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home Home > Subscribe to Ratebeer.com Weekly RateBeer Archives > Interviews

Kevin Brauch of The Thirsty Traveler

The Thirsty Traveler host talks to RateBeer
Interviews July 25, 2002      
Written by joet

Wilsonville, OREGON -

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 Scotland’s "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! Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us where you grew up and any first signs that you’d grow up to be the Thirsty Traveler.

Kevin Brauch: Born, raised and still residing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My earliest memories or clues that I’d 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 O’Keefe) or a Red Cap Ale (Brick). Sipping through the frothy head I couldn’t 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. We’ll 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 - you’ll 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 you’re a city dweller make sure to give yourself ample time in Brussels. It’s truly a world class city where you’ll 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 Orval’s fish and ring logo can be found within the walls of the brewery) once again proving that you don’t have to be big or modernized to produce a truly world class beer.

Excellent! And and so Kevin Brauch’s top 5 Belgian ales would be?

In no particular order, as setting and the company can be equally just as important as the beers you’re 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 it’s 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 one’s 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 - it’s 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 one’s 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 can’t say this enough: open your eyes, your ears, and your mind to new experiences. What’s the point in traveling half way around the world to eat at a familiar American chain restaurant and to drink the same ’ol beer you drink back home? Don’t misunderstand me; I’m a huge proponent of staying true to yourself and liking what you like but don’t be afraid of trying something new. Don’t 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 - don’t cheat yourself of the opportunity to fall in with the local culture and customs of the place you’ve traveled so far to get to. A little respect and a smile and you’ll 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 you’d like to explore in future seasons and what are the top spots you’d 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 Hofbräuhaus to sample steins of German Pils and Bock, and a trip to the home of the man who made Oktoberfest possible, King Ludwig’s 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 episode’s <a hrefhttp://www.thirstytraveler.tv/IrishRECIPE2002.html>Annelie’s 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. I’m 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 you’re comfortable with. People everywhere are starting to break the rules about what wine or beer goes with what food. Having said that, I’ll 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 I’ve been making spicy jerk chicken on the BBQ; a cold bucket of Jamaican lager not far away and life is good.

I’d say that’s 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 you’re 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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