Today marks the release of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer, from authors Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune. Perozzi, also known as The Beer Chick, was named “Best Beer Sommelier” by LA Magazine and is currently regarded as one of the top beer experts in the country. Beaune has worked as the bar manager of the much acclaimed Father's Office in Santa Monica, taught at the F.O. Beer School and was featured on After Hours with Daniel Boulud.
Together, they created a massively accessible, fully entertaining and wholly educational book covering everything you really ought to know about beer. It's also the perfect book to give to those friends that think they're just fine with their Miller Light, thank you very much. The two authors are also hosting a dinner (with beer pairings, of course) at Rustic Canyon, on November 10th– so start booking those reservations.
Squid Ink caught up with Hallie and Christina over lunch yesterday at Lamill in Silverlake to talk about the book, and, well… beer.
Squid Ink: Your book has a focus on craft beer. What exactly is craft beer?
Christina Perrozi: A good beer. Anything good. You know, ten years ago it was described as a beer that only made 15,000 or less barrels a year. But when we talk about craft beer, we're really talking about beer that's true to itself.
Hallie Beaune: It's really a quality stamp. Because some big breweries can have craft beers.
CP: There's also a lack of marketing in craft beer.
HB: It's more grass roots. The delineation isn't as clear as it used to be, so now, to us, it really just means good beer.
CP: We do talk in the book about a snobbery that's associated with beer.
SI: It seems like there's a general consensus that wine is fancy and beer is more, well, working class. Do people have misconceptions about beer as a refined, adult beverage choice?
CP: Really the misconception is that you can't have it, and that stems from a lack of education. Not just with consumers, but restaurateurs. We'll be in a restaurant, and I've said that a million times, but they only use organic, seasonal foods, they build the menu off sustainable methods, they go to the farmers market three times a week, and then you get to the beer list and it's Heineken, Bud Light, Coors Light, $4.50. And if it's that mentality, if not even the restaurateurs, who are the ones that are supposed to be leading the way, if they don't know, then we as consumers are definitely not going to think we have the option.
HB: That's the first thing we look at when we go to a restaurant. What's on the beer list? It's kind of like having a good cup of coffee at a restaurant. How can you have all these great things, then miss the mark on others.
SI: There are a lot of foods out there that don't get the credit for going really well with beer. Beer is not just something that goes with fried food, right? What are some things that go great with beer that people don't always think of?
HB: Well, a lot of spicy food, I think does better with beer, while red wine wouldn't work as well with it. Like curry…
CP: A lot of these ethnic foods that you weren't exposed to ten years ago.
HB: And you can get a white wine that could work, but I think beer tends to be better, because you could get, like, something that's hoppy that can cut through those big flavors, or you can get something with spices that brings out the sweetness in the spices that can balance that heat. And of course the bubbles, and the fact that it's cold. All of that can help with spicy foods in a way that, certainly, red wine can't. Some white wines could, but I think that's better with beer. When I go out for Indian food, I drink beer. I drink, like, Belgian beers or IPAs. And a lot of desserts, actually, are better with beer. You can't really pour wine over your ice cream. But beer poured over your ice cream…
CP: Is delicious. People sometimes use sweet wines to go with chocolate. But chocolate is a difficult pairing for wine. Artichokes are a difficult pairing, mushrooms are a difficult pairing for wine. Asparagus is a difficult pairing, and all of those have several beers, because beers, the variety of flavors is so wide, that all of those things have several beers that not only are compliments to those kinds of foods, but also enhance them.
SI: I also think we're getting to the point now where the term “working class” is not bad anymore in regards to food and drink. I mean, you look at something like braising, which is about figuring out how take cuts of meat that are difficult to work with and making them delicious.
HB: That's where creation comes from. That's where sauces come from.
SI: As Anthony Bourdain said, a monkey can be trained to cook a filet mignon. If you add some salt and pepper and throw it on the grill, it'll come out fairly edible. But if you do that with pork shoulder, it's not gonna work out very well.
HB: There was an article in the New York Times about how people were going out on dates in a more casual manner. People want…
SI: You can enjoy life without white tablecloths.
