RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Interviews
Kevin Brauch of The Thirsty Traveler
THE THIRSTY TRAVELER HOST TALKS TO RATEBEER
July 25, 2002
Kevin Brauch is the host of The Thirsty Traveler, a program that takes you to the heart of the best beer, wine and spirit producing regions in the world. Sampling Scotlandís "Whisky Trail", sabering bottles of Champagne in France, and sipping lambic in Belgium is only some of the daily drudgery Kevin calls work! The Thirsty Traveler reaches over 55 million households throughout North America on the Food Network.
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RateBeer: Kevin, thanks so much for talking to us! Letís start at the beginning. Can you tell us where you grew up and any first signs that youíd grow up to be the Thirsty Traveler.
Kevin Brauch: Born, raised and still residing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My earliest memories or clues that Iíd be the perfect thirsty traveler were hatched about two hours north of the city, at our cottage in Muskoka. After tough afternoons chopping wood, clearing out bush or any of the other chores cottage owners have, I remember my dad always offering me the first sip from his cold glass of beer - almost always a Carlsberg (Carling OíKeefe) or a Red Cap Ale (Brick). Sipping through the frothy head I couldnít say that I overly enjoyed my sips but whenever he offered I always accepted. Even then, I knew it was the "social" thing to do.
Your Belgium episode. Weíll see you visit La Caracole and Orval,as well as taste traditional lambic. You undoubtedly had a great time. If you could choose a favorite place in Belgium what would it be?
Hoegaarden - a great brewery tour (arrange a private tour if you can - youíll see more of the brewery and less of the "tourist" stuff (although still quite interesting)
Leuven - it may be the home of Stella but the architecture, the public squares, the beer patios, and so culturally well-endowed, this university town is a place where I could see myself getting into a bit of trouble upon my return to Belgium.
Brussels - if youíre a city dweller make sure to give yourself ample time in Brussels. Itís truly a world class city where youíll feel safe enough to stay out late-night bar-hopping, and still walk back to your hotel before sunrise.
Orval - simply stunning. While not a religious person, I could not help but be affected by the overall impressiveness of the monastery. The brewery is modest to say the least (a gorgeous tiled mural of Orvalís fish and ring logo can be found within the walls of the brewery) once again proving that you donít have to be big or modernized to produce a truly world class beer.
Excellent! And and so Kevin Brauchís top 5 Belgian ales would be?
In no particular order, as setting and the company can be equally just as important as the beers youíre enjoying:<UL><LI> <a href=/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=5393>Troublette Belgian White Ale - Brasserie La Caracole. Not as big or bold as Hoegaarden but for now itís my favorite; this one seems to work very nicely with my palate<LI> <a href=/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=5392>Saxo Blond Ale - Brasserie La Caracole. Great citrus flavours and at 7.2% alcohol - this oneís got some bite to it (beware of the 750mL bottle)<LI> <a href=/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=835>Orval - the foamy head, the beautiful orange color, and a clean, bitter finish (surely enhanced by drinking it in the monastery gardens)<LI> <a href=/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=399>Hoegaarden - my first Belgian beer; the one that got the ball rolling <LI> <a href=/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=10907>Oud Beersel Lambic Ale - itís been a year but my memory of this one is still very favorable</UL>
Notes taken... and I agree completely, "set and setting" make up the better part of oneís experiences. Kevin, here at RateBeer we understand that love of beer and love of travel go hand in hand. How would you explain the underlying relationship between the desire to explore new flavors and aromas in wine, beer and spirits and a fascination with new people and places?
I canít say this enough: open your eyes, your ears, and your mind to new experiences. Whatís the point in traveling half way around the world to eat at a familiar American chain restaurant and to drink the same íol beer you drink back home? Donít misunderstand me; Iím a huge proponent of staying true to yourself and liking what you like but donít be afraid of trying something new. Donít let opportunity pass you by. Some of my favorite beers over the last few years have come as recommendations from complete strangers. Ask questions. Talk to people. Get advice and suggestions. The glass in front of you is all the permission you need to begin a conversation - but the rest is up to you. Memories of great drinks and great conversations can be the cornerstone of many a fantastic trip - donít cheat yourself of the opportunity to fall in with the local culture and customs of the place youíve traveled so far to get to. A little respect and a smile and youíll be well treated almost every single place we go.
So true... This season highlights two beer regions -- Belgium and Ireland. What are the top two beer regions youíd like to explore in future seasons and what are the top spots youíd like to see in each region?
My family is from Germany and having never been there I would have to put a trip to the homeland at the top of my list. Trips to the Chinesischer Turm and the Hofbršuhaus to sample steins of German Pils and Bock, and a trip to the home of the man who made Oktoberfest possible, King Ludwigís Castle.
Czech Republic - home of Pilsner and many fine golden lagers. The cities of Prague, Pilsen and Budweis would have to be "must-sees" for the Thirsty Traveler.
Nice! And just up from Bavaria, Bamberg smoke beers in Franconia -- a perfect companion to grilled food and smoked fish. The Thirsty Traveler also explores beer and food with <a hrefhttp://www.thirstytraveler.tv/RECIPIESataglance.html>a fine selection of recipes including the Irish stout episodeís <a hrefhttp://www.thirstytraveler.tv/IrishRECIPE2002.html>Annelieís Irish Stout Mayonnaise and <a hrefhttp://www.thirstytraveler.tv/BELGIUMRECIPE2002.html>Filet pur de Porcelet pane aux fruits secs sauce Nostradamus. Do you have any favorite food-beer pairings or beer-cheese pairings?
Being quite laid back, and pretty relaxed in my eating habits, this is not the strongest of areas for me. Iím sure some of my beliefs would have Julia Child rolling in her grave. Having been around the world eating with everyone from Michelin-starred chefs to university students, the main rule I preach is to drink and eat the things youíre comfortable with. People everywhere are starting to break the rules about what wine or beer goes with what food. Having said that, Iíll often try to work within a certain ethnic group - pairing German sausage with a German dark beer, Indian curry with a Kingfisher or Taj Mahal, Japanese sushi with a Sapporo, Asahi or a harder to find ji-biru (regional beer). During this hot, hot summer Iíve been making spicy jerk chicken on the BBQ; a cold bucket of Jamaican lager not far away and life is good.
Iíd say thatís some pretty good advice to get you started. Thanks for talking to us, Kevin!
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To catch The Thirsty Traveler in the States, tune your dial to the <a hrefhttp://www.foodnetwork.com/>Food Network Tuesdays at 10:30PM EST, Wednesdays at 1:30AM EST, and Saturdays at 6:00PM EST.
In Canada, check it out on <a href=htpp://www.foodtv.ca>Food Network Canada Tuesdays at 1:00PM, 10:00PM EST, Wednesdays at 1:00AM EST, Saturdays at 9:30PM EST, Sundays at 2:30AM, 2:30PM EST, and Mondays at 2:00AM EST.
If youíre still not clear, you can visit <a hrefhttp://www.thirstytraveler.tv>www.thirstytraveler.tv. And if you like The Thirsty Traveler, by golly <a hrefhttp://www.foodnetwork.com/foodtv/comments/0,7068,TY,00.html>tell the network! to give you more of that thing you like, just the way you like it.
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