Brew Masters Puts Craft Beer in the Spotlight
Sam Calagione hosts Discovery Channel's new show about craft beer, Brew Masters.
All I have to say is, boy, am I thirsty.
Update: Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought the Blue Moon commercials were ridiculous.
Brew Masters, a new television show starring Dogfish Head Beer owner Sam Calagione, debuted last night on Discovery Channel. And it was everything I hoped it would be and more. The first episode was a huge success. It was both fun to watch and informative, opening a portal into the inner workings of a world-class craft brewery in both the day-to-day operations and the process of developing a new beer from start to finish.
The episode began by explaining a little bit about craft beer, as well
as what Dogfish's role is in the craft beer revolution. For beer nuts,
it was little more than a refresher course. But for craft-beer
neophytes, the show handled the difference between Big Beer (read: Bud,
Miller) and craft brewers in a way that was easy to understand and down-to-earth.
From there, it launched into the meat of the episode: the creation of an
innovative new beer from start to finish. In this case, Calagione
visited with an executive from Sony Records to create a new beer to
pair with the 40th-anniversary rerelease of legendary jazz musician Miles
Davis' seminary album, Bitches Brew. Since the name was already an easy match, it was up to Sam and his head brewers to come up with a blend that
would illustrate the creative fusion at play in the eponymous album,
all while making sure it tastes damned good. The catch: With the
rerelease of Bitches Brew only ten weeks away, Dogfish had to move at
light speed to get the beer to market on time.
Calagione (middle) and his brewing team put their heads together on how to craft a new beer.
What Brew Masters really excelled at was showing just how Calagione and
his madcap brewers start with an idea and end up with a fully
functional product. With Bitches Brew, Calagione traveled to Ethiopia
Town in Washington, D.C., to stock up on traditional African ingredients
like gesho root and unfiltered honey, which would then become the
African half of the beer's black and white fusion. In a pretty cool
scene that showed how brewers tweak their creations, Calagione sampled
a test batch of Bitches Brew at a beer and food pairing event in D.C.,
then modified the recipe to match the results. By the end of the
episode, it was really clear what kind of passion and know-how goes
into creating a product like this. You couldn't help but walk away
thinking, "Why in the holy hell would anyone drink a Bud when this stuff
is out there?"
Brew Masters also put a lens on the inner workings of the Dogfish
brewery in Milton, Delaware. We witnessed brewery workers scramble to
find a missing valve piece that somehow found its way into one of a
thousand bottles of 90 Minute IPA and struggle to clean up a crazy glue spill. We learned that each little problem that arises on the line
creates a domino effect that trickles all the way down to the brewing
process, creating bottlenecks in packaging and even fermenting. It
really gave you a big appreciation for the organization it must take to
operate a brewery like this, one that operates with zero inventory and
continually churns out more than 20,000 gallons of product per day.
What can we expect from Brew Masters in the future? Well, Calagione and
company will travel all over in pursuit of beer throughout the season.
They'll take us to Aukland, New Zealand, to co-create a beer with Epic
Brewing Co. and to Egypt, where they'll research ancient formulas to
craft a new-age beer. Also expect the same tasteful dose of beer
history, politics, and background that appeared in the first episode. I
personally can't wait to watch more. Beer in hand, of course.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.