HB: I mean, I would rather sit in a bar at any restaurant. I don't want the whole charade anymore. I don't know if that's because I've worked in that realm. I mean, I appreciate that. I'm not saying I would turn down a nice meal or anything. I'm just saying, I think, that people want to feel more comfortable, and that isn't necessarily bad, or mean that your food has to be of any less quality. It's the same with beer. I think it's great that beer is more accessible, casual and cheaper on the whole than wine.
CP: But also, it's not to say that you couldn't have beer paired with a French Laundry meal in a white tablecloth setting.
HB: Oh, totally. It's really a perfect time because fancy food is getting more comfortable, in a way.
CP: Fancy mac 'n cheese everywhere.
HB: And beer with cheese is insane. I'd rather have beer with that than any wine, personally.
SI: Being expensive does not necessarily mean it's better. Like, again, with braising. Speaking of which, your book also has some great recipes for cooking with beer. Home cooks often braise with wine, but your book covers a lot of beer braising. What does braising with beer bring to the table that wine doesn't?
CP: I think it definitely brings some earthiness to it. It definitely has a more rustic quality. It gives you that homey-ness and it's just an entirely different flavor profile. For the most part, if you're braising with red wine, you're braising with red wine. It doesn't matter as much whether it's a pinot or a zinfandel or a syrah, or, you know, two buck Chuck. You don't get a lot of…
HB: The nuance in the end. You get that great wine taste, but…
CP: But you could braise with a Bitt beer and get a completely different profile than braising with a…
SI: Although I would not recommend braising with two buck Chuck.
HB: [Laughs] Yeah. But beer as an ingredient, the wide variety of flavors just gives you that much more to work with.
SI: What are some other interesting ways to cook with beer that people don't think of?
CP: We think it's interesting to use beer with baking. We have a bread recipe in the book.
SI: From one of our own writers at Squid Ink.
CP: Yeah! Jenn Garbee. That's always something that's interesting. Using it in cakes, baking, using it in panna cottas. That effervescence does give a lightness, you know, if you don't beat it to death. It adds lightness to the texture of a lot of baked goods.
HB: Using it in salad dressing is really popular too.
SI: Right. So, we've been talking a lot about the differences between using beer versus wine in all the various settings. Is it sort of competitive between beer and wine, in a way?
HB: Yeah. I mean, we love wine. We don't hate on wine.
SI: So it's more about striking a balance?
CP: We always say that it's not mutually exclusive. A lot of people that love beer also love wine.
SI: It's just sort of silly to close yourself off to other good options.
CP: Totally. Wine drinking is an older attitude. To a lot of people, wine still means upper class and beer is lower class.
HB: It's also our society. In Belgium they drink great beer with food and always have. Our country went through a period where people weren't making craft beers, and you know, we were just catching up for a little bit. I mean, French wine had all that cachet, and then Napa wines exploded and it just became this local thing. But now, beer has has many more options than it used to. I think we're just, as a society, catching up now.
CP: Right now, Americans are making some damn good beer. I think they're making some of the best beers in the world.
HB: I agree.
SI: And the versatility is there too.
CP: There are good beers and bad beers out there, but the really talented brewers are the ones that do it correctly, and do it with balance. Like, Bruery, in Placentia, they do some really fun things using Thai basil and chocolate and toasted pecans and yams, and using all these different ingredients that are considered experimental in, say, Germany.
HB: They've also done a lot of really interesting things without doing super hoppy beers. Because a lot of craft breweries in the U.S. feel like they have to have a super IPA to put themselves on the map, because we're such a high hop country.
CP: “Bigger is better.”
HB: So that's impressive. I think the Belgian style of beers are becoming more and more popular. Now that that's getting more refined, I think you can put our beers against the ones that they're making in Belgium.
SI: The benefit that America has, in a way, is that we're not confined by tradition.
HB: When it comes to food and drink, we want everything.
SI: Yeah, they're not sitting around in Mexico saying “God, Mexican food again? I just had this yesterday.”
CP: [Laughs] Yeah, totally. But the thing is, there's room for everything. There's room for the very hoppy, very bitter, but also the super traditional beers made by a Trappist monk. There's room for all of that to exist here. There's everything. Beer can appease almost any palate. People say they don't like beer sometimes, and to that I say, “no, you just haven't found the right beer yet.”
SI: Anyone you haven't been able to convert?
CP: Maybe one person in my beer career– and it might be my father.