When the opportunity came to interview, the man, the legend, the Iron-liver himself, Zane Lamprey, I couldn’t pass it up. Initially, I wasn’t even sure if he liked craft beer but the more I talked with him, the more I saw a true passion for the finer elements of the drinking experience.
In 2006, Zane started his first drinking related TV show called Three Sheets. The premise involves a man who travels the globe imbibing with locals and experiencing their culture, one drink at a time. Think, a version of Anthony Bourdain that drinks a lot. Well, I guess that doesn’t work very well but you get the idea. His current show on HD Net, Drinking Made Easy, explores the local drinking customs throughout North America which has recently seen a heavier emphasis on local craft breweries.
Zane and I discuss everything from his experience working at Foot Locker to drinking Maui Brewing Co.’s Coconut Porter. This first part focuses on the man behind the persona while the second half will take a closer look at his life as a professional drinker. From the fifteen year old boy working at the mall, to the aspiring actor taking any interview he can get. This is Zane Lamprey.
Philippe: Hey Zane, how are you tonight?
Zane Lamprey: I’m doing well, thank you.
Philippe: Sorry to keep you in the office so late. I’m sure you’d rather be somewhere else?
Zane: No, no it’s one of those days. I work long days. We record and put together our podcast on Monday and Tuesday and we release it on Wednesdays so there was a lot of pod casting happening today.
Philippe: Cool, well let’s start out with the basics. What’s in your glass right now? Are you drinking anything?
Zane: I do have a drink, not that I’m always drinking at my desk but we just did the cocktail mixology segment for our podcast so Jacopo Falleni came in and made something with St. Germain, and grapefruit juice. We made a big one as a joke but then he left and the podcast was done so I’m sitting in my office, meeting with one of my producers, and I’m sipping on it thinking to myself ,”wait a minute, why am I sipping on this drink?” Working I guess.
Philippe: If you weren’t on the phone with me, where would you be? What is your favorite place to get a beer?
Zane: I’m going to Jacopo’s place tonight called Café Firenze or rather Firenze Osteria. It’s right down the street and he’s a good buddy of mine so I go there all the time. He has a great mixology menu. It’s not like you walk in and think, “what a crazy mixology place”, but when you look at the menu, you’ll think to yourself, “who is this guy? what is this place?” It’s just an Italian restaurant. I didn’t expect to have these cool mixology things.
Other than that, there’s some cool beer bars around town. I’ll go and have a beer at The Federal, Laural Tavern, or Tony’s Darts Away. Really though, wherever because there are so many places in LA now. I’ll go and shoot [Drinking Made Easy] during the summer, so I’m not here most of that time, and then I’ll come back and say “let’s go to Blue Palms” and everyone tells me that “blue palms isn’t there anymore”.
Philippe: So what do you think of the whole fiasco involving Blue Palms? That place was an icon.
Zane: Ya, it was certainly becoming one. They were good friends, and I don’t know how it has unfolded but that was the place, especially in Hollywood. There are a lot of places that are doing craft beer now but Blue Palms was the place to go. I’m sure Bryan is gonna kick back up someplace, if not there, someplace else and when he does, he’ll rock it like he did last time.
Philippe: So, what are some of your favorite local breweries?
Zane: Again, I’m in LA so, had you asked me that 3 years, I’d say “what are you talking about?” but now they’re just popping up. I just had the good people from Golden Road Brewing Company in here on the podcast and they have some great brews and a really cool operation going. Eagle Rock as well obviously, but it’s funny because I’m in LA so seldom that I can tell you more about the craft beer scene in Asheville, North Carolina than I can in my own town.
Philippe: I’m definitely interested in how you’ve seen craft beer changing throughout your travels but let’s bring it back to the start. At the beginning of your drinking life, what would you have been caught with in your hand?
Zane: On my 21st birthday (ya right), I was working at a beautiful golf course in Syracuse. Like out of Caddy Shack or something, a green keeper said to us “Hey man, I’ll get you some beer. Whatever you want.” So he goes out and gets us a case of beer, I don’t remember what it was, but I drank six of them while we watched the fireworks. I ended up hurling. I remember saying to myself, “Oh man, I’m never going to drink again.” Sure enough, I did. If you would have asked me then, I would have said it’d be more likely for me to have a career in golf than to have a career in drinking. I found my destiny up on that hill.
Philippe: It’s always interesting to see where somebody came from. What kind of jobs did you have before you got to where you are today?
Zane: Growing up, I had to have a job. If I wanted to live in my parents house, I had to get a job. They didn’t care what it was or how many hours I worked. It just had to be gainful employment so I started working at foot locker, than at an ice cream place and I even worked in landscaping. I did everything you could do for as short a period of time as you could imagine. As a part of the ADD and MTV generation, I couldn’t hold a job for very long but through that, I was able to learn a lot. You don’t realize what you’re leaning until the time comes when you get to put that experience to use.
Back in the late 90s, I moved out to LA, and I started auditioning and doing the normal acting thing. Very quickly, I realized that there was a need for some sort of resource for actors so I came up with this site called LAActors.com. It was way ahead of its time and people had no idea what I was talking about. They’d say “What do you mean a community of actors? I don’t understand.” Most people didn’t even have the web yet. After that, I started a company called Extra Cast which was a database of movie and tv extras that did really well. I sold that in 2001 but the whole time I was still drinking.
