#MediaMonday – Eric Walters & Luke Irvin
Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Eric Walters and Luke Irvin. Eric is the host of the Tap That AZ Podcast, the co-author of The Arizona Beer Book and the co-founder of the newly launched A Taste of AZ Magazine. Luke is the photographer, co-author, and co-founder of The Arizona Beer Book and A Taste of AZ Magazine.
So, Eric and Luke, time to share!
Tell us how you got your start in media? We want to know your story.
Eric: I’ve always had a creative fire in me but could never find the right outlet. In the early 2000s I bought a decent camera and started taking pictures and learning some basic photo editing skills. Over the course of the next 15 years or so I just kept trying new things in my free time. I started a blog and made three posts: a beer review, a video of me getting destroyed by my boxing training partner who is half my size (it’s still on YouTube somewhere) and a story about one of my toddlers pooping on the floor. In 2016 I launched my first podcast with a childhood friend. It was a music podcast where my buddy who lives in Florida would call me on Skype and we would drink and talk music for a few hours a couple times per month. We drank every episode so we had a segment called “WTF Are You Drinking.” That would lead to me tagging local breweries in our posts and one day I received a message from Matt Frosch from Peoria Artisan Brewery & Gastropub asking if we’d be down to do a live show. I had no idea how to do a live show and it was another 2+ years before I did an actual “live” show but it sparked an idea: why not start traveling around our beautiful state to talk to the owners and breweries of these great local spots. On January 7, 2017, I launched episode one of Tap That AZ featuring Mother Road Brewing Co.
Luke: When I was going to college at ASU for computer science, I was disappointed in the slow pace of learning. While I loved my programming classes and did well, unnecessary time spent on gardening classes and English weighed me down. So I began to make websites for fun. I found many people needed making websites of their own, which became a great side hustle for me. Soon I was making decent money and learning how to do photography and video as well. Five years later, I am blessed to work with a long list of outstanding small businesses telling their stories.
Tell us how you came to start working in the Valley media scene?
Luke: A few years into developing my skills, I fell deeply in love with the Arizona food and beverage industry. About three years later, I teamed up with Eric. At the time he was growing a resounding reputation for Tap That AZ Podcast. Shortly after we began working together, we decided to create The Arizona Beer Book. We wrote, designed, and published the book in a little over a year. The joy and challenge of writing and photographing for the book solidified my direction of covering the local beer scene, which later grew into food.
Eric: I worked in the corporate world starting in 2008. Once I started Tap That AZ I realized pretty quickly that this is a path I wanted to take. Long story short, on April 25, 2018, I finally quit a job I absolutely despised to take the leap and do this full time. The goal from the beginning was to make Tap That AZ about Arizona. I’ve done a few features on out-of-state spots but almost every piece of content is Arizona focused. When asked if I’d expand into other beer markets such as Denver or San Diego and the answer has always been “no.” My interest in expansion has been to expand outside of beer. Tap That AZ has allowed me to create such an amazing network of awesome people and many of those over the last couple of years have come from the Arizona food scene. So in May 2020 Luke (also co-author of The Arizona Beer Book) and I launched “A Taste of AZ – The Arizona Food and Beverage Podcast.” Then in January of this year we released the first issue of A Taste of AZ Magazine.
Tell us about the podcast, the book and especially the magazine?
“Tap That AZ” podcast is all about the amazing people and stories behind the Arizona beer community. Craft beer is such an intriguing industry because many of the owners and brewers came from careers they hated and brewing was that “dream job.” With that you get a TON of passion and “no plan b” type of scenarios which makes great stories if you know how to let people talk. “A Taste of AZ” is just that same approach extending into the bigger food and beverage scene. With “A Taste of AZ” we are working closely with amazing people like Christina Barrueta (Write on Rubee) and Steven Larson (Wizard of Za) to continue to build our team of people who share the same passion and vision. “A Taste of AZ” has both a physical magazine distributed to hundreds of businesses and readers, and digital content. On our website www.ATasteOfAZ.com people can find articles, podcasts, videos, and more all about Arizona food and beverage. The best part? IT’S A FREE MAGAZINE!
How many magazines will you publish each year? What is the lead time to pitch stories?
We publish “A Taste of AZ” magazine quarterly. Our first issue included a few thousand copies, and future releases will increase that number. People can pitch stories on our website “About us” page. Currently, we have very limited space for pitches, as we are getting submissions daily.
Tell us about the types of story pitches you want?
We reserve “A Taste of AZ” magazine for stories about local businesses, or those heavily involved in the local F&B scene. We do not cover national chains or large corporations. Our goal is to highlight mom and pop shops while educating and informing consumers who pay more for local products.
Where did you grow up?
Eric: I grew up 20 minutes outside of Youngstown in Ohio, which is a real tough part of the country. Situated between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, this once-thriving steel city has been a tough place since steel production was sent overseas in the ‘70s. My small town was great as a kid but as I grew up I realized I needed to be somewhere else if I was going to find my path. From day one I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by people who love me so I feel it’s my duty to keep spreading the love. And there’s nothing I love more than food and drink, haha!
Luke: I was born in Utah then moved to Arizona when I was three. Though I am not technically a native, I feel as though Arizona is a part of who I am. From the Arizona wilderness I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, to the amazing community that I find myself in, Arizona is something very special to me. I went to Desert Mountain High School, and then attended ASU for a year and a half before starting my business.
Favorite type of music?
Eric: I know everyone says this but I do listen to everything. It’s not uncommon for me to listen to a Slipknot song followed directly by Madonna’s Borderline. I just love music. For some specifics, I LOVE The Black Keys. Growing up 66 miles from Akron I got to experience them from being the two dudes from Akron who absolutely killed it on the local stages to being one of the top rock bands in the world. In fact, watching the live version of a song called “Cold Companion” by a band called The Arcs (side project of The Black Keys singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach) is what sparked the idea of the music podcast.
Luke: I’ve always been a fan of classic rock, blues, and hip hop. Groups like The Doors, The Allman Brothers, and A Tribe Called Quest have always been on my playlists. More recently I have been trying to relearn piano, which has led me to exploring jazz pianists including Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, and many more icons.
Favorite Arizona breweries?
Eric: That’s like asking who my favorite child is! So many great ones and for so many varying reasons. I’ve always loved Dark Sky and that is doing what they want the way they want to do it. They don’t care if people say this or that: we have our vision and we’re sticking to it. Which is great but when you’re making beers with juniper branches and entire CASES of straight up Oreos you REALLY have to have a solid hold of your values and trust in yourself. And they have. Now they are one of the most respected and well-loved breweries in the state as well as one of the most innovative in the country. Ryan Sandlin is the hardest working guy in Arizona beer and no one will debate that.
Luke: Barrio Brewing Co. will always hold a special place in my heart. As the oldest brewery in Arizona, they have so much history. Their passion for Arizona and the care they have for their team is something I truly appreciate. I also love Helton Brewing Co. and anyone else making local brews!
Luke: Green. I love going into the Arizona wilderness and seeing all the greenery, despite the state’s desert reputation.
Favorite TV shows or movies?
Eric: Many of my life lessons come from “South Park.” To me Trey Parker and Matt Stone truly are geniuses. One of my favorite things of all time to watch is the “6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park.” It shows their process of making an episode from concept to airing in less than a week. To see them in their creative element is inspiring.
Luke: Lately I’ve been much more into books than tv. Recently I’ve read One Page Marketing Plan, The E Myth Revisited, Contagious, and The Mental Toughness Handbook. I enjoyed them all very much.
Favorite local restaurants or other haunts?
Eric: I am in north Phoenix and for years we didn’t have much, especially as far as breweries go. Now we have a few including Simple Machine and Front Pourch. Both are great spots and the beers are all on point. Simple Machine holds a special place in my heart as I just released a beer with them in January called Tap That AZ Hazy IPA. Our plan is to have it all year around and available across the state. We will continue to work with as many local companies as possible, such as Sinagua Malt and Grain R&D, to make this beer as much Arizona as we can, from the grains to the hops.
Luke: Craft 64, Il Bosco, Cornish Pasty, Barrio Brewing Co. and Hot Noodles, Cold Sake.
Something readers would be surprised to know about you?
Eric: I moved to Arizona without ever visiting here at all. I went to California once when I was 8 and Colorado once when I was 18. Up until the age of 27 those had been the only two times I’d been further west than Indiana. I had $700, a Dodge Stratus, a room to stay in and hope. But above all I had a burning desire to find my path. It took me 10 more years of work and self-discovery once I came to Arizona to find that path but here we are!
Luke: Many people I work with are very surprised to learn my age. At 24 people often tell me I am an old soul. I appreciate that because I have always had an urge to punch above my weight class with my work and my accomplishments. I don’t know if I’m doing that yet, but I sure try!
Social media handles:
Podcast on Instagram: @tapthatazpodcast