Good Beer Hunting

Fervent Few

Fervent Few — The Brew Gourmand

The Fervent Few exists because we’re passionate about beer. But it didn’t take long to discover that some of us are just as excited about other foods and beverages. So this week we asked the community what culinary delights make them geek out as much as they do about beer, and why. Because surely it’s not all about the beer, right?


Brad: “I don't take any other food or beverage as seriously as I do beer, but I definitely have very strong passions for coffee and food. But in those areas, I frequently find myself settling for what is available rather than going out of my way to find the best option. With that said, the barriers in those other areas frequently make it more challenging to experience them than beer does in my opinion. In the world of coffee, I run into a couple issues. When I travel, it's not always easy to find the type of craft coffee that I have access to in NYC. And because I'm generally drinking coffee before 1pm, I don't have a great deal of time to either leave work or stop on my way into the office. Which often results in me drinking what is available. Regarding food, I have had incredible food experiences for a relatively small amount of money. But the high end of the food world is so expensive, it's an area that I definitely am cut out of. As a result, I feel like I'm excluded from a lot of the cutting edge and innovative things that are going on in the industry. Even if I could afford to cover a dinner at Eleven Madison Park, noma, or another restaurant in that price range, the other things I could do with that money—such as travel—are just far too tempting. So because of that, I'm happy to indulge those passions when I have the opportunity to do so. But when I don't, beer will remain my main passion in food and beverage.”

Brad Redick: “I take pizza pretty seriously, 1) because I love it, and 2) because I worked in pizza for a decade. And meat. I take meat pretty damn seriously.”

Jake Rajewsky: “I'm very serious about every aspect of the creation of my beer, from raw ingredients all the way to final QA checks. I take the selling of our beer seriously, because I can't pay our employees or the bills without selling enough beer. I don't know that ‘serious’ is the word I'd use to describe the way I enjoy beer, though. Beer is meant to be fun and shared with friends. Am I gonna get mad at my bud cause he can't taste the dried cherry note in the quad we're sharing because he's not taking it seriously enough? Hell no.

But to the answer the question: No, I don't think I have the bandwidth to spend as much time thinking about anything else than I do about beer. Sometimes I'll go through phases of woodworking or whiskey or cooking, but beer always comes out on top. Anyone looking to buy a slightly used table saw? Will trade for beer.”

David Purgason: “Maybe not quite as serious, but the first thing I thought of was ham and cheese croissants. It’s all about the balance. It has to have all the right components of flakey, doughy, buttery, pastry deliciousness, just sharp enough cheese, and then the star of show, thick-cut ham. Even the greatest combos can be ruined with poor time and temperature. I like mine at 5:30am, steaming fresh out of the oven.”

Rob: “Coming from a particular part of Britain, the only thing I take as seriously as beer is pie. Not fruit pies as most Americans know them, but proper meat pies with savoury fillings that are often served cold. Arguments regarding the definition of what constitutes a pie have taken up far too much of my time in the past.”

Lana Svitankova: “Well, I think everything pales in comparison to beer for me. I cherish all beer-related: entertaining, educational, and purely enjoyable. But in last year or so I've found myself immersing into coffee. I don't spend that much for beans, but now while traveling I look for breweries and roasters as well. I think people who take their drink serious take their food serious [as well] because all in all it comes to flavor. And if you care about flavor, you can't avoid noticing it everywhere.”

Russ Clarke: “I'm fascinated by coffee and would love the time to devote to nerding out on it, and the spare cash to devote to getting an amazing brew every time. Likewise, I'd love to deep dive on spirits (gin and bourbon especially) and wine, but I just don't have the time! If anything, I feel about spirits and wine as I used to about craft beer years ago. However, this time, I'm not sure where to start on the road to being an educated beginner, and the next steps on from there if I wanted to push myself.”

