The Beer Chicks Interview

Two girls drinking beer.

The Beer Chicks are two ladies that know more about beer than most guys I know, even more than most of the guys in our beer club. I recently asked them some questions about craft beer and their new book, The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer, and what follows are their answers. But before we get to the interview, here is a little background information on the ladies.

From their website The Beer Chicks are renowned beer sommeliers Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune. They met while working together at the famed Father’s Office in Santa Monica, CA and became fast friends over the bond they shared with their one true love, craft beer. After a long night of bartending and answering the same questions over and over again, they decided (over beers, of course) to write a book, that explained beer in an accessible way, so that everyone could love craft beer as much as they do. Their book, The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer, was published in November of 2009 (The Penguin Group, New York, NY) to much acclaim. They are now turning their sights to the digital world, with an approach similar to the way foodies revere cuisine, in order to continue to spread the good word about the best beverage on earth and to raise beer to its rightful place! They live by the motto: Beer is Good!

The ladies were gracious enough to take time to answer a few questions about their love of craft beer, their mission in life, and about their new book. I hope you enjoy it…

Christina and Hallie, since you have drunk some of the best beers in the world, what kind of beer do you make when you homebrew?

We made some big mistakes early on by trying to come up with our own recipes immediately emulating our favorite beer styles . We tried the most complicated (usually Belgian) styles with some pretty exotic ingredients hoping for a “happy accident” which resulted in some pretty terrible beers. We really learned how skilled great brewers are from those experiences. Now we actually focus on pretty simple beers with nuanced flavors. We make sure those base recipes work consistently, and then we expand on them with interesting ingredients and twists on style.

What I liked about your book is that it contains a lot of different information on beer. Each is well thought out and presented in an engaging manner that entertains while educating the reader about craft beer. What was more difficult for you, the research or the writing?

Writing about beer is always more difficult than the “ahem” research. Fortunately for us, we both had bartended for several years at a famous beer bar and through that experience we had learned a language where we were able to communicate beer knowledge in a humorous way that people could understand and that didn’t offend anyone, so the writing wasn’t so difficult because we had a lot of practice speaking it. But drinking beer is the easiest!

Have you thought about taping your Beer 101 class and putting it on YouTube for others to enjoy?

We are working on webisodes as we type this and are figuring out the best way to do some live tasting online!

Have you been on any of the homebrewing podcasts? For example, if Jamil and Justin at The Brewing Network promise to behave, would you consider going on one of their shows to talk about craft beer?

We were asked to do The Brewing Network, but we haven’t done it yet. We’re looking forward to it as it would be lots of fun.

When choosing a beer list for a new restaurant, what factors do you consider before you make your decision?

The biggest factor that we look at is the menu. We want to pick beers that enhance the food on the menu, and we’d like for the food to enhance the beers that are available as well. We also look at what the restaurant is or is trying to be. Is it a local neighborhood tavern that mainly focuses on value? Or is it a boutique white tablecloth restaurant that uses all organic and sustainable food from the farmer’s market. Perhaps for the former we’d focus on local draughts, and maybe for the latter we could put Deus Brut des Flanders on the menu.

It sounds like you are closet wine lovers as well as beer sommeliers, how would you say the two crowds of people differ, ie. craft beer enthusiasts vs. wine lovers?

We aren’t closet wine lovers – we’re outted wine lovers. And we’re big whisky fans too, especially single malt Scotch. We really don’t find that craft beer and wine are mutually exclusive so we’d have to say that there’s not much of a difference in the crowd. Although the atmosphere at a beer festival is much different than a wine tasting event!

You seem to use humor a lot in your book. Do you find it helps to keep the topics light when talking to the uninitiated craft beer drinkers out there?

We mentioned this before, but people attach themselves to a brand way more with beer than with any other beverage. So sometimes people will take offense if we suggest to them that they could do better than the beer that they are drinking. Humor definitely helps release the fears that people have about trying new beers, strangely you are also funnier the more beers you have.

It seems that men have had the “football commercials” drilled into their heads since the American light beer craze began and have some pretty strong brand loyalty. Do you find it is easier to convert women to craft beer enthusiasts than men?

Please see above! These “football commercials” turn off women because they completely masculinize beer, so it’s not necessarily easier to convert women than men. Once we start talking about flavor profile vs. brand, that eliminates all the marketing imagery that has plagued the beer world.

What would you say to the ladies who already enjoy drinking craft beer but have never considered homebrewing as a hobby (or obsession)?

Start brewing! Women have a long history brewing beer. Women of olden days used to make the ale along with bread and stew. It’s a lot like cooking, which both women and men enjoy. Again, once women see how many styles and types of beer are out there to be brewed, they’ll get excited about it and excel as home-brewers.

BBQ seems to be universally loved by most homebrewers. Can you give us your favorite Beer and BBQ pairings?

One of our favorite beer pairings for BBQ is Smoked Black Lager.

Being from Texas, my favorite type of BBQ is brisket, ribs and sausage (no sauce please, just a good rub and smoke). But there are those that like a lot of sweet BBQ sauce on their meat. How does the beer pairing change based on the type of sauce (ie. Sweet tomato based, not so sweet vinegar based, and no sauce at all) used on the meat?

Each sauce tastes so different that we would definitely have to taste them in order to do an exact pairing. It’s hard to have hard rules about beer pairings, because sometimes the oddest pairing will be suprisingly great.

The recipes in your book look great and I’ll have to try making some soon. For those that are not so adventurous in their cooking, what are some basic ways that they can incorporate craft beer as ingredients into their everyday cooking?

We like to reduce beer over heat and then add it to recipes where it calls for wine.

Do you find that you usually choose a beer that complements a dish or one that contrasts with the dish when choosing a craft beer to pair with a meal?

The best pairings are where the beer both parallels and contrasts with the food.

Most of the readers of this interview will be males who make their own beer, and can usually make better beer than they can buy. Can you give us some tips on how to get the ladies to try (and appreciate) some of the beers we make? Which beer styles do you find are universally appreciated by those ladies who drink wine or wine coolers?

We find that women, once educated in craft beer tend to develop the most nuanced and delicate palates, in fact many of the jobs tasting beer for quality control in breweries are held by women. We find that all it takes is introducing the huge variety of flavors found in craft beer to women drinkers, and they’re hooked. It does seem that men on the whole gravitate towards hoppy beers early on, while women seem to go through a hophead phase later, so the problem often occurs when a man introduces a girlfriend to craft beer.

What’s next for Christina and Hallie? Do you have any new craft beer adventures planned?

We’re always up for a craft beer adventure. Hallie just got back from Haines Brewery in Haines, Alaska near Juneau and Christina just got back from Eastern Europe – both were beer drinking odysseys. And, actually, right now we’re working on recipes for our second book, which whill be about homebrewing!

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