Ale Sharpton: World-Renowned Beer Authority & Award-Winning Journalist

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those reports on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with Dennis Malcolm Byron, also known as Ale Sharpton. He is a world-renowned beer authority, award-winning journalist, blogger, photographer, event planner, host, speaker, and beer judge just to name a few of his roles. While passionately traveling the globe to cover everything from automobiles to culinary scenes, celebrity profiles, sports, hotel destinations, art, and what he termed the world’s best beverage, Ale has contributed to more than 30 magazines and websites combined. His current media outlets include Thrillist.com, Craft Beer and Brewing, Craft Beer, USA Today, The Infatuation, James Beard, Lifestyle publications, Atlanta magazine, and others. Hi, Ale. Thank you for joining us today.

 

Ale Sharpton  01:16

Oh, it’s it’s an honor. It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.

 

Angela Tuell  01:19

Yes, I’m excited to talk with you. You know, as we mentioned in the intro, you have a lot of roles. One of them is a world-renowned beer authority. You have to tell us about that and how you earned that title.

 

Ale Sharpton  01:33

So yeah, that was actually given to me, and said I should use it from a fellow aficionado who just said that, look, you teach the art of beer, you know it, you have a passion and people know that you’re an expert from what they read. So you are an a- you are that – you’re an ambassador, and all these different things, but he definitely wanted me to say a beer authority.

 

Angela Tuell  01:56

Yeah. So how did you get to this point in your career?

 

Ale Sharpton  01:59

Through hustling, hard work, and believing what I do is, is for the good of the people. Which includes, you know, drinking really good beer, knowing the story behind the people who make it, and also expressing my creative ways of doing things and how I kind of approached the industry a lot differently from what has been established throughout the years.

 

Angela Tuell  02:18

Walk us through your career briefly, if you don’t mind, and how you, you know – because you’ve covered so many different topics in the journalism world -, and how you got to this point today.

 

Ale Sharpton  02:28

After leaving Cornell University, and moving to Atlanta, coming from New York, it was different that I realized the beer scene wasn’t that great here in Atlanta. So I’ve felt the opportunity to become a journalist and write about it and kind of marry the different passions that I love, which include clothing, hip hop, and then yes, beer. But also noticed that there weren’t a lot of black people in the industry, or minorities, for that matter, that I wanted to kind of expand that and make it happen.

 

Angela Tuell  02:57

What have you been doing for that? I know, I saw on one Tweet, that you had posted that only 1% of breweries were owned by minorities. You know how, sadly, how are you helping change that?

 

Ale Sharpton  03:12

Yeah. 1% is owned by African Americans. And it’s starting to develop a lot more though. The number is becoming a lot more. It’s boosting slowly, but surely. But it’s because you see it on social media and the unity and how people are supporting one another and getting the word out. There are great documentaries like One Pint at a Time, which is really, really awesome, documenting how black people are progressing in the industry. And festivals. There are a lot of good ones coming up Barrel & Flow and a few others that have been happening over the years that have been fantastic. Blacktober fest. There are so many other ones. And I mean, just seeing like-minded people, but also people that look like you that are out there doing it on social media, and the word gets out.

 

Angela Tuell  03:55

Yeah, you must tell us more about your collaboration with New Belgium Brewery.

 

Ale Sharpton  03:59

Oh, absolutely. New Belgium reached out to me, they saw what I’ve been doing. And they wanted to know, diversify their audience, but also diversify their own staff and help them mentally with getting out there and providing the message that beer is for everyone. So they brought me in to be a consultant of sorts. And he said, Any idea you want to do, we can make happen. I said, Well, let’s make a beer together. So I meet with one of the best breweries in the world, why not make a beer with them? So I took that, and they loved the idea and designed the can. The concept was called piano keys – ebony, ivory, black, and white piano keys. Get it? And then um, I get chocolate vanilla Imperial Stout to marry all those together and it’s been successful ever since.

 

Angela Tuell  04:40

That sounds fantastic. How – can you get it anywhere other than the brewery?

 

Ale Sharpton  04:45

Yes. We’re actually working on the new distribution for it. You can get it definitely in Atlanta, North Carolina. California we’re working on now. But yeah, you get it directly at the brewery, of course, Colorado, but we’re working on it. We could get it online as well. So we’re gonna make that happen.

 

Angela Tuell  05:00

That’s fantastic. What trends are you seeing in the beer industry right now?

