Beer Hero: Ben Grace
By: Eric Sturniolo
I like beer. My friend Ben Grace really likes beer. He just had his 1,000th unique beer in a 2 year span. If you’re thinking “I can do that,” remember, it’s 1,000 unique beers. That’s 1.37 different beers every single day. 9.6 unique beers every single week. For 104 straight weeks. Impressed yet? I took some time to talk to Ben about his quest.
Where’s The Beer NY: Congratulations. How does it feel?
Ben Grace: It was exciting to reach the goal, but to be honest when I look back over the 1,000 beers I’m kind of amazed myself.
WTBNY: And how does your body feel?
BG: [laughs] Oh man, there were days in that last month as I raced to the deadline that I felt like I never wanted to drink beer again. I’d get on a Citibike and be blowing like a horse two blocks into my ride.
WTBNY: How did this beer quest start?
BG: It was kind of random to be honest. When I visited New York City in 2009 I decided to never have the same beer twice, and that began a habit. I think it really picked up when I moved to New York City and downloaded the Untappd app in early 2012. What blew me away about the US craft beer industry was just how much different beer here was. I got really committed to finding great beer. Just after I moved here I saw a news article from two guys in Sydney, my hometown, who were trying to drink one unique beer a day for a year. They ran out of beers to drink within a ten mile radius after six months or so. I remember thinking “I haven’t even had all of the craft beer at my local bar,” which, to be fair, was Taproom No. 307 at the time. So I kept looking for unique beer all the time, and when I realized at some point late last year that I could reach the 1,000 mark with a little bit of focus, (and an emphasis on flights) I just decided to give it a shot.
WTBNY: What was your first beer, and your 1,000th beer?
BG: First was Jockamo IPA by Abita Brewing Company, at one of my favorite haunts in downtown Manhattan, Cowgirl Seahorse. One thousandth was Brothers Quinn, a smoked beer from Sixpoint Brewery. I was at the NYC Craft Beer Fest and decided to finish the challenge with a bit of Brooklyn pride
WTBNY: Untappd must have played a big role in keeping track.
BG: Yeah, I really love the app. Its so easy to keep track of what I’m drinking, and helps me stay connected to friends across oceans and rivers…from friends in my hometown of Sydney, to people across America. My wife also uses it when she wants to buy me beer, which is an awesome perk!
WTBNY: Can you pick a few favorites from the list? A favorite brewery overall, style of beer, bar?
BG: I’m all about the darker ales, particularly anything barrel aged. Harviestoun Brewery’s Ola Dubh series I adore. I love breweries that take big risks too. They may not always get it right but its always interesting. Breweries that fall into that category:
Murrays Craft Brewing Co from north of Sydney, Australia. Their Spartacus is a thing of beauty.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery had me with their motto: “Off-centered ales for off-centered people”.
Of recent times I’m head over heels in love with what Grimm Artisanal Ales are doing in Brooklyn.
I’m also a fan of what 21st Amendment Brewery are doing in cans. I believe this is a great way for the industry to go for a whole variety of reasons from recycling to volume.
In terms of bars in New York City, I’m grateful Evil Twin Brewing opened up TØRST.
WTBNY: Let’s say you had 500 of the beers at happy hour for $5 a pint and the rest were in flights ($10 for 4). That’s $3,750. Can you think of a better use for that money? I can’t.
BG: Yeah a close friend of mine pointed this out as well. My wife and I recently started a challenge in Lent directly after I finished my 1,000th beer. We’re trying to live on $10 each a day (after fixed expenses like rent, transport etc), and we’re looking to partner with a few non profits who work with people on minimum wage and give away the remainder. What I love about beer is how it brings to people together so maybe I’ll figure out how to turn my love of beer into a good cause someday!
WTBNY: Any new beer adventures planned?
BG: Not really. Although I love to drink local brews so I think I’d like to get to know brewers in Brooklyn. I met the owners behind Grimm Artisanal Ales recently, and really enjoyed getting to know them and hear about their passion. I love Brooklyn and whats happening here with artists and food artisans, and I’ll keep trying to drink local and support small business.