I have recently become very involved in the artisan beer movement. Living in Costa Rica I watched developments with minor interest from afar. Since my initial interest, craft beer and breweries have begun to make a name for themselves in the country. I have sampled and worked with the staff and beers from Volcano Brewing Company and Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Comapny. I highly recommend both.
I was very excited about the beer workshop to be hosted at Salone del Gusto for multiple reasons. The workshop was to be hosted by some big names in the business, including the president of the Brewers Association and founder of the American Homebrewers Association, Charlie Papazian. Also the workshop was meant to focus on 6 artisan beers and pairing them with different products (a topic of great interest to me as I teach how to cook with beer).
Artisan beer is a curious thing. Some people love it. Some people not so much. Mostly from my experience I would say many people do not understand it or at least what it entails to create and offer an artisan beer. A relationship is built when an artisanal beer is produced between growers, brewers, distributors, retailers and customers. It is a bit of a microsystem and the stronger the contributors, the stronger the system.
Education is a HUGE part of craft beer and its appreciation. Without fail, people inquire about why the cost of a craft beer is higher, why many artisan beers are unavailable outside of the brewery and what makes these beers different from the ones on your everyday supermarket shelf. The panel within the ‘Beers on the Road’ taste workshop were impressive. Each individual was very knowledgable and I thought that as a whole they hit some very strong points on the topic at hand that I would like to share with you:
- Craft beers are easier to control when they are only offered for consumption at the brewery. In this manner they are not subjected to temperature and movement abuses that can occur with transportation and distribution.
- People involved with artisan beer should see it as their responsibility to not only sell good quality beer, but also the pleasure of drinking it.
- Artisanal beers tend to cost more, because production costs and cost of ingredients are higher, but this can only be justified if the value or quality of the final product reflects the detail paid to production and ingredient selection.
Each beer we sampled was incredibly unique and full of character. All of them were paired with different products which in turn lead to a very interesting dynamic.
- Dubbel – A double style Belgian ale from Oklahoma presenting tones of malted chocolate fig. This was paired with a blue goat cheese.
- Maracaibo Especial – Hailing from the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in Michigan, this beer showcased nuances of orange, cocoa nibs and cinnamon. Singular due to its aging process in wood barrels, the pairing was made with fennel infused salami from Tuscany.
- Elysian Avatar Jasmine – This incredibly aromatic, hoppy brew from Seattle was paired with prosciutto.
- Born and Raised – This hoppy IPA (Indian Pale Ale) with a bitter finish is made from ingredients that are located no farther than 300 miles from its home in Spokane Washington.
- Brainless on Peaches – Compliments of the Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City Utah and paired with an Italian biscotto.
- KBS (Kentucky breakfast stout) – A beer with a strong personality due to its time spent in bourbon whiskey barrels was also beautifully paired with a crisp Italian cookie.
The beers were wonderful. The panel had very strong contributors, including a woman named Teri Fahrendorf from the Pink Boots Society. I learned tons of great stuff and solidified my interest in craft beers. As an added plus I got to sit next to a very cool Italian couple from England who apart from being trendy, talented and tattooed, they loved beer!
I encourage you all to get out there and try your local brews!