Beer isn’t just for celebrating with your friends or drowning your sorrows. Alcohol in general has long played an important role in the history of mankind to both wonderful and disastrous affect. Beer in particular is important to us as Americans, because it played a pivotal role in the founding of colonies in the New World by the British. Envious of the riches the Spanish and Portuguese were bring back to Europe from their empires in the New World, the British decided to cash in on this source of new-found wealth. Not only did their empire require an extraordinary amount of cash to grease the wheels of the bureaucracy, but it was rumored that the New World was covered in grape vines. If the British could grow wine in the Americas, they would no longer be dependent on French imports. So they began attempting to colonize in the late 15th century to disastrous results, induced in part because of the difficulty of producing good beer.
Before your righteous indignation kicks in and you say, “I know perfectly well how to drink beer, thank you very much; I’ve been doing it well enough for years,” read a little further on. I’m fairly confident that if you’re reading this you are not potably-challenged. There is a difference however, between drinking beer and tasting it, and I mean really tasting it. Tasting it to appreciate all of the nuances of taste, aroma, and mouthfeel that the brewer lovingly imbued within the libation.
Culinary traditions from around the world are one of the principal inspirations for the beer at Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project, and to that end I am always trying to better understand the art of pairing beer and food. I love to cook, and so a big portion of my ‘research’ into pairing involves cooking. The most recent recipe I’ve tried comes from The Best of American Beer and Food by Lucy Saunders. If you aren’t aware of this book, I highly recommend it. It’s a great jumping off point.
Much is made these days of local, independent, craft beer. The Brewer’s Association is pushing the Independent Craft Brewer seal, to help educate consumers to not fall victim to the subsidiaries of InBev masquerading as craft breweries. At Intrepid Sojourner, we have happily adopted the seal and will continue to champion independent and craft beer. As a brewery focused on global influences however, we sometimes struggle with the idea of ‘local.’ Not because we don’t want to source ingredients from local suppliers, or support our local community, quite the opposite. But because some things just aren’t local.
A couple of weeks ago, I argued that beer is art because it fulfills the primary functions of art: it possesses Intentionality, it reflects Individuality, it is Unifying, and it creates Narratives. In Part II, I want to address two possible objections. First, that beer is not art, because art is not meant to be literally consumed; and second, that beer is not art, because art is not intended for mass production.
Is beer art? The short answer: yes.
To be honest, I anticipate a significant amount of pushback on this idea. One day, however, I hope it will be accepted as obvious, at least by brewers, brewery owners, and those associated with the craft beer industry; and hopefully also by a large majority of craft beer consumers, connoisseurs, and aficionados, if not everyone. Beer is art. Why? Because it fulfills the primary functions of art: it possesses Intentionality; it reflects Individuality; it is Unifying; and it creates Narratives.
The world of beer and food pairings is endless. Breweries are constantly pushing the boundaries of flavor, which only serves to open more possibilities. At Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project, our beers are heavily influenced by cuisine and thus in the perfect position to be paired with incredible meals. Today, I want to explore some of the basic rules of pairing beer and food with you.
I unknowingly started my brewing career as a Classical Archaeologist. While spending the school year at Colorado University in Boulder doing graduate work, I spent my summers working abroad in Germany, Turkey, Greece, and Jordan. I was there for linguistic work & survey archaeology, but quickly developed an interest in the incredible flavors of the culinary world of the Middle East. There were new vegetables like aubergine & adana peppers, mouth-watering spice blends such as harissa & ras el hanout. The cultures were also incredibly welcoming, excited to educate, which meant lots of free samples!
There is a story I like to tell about my time as a TA. In graduate school, I had the opportunity to be a Teacher's Assistant for several introductory courses, one of which was Intro to Archaeology. It was a huge class, nearly 300, for two reasons. One, the professor was fantastic—extremely engaging and everyone loved watching her teach. Two, the class fulfilled the Humanities requirement for majors such as business and engineering.
From embalming pharoahs to sea dragons to warding off the devil to determining women's chastity basil has had many odd uses. We thought beer would be a great one to add to the list.
We toiled under the shadow of one of the many mountains on which Zeus was fabled to have been born. In the evenings, we relaxed on a small patio at the farmhouse where we stayed, looking over Lake Marmara to the east and the great Lydian tumuli to the west; some as big as Egyptian pyramids. On those evenings, we drank Efes, named for Ephesus, home to one of the ancient wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis. There was however, nothing wonderful about the beer.