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Oakes Weekly - March 6, 2003
Stephen Beaumont Interview, Part 2
March 6, 2003
Written by Oakes
Last week, Stephen Beaumont discussed his current activities, his travel regimen, and discussed his role in the beer-writing world. This week he talks about his favourite festivals, his picks as underrated beer scenes, his wife’s beer label and the closure of Denison’s. Grab another St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and enjoy...
JO: What about festivals, do you go to a lot of those?
SB: Festivals? Last year, I went to an incredible amount of festivals. It just turned out that way. I did the Oregon Brewer’s Festival, the Great American, 24 Hours...I seemed to always be running into a festival. It’s not always planned - the Great American I wasn’t planning on going to but it just happened at the last minute. So I do a lot of fests. But fests are not really good places to taste beer. The Great American, you cannot make reliable tasting notes. The Great British - you can only make so many reliable tasting notes.
JO: I found that out.
SB: The 24 Hour is my favourite festival, because to me the tasting portions are perfect. The glass is perfect.
JO: Describe it, for those of us who haven’t been.
SB: It’s a snifter. They put 150ml into a snifter that has a capacity of 350 ml. There’s room to swirl, sniff, savour...it’s a perfect tasting glass. And you don’t even have to keep it. You can give it and get your deposit back at the end of the day.
JO: One of the things that Ratebeerians wanted to know, you have the opportunity to try a lot of obscure stuff, from out of the way places, stuff that doesn’t get a lot of headlines, doesn’t generate a lot of hype. What are some of the ones that you’ve found recently that you think deserve a little bit more recognition than they’re getting now, in terms of breweries and beers.
SB: Well, one of my pet peeves is that I’d like to see Quebec get a lot more attention for what they’re doing there. If Quebec were part of the United States, it would be a beer mecca. I’m always getting emails from people - people I know - who go to Quebec for the first time. Like Mark Silva, probably said it best. I’d probably written about three stories on Quebec by the time he’d finally gotten there, and he emailed me "You’ve been keeping this gem to yourself, why didn’t you let us all know about it?" It is one of the best places in North America to drink without question. So that’s a little pet peeve of mine.
The reason that the global brewing powers are the global brewing powers is because there’s great beer there. Belgium is a beer mecca because even with all the controversy about how the beer scene has suffered, it’s still a great place to sample beer. This past fall, I went to Fantôme and what a fabulous experience that was. It’s one of those things that gives you new belief that there’s more out there, more exciting stuff.
There’s all kinds of great shit happening in the US. Ratebeer readers know that. There’s all sorts of stuff happening, and you can’ t point to a certain geographic places because there’s somebody doing something there that you’ve never tasted and it’s fabulous.
I find this all the time, maybe not a lineup of incredible beers, but one or two that really great. The Americans seldom talk about Alaska. Alaska is a fabulous place to drink beer.
JO: Did you go to the barley wine festival this year?
SB: I went to the barley wine festival in 2002, and I was very impressed by what’s going on there. They’ve got some fabulous breweries. Southern California has gone from nowhere to somewhere in a very short period of time. I think Tomme Arthur, and Craftsman Brewing, they’re in a market that is not a mature beer market and yet they’re pushing the envelope more than the Pacific Northwest brewers.
France is another pet peeve. I think there’s some great French beers. I’d like to see them get more respect. I’m jonesing to go to Japan in a big way.
JO: That’s kind of my holy grail - the Great Japan Beer Festival.... I love obscure micros, I just got some ones from Argentina, New Zealand last summer. I did South Africa a couple of years ago, but Japan I’ve only a couple...the Hitachino and Ginga Kogen.
SB: What I’ve tasted has been really aggressive, and I love saké so I’m just dying to go to Japan.
JO: You talked about France - I wrote a piece on La Bavaisienne because here’s this really great beer, but nobody’s tried it. Trois Monts is another one. I’ve had some of their micros and they’re hit or miss but there’s some really great stuff there that nobody knows about.
SB: Sans Culottes is another one. I like XO, not to everyone’s palate, but i think it’s a terrific beer. It’s only in France, Quebec and Ontario.
JO: I’d like to go to Brittany. It’s on my top five of places I need to go. The Celtic tradition - they have a lot of breweries, and then Normandy is next door and I love Norman cider.
SB: Food, beer and cider. That’d be pretty good.
JO: I noticed you’ve also gotten your wife, Christine, involved in the beer world. She did some labels...
SB: She did a label. It’s Heavyweight Brewing company, and Bière d’Art is the beer.
It was after I’d done a beer dinner at Monk’s. I had nothing to do with it. I introduced Christine to Tom and moments later I was called away. When I came back , they were talking about her art. Tom is a big fan of art - painting, abstractions - which is what Christine does. They’d already made a deal to have one of her paintings to appear on his label, because he really wanted to do this beer, Bière d’Art. I had nothing to do with it. Tom did the design, Christine painted the painting...I guess I helped stand it. That’s about it. Christine has been with me for 19 years, so it’s quite natural that she’s been pulled into the beer world in many ways. Other than myself, she’s probably been to more Canadian breweries than anybody on this planet.
JO: So what do you think about the Denison’s situation?
SB: Oh, it sucks. Did you see my story in World of Beer?.
JO: I looked at that today.
SB: Michael was quite open with me that their biggest problem was the landlord. He said that it was definitely the rental costs, but again that brewery could have produced 50% more beer, and had a very loyal clientele. I have to believe that that clientele would have been buying beer to go.
JO: I would have loved to take the beer home, because I never cared for the pub itself, I just like the beer. He’s trying to put together the bottles, about getting the Weizen in bottles for the summer. Three or four months away.
SB: Without question that’s the best German-style wheat in Canada.
JO: The last couple years I’ve pegged it as my favourite in the world. Now, I haven’t had a lot of the smaller German labels, just mostly the big names...the one I had at the GBBF, Greif-Bräu from Franconia, was excellent. But it’s a shame to see Denison’s go, and the worst part is that I had to be the one who found the body. That was rough.
End of interview
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This past fall, I went to Fantôme and what a fabulous experience that was. It's one of those things that gives you new belief that there's more out there, more exciting stuff.
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