Hello everyone and welcome to People & Pints! I know I’ve written a post for this week already but I think the events of Tuesday night are worth mentioning. In the past few weeks I’ve had the chance to experience the beer culture in Amsterdam and it has been both eye-opening and enjoyable. Last night I was given a look into how American craft fares in a European city. The founder and the brewmaster of Coronado Brewing, a craft brewing company from San Diego, joined forces with BeerTemple, a bar in Amsterdam that sports a large variety of American craft beers, to host a small meet & greet as well as a tasting. I had never experienced an event like this so I was more than happy to sacrifice my Tuesday evening for a night of conversations and beer.
I was joined by a few American friends, Eli, Jon, Maddie, Noam and Kylee, from my apartment complex for this excursion. As we arrived and began locking up our bikes, two men walked past speaking English. One was wearing a Coronado Brewing hat so I eagerly asked, “are you guys with Coronado?” The men turned and, seemingly just as eagerly, affirmed my guess. We introduced ourselves to Rick Champam, the co-founder, and Ryan Brooks, the brewmaster, as we entered the bar. After some small talk we made our way to the area reserved for the tasting and sat down in a booth. We were joined by a man from England, Dave, who I assumed would be a bit annoyed to be surrounded by a bunch of American college students but he seemed to enjoy the evening with us. Rick and Ryan introduced themselves to the small group of us (there were around 15-20 people total) and Rick gave a brief history of the brewery. Rick, and his brother, opened Coronado Brewing as a small brewpub in 1996 at a time when there were only 6 other breweries in San Diego. “Now,” Rick announced, “there are about 120.” In the past few years, as the craft beer culture in America has grown, Coronado has expanded rapidly. In 2013/2014 they produced about 25,000 barrels of beer and this past year they brewed 40,000. Rick then handed the reigns over to Ryan as we sampled the first beer.
The Islander IPA was the first beer on the list and was very tasty. Ryan said it was a typical “west coast IPA,” light and low in caramel malt. He explained that the beer was brewed with Columbus and Chinook hops. Rick was proud to announce that at the 2014 World Beer Cup, the Islander IPA had won gold in one of the categories.
Following the IPA was the Silver Strand Saison, which was again light in color and very drinkable. Ryan said it had been brewed with a significant amount of wheat and spices, “with notes of coriander.” This beer was brewed at a very high temperature producing a lot of fermentation. The Silver Strand was my personal favorite of the night.
In the middle of the list was the Mermaid Red, a red ale which was much darker in color than the previous two. “This is brewed with British Crystal malt and German black barley,” Ryan explained. It had a very interesting aftertaste and Ryan clarified that there was also a bit of chocolate and that definitely was clear lingering after a sip. Rick added, “this is an English take on an American Amber.”
The penultimate beer was their Idiot, another IPA. The Idiot was darker and very hoppy, “a double IPA,” Ryan revealed. “It is brewed with 5 different varieties of hops.” It had notes of caramel and had a drier finish. Rick then explained the backstory for the name. After brewing this IPA, which has a higher ABV than the Islander, a few of the brewers sat down to drink it. After having a few glasses, one left to go to the bathroom and when he returned announced, “Damn, i feel like an idiot after just two.” So, the name stuck.
Lastly, we sampled the Coronado Coffee Stout named Blue Bridge. The stout was dark in color with a low head and was significantly lighter than expected. With an ABV at 5.4%, the Englishman Dave joