What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on how people think about beer?
It sounds strange but I would say the recession has been the biggest factor in bringing people around to high-quality craft beer. I guess we are an anomaly as an industry where the highest priced products represent the growth spot in a challenging economy. But craft beer is an affordable luxury. I think wine lovers and foodies are beginning to realize beer can be as diverse, complex, and food-friendly as world-class wine at a fraction of the price.
What's something that most people just don't understand about your job?
I'm not constantly drinking beer. But I am constantly thinking about beer. My wife reminds me to stop occasionally at the dinner table. But seven minutes later I have to remind her to stop posting on the Dogfish Facebook page at the dinner table.
What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the beer world?
Glassware and temperature. The majority of what we think we are tasting we are actually smelling, so a balloon-shaped glass, whether it's a sniffer or red wine glass, is best for almost all beers, as it captures more of the aromatics. With temperature, the perception as dictated by the largest breweries is that beer is best served ice-cold. But of course anything you drink ice-cold is going to numb and retard your taste buds and nothing is good about that if you care about enjoying what you are ingesting.
What's a beer trend that you wish would go away?
See ice-cold beer! Above. Also, that session beers and extreme beers cannot peacefully coexist on the same shelf or within a brewer's portfolio. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. Our palates are all different and preferences are subjective.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
That's kind of a hard one to answer because we pretty much go off track every single day. Some of our off-track meanderings stick (distilled spirits, beer shampoo bars) and some don't (BYOL night at our brewpub). That was a promotion where folks who brought a log for our wood stove got a great discount on a beer. Problem was, we had our own stack of wood sitting out back and quickly realized folks were simply bringing us our own wood!
Who are three people you'd put in a beer Hall of Fame?
Michael Jackson. Not the one-gloved superfreak but the Johnny Appleseed for the exploration of boundaryless beers. His curiosity was as infectious as a Belgian lambic is infected.
Louis Pasteur. Before knowing what yeast was or did it was recognized as the ghost in the machine. Pure alchemy. Then Louis came along and brought us out of the Dark Ages, allowing brewers to understand and harness the power of these amazing single-celled fungi. Fun guys.
Jack McAuliffe. Dude who started New Albion brewery in Cali before Ken Grossman opened Sierra Nevada. His brewery didn't make it, but he was a pioneer who proved the model of a tiny start-up microbrewery could work. In a sweet karmic shout-out that illustrates how altruistic and mutually supportive the craft brewing industry is, last year Sierra invited Jack to collaborate on a beer as part of their 30th anniversary.