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A Moment with a Beer Nerd That’s Drumming Up Some Trouble, Brent Topa

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Brent’s been on the team for a little over a year now. His probing articles help us engage a broader consumer base, and share Houston beer in an educated and curious tone that we’re super grateful for.

But he’s also a very ok guy, and we wanted to give y’all a glimpse into who he is when he’s not behind the keyboard asking tough questions about pricing or nerding all the way out about how he organizes his refrigerator.

Brent is a rare specimen.

In the 4 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve had a total of 9 people on the team. Hannah, Katie, Sam, Nick, Tam, Josh, Brent, Chris, and myself. There have been 17 others that have interviewed and either didn’t make the cut or simply fell off during the interview process for whatever reason.

Aside from Chris and myself, only 2 of those are still contributing regularly, Brent and Josh. Everybody else has moved on in life or realized that writing about beer isn’t as easy as it looks. We love and appreciate every one of them for their contributions to our site and to Houston beer, but these numbers paint a big picture.

I say all that to say, being on the team for a year is kind of a big deal. Only 11.7% of contributors make it past a couple of months, so thanks Brent, we really appreciate you. Beyond what he does for Houston beer, Brent’s a very interesting dude. Move over, Dos Equis guy…

His super dry wit and precisely timed GIFs are enough to make me LOL in the chat every day, and I mean LOL FR FR, not just type it with a stale face.

Brent’s a Project Manager for Exo out of Magnolia, TX. Their main business is commercial lighting repair and remediation. He coordinates repair teams around the country for inspection, data collection, equipment delivery, and repair completion. Every day is different for Brent, and that keeps him on his toes.

His wife, Sheridan, is an agricultural teacher and FFA advisor at Klein Oak High School. She also attended Texas A&M and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science. Currently, she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Higher Education from ACU. She loves spending time at the lake, time with family, watching football, and caring for their myriad of animals. Sheridan loves home remodeling, and they’re currently working on their second house flip together. Brent jokes that he can DIY any project in the house if it means he can use the savings on beer money. I don’t think Sheridan thinks that’s as funny as we do, but that’s alright. We’ll laugh for her while we Brent shares the savings with us.

Brent Topa’s Recent Big Accomplishments

Brent earned his MBA in Operations and Supply Chain Management from ACU in August of 2019. He also joined the Alpha Chi and Beta Gamma Sigma honor societies through his time at ACU. Finally, his band, the Brandon McDermott Band, went into the studio to record their first single together just last month, (more on that soon)!

Brent is a busy guy, but somehow you’d never see it on his face. This guy’s as cool as a cucumber despite having his hands in a little bit of everything. When he’s not ticking away at nearly 10,000 beers or building with his umpteen thousand LEGOs, he’s writing about Houston beer and killing bottle shares!

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“Line share”

20-Something Questions with Brent Topa

Past

What was your childhood relationship with beer? Did you grow up seeing your dad drinking Lonestar, for example, or do you remember sneaking a sip at a Memorial Day backyard BBQ?

Growing up, my parents weren’t big into beer. They weren’t much into alcohol in fact, just on special occasions. Personally, I didn’t get into beer until college. It just never drew my attention before then. In fact, when I was a kid, I distinctly remember a few times where I smelled beer and thought, “That is gross!”

What was your beer of choice before you discovered craft, and what about that beer made you so loyal to it?

Before craft, I had a thing for Bud Select. It was one of the harder-to-find Budweiser beers, which was part of the allure for me. I also loved the black label (I felt fancy) and it was a good mix between the full-on Budweiser pale lager and the too-drinkable Bud Light light lager.

What is the accomplishment that you’re most proud of?

That one is easy…earning the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts. Man, that was a TON of work. Boy Scouts was an incredible experience for me, especially when it came to camping and the outdoor activities. My Eagle Scout project, building tables for my elementary school’s greenhouse, was actually completed my senior year of high school, which is the HARDEST way to do it considering everything else you have going on in that final year. I’m not sure how I got through all of it.

What are a few things you wish you knew when you started writing and learning about beer?

The biggest one (and it’s still ongoing) is understanding the process of brewing beer. I’m familiar with just the very absolute basics and that’s it. Having never brewed before (no, I don’t count that plastic homebrew kit I got for Christmas years ago), I have almost no exposure to it. It also would’ve been super helpful to understand the terminology and hop profiles. Even today, I still find myself looking both of those up regularly.

What beer on your massive list makes you want to brag the most?

That’s a great question! With everyone’s definition of a “whale” varying, it’s hard to say. I’ve been very fortunate to try beers such as Sip of Sunshine, Heady Topper, Utopia, and others at that level. But it’s more about the stories behind some beers that do it for me. Take Trappist Westvleteren 12, for example. That’s a whale for sure, but I got to enjoy mine at Au Bon Vieux Temps in Brussels. What an experience!

Why did you start that massive list anyways? Like, who on earth does that? Tell us the story.

I have two buddies that used to live in Houston and we would go brewery hopping a lot and travel together. We were doing shares before shares were cool and getting to try a LOT of beers. They kept trying to sell me on the beer list idea but I was resistant at first. I enjoyed trying new beers and just checking out the scene. But as my love for craft beer grew, so did my nerdy side. I’ve always been the type to chase a series of things (Legos, Hot Wheels, etc.) Once I figured out that I could “collect” a series of beers on a list, it just took off from there. It also quickly became a competition (still is!) so I had to get in the game.

Random Questions

What is a secret talent of yours?

Ice skating. Not my favorite thing to do, not by a long shot, but I’m apparently pretty good at it.

What’s the most you’ve ever spent on LEGOs in a single swoop?

Man, probably $400. Pocket change in the LEGO game.

If you could change the national anthem, what would you make it?

Space Jam by Quad City DJs. Show me a person that doesn’t get pumped by that song and I’ll show you a person that hasn’t lived.

You had too much to drink. Who do you call for a ride? Who’s your second call if they don’t answer?

I’m all in with Uber and Lyft. They’ve both worked out really well and are super affordable.

Favorites

Favorite beer at a BBQ?

Impossible to name just one, but something sessionable. BBQs are an all day thing and something heavy will knock me out in the first round. Probably take something a little hoppy and bitter though, to balance the sweetness from BBQ sauces.

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Chris and Brent in Urban South’s mansion of a cold box prior to opening.

Favorite beer at a crawfish boil?

Gotta go lager or [specifically] pilsner. That light body with a touch of hops really offsets the spicy crawfish. Plus, the beer doesn’t leave you bogged down once you approach the 5th pound.

Favorite beer to share with BMC friends?

Lil Snack from 11 Below. One of the best pilsners on the local market.

Favorite beer to hoard?

Anything bourbon barrel aged. They really evolve over time. I’d love to get some people together and do a vertical in the future.

Favorite beer style to hate?

Light lager. Like, what are we doing here?

Favorite brewery outside of Houston?

Hudson Valley. Nobody touches their fruited sour game…nobody.

Favorite place to find inspiration for your article topics?

My beer list. It’s categorized by aspects such as style, location, and even packaging. There are endless possibilities for inspiration when you think about all of the different things that go into creating a beer.

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Chris and Brent interviewing Urban South

What’s your fav food to pair beer with?

Asian food. That style of food can range from light to heavy which makes it perfect for a wide variety of beers.

Favorite album of all time?

S.C.I.E.N.C.E. by Incubus. Easily my favorite band of all time, but that album has a lot of history. It was one of the first I ever pirated but it also got me into the band. I’ve seen them live several times and own nearly all of their albums. We covered “New Skin” for the high school talent show and I even played in an Incubus cover band for a bit.

Favorite album of 2020?

Don’t have an album but I have been all over Rival Sons in 2020. Every album, on repeat on Spotify. That reminds me…I need to dig up my cowbell.

Favorite song of all time?

Warning by Incubus. That song has stuck with me ever since high school. The drums on it are phenomenal and the lyrics are super inspirational.

Favorite song to perform with the Brandon McDermott Band?

“43 & R.” Brandon originally wrote it for his wife for their wedding and it was one of the first songs we wrote together after I joined the band. It has a totally different feel than a lot of our songs and I’m really happy with the drum part I put with it. [When joining a band,] I wanted to find a group that would play the bigger venues all while making it fun and creating music that people want to listen to. Country music is very prone to parallelism but Brandon has built something outside of that cliche. He’s talented, well respected, motivated and connected. That’s all you can ask from a front man. This song is a great example of that.

Future

What’s a unicorn beer that you’ve always wanted to try?

I really want to knock out the rest of the Sue series from Toppling Goliath. I’m a few cans short and heard they recently opened distribution closer to Texas. Heard good things about their Assassin series too.

What’s the first thing you’re going to buy now that you’re a celebrity?

Lakehouse for sure. There isn’t much better than watching the sun go down over the water. Obviously while drinking a beer too.

You’re an accomplished man with enough hobbies and talents to make people’s head spin, but knowing you, there’s more on the horizon. What’s the next hobby you’re eyeing or skill you’re trying to master?

Christmas decoration domination. Yes, it’s a hobby, but it’s certainly not a game. Every year, we compete with our neighbors and we’ve taken several L’s since moving in. That ends in 2020!

What local brewery do you want to interview one day?

Excalibur Brewing. In beer years, they’re brand new and I’ve been very impressed with the beers I’ve had so far. They have a unique location in Old Town Spring too, so I’d love to learn more about how they plan to capitalize on that along with their plans for big, bold beers in the Houston market.

What regional brewery do you want to interview one day?

Turning Point. I’ve been there twice and they can do a wide range of styles really well. I can think of specific sours, imperial stouts, hazies, etc. that have all been killer. We also did an article together very recently…no big deal.

What national brewery?

New Glarus. They were whales before whales were a thing. Spotted Cow is a great beer, but they have so many others. Another brewery that can run the gamut well and push styles out that other breweries are too scared to touch.

We (Beer Chronicle) have sought out to raise the bar for how Houston beer is discussed. Our photographer (Josh Olalde) and designer (Anthony Gorrity) hope to do the same for how it’s seen. How do you intend to continue to raise that bar?

I want to continue to push the boundaries of what we cover as a site. I love all of the different topics we currently discuss and want to expand on that. How are the different types of aluminum cans priced? Why is one hop so much more expensive than another? Stuff you’d never consider is what I like to write about.

Not-beer

What’s most important to you – what pushes and motivates you?

The end game. Retirement is pictured almost as a fantasy for my age group, but I don’t fully believe that. Sheridan and I know what our long-term goals are and I want to remain as flexible as I can so that we can get there. Whether that’s career-related, finance-related, or simply a mindset, it’s important to me to know where I want to be and how to get there.

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Brent Topa gives Josh Olalde the “lookin’ like a snack” eyes

Brent is a great guy, and he deserves every bit of recognition he’s received for his contributions to this community. Brent is actually the one that had the idea for us to interview one another. Josh was having a hot streak with accomplishments at the time, so it felt right to honor him first, but Anthony and Chris are coming up soon-ish.

Thanks for reading. Go give Brent a follow, and if you see him out and about, ask him to show you pics of his newest skill, masonry. I’m telling y’all, there’s nothing this guy can’t do!

As always, beers to you, Houston.

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