “jjdaven” on YouTube, and of course you guys at “The Brew Yorker”); and other sites and reviewers are really professional and knowledgeable (i.e. my friend Jay “jjrudy41” and “elharlock” on YouTube, plus

For factual information about beer, aside from the brewer’s website, I prefer

Also, there are a lot of rookies and amateurs out there that, God bless ‘em, really don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but at least they’re trying. They’ll learn as they go. I see new people getting into the game all the time so it’s encouraging to know I’m not the only beer geek out here.

– Steele


2 Responses to “Interview With Chad Polenz”

  1. wow, i’m dying to try brown’s oatmeal stout. think i can get it at the beer room at the whole foods on houston?

    • Brown’s has pretty limited distribution so outside of the Albany area I’d think it would be difficult to find. I’d say check their website for availability. Frankly, I think their oatmeal stout is only good and not outstanding. I prefer some of their lighter beers (my friend Jay prefers their heavier brews like the Whiskey Cask Porter and the Belgian Strong Golden Ale).

      Thanks to Steele and everyone at the Brew Yorker for doing this interview with me! I’d love to get together with you guys in person sometime!

      Let me know!

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