 

Ale Sharpton  05:05

The trends now are really breweries being stellar at what they do. A lot of people’s palates becoming a lot more sophisticated. And with that becomes your quality of the beer needs to be a lot better. But you know, what’s happening is that what I tell people, you gotta be able to do, what you really believe in and what your expertise is. And then you can specialize in that. And then that way, develop a niche for yourself. And I think that’s what’s happening right now. A lot more breweries concentrate on the certain styles that they specialize in.

 

Angela Tuell  05:35

You mentioned that Atlanta wasn’t, and didn’t have a big beer scene when you moved there. How is it now?

 

Ale Sharpton  05:41

Oh, it’s one of the best beer cities and I say that pounding my chest because it really is. And one of the most diverse, which is even more special about the city. So here’s the first black-owned, brick-and-mortar brewery, Hippin Hops that opened recently.

 

Angela Tuell  05:57

Love the name.

 

Ale Sharpton  05:58

And then the Nappy Roots, I have the Atlantucky. And then there’s an Asian brew pub called Hopstix. It’s amazing. So it’s really broadening up right now. It’s really fun.

 

Angela Tuell  06:08

I love that. We’ll definitely have to get to Atlanta and check out the places that you mentioned, for sure.

 

Ale Sharpton  06:14

Absolutely. You get the red carpet Ale Sharpton treatment.

 

Angela Tuell  06:17

Oh, great. What do you think it takes for a brewery to be successful? You know, you had mentioned there’s so many out there. And we see, we see a lot of longtime ones having to close their doors and there’s so much competition, you know. What do you think it takes to be successful?

 

Ale Sharpton  06:33

I’m gonna go back to really have an expertise and what you really are known for. For instance, Halfway Crooks is a great brewery but they make mostly laugers. That’s their thing. And they develop that niche. Little Cottage is another one that I mentioned that I would love to mention because they really specialize in stouts. But they, you know, you could still make other beers but really know what expertise is and shine with that. And especially now with all these palettes becoming a lot more sophisticated people learning about craft beer, more and more, you better have to be on your game.

 

Angela Tuell  07:01

I love that. Something else my husband and I always, always talk about is the food is usually amazing at breweries. And, and that they need to have that if they you know, and a few things that they do just are the best at, you know. We think that’s a thing that is also really important.

 

Ale Sharpton  07:18

And that’s a great trend. I’m glad you mentioned that. Pairing food with beer is one of my favorite things to do. You know, beer has so many flavors, and it can emulate any flavor more than any other beverage. So then you have all these different spices and different interpretations of what dining would do well with a pairing with beer. And this is one of those instances. So a lot more breweries now are having a lot more different types of food. You can see some of them, Empanadas even, you know what I mean? There’s definitely so there’s another way of expression there.

 

Angela Tuell  07:47

How do you find your stories and which outlets do you tend to write for the most?

 

Ale Sharpton  07:52

You can find my stories definitely a lot online. But that’s also when I push them out on social media network but also the sources that I write for, like Thrillist, is really fun to write for. The Infatuation has been really fun to write for. They get it. They get my voice, they get how adventurous I am. And I love to kind of share that and help develop their audience by reading my stuff. So they share it out too.

 

Angela Tuell  08:15

How do you find your stories when you’re deciding what to write about next?

 

Ale Sharpton  08:20

I’m always around a lot of different people, a lot of different styles, a lot of different mentalities of what is cool. So I kind of pitch that because I’m always around those new trends that are happening during my travels. So they take my word for it, and they get it and I say Yo, this is something different from what other people are writing. So you need to write with this. And I’m batting 1000 on my pitches.

 

Angela Tuell  08:41

That’s great. I know a lot of journalists tend to say they’re influencers as well. But you really are a great combination of both. A journalist and influencer because everyone’s looking to you in the industry for the trends what’s new and what they should be focused on. But then also you’re covering the stories as a journalist, so kudos to you for sure.

 

Ale Sharpton  09:03

Appreciate you. I love clothes, I love style. I love giving back through BrewGether, which is a nonprofit I’m developing. And it’s just a fun journey. And I appreciate beers for everybody. I love people to know that.

 

Angela Tuell  09:15

Yeah, so I bet you love convincing those who say they don’t like beer. They do find something they like, right?

