A chat with Lew Bryson about things other than whiskey (like Les Paul, fraternities & Hildy's)

Photographer: Stephen Lyford

Whiskey authority Lew Bryson chats about his Lancaster roots before returning to town for a whiskey seminar and introduction to his new book tomorrow night.


I was intimidated to talk with Lew Bryson. While I’ve been drinking whiskey long enough to drop an occasional factoid here and there to friends or family who might not be so familiar with the stuff and come across as something close to knowledgable, there’s nothing more fitting to put you in your place than a chat with the guy who not only serves as managing editor of Whisky Advocate magazine, but also recently published a book that’s titled Tasting Whiskey: An Insider’s Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World’s Finest Spirits. Yeah.

So how does one start a conversation with one of the whisk(e)y world’s most dominant voices? By talking about almost anything but whiskey.

Catch Lew Bryson tomorrow night at the Lancaster Public Library as he gives an informational seminar on whiskey (and whisky) from Kentucky to the Scottish Highlands to Japan.

And make sure to grab a copy of the January 2015 issue of Fly Magazine for the full interview with Lew.


Lew Bryson: Let me just turn down the music here.

Mike McMonagle: What are you listening to?

LB: It’s a collaboration album between, who the hell is it, Chet Atkins and Les Paul doing a cover of “Caravan.” I really like Les Paul. I got turned on to him like 20 years ago. I was playing in a band and the lead guitarist had a Gibson Les Paul. I asked him where the name came from, and after he told me, I looked some things up and got hooked.

MM: So you’re a whiskey and beer expert … and a musician as well?

LB: Yeah, I used to play saxophone. I still sing with my church choir and another small group. We performed last week – did a Schubert song and some Mozart.

MM: I noticed the 215 area code. Are you from Philly?

LB: I’m in Bucks County. But I grew up in Lancaster, in Paradise. My mom’s still there, and my daughter’s at F&M, too.

MM: Do you come out to Lancaster often?

Tasting_WhiskeyLB: My wife and I actually went to F&M, and we have some good friends that work in the alumni office. So I’ve wound up doing a number of tasting events for the alumni association.

MM: You’re the kind of alumni that they’ll take the donations in kind.

LB: [laughs] You’re right! I actually did a beer tasting at my old fraternity last year on Founder’s Day. It was kind of cool to see how they were being really careful about keeping the underage age guys not drinking. The seniors and the alums were getting served samples from the underage guys.

MM: Did you make any stops into Hildy’s?

LB: [laughs] We actually went there when we were in town for homecoming. My wife was like, “Why did we come here?” [laughs] Why did we come here? Shit, she was there more often than I was!

MM: So, speaking of Lancaster, and of your new book. Tell me about the upcoming event at the library. Is that equal parts book promotion and classic whiskey seminar?

LB: I think they actually want me to do a lecture, it being a library and all. We’re still talking about whether there’s going to be samples or not.

MM: So this is a flask event?

LB: [laughs] You’ll have homework. You’ll have to bring this to class.

MM: I don’t know that they’ll like me writing a list of “The 5 Whiskeys Lew Bryson Recommends You Smuggle Into The Library.”

LB: [laughs] Yeah, right.


[Editor’s note: It appears that the event will, in fact, include sampling. So please, don’t bring a flask.]


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Posted in Drink, Drink – Lancaster, Out & About, Out & About – Lancaster, PROfiles

Mike McMonagle is a late-to-bed guy who tries daily to be an early riser. He drinks coffee, beer, whiskey and water regularly. He moonlights as a singer/songwriter by the name of Mike McMonagle. He makes photos sometimes, usually of his cat, or of puddles. Mike is the former digital editor for Fly; he left in 2015.

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