Jul 112008

Charlie Papazian

Charlie Papazian

I’m happy to announce the start of a new feature – the Private Tastings interview series. I hope to include short interviews here with noteworthy and interesting figures in the homebrewing and craft beer universe.

I’m very proud to report our first Private Tastings is with none other than Charlie Papazian. Charlie is easily one of the most recognized names in the beer community. He is the author of five best-selling books, including The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and Microbrewed Adventures. He is also the founder of the Association of Brewers, which evolved into today’s Brewer’s Association (of which he is president). If you don’t know who he is, you probably found this website by mistake.

I’m thrilled Charlie was able to take a few moments out of his extremely busy schedule to answer a handful of questions for me. So, without further ado, here is the first in what will hopefully be a long series of Private Tastings!

Private Tastings: There appears to be a divide in the craft beer community – some believe beer is well-served by following in the footsteps of the wine revolution. Others feel that beer should not compare itself to wine. Do you feel the interests of the beer industry are better served by following the path laid out by wine, or by forging a brand new path?

Charlie Papazian: I’m not aware of any “divide” though I’d be interested in being pointed to the direction where that divide exists. 40 years ago, American wine went from cheap rotgut context to now enjoy world class admiration. There’s much to learn in how they did that. The major lesson is “patience” and a vision that American beer deserves a lot more respect than it has received in the past. Beer enthusiasts today realize all the great flavor and diversity that American and other beers can offer. The reason why there is that knowledge is because many people have been working at educating the public for decades; slowly one beer drinker at a time. Beer will never go down the same path as wine. How can that even be imagined? They are so very different beverages. Wine has gone down its path. Beer will go down its path. You don’t have to take any cues from wine to forge a vision and path that leads to teaching people that beer is accessible and can be enjoyed on so many different occasions. And there’s no such truth to the statement “I don’t like the taste of beer”. Show me a person who says that I can make a liar out of them in a heartbeat.

PT: What was the catalyst which led you to found the Association of Brewers and get into the political aspects of the industry?

CP: The Association of Brewers doesn’t exist as the AOB any longer. AOB merged with Brewers Association of America in 2005. I founded the American Homebrewers Association, which in turn morphed into Great American Beer Festival, Association of Brewers and other projects (see www.beertown.org). In 1978 in founding the AHA, it was a desire to create a communication vehicle among beer lovers, who back then were limited to homebrewers.

PT: What inspired you to begin homebrewing?

CP: I was in college drinking cheap uninteresting yellow beer. Someone introduced me to homebrew. I never looked back.

PT: Microbrewed Adventures is an amazing book filled with some unique beer experiences you have been able to partake in. For me, the book really underscored how beer can bring us all together. When you look at the multitude of places, people, and events you experienced, it is obvious that beer is a common thread that is enjoyed and appreciated the world over. Out of all your adventures, which would you say is the most important to you and best represents the universal nature of beer?

CP: This is like asking me “what’s my favorite beer?” I can’t really answer that. Because my favorite beer is the one I’m drinking at the moment. My favorite adventure is the one I just had and looking forward to the next. If you have the emotional state of being in the moment, life provides you with so many great beer adventures. Some simple, some seemingly exotic. In the end it’s about the camaraderie, friendships, and seeking the emotional state some call “pleasure”. What’s wrong with that?

So, there you have it! Once again, many thanks to Charlie Papazian for indulging some random blog author who emailed him a bunch of questions. Drop him a line and let him know how much you enjoyed reading it, and maybe he’ll let me bug him some more!

If you know, or are, someone you think should be interviewed for future Private Tastings, please drop me a comment or an email and I’ll do my best to oblige.