 

Ale Sharpton  09:22

I’m batting 1000 with that, too. So it says don’t like beer that’s way too broad. It’s like saying you don’t like music. You just got to know what to dance to.

 

Angela Tuell  09:28

Oh, that’s great. I love that. I love that quote. What are you most proud about in your career to this point?

 

Ale Sharpton  09:36

Being able to still have a career in what I started years and years ago. And being successful at it. And it’s growth is blossoming. I’m still doing events. But I’m also learning a lot from the different trends that go on. I’ve learned to adapt to that. So I love doing it. I just keep doing it. And I love doing what I love and I wake up and this is my job. So I thank everybody who supported me to do it.

 

Angela Tuell  09:59

That’s pretty amazing. And even staying as a journalist for your career. I mean, there’s so many, like me, I’m a former journalist, that goes into PR don’t, you know, continue the careers they’ve always dreamed of, for various reasons. But that’s really commendable too. What have been some of your favorite stories to write?

 

Ale Sharpton  10:18

One was writing about somebody who really gave me a little more – put a battery in my back – to know that it’s okay for a black person to be in the beer industry. And that was doing a whole profile piece with Beer Connoisseur magazine on Garrett Oliver, who was the only other brother I knew at the time. And he’s the, of course, brewmaster and co-owner of Brooklyn Brewery, which I happened to visit this past weekend, which was awesome. And yeah, writing a piece on him is it’s always fun. And then I did another piece I did with Thrillist, that just talked about the black breweries that are existing right now. And I keep adding to that list every year. So that’s a very popular piece too.

 

Angela Tuell  10:55

Awesome. We will link to those in our show notes for sure so all of our listeners can, take a look too. And you’re not only a journalist, I know I keep mentioning that. But you’re also a photographer, an event planner, a host, speaker, beer judge, to name just a few. You know, which are your favorites? All of them?

 

Ale Sharpton  11:13

I really enjoy photography. Now getting in the reels a little bit more and getting my video game tight. But photography has always been a big thing for me. So I love doing that. And, of course, hosting events, but can be nerve-racking, but they’re always dope and different when I’m in charge of it so people know what’s me that goes down with that for sure. I do food and beer pairings pretty often. I just have something called Ale Max Day where me and my friend Craig Stroud are pairing sneakers with beer and bringing the cultures together. And of course, hip hops can be a part of that. I’m a crazy Hip Hop ed.

 

Angela Tuell  11:48

Oh, that’s so awesome. You’re selling me right now. I want to get down to Atlanta.

 

Ale Sharpton  11:55

Shout out to Inner Voice for helping us host that event. That’s a brewery here. Decatur, Georgia.

 

Angela Tuell  12:00

Okay, so you typically do them at breweries? I mean, obviously, right?

 

Ale Sharpton  12:03

I do. But I do a lot at restaurants as well. Or it could be the actual venue. Art museums. So there’s a wide range depending on what the event is. I can make it happen.

 

Angela Tuell  12:12

Okay. Okay. So what are people who don’t know you – who don’t know you well – most surprised to learn about you?

 

Ale Sharpton  12:21

That I’m an artist. I could definitely draw. And I do a lot of stuff with markers. Design. I am all about design marketing and ads. So you got that there. And then I produce music.

 

Angela Tuell  12:33

Wow. I don’t even know. Even though we started I don’t even know where to start. There’s so much. I definitely do need to ask about the beer judging. How did, I mean, it’s probably clear how you got into that, but you know, what is that like? And how is that process?

 

Ale Sharpton  12:49

Oh, it’s really fun. I mean, it’s a very prestigious position, believe it or not. And I just got to hang out with a lot of the experts and they knew how well I knew about beer and the flavors and the profiles. They were like, Hey, we need you to come and start judging with us. And being the only brother in that whole circle once again. And that was always fun to represent my people. And it’s been something I’ve been doing over the years. And you know, they’re certified, but I’m just certified in taste and flavor and being knowing what I’m talking about. So there you go.

 

Angela Tuell  13:17

So what do you look for in a good beer?

 

Ale Sharpton  13:20

Flavor, and balance are super key. Aroma is very key. So sometimes if your balance is not right, it could really ruin the style of beer that you’re creating. Not making it too sweet, or making it too sour. Also, the mouthfeel has to be important depending on the style of beer. The closest you are to that with your creativity is how you really shine.

 

Angela Tuell  13:40

Okay, do you have a go-to beer or a favorite style?

 

Ale Sharpton  13:45

I’ve been an IPA guy for a long time. Supposedly your palate changes every six years but that hasn’t happened with me. I love how they’re just so delicious, but also the West Coast. I like more of the clear kind of beers, in terms of IPA. But, um, I’m down to start trying other ones. I’m starting to get into black IPAs, which I never thought I would but I’m kind of getting into those right now.

 

Angela Tuell  14:06

Okay, what about Hazy? My husband loves those. Are you, is that trend going away a little bit? Or is it just one that you don’t love as much?

 

Ale Sharpton  14:14

Now I don’t think it’s gonna go away. It’s done wonders for an IPA, which always got a bad rap of being too bitter. So he’s he’s more of a sweeter backbone and then a creamier mouthfeel and it’s really helped a lot of breweries stay afloat. So there you go. Hazy’s are good for sure. This is bringing back some more of those West Coast though. Let’s bring some of those back.

 

Angela Tuell  14:32

Okay, okay. So I don’t know if this is the if this will be a bad thing to say. But I’m a wheat girl. And I love fruit wheat. But, so IPAs have not always been my favorite but the Hazy definitely. I mean, you’re exactly right. I could drink Hazy it’s a little bit more because it’s not as you know, High IV uses some of the other or at least they don’t taste that way how they’re made. So –

 

Ale Sharpton  14:55

No shame in the game, Angela. Wheats are very popular and they’ve also helped the beer industry stay afloat. So there you go.

 

Angela Tuell  15:01

You might have already answered this. What city has the best beer scene right now? Do you think it’s Atlanta?

 

Ale Sharpton  15:06

I’m definitely gonna say Atlanta is up there. It deserves a lot more respect. For sure. Asheville is really fun. I just did an event with my Piano Keys brand, and do a fundraising for BrewGether out there. And that feels like pound for pound, one of the best. You know. But I love the West Coast cities too. San Diego’s amazing. So there are so many different ones and Nashville is coming up as well.

 

Angela Tuell  15:26

Yes. Before we go, I must ask how can PR professionals help you do your job. Do you have any pet peeves or helpful advice?

 

Ale Sharpton  15:34

I think PR professionals can help do our job if they really know what we’re about and capture our essence and what we’re about our passions. And then learn how to express that to the wide audiences that they reach, to build. That’s one of the things. It’s not just a client, it’s actually going to be a friend that you’re working with, to really get to know them. And I think you could tell the different PR professionals when they really dig in deep to know what the action is out there of their subject.

 

Angela Tuell  16:00

Yeah. And the journalists, I mean, what you have such a niche, you know, knowing exactly who you are and what you do, definitely.

 

Ale Sharpton  16:07

That’s right. That’s right, you know, so…there’s so many different things. I respect what they do, though, it’s just a matter of making it happen.

 

Angela Tuell  16:15

Yes. And how can listeners follow your work online and connect with you?

 

Ale Sharpton  16:20

Please follow me on Instagram, which I really take pride in. That’s @RealAleSharpton. And Twitter’s always fun. That’s just AleSharpton. And then my website is AleSharpton.com. And then just see me around. Definitely shout me out. And let’s network, let’s make things happen.

 

Angela Tuell  16:39

Perfect. So is there anything else you’d like to mention here before we go?

 

Ale Sharpton  16:43

Absolutely, just keep an eye out for the next batch of Piano Keys, which should be coming out in a couple months. And also National Black Brewers Association, which is another group that is really developing and they got some power hitters with a lot of the pioneers, black pioneers that really got this industry to where it is.

 

Angela Tuell  16:59

That’s great. Is it a newer organization, or when did it start?

 

Ale Sharpton  17:02

It just started in early 2023.

 

Angela Tuell  17:07

Okay, great. We will definitely link to those as well so we can follow along and support it. Thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Ale Sharpton  17:16

Thank you for having me. This is awesome. It’s an honor.

 

Angela Tuell  17:19

That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

What’s brewing in today’s episode?  Ale Sharpton pours over pioneers in the black brewers’ field, highlights Atlanta’s top black-owned breweries, documentaries, and festivals, shares beers’ perfect pairings whether that be food or footwear, and seeks to connect communities with craft beer through BrewGether after tapping into the market with his own brand partnership with New Belgium brewery.  Grab your favorite brew and listen to learn more! 

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