What Now?

| October 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Rowe on Beer

Despite the adult males in my own family devoted to beer, the brew leaves me cold. Yet, beer got my attention when Peter Rowe, our town’s beat columnist, got himself a perfect perk of trip to Berlin in the interests of the industry. Maybe, I thought, I’d underestimated its importance in life – in our town. We talked:

LW: How lucky can a journalist get? Did you originate this beat, volunteer for it,
Agree to it, kicking & screaming?

PR: I stumbled into beer 20 years ago, when my brother-in-law gave me 40 beers. So I made notes on these beers, just to amuse myself –then had enough notes for a story. I pitched the food editor. She welcomed my $100 bribe.

This got me thinking. Why not turn this into a monthly column? And away we went.

LW: How responsible are you for the current rage for beer? How long has it been such a significant San Diego industry?

PR: My timing was superb, but that’s about it.

The people at Karl Strauss, Pizza Port, AleSmith, Stone and Ballast Point began to build craft beer by the mid-1990s. They were responsible for San Diego’s incredible growth.

LW: Where do we fall now in national beer expertise, production?

PR: For American craft beer, San Diego is one of the top three places in the U.S. The others are Portland and Denver. Other cities have great beer – I recently spent a week in Brooklyn, where the beer was outstanding – but no one else has the range as San Diego, Portland and Denver.

LW: Do you have to personally test all the beers you write about?

PR: Yes, I drink every beer that I write about.

LW: For the brew/bobos: what’s the difference between “craft” beer and…beer?
Karl Strauss says it is S. D. “s “first ‘micro-brewery.’” I presume that’s a “small” brewery? What constitutes “small”?

PR: “Craft” beer comes from a.) independent breweries that b.) use traditional ingredients and c.) make fewer than 6 million barrels of beer. “Micro-brewery” is an old term, no longer used by local breweries.

LW: What are the benefits of beer in one’s diet. – In one’s life?

PR: Doctors say that one to two beers a day can help men maintain good heart health. For women, it’s one beer a day. Of course, drinking excessive beer can damage your heart, liver and other organs.

LW: In your recent feature from Berlin, you quoted an industry analyst saying that “San Diego beer is too extreme for German palates,” and a quote from a teacher at the Berlin Beer Academy, who says her students “ … think American beer is that fizzy yellow thing.” Now, what’s your expert opinion of those two quotes? Is American beer in trouble?

PR: I think U.S. beers are becoming popular with younger German beer fans. American craft beers, though, are routinely considered too bitter, too strong, too “extreme” by fans of mild lagers.

LW: How important is Germany to the American beer industry, anyway?

PR: Germany – and Europe in general – could become a good market for American craft beer. But the future of U.S. craft beer really belongs here, where craft beer only accounts for 11 percent of beer sales.

LW: Stone Brewing’s Berlin project. Will they succeed there? Are they facing cultural challenges?

PR: This is a fun experiment and should succeed. But it will be a modest venture for Stone – its new brewery in Richmond, Va., will be five times larger than its Berlin operation.

LW: Your loyal readers wish to know: What and how much beer do you drink? What’s your tolerance? Really, you’re the media: which beers do you actually buy?
Are your kids drinking beer?

PR: Beer has been a great pleasure in my life, but I’m clear that this is an optional – people can have a good, satisfying life and enjoy a wide range of food without drinking beer. I average one beer a night, with the occasional festival where I will try 10-12 three-ounce samples. My wife drinks wine, not beer. Two of my sons drink beer; a third is a teetotaler. All three are happy and healthy.

LW: Now that I know so much about beer, should I try – yet again – to develop a taste?

PR: Greg Koch, Stone’s co-founder, argues that people who say they hate beer are wrong – they just haven’t found the beer they like.

LW: What’s the worst reason to drink beer?

PR: On the few times I’ve been truly sad, I avoid alcohol – especially beer. Why associate such a great beverage with such unfortunate occasions?

LW: What is your own favorite brew and your meal of choice that beer compliments?

PR: That’s like asking which is my favorite child? It can’t be done! I recently drank Alpine’s Pure Hoppiness, a double IPA, with a spicy chicken tortilla stew. It was terrific. That’s a cult beer, yet, one of my life’s favorite meals was salad, corn on the cob, grilled trout and Coors. I’m not a fan of Coors, yet the food and drink were both fresh, and the setting – a small diner perched above a river outside Lake Tahoe — was incredibly romantic. I was overjoyed.

Peter Rowe’s column runs weekly in the S. D. Union-Tribune’s “Night & Day” section.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Entertainment, Local News

About the Author ()