Growing up as Chico State students, we had the good fortune to experience very good beer at a relatively young age. In the late ’90s, college students everywhere were consuming ridiculous amounts of Keystone Light (okay, maybe they still are), but in Chico we were exposed to something much better—Sierra Nevada and Butte Creek. And, equally as important, we could afford it. The local breweries provided affordable, quality alternatives to the Budweiser and Coors of the world. These two breweries, pioneers in the craft-brewing world, made beer that was complex and interesting. They were making beer that wasn’t watered down, and didn’t rely on massive marketing to sell.
The beauty was it didn’t have to be any more sophisticated than you wanted it to be. You could focus on the brewing methods and ingredients used, and appreciate all the characteristics they imparted; or you could simply raise a pint and cheer with your friends and know that however they made it, it was damn good.
We met two years ago, and almost immediately realized we both had a love of great beer. At the time, one of us worked for Sierra Nevada and the other for Peet’s Coffee. What started out as a great friendship, trading coffee for beer, quickly turned into a love affair on a multitude of levels. By the time we had been together for six months, we were both working in the craft beer industry and visiting beer bars all over Northern California. We visited several breweries and still love to taste new beers as often as possible. As we go along this journey, we are constantly struck by how approachable beer is. You don’t have to know the original gravity of a beer to sit with friends while enjoying it.
Craft brewers, as a whole, are extremely fun, engaging people. They talk about beer so of course they’re awesome. But the atmosphere of beer drinking has evolved worldwide. It’s no longer limited to just backyard barbecues and Sunday football. The European brewing scene, which is far more mature, has influenced a cadre of domestic craft brewers. What’s even more impressive is American craft beer is exploding in Europe. Beer now has a place at not only the grownup table, but also the VIP table. Thanks to barrel aging, dry hopping, and collaborations among breweries, beer is actually as sophisticated as you want it to be.
Carolyn Cleland and Brian Kanabrocki are the sweetheart team behind the killer new beer bar, The HandleBar. Let them know your thoughts at www.synthesisweekly.com