Rick Owens: “Growing up fascinated by restaurants and cooking and, after visiting Montreal this past August, I realized that food trumps beer for me. Montreal was the most memorable experience I have had culinarily. My girlfriend and I spent the weekend mapping out some restaurants, wine bars, and markets we wanted to visit. Marche Jean Talon, Le Vin Papillon, Maison Publique, and Nora Gray were incredible for me. They were the most remarkable experiences I have had with food and, admittedly, surpassed my trip to Vermont in July. The other great thing about Montreal is if you visit the right restaurant or bar, you can order bottles of Hill Farmstead to your table.

On our first day, we spent our the afternoon at Larrys drinking Nordic Saison and ended up sitting next to the mother and girlfriend of the sommelier and co-owner of Nora Gray, Ryan Gray. Long story short, they were able to get us reservations and held onto their last bottle of Susucaru for us. To top it off, Ryan Gray spent some time sharing Amaro, passing out some small plates and talking all things food and beer.”

Bob Preece: “As my waistline will attest, I am pretty enthusiastic on all food and drink. [I’m] fussy—not precious—on most things, and will always prefer local and independent, but beer is something I am least prepared to compromise on. Much of this is due to availability and diversity in beer in London and the UK right now, getting quality beer has never been easier, beer is still a relatively affordable luxury, and there are a lot of interesting people around the beer scene. Access to the brewers and breweries and a pretty vibrant writing community also makes it much easier to feel ‘invested’ to a greater degree.”

Mike Sardina: “Given that I make my living in beer, it's hard to say that there is anything else that I'm more serious or passionate about. Admittedly, I don't particularly care for wine or spirits, and always gravitate toward a beer (even if that's a go-to standby, like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Allagash White). I would say that I take a lot of other things seriously—literature, art, photography, music. Those just don't taste as good as a glass of, oh, say Pivo Pils.”

Ian Davis: “I really have to say no, beer for me is the one constant that I’m always passionate about. As much as I’d love to say I’m as passionate about spirits or wine, I’m really not. Food is another thing I wish I was more passionate about. I eat well and enjoy great food, but it’s never been as fanatical as beer has been for me. I think mostly due to cost. Beer can be, and is, for me a costly hobby. Add in wine and spirits and I’ll need another job.”

Nate Wannlund: “I take food as seriously as I take beer. Often together. I'll live in a crap house, drive a crap car, and wear stupid clothes, but I will always eat well and drink well. I want to know where my food came from, what it was grown in, what it ate, who is cooking it, and what they did to make it. The same way I want to know the ingredients, the brewer, and the process by which the beer was brewed.”

Kyle Andrus: “I think that I take coffee more seriously than I take beer. I have several brew methods I use, including a French Press at the office. When I go to a cottage, or a potluck brunch, I bring a box with my gooseneck kettle, scale, grinder, etc. I also seek out ‘whale’ coffees whenever I can.”

Kristen Foster: “Although I love coffee, wine, and spirits, I don’t take them as seriously as I do beer. Meaning, the time I spend reading about them, seeking out different brands, learning about different methods, etc., is not the same. Food is different. Whenever I travel, I will spend as much time researching the food scene as beer. And I try to stay current on new restaurants, chefs, and trends.”

Brad Fattlar: “For me, one of the things that draws me into craft beer as a hobby is all of the new things to try and experience. That is something I really enjoy. For that reason, I have a lot of passion about food and would probably refer to myself as a foodie. I live in a trendy area of Cincinnati and a have a lot of fun trying new places and new things.”

Brandon Morreale: “I definitely take food almost as, if not more, seriously. I spend at least four hours every Saturday morning planning out what elaborate meals I’m going to prepare that weekend, and then spend the equivalency of a car payment on ingredients for said meals. Smoked and grilled meats, homemade dumplings (thanks Olly Olly), homemade stocks and soups, sous vide everything. Hell, I’ve been planning Christmas breakfast (eggs benedict), and dinner (shredded braised beef short ribs) for a month now.”

Thad Parsons: “Yes. Wine. Cider. Previously, whisky. Short answer: I love fermented beverages and I love things with a great story.

Long answer: I am a beer geek, wine geek, cider geek, whisky geek. Meaning that, while I enjoy those products immensely, it is also about understanding them at their farthest reaches. Furthermore, I love being able to tell their stories to anyone that wants to listen—whether they are my customers, fellow Fervent Few members who ask about wine, my beer reps who come to me for wine advice, or my friends and family. And, it is those stories, more often than not, that helps to sell items in my shop.”

William Kuttruff: “I look for quality of food versus style, and that is exactly what I want in beer. I love the whole field-to-draft aspect of beer and appreciate and applaud those who are able to bring this to fruition. I am a fan of the dark liquor: bourbon, rye and whisky. And have been known to hold out for tremendously brewed coffee.”

Kirk Karczewski: “Beer is #1 for me, but I do enjoy good red wine and bourbon. I work, live, and breathe beer, but enjoying something else always helps me think about aromas and flavors differently. I do have a weakness for good BBQ and my daily dose of peanut butter.”

John Conner: “Although I am not as knowledgeable about coffee as I am about beer, I take my drinking choices with coffee very seriously. I actually grew up disliking coffee, mostly because I was trying lower quality brands like Folgers. About three or four years ago, I was visiting my brother who got to me to try an artisan roast from Vigilante Coffee Roasters out of D.C. I was immediately floored by the lack of bitterness in the coffee and how intense the flavor notes were.  Since then, I have been hooked, and I have tried to educate myself about all aspects of the coffee industry. Living in Hampton Roads, Virginia provides me with many options for quality coffee, as we have an excellent local roaster in Virginia Beach called Three Ships and a great independent coffee shop in Norfolk that serves Counter Culture coffee out of Durham. For me, coffee is similar to beer. It takes time to learn how to seek out the flavor qualities that you like, and it's always exciting when you sip that first taste of something that makes your eyes light up.”

Matthew Modica: “I cut my teeth tasting coffee. Understanding why certain origins of beans and roasting methods mattered to the end result. Coffee is always something I will appreciate, and always be open to experience. French and Italian wine came after, the latter being a fairly frustrating bunch to identify. In the past couple of years I've started to read about and drink different gins and amaros. There's something about the botanical profile of both that I've enjoyed discovering. I think it's given me an opportunity to work moving backwards in a way, I feel refreshed not being some sort of an authority on something and lends a chance for me to discover first and learn later. Oh, also bread. Nothing in life will ever compare to a perfectly made loaf of bread. Nothing.”

Willie Winters: “It’s doughnuts for me. A simple Old Fashion is hard to come by. A good balance of sweet and moist, with a good glaze. I love all pastries, especially in the season of pies, but the doughnut is a standout.”

Dave Riddile: “For me it was, and is, pairing foods with drink, and not always with beer. I started in the specialty foods business after grad school working the cheese counter in a Whole Foods. The cheese obsession I developed helped me develop my palate and start looking elsewhere to get my fix. Since then, I have been interested in the equations that make up a perfect pairing. Sour plus  rich and fatty equals a balanced pairing. Spicy plus hoppy equals a bold pairing. Sometimes it isn't simple math, but I'm always down to do a little pairing calculus.”

Robbie Wendeborn: “I've made money making coffee, wine, and beer, and the one thing I've learned by being a beverage professional is that you can't take it seriously all the time. I'll drink gas station drip coffee, Miller High Life, or Two Buck Chuck, but really understand and value/treasure an $18 cup of geisha, a really nice spontaneous or barrel-aged beer, and can geek out about some natural wines. I think it's important to have balance and context for beverages.”

Coffee seems to be just as important to the Fervent Few as beer. Hopefully they are all coming to Chicago for Uppers and Downers. Are you coming to Uppers and Downers? Fervent Few members get a discount on their tickets. Is there a food or drink you love as much as beer? Let us know! We’d love to hear about it. 

Hosted by Jim Plachy