Restaurant Reviews

Brew Masters Puts Craft Beer in the Spotlight

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. 

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.

Brew Masters airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB

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