John Bird is the Master of Festivities and head of sales at Enegren Brewing Co., where he manages all brewery events as well as sales and marketing. We had a chance to pick John’s brain about craft beer, how it’s meant to be enjoyed, and what unusual brews he has created during his career.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you decide to start brewing beer?
We started brewing beer in college and have found that beer is something that brings people together to celebrate life. We brew beer to bring together families, friends, and our community. We love having fun and making people smile – and our beer definitely helps in those departments!
Why has there been such a resurgence in the craft beer industry in the last thirty years or so?
It is a craft that was somewhat lost a long time ago in the United States when the “big beer companies” basically started taking over the market, flooding it with their beer, and drowning out other small breweries that made more styles than just “light beers.” I think a lot of people wanted something different, and so some smaller companies provided their more full-flavored beers (like Sierra Nevada, Stone, Sam Adams). People then started trying to mimic those beers and styles, and then started getting into new styles and sharing those with their friends. Basically, craft beer has become the new wine tasting.
How have the customs surrounding drinking beer and enjoying beer with friends changed in recent years? Or have they pretty much remained the same for decades?
I think they have changed but also stayed the same. One thing as is the same is the fact that beer is still bringing people together, and now everyone can come to a place and just enjoy the different styles and their company. Conversely, the culture has also changed in the fact that beer is being overly criticized. People don’t just sit back and enjoy it as much anymore without having to pick it apart on the internet and criticize the hop choice or styles that they aren’t fans of.
What’s the most unusual beer brew that you’ve ever created (that was drinkable)?
I would say the beer that we make that most people think is the most unusual (because most have never had the style) is The Big Meat Rauchbier, a Smoked Doppelbock. It is a beer made with beechwood smoked malt, which gives it a big smokey flavor like BBQ. The funny thing, though, is this is one of the oldest styles of beer in the world.
Is beer brewing like cooking in that sometimes, even a “mistake” can wind up tasting pretty darn good?
Definitely. In the words of Bob Ross, “There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents.” We had a “happy little accident” about two years ago when we put our Belgian Tripel in wine barrels; and when we took it out, it had gone sour. This doesn’t mean the beer had gone bad, just that there were some leftover Brettanomyces bacteria left in the barrel from the wine which gave a tart flavor to the beer. It was amazing! We have since cultivated that bacteria and used it in a few more sour beers which will be coming out soon.
What beer pairing tips might you suggest for someone who is hosting a casual dinner party or barbecue?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to beer pairing. The best way to do it is to go to a brewery or grab a few beers, and then sit around and taste them. If you have food in mind already, just see what you think will taste best with that food. But if you can, taste the beer first – then base your menu off of the flavors you find in the beer.
Fill in the blanks of this sentence: “I’ve discovered that when you pair (blank) with (blank), it’s really awesome!”
I’ve discovered that when you pair The Lightest One Helles with German food, it’s really awesome because it transports you to Oktoberfest! The beer is just a German light lager that is meant to be drunk with friends on a nice sunny day. The experience you get with this combination of great beer, great food, and great company is the best pairing you can have!
What types of trends do you foresee for the future of beer brewing?
Honestly, nobody knows. There are so many new things popping up all the time. I hope the trend turns more towards lagers (light, dark, all kinds) again because those are the more difficult types of beers to do correctly; and when they are done right, they are the best.
Got the beer, but need the barbecue? Browse our mouth-watering barbecue gifts today!