When Dr. Greg Zeschuk announced last year that he was leaving BioWare, the game studio he had cofounded seventeen years earlier, fans of their games — which include the epic adventures Mass Effect and Dragon Age — were taken aback. And more than usual since, in his resignation, Zeschuk said he was leaving to pursue “some personal passion-driven projects related to craft beer.” That passion project is The Beer Diaries (thebeerdiaries.tv), a website and web show that’s hoping to “celebrate and promote craft beer around the world.”
With the web show about to launch, we met up with Zeschuk at Quality Food & Beverage in Los Angeles to talk about beer…and that stuff he used to do.
When did you develop your love of good beer, for the taste of beer?
Growing up in Canada, in Edmonton, there was a really early craft brewery in Alberta called Big Rock that made porters and wheat ales and stuff that wasn’t the standard fare. So in college, that’s what we would drink, though we didn’t know it was called “craft beer” at the time. It was just an alternative to mass produced beer. Fast forward to five years ago, I was at the South By South West Festival in Austin, Texas, and met a friend at a bar called The Ginger Man that has a hundred beer taps, and I had a stout called a Storm King, which was really flavorful and totally blew my mind. And ever since then it’s been this descent into beer. Now I never drink the same beer twice, or not usually, I always try something new because there’s so many choices.
Now, a lot of people love craft beers. Why did you decide to start The Beer Diaries?
When I decided I was going to leave BioWare, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t really want to work in gaming anymore, and I didn’t want to go back to medicine [Zeschuk got his medical degree from the University of Alberta before co-founding BioWare], so I thought, “What are my hobbies? Well, I like beer.” I didn’t want to brew my own beer, I’m too lazy to do that, and knew I wasn’t going to be good at it; I was terrible in chemistry class. So I thought I’d give the idea of doing a web show a shot.
One thing that distinguishes yours above other online shows are the production values. It looks like a real TV show. But why bother? No one else does that.
I think the answer is, because we can. What’s happened with video, which is really interesting, is that affordable cameras have become really good. And if you have someone who knows how to do lighting, it can look really good. Besides, I think the standards for web shows are evolving in this direction anyway.
At the moment, the website (thebeerdiaries.tv) not only hosts the webshow but some reviews as well. When writing those reviews, did you find yourself bringing anything over from reviews you’ve read of your games?
Typically, game reviews have more background, more context, than a beer review. So that was something we wanted to do. But our beer reviews are going to evolve a lot as we go on, I want to play around with the format, see what works and what doesn’t.
Are there other game developers who share your love of craft beer?
There are. The friend of mine who got me hooked on craft beers works at a game studio in San Francisco. I also started to do weekly tastings at the Austin studio [where Star Wars: The Old Republic was developed], and at first it was just four of us, but slowly more and more people came around. Three months later, and now there’s twenty people there, and they’re all bringing bottles.
Of course, the obvious thing for you to do would be a Beer Diaries video game.
Yeah…I have trouble imaging what that would look like.
It would be an epic adventure, with moral choices…
Yeah, right [laughs].
When you were making games, did you try to inject your love of beer into any of them. Like, did you try to put a brew pub into Mass Effect, to show that there’s going to be good beer in the future?
No, but I did chuckle when I saw the Brewfest in World of Warcraft. Clearly someone at Blizzard loves beer.
Finally, when sitting down for an afternoon of Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or The Old Republic, what beers would you recommended and why?
Well, clearly Mass Effect would need something light, maybe a pilsner. Not sure why. For Dragon Age, you’d want a style of beer called an Old Ale or a good dark beer. Maybe Storm King. But Star Wars is a harder one. I don’t know. I mean, there was the Cantina…
And no one knows what’s in that blue milk.
True. Maybe it’s some futuristic space beer.
The first episode of The Beer Dairies launches January 31 at thebeerdiaries.tv.