by Matthew Kemeny
Chris Sands is the computer systems administrator at The Frederick News-Post, where he controls our powerful newspaper routing solution, RouteSmart Online, making sure the daily paper hits the front porches of its readers in the most efficient and timely manner possible.
But he also has another, much different, role at the News-Post. Since 2016, Sands has been the voice behind the Uncapped Podcast, a weekly show dedicated to craft beer, craft beer lovers, and the breweries that churn out the ‘hop-tastic’ suds.
The term craft beer can seem ambiguous, but the National Brewer’s Association defines it as beer brewed by a small, independent brewer. Take that with a grain of salt, or hops, if you will. The craft brew industry is huge, making up around 98 percent of all breweries in the United States.
A bit of history: In 2016, Sands built out the podcast studio at the News-Post and set the stage for all of the newspaper’s podcasts. And despite being an avid podcast listener, Sands had never personally hosted one to that point.
Although Sands had to brew his show from scratch, his podcast now includes 217 episodes and boasts more than 10,000 listeners. His most recent episode, aired March 11, profiled Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Halethorpe, Md., as well as its Head Brewer Hollie Stephenson and Guinness Ambassador Ryan Wagner who discussed their Saint Patrick Day festivities among other topics.
Sands has worked hard to differentiate his program from the many other beer-centric podcasts available.
“A lot of beer podcast focus more on the beer. I feel like I focus less on the beer and more on the people themselves,” he explained. “Many beer podcasts are really just a couple of people sitting around drinking beer and talking about the beer, but I care more about telling the story of how the brewery started, the person who started the brewery, that type of stuff.”
Uncapped, one of eight Frederick News-Post podcasts, aired its first episode in 2016 when a local brewery, Olde Mother Brewing Co., was celebrating its one-year anniversary. Flying Dog Brewery, also in Frederick, was the topic of another early Uncapped episode.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Uncapped has conducted nearly all of its weekly podcasts virtually, which has allowed Sands to interview brewery owners all over the world. His podcast has become so well known that his guests mostly come from referrals from previous guests.
The hosting gig has also become part of Sands’ role at The News-Post, a RouteSmart client since 2007. His primary responsibility is administering RouteSmart Online, which he says has been a tremendous success at the newspaper.
“There have been two major times when it saved us – once when we took over delivery of the Washington Post, and the other when we eliminated our Monday edition around 2009,” he said. “We had to reroute everything to accommodate doubling our delivery locations and RouteSmart allowed us to do that while also having a net savings in (operating) costs.
“Using RouteSmart, we were able to optimize the routing to the point that it actually saved us money, as well as bringing in extra revenue from the Washington Post.”
Sands and The News-Post promote the podcast on social media, and Sands has had the best success on Instagram (because who doesn’t like looking at pictures of beer), where he’s amassed more than 8,500 followers.
As for Sands favorite beer?
“It’s not one I can really answer,” he said. “I don’t even know how many thousands of beers that I’ve tried.”
But then Sands stopped for a moment and held up a can with his image on it, brewed by Full Tilt Brewing in Baltimore, and appropriately named: Sands Jams. “I guess I should make this my default answer now,” he concluded with a smirk.