Nichole (Nitch to her friends and family) from Tasting Nitch, posed an open ended idea for this month’s session. The idea is Beer Feminist. Or in simpler terms women and beer. The idea is to explore women and their role in beer production and consumption throughout history.
This is a pretty cool idea considering at one point beer production was a domestic duty performed by the ladies of the house. Eventually it was taken over by men for all the reasons men throughout history have been known to be egotistical and bullheaded. But at the outset if we explore the history of beer we not only see the importance of beer in our lives but how women and men both have shaped and nurtured its production and consumption.
I went a little different with how I approached this. A while back I went through a series of interviews with people within the craft beer movement. The interviewees all answered the same questions so we could get an idea of how they came to beer.
For this session I have combined a couple of the interviews as well as brought in a third interviewee. Bonnie Steinman is part of the team that owns and runs Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners, Michigan, Amy Sherman out of Grand Rapids Michigan and The Great American Beer Trail, and finally Marie Cummins from Chicago, Illinois and Down the Hatch.
Each of these women are advocates for beer in their own way. But beer is the common denominator when it affects all of our lives.
Questions of Note
1. What was the beer moment, when you knew you wanted to become involved with the craft beer renaissance?
Bonnie: That is hard. I remember having my first Bell’s Best Brown at The Corner Bar many moons ago, but at that time i did not know there would be a craft beer renaissance. I have had many beer moments, but I think the most inspirational and affirming ones have been during Michigan Summer Beer Fests. The community of brewers is amazing in Michigan. Every year we go, we make more friends and connections.
Amy: It was probably before any idea of a “beer renaissance”. It was back in college, way way back…when we had heard about Sam Adams, but hadn’t had it yet. After I came back from a semester in California and knew what Sierra Nevada was…that was kind of the time. I am truly dating myself… So early 1990’s (don’t tell anyone I’m that old!!!) we started homebrewing and running to Bell’s for cases. Good times! To go from Natty Light to Bell’s was a little crazy…
Marie: The very first time I realized that beer could actually taste good was about seven years ago at Oktoberfest in Munich. Up to that point, I was strictly a wine person who turned her nose up at most beers. But when at Oktoberfest, you do as the guys in lederhosen do. And I was amazed at how good beer could taste when brewed for more than just mass, unthinking consumption. It took me another four years to really get into beer, but by the time I did, the craft brewing market here in Chicago began to explode. Every day there seems to be a new brewery opening here with a unique twist on the traditional. How can you not get excited by all of this passion and imagination?
2. If you could have any beer in your hand right now, what would it be?
Bonnie: I would just like A BEER in my hand right now! Right now I am thinking about harvest ales, of course. They are different every year, so I can’t pick one brand over another. I need to try them all!
Amy: I love porters and stouts, that’s what first got me into home brewing. One of my first favorites was Bell’s Cherry Stout….it was also one of the first beers I tried to duplicate. It’s nostaglic for me!
Marie: I tend to drink seasonally, but deep down I’m a stout & porter sort of girl at heart. At this moment, I’d love to sip a rich and satisfying porter like Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmund Fitzgerald or Revolution Brewing’s Eugene. It’s rather trendy right now for brewers to brew a big beer with an even bigger bite. Personally, I think it takes skill to create the silky, sweet nibbles you find in a well-crafted porter. I don’t keep a lot of beers permanently stored in my fridge, but I always try to keep those two around.
3. Can you describe your beer life in a song lyric/title? If so what would you choose?
Bonnie: I love beer so much. All I can think of that could describe my beer life is Louie Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” Beer makes me happy. That song makes me happy too.
Amy: “I wear black on the outside, cause black is how I feel on the inside” Morrissey is a puss, but I love him. And I love, love, love porter and stouts. Once you go black…..
Marie: “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” It’s a Ray Charles song about a guy shouting to the world that he has an amazing girl living next door. I’m a bit of a Midwest homer and am always excited to try a new beer from my region (Chicago especially.) And when I find a new beer that I love, I want to share its awesomeness with everyone. If you see me crack open a new beer, just know that you are going to be offered a sample. It’s one of the reasons I started writing about beer.
4. Do you have a steady beer, or do you like to “play the field?”
Bonnie: If in doubt, I will always have either a Bell Two Hearted or a Founders Red’s Rye. If those are not available I’ll get Sierra Nevada Pale.
Amy: I like every beer I drink, for different reasons. I always say on the show that I’m a “positive drinker”. Meaning, there is something good about every beer!
Marie: I am by no means a “ticker.” I don’t see the point in going out of my way to find certain beers just to say that I’ve tried them. That being said, I do prefer variety over the same old same old. I can’t pass by a craft aisle in a store without checking out the new releases. Luckily, my local craft store is more than used to me hanging out in their place for what might otherwise seem like a stalkerish amount of time. One of the things I love about beer fests, beyond getting a chance to question the hell out of the brewers in person, is the opportunity to find something new that surprises and excites me.
5. Crowded smoky bar or back porch watching the clouds float across the sky?
Bonnie: I definitely prefer the air and view of the back porch. I can’t stand smoke. It messes up my taste buds and gives me a headache. I do love people watching at the bar though…
Amy: Smokey bar…go with what you know, right? I used to work at the Intersection here in GR, so I KNOW smokey…
Marie: Drinking a beer in my backyard wins any day in my book. My readers know all too well about my imaginary German beer garden and the mysterious hibiscus plant that may or may not be stalking me (this makes much more sense in my posts, I swear.) Give me a comfortable bench outside on a gorgeous day with a tasty beer in hand, friends & family scattered around and I’m a happy camper. When it’s too cold outside, as is the case for a good amount of time here in Chicago, my living room works just as well. And I’m pleased to say that the hibiscus plant hasn’t found me there. Yet.
And the lame one…
If tin whistles are made of tin, what do they make fog horns out of?
Bonnie: Something really big. They are loud!!!!
Marie: Wet Hops.
Who put the bomp in the bomp-sha bomp-sha bomp?
Amy: Yeah, that’s pretty bad….but if there’s one brewer who’s putting the something in the bomp, it’s Joe Short…He’s the abnormal genious of Michigan brews. I love the things he does with beer!
Time for a pint…