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Grady Hull, Master of Hops, tells us what makes being an American brewer exciting. Get his perspective on the American craft beer scene and his suggestions for surprising beer and food pairings.
How do you define the American craft beer scene?
I would define the American craft beer scene as evolving. We started out strictly emulating existing European styles, but now more and more craft brewers are pushing boundaries to to come up with something new. And it goes beyond just the brewers. American hop growers have expanded their experimental breeding programs and specialty maltsters are constantly coming up with new products. Yeast banks have become huge and are expanding into Brettanomyces and souring bacteria.
How does all that compare to beer culture in Europe?
European beer culture obviously has a proud history and tradition. There are so many amazing beers that are being produced in Europe, but as a brewer, I don’t know if it would be as fun to make the same beer year in and year out. American customers want variety and new experiences so that pushes us to experiment a little more.
What city or region has a surprising beer culture?
This is sort of a homer call, but I’d have to say Belgium. After five years of working for New Belgium, employees go to Belgium to experience Belgian beer culture, which is really amazing. I feel very fortunate that travel is part of my job.
What are some of your favorite food/beer pairings?
Hands down, my favorite beer/food pairing is a Kriek lambic or a Framboise with a ribeye steak. I also like the classic pairing like stout and vanilla ice cream. I tend to go for beer/food pairings that contrast nicely rather than complement.
In your opinion, what are some of the country’s best beer festivals?
I don’t think there’s any question that Denver’s Great American Beer Festival is the biggest, most important beer festival in our industry. But I also think it’s fun to go to local beer festivals to find out how your hometown breweries stack up. Of course I have to mention my personal favorite, New Belgium’s Tour de Fat, which is a celebration of beer, bikes, and great entertainment.
Accumulation Ale is the newest of the New Belgium beers. What inspired you to craft a White IPA for winter and how did the name come about?
It is a little weird to do a white IPA in the middle of winter, but we feel that it will provide an alternative to all of the dark seasonals that appear at this time of year. The name is a reference to snow piling up, which is something that appeals to us being at the foot of the Rockies.
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