My destiny was still there but eventually I realized that the corporate life was just not for me. Those experiences helped me learn how to run a company, which I don’t think people realize is something that I do. Through our products, merchandise, and the TV show, you can probably see that there’s more to it, but I think a lot of people want to just think that I’m this guy traveling around drinking. At times, that doesn’t sound too bad, but there’s more to it than just that.
Philippe: On camera you’ve created a persona of a “career drinker”. I must have missed that major when registering for college. Was this character created through a passion for media and TV or through a love for the culture surrounding drinks?
Zane: It’s funny because a college buddy of mine who worked with me on Drinking Made Easy, moved out here about 10 years ago to be an editor. I remember in college, I was always the life of the party and I was able to get everyone laughing. We played games and did fun stuff. One day that same buddy Eric said to me “Dude you should figure out a way to make this your job”.
I remember thinking to myself, “You are an idiot. What are you talking about? Ya, like I’m the fun drinking guy and I’m going to drink with people and they’re gonna pay me to drink with them. That makes no sense.” Sure enough, it didn’t make any sense because who knew that this is where I’d end up but it was sort of prophetic at the same time. I knew that I enjoyed it but how could you possibly think of drinking as a profession? All I knew was how to entertain.
I lived in The Hamptons for two summers while working as the MC at the biggest beach club there. I was the guy on the mic, entertaining people. Again, all I knew was how to entertain. When I moved out to LA, they said to me “Ya, you’re an entertainer but you need to figure out what your business is.” Then, I saw some great business opportunities and after that, I told myself, “No, this is not right. I’m not the guy holed up in an office.” Which ironically, is where I am now. Although now, I do have a bar in my office.
Philippe: How did you break into the industry? Did you tell yourself one day, “I’m going to bootstrap this project and do it all myself” or did someone ask you to go around the world and drink?
Zane: There was a company called Screaming Flee which talked to me about hosting Three Sheets. In the past, people had talked to me about hosting things and I always worked on projects here and there and did lots of pilots. Plenty of pilots that never went anywhere. On day they said, “Ya we want to do this show called Three Sheets where you will travel around the world and drink.” I said, “Ya I’ll do it, sounds great. We shot the pilot a month later and two months after that, we shot the very first episode of Three Sheets in Ireland. After that we went on to Whales, than Belgium and then Champagne, France. We kept going and shot around 50 episodes in total.
It really helped me develop a passion for what I was doing. I was an entertainer first, and my knowledge about drinking was far down the list. It has worked its way up that list where I now know a good deal about alcohol and the industry. I’m even launching a rum right now so I know more than I ever thought I would want to know about that. We continue to shoot Drinking Made Easy and have done over 100 episodes of drinking related shows. I’m trying to let the viewer tell me what they want and if I pull something that doesn’t work then, I don’t try to force a square peg in a round hole. I just move on to the next thing and see what that is.
Philippe: At what point did you start to learn about the technical side of beer? Did you even know how to brew?
Zane: I could not have explained to you the difference between distillation, fermentation, and infusion. I wouldn’t have understood exactly what those things even meant.
Philippe: At what point did you start to appreciate it?
Zane: I started to really appreciate it around the third season of Three Sheets. I appreciated what people were doing. I appreciated what people were making. I loved the drinks. I loved hanging out and learning but I wasn’t really being present to the experience and one day I realized, “This is the road that’s been laid out in front of me. This isn’t just a temporary gig.” I told myself, “You’re the alcohol guy so you have to start taking this seriously. Don’t be a joker about it.” That was around 2007.
Philippe: How have you seen your passion shift from being an entertainer to being the guy that teaches people about drinking?
Zane: I’m the entertainer and I don’t see that ending any time soon because I like that. Even in our podcast we do a Booze In The News segment, where we touch on new innovations in the world of drinking. I try to make that palatable for everybody even if they aren’t passionate about drinking and I try to make the show enjoyable so that people walk away feeling like they’ve learned something. It’s the same with Drinking Made Easy and my rum. I’ve ingrained myself in this industry. It’s kind of like Guy Fieri, whose a chef but also does Minute to Win It on NBC. At the end of the day, he’s still a chef and no matter what he does, he will still be a chef. That’s kind of like me. I’m the drinking guy, and no matter what I do I’ll always be that guy.
Philippe: But I thought you’re always the entertainer?
Zane: Exactly. No matter what, I’ll always be the entertainer. Even when I do my other brands and stuff and it wouldn’t make sense if I wasn’t because that’s what people respond to.
Philippe: And drinking and entertaining go hand in hand pretty well no?
Zane: You’re definitely right. Most of us entertainers drink.
Stay posted for Pt. 2 of my interview with Zane Lamprey where we discuss his recent affair with craft beer and his life as a professional drinker. Part two will be up on Friday 3/16. Make sure you don’t miss it by entering your email in the subscription box below, You’ll receive every post in your inbox and never miss a word.
Read the second half of the interview at Zane Lamprey Interview – Pt. 2: The Career Drinker
Celebrate Zane Patrick’s Day with Zane Lamprey and his crew in San Diego as they take over Mission Brewery on Friday the 16th and continue the next day at McFadden’s downtown. For tickets and more information visit Drinking Made Easy.
Philippe Gagnon is the founder and writer for Craft Beer Culture. Currently residing in Orange County, California, you can find him at the local brewery drinking craft beer or online through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
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