To celebrate FR&L Magazine’s 2012 Beverage Edition, Editor Susie McKinley interviewed Senior Trade Brewer Ryan Johnson, with Tenth and Blake Beer Company in order to discus new directions and trends in craft-style beer.
Initially trained as a brewer/restaurant manager/sous chef, Ryan Johnson quickly switched the focus of his skills in distinguishing and managing flavor to the beer industry, where he has worked ever since. Ryan’s current position allows him to pursue all aspects of flavor, food, and pairings internally within Tenth and Blake Beer Company and throughout the industry. Ryan studied biopsychology and fermentation sciences in college and honed his beer knowledge with the Siebel Institute of Technology and the Institute for Brewing Technology & Distilling. He also earned the Certified Cicerone recognition, served as a Microbrewery Consultant and developed a complete Advanced Beer Training program for MillerCoors.
Ryan, your job sounds like a lot of fun! Please tell our readers about your Cicerone designation:
The Cicerone designation is an independent examination and now an industry standard for knowing beer service at a professional level. It is a certification program to designate individuals who have a deep understanding of beer styles, pairing with food and brewing processes.
What is “Craft Beer”?
Now that is difficult to answer. Brewing is a craft. The Brewers’ Association notes it as a beer of which 6,000,000 barrels or less has been produced annually. Interestingly enough, due to the popularity of Craft Beer, many labels are running into becoming more of a “big brewery” beer due to a higher barrel production. Blue Moon and Sam Adams are examples that come to mind.
Do you consider Craft Beer a “Hot” trend?
Absolutely. The first time Craft Beer really became popular was in the mid to late 1990s. Right now, we are in the second resurgence of Craft Beer. This trend is fueled by a generation who are in their early 20’s. These drinkers want answers about what makes the beer. They enjoy each beer, and they enjoy knowing what makes every beer different.
What is the appeal of Craft Beer?
Crafting beer is an art. There are more than 100 styles of beer, depending on who you ask. Drinkers enjoy the many styles and flavors of Craft Beer. There are so many options to choose from.
Can you tell our readers about beer and food pairings?
First of all, pairing beer and food really depends on the occasion in which you enjoy it. It’s all about the occasion. Everyone’s perception of enjoyment is so different.
Beer pairings should always allow the food and the beer to shine. If you aren’t careful, beer can hide the flavor of the food.
As you know, beer ranges in color from a lighter, golden beer to a dark brown or black. This is due to the Maillard browning reaction. This process is the browning of food carbohydrate and proteins. Caramelization of food is another browning reaction. Because we cook beer like food, the flavor molecules of a beer’s ingredients change during the cooking process to create similar flavor molecules.
An easy of rule of thumb is to match the color of the cooked meat to the color of the beer.
Thai food and Indian food are great with a variety of beers. Both are nice with a Belgian Blonde and a bigger Golden Lager, as well as with India Pale Ales (IPAs). Indian food is beautifully aromatic as are many beers. Aroma plays a role in both food and beer.
Cheeseburgers and hamburgers are great with any amber colored beer.
Fruit or chocolate beers are fantastic with a chocolate dessert or a piece of cheesecake. There is nothing like a chocolate dessert with a chocolate or coffee influenced malty porter or stout. Drinking a Frambois beer with anything chocolate will blow your mind. Beer really should own dessert.
How can Craft Beer benefit the “bottom-line” in a restaurant?
Craft Beer can contribute to a restaurant’s bottom line in many ways. Craft Beer can create another avenue for pairing with food. A person may fatigue from drinking wine, but with over 100 different styles of beer, there are many opportunities for enjoyment.
If a restaurant has a private dining space, it may be beneficial to host a “Craft Beer Dinner”. I have done over 500 beer and food events in six years. So many restaurants and gastro-pubs offer over 100 different beers! People are really digging the Craft Beer movement.
A guest can drink more than one type of beer during a meal which also adds to the enjoyment of the meal. While there are several “big beers” with high-alcohol content, there are so many with an alcohol content of 5% or less.
High-end big bottle format beers can be profitable as well.
Are there any new Craft Beer trends that you’d like to recommend to readers?
Find flavors that you like and explore those. Cutting edge folks are getting into barrel-aging using various bacteria, as well as yeast, to create unique tastes. There is no limit to the level of exploration in brewing that is happening now.
Belgian Sour, Flanders Reds and Flanders Browns are being used as ingredients in food items such as salad dressings. Lambics are becoming popular despite the possibility of being intimidating to new beer drinkers.
There are at least 12 different glasses developed for drinking beer. Would you recommend 2 or 3 that you find effective and multi-purposed?
Now this answer really depends on your level of beer “geekness”.
I really enjoy a snifter. If they are good enough for beer judges, they are good enough for me. Most beers can be served in a snifter for the best sensory experience.
For most lagers a tall and thin glass that starts to open at the top is perfect. For ales, the bigger the ale, the stouter, smaller and more bulbous is recommended.
Glass shape does matter when drinking beer. Restaurants will not usually pour wine into a “rocks” glass. The same policy should go for beer. It can be as flavorful as wine.