It's not often I have the pleasure of meeting a craft beer geek who also loves telling stories as much as I do. Jeff Cagle is a freelance photographer with one of the best eyes I've seen — he captures human moments that other people would ignore, and he does so with the delicacy and empathy of a visual priest. But he also knows how to capture the action — sports, political rallies, you name it. After some digital back and forth, Jeff and I finally got to meet at Solemn Oath's first-ever Oath Day where we spent the better part of an afternoon taking pictures, drinking beer and deconstructing the features of my new camera that Jeff happens to know like the back of his hand.
What's your favorite beer and style?
I'm sure many beer lovers would say their favorite style is the one they're drinking, but I have become quite fond of sours over the past year and a half. They're challenging and refreshing, and I really can't get enough of them. My favorite particular beer is a to-be-named altbier that my good friend Seth Wood brewed up last year. I've told him many times that it needs to be in the lineup when his brewery — Woodfour Brewing Company — opens in 2013 in Sebastopol, Calif.
What's in your fridge right now?
I just got back from a west coast trip so it's been stocked with some deliciousness from Russian River like Supplication, Temptation and Salvation. I've also got a bottle of Saison - Brett from Boulevard, a few leftover cans of Pumpkin Ale from Wild Onion, and a couple bottles of Heavy Handed (Batch 2) from Two Brothers.
What was the first beer that clued you in?
Fat Tire. I remember there was all of this buzz over a beer that you couldn't get east of the Mississipi. My family and friends from St. Louis would talk about it, and then one winter I found myself snowboarding in Colorado with friends and we flipped out a little when we found it while stocking up on beer for the weekend. I remember that first sip being much maltier than it tastes to me now, but I was still in college and it had a hell of a lot more flavor than the swill we would drink at parties. It really opened the floodgates for me, and I still have one of the special "Chicago Inaugural" bombers when it first came to market in Illinois.
What's your most memorable beer moment?
The first time I tried a sour was a revelation, but I couldn't have gotten to the point where I'd ever try a sour beer and immediately enjoy it without the summer I turned 21 to serve as the launchpad for my love of craft beer. I had an awesome summer job working on the gas dock at Burnham Harbor and after work I'd come home, make a sandwich or grab a burrito, then walk down the street to House of 1000 liquors at Belmont and Sheffield and grab a different six-pack each time, then drink on the roof with my roommates and friends.
What's your favorite watering hole?
In the few short months it's been open, I think there's only a couple special releases at the taproom at Solemn Oath Brewery that I've missed. And even though it's not really known for craft beer, the L&L Tavern will always hold a special place in my heart.
What was your greatest beer hunt?
On my recent west coast trip, as we drove north out of San Francisco from the airport I told my buddy that aside from doing a lot of cycling, my only real request was to hit Russian River. We warmed up over the course of the week by hitting places like Bear Republic, Lagunitas and some awesome beer bars but in hindsight I'm glad he decided to save the best for last. After riding more than 200 miles and climbing 10,000+ feet over the week, on my last day he said we'd have to earn that trip to Russian River, and planned a final 35-mile route that included a 3,000-foot Category 1 climb. It also happened to be the hottest day of the week. To make a relatively boring story short, it was a pretty awesome week capped off with an epic day at an awesome brewery that makes some delicious beer. I couldn't leave without breaking into one of the bottles of Supplication I had bought at the brewery. That final toast led to me going home with a checked bag full of beer weighing exactly 50.0 lbs, which impressed even the ticket agent.
What's a beer on your wishlist?
Any beer I haven't tried. But I'd like to check out some of the taproom-only goodness at The Bruery.