Sites We Love: The Thirsty Wench

Gorgeous photos? Check. Engaging writing? Check. Seriously inspiring recipes, tips, and culinary curiosity? Check, check, and check. The best food blogs all seem to have a lot in common—but what separates them out are the strong personalities behind them. In our Sites We Love series, we sit down with some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they do it—and why it's as much fun for them as it is for us._

Today’s site we love is The Thirsty Wench, where publicist-by-day, home-brewer-by-night Robin LeBlanc serves up musings on Canada’s beer scene, cooking with suds, and her favorite local pubs—all with a hearty dose of humor. Here’s what Robin has to say about her site:

Blog Name: The Thirsty Wench

Live since: April, 2011

Posting rate: Once every 1-2 weeks. Ish.

Geographic location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Why is the site called The Thirsty Wench? I wanted a name that was easy to remember, very much my own, and reminiscent of the traditional pubs I love going to. That and it was WAY better than my original idea for a site name which was…haha…I’m not going to talk about that. It was terrible though. So terrible.

What’s been your most popular post? I recently did a post on the basics of food and beer pairings. Generally, for me, pairing is a difficult subject to talk about, because it’s so diverse, what with the infinite flavour combinations and people’s specific tastes. Plus, I’m just now on my quest to learn more about it. In the post, I talk about what I feel makes a good pairing, offer some tips on flavour combinations (IPA with curry, stout with ice cream), and encourage readers to experiment with pairings that work for them. A lot of people noticed it, and I still get emails thanking me for providing them with a starting point in discovering beer and food pairings.

**What’s your favorite post? **“4 Comics, 4 Beers,” which is another of my most popular posts. I did beer and comic pairings, choosing a beer that I think would be appropriate for the main character(s)—rather than a beer that would be good to drink while reading the comic. Essentially, it was like sitting in a bar with John Constantine and saying, “You should try this beer…”—which was incredible. I’m not too fond of getting heavy with fan speculation, so I managed to talk to people like Ben Templesmith (creator of Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse) and Erik Burnham (writer of the current run of Ghostbusters) to ask for their thoughts on what their characters would drink. I even went so far as to ask the team at 2000 AD (who handle Judge Dredd) for information on what people drink in the futuristic city of Mega-City One. I really loved doing that post, because it combined two loves of mine, and it got me to think outside the box a bit in how I do beer recommendations.

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Robin LeBlanc

Credit: Robin LeBlanc

**What’s something great that you’ve learned or that’s happened to you since starting your blog? **One of the biggest things I’ve learned is just how much love goes into good beer. As a consumer, it’s easy to not think of the people behind the beer you’re drinking. But if you take the time to visit the brewery and talk to the people there, you realize that these folks have a tremendous passion and drive to make the best beer they can. They choose the exact ingredients, the precise temperature to serve the beer at, the appropriate glass…they’ve really chosen every possible element of their beer for you to enjoy. In short, beer tastes better when it’s made by someone who gives a damn about what they’re doing, and in my time writing The Thirsty Wench I have found that the craft beer community has no shortage of people who give a damn. This leaves me both humbled and inspired.

**What’s the usual process for developing one of your posts? **Well, I have two methods. There’s the method where I spend a lot of time putting a post together by working on research and talking to a few people before finally putting something out. I sort of treat it like getting a kid ready for school. I clean it up, get it dressed, make sure it has its homework, make it recite the concluding point of its presentation, get it out there and hope to Christ I don’t get any angry phone calls (I never do). I actually have a folder full of these posts, just waiting for the right time.

Then there’s the method where a post idea comes into my head out of nowhere, and screams at me until I write it up. The inspiration burns bright on those ones, and I end up emerging from my office after an hour or two with a great post. For both, I tend to have an excellent beer at my side to keep me inspired.

What are your favorite ingredients and tools? I don’t think I’ve ever said no to a beer that’s been made with Belgian yeasts, as they do wonderful things to beer and give it such a complex, distinctive taste. And I’m always a sucker for beers that have either chili peppers or vanilla in them. Even when those flavours are brought to the extreme (I had a chipotle beer that cleared my sinuses once) I still find them incredible. And, of course, my number one favourite ingredient would have to be Cascade Hops. They have such a wonderful, citrusy aroma that I can smell them for hours. I actually have a Cascade Hop vine growing in my front yard.

As for tools, standard things: a notebook, a camera, and a bottle opener that once belonged to my grandfather. There are also these food grade silicone bottle caps that are a lifesaver for me when I’m alone and want to sample a beer that comes in a huge bottle. You just pour what you want, stick one of those on and it keeps the beer carbonated and fresh.

What are your favorite drink and drinking resources? The main books I reach for when I’m stumped are Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher and The Oxford Companion to Beer edited by Garrett Oliver. The answer to pretty much any question I have for myself can be answered in those two books. For times when I feel a bit drained and need that emotional inspiration, I go to The World Atlas of Beer by Stephen Beaumont & Tim Webb and The Naked Pint by Christina Perozzi & Hallie Beaune. Seeing other people love and enjoy beer for similar reasons to me really gets the fire in my heart going.

**What photography equipment do you use? **I have a Nikon D90 with a 28mm and a 55-200mm lens and edit in Adobe Lightroom 3.

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Robin LeBlanc

Credit: Robin LeBlanc

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Where else can we find your work?** You can mainly see me on The Thirsty Wench, along with the odd radio/television appearance.

What drink blogs do you follow? I follow quite a few, but the two sites I read every day are Canadian Beer News and Mom ‘N Hops.

**What is one thing that sets your site apart from others? **I explain things in a way that is natural, to the point and very light on the jargon, while at the same time not condescending. I like making my posts sound more like a fun conversation than a lecture.