Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Geeks had it good.
Carmel Valley’s Merideth Canham-Nelson and Chris Nelson had mastered the complicated equation of finances, travel tables, buzz management and day jobs – as a clinical social worker and beer-tender/web designer, respectively – to spend a significant volume of their year traveling the world’s best breweries, from Oregon to the Outback. The self-labeled Beer Geeks would then relay discoveries to a loyal audience by way of amateur videos and blog commentary at thebeergeek.com.
But 700 breweries later – yes, 700 – it wasn’t quite enough. So the couple set off on a seven-country, 300-pint, 90-brewery, four-festival year as part of an ambitious book idea.
“A book gave me the opportunity to tell a more personal story,” Canham-Nelson says. “There are lots of beer review sites, people who say where to go, people talking beer history. We don’t do that. We are beer travelers. We tell them what we do and encourage them to find their own adventures.”
Teachings From the Tap: Life Lessons From Our Year in Beer published this week. The Weekly drafted 16 questions for each of the 16 ounces in those 300-plus pints to get an idea of what the book, and the beer lifestyle, is like.
1. Favorite part of the book: Chapter 5, going to the Bergkirchweih beer festival. It was during this trip I truly started to understand what I had to offer the beer community: not an expert discussing the brewing process, but a unique voice on how to have fun.
2. Most challenging element to pulling off the book: 1. Money. 2. Money. 3. Money. The adventure was completely self-financed. Having a sponsor would have made things much easier.
3. Best aspect about the undertaking: Taking a total of three months off work in one year and spending it drinking beer with my husband.
4. Least glamorous part: Riding on a carnival ride at the Bergkirchweih Beer Festival, I felt the spray of vomit from a fellow rider.
5. Best beer tradition encountered: The Grand Entry of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries parade is an amazing display of pride in Munich brewing. Older women in beautiful formal dirndls hook arms with men dressed in knee-high cable knit socks and lederhosen. Even the horses pulling floats of beer barrels are elegantly decorated.
6. Most striking beer food pairing: In Amsterdam some guys said we had to try the ossenworst, a special raw beef sausage. We don’t normally eat meat, let alone raw, but we couldn’t say no.
7. Most intense flavor: Rauchbier, or smoke beers. The flavor is derived from smoked malt and they they taste like bacon. I love bacon and I love beer, but the combination I’m not so sure about.
8. Most memorable brewery: Rodenbach in Roeselare, Belgium, produces Flemish sour ales. The beer is aged in these huge oak vats. Some of the vats are as old as 150 years. We visited Rodenbach during the Year in Beer and walking through a cellar filled with close to 300 barrels was like walking through an old-growth Redwood forest. Amazing!
9. Biggest bit of debauchery: A girl beer geek doesn’t drink and tell. But Oktoberfest gets ugly. At night, it’s a very interesting scene. It’s something you have to experience sober at least one night.
10. Most obscure ingredient spotted in a beer: While in Philadelphia we drank beers from the Yard’s Brewing Company Ales of the Revolution series. They were based on original recipes from our country’s founding fathers. The Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce Ale was a Benjamin Franklin recipe made with spruce essence and molasses, as hops and barley were not readily available. It tasted like a Christmas tree.
11. Most admirable operation: Trappist beer must be brewed by or under the direct supervision of Trappist monks, and the profits must be used to fund the charitable causes of the monastery. We visited all seven – there are only seven in the world – Trappist breweries during our Year in Beer.
12. Longest trip you’ve made for beer: Australia. We’ve done it twice. The growing beer scene and funny accents make it worth the trip.
13. What you’re willing to do/pay for a beer: You know, there is really no need to go to great lengths for any particular beer. With so many great craft beers out there, it’s easy to find one that’s not surrounded by hype. People wait in line for hours to purchase limited-release beers. We refuse to do that.
14. Best beer marketing ploy: Three Floyd’s in Munster, Ind., has an annual Darklord Day, the one day that the beer Darklord is released. You have to buy a ticket that allows you to stand in line for the opportunity to buy a bottle of the extremely limited beer. Around the time of ticket sales, Twitter is filled with people who, in all seriousness, are willing to give up their firstborn child for a ticket. At least a portion of the money from ticket sales goes to charity.
15. Personal best beer movie: Strange Brew. What better movie aboot beer could there be, eh?!
16. Best beer vessel: One that doesn’t leak.
TEACHINGS FROM THE TAP ($16) is available on www.beertrekkerpress.com. A Meet the Author event happens at Post No Bills Craft Beer House in Sand City Tuesday, June 6. To learn more about beer travel or hosting a book signing event call 659-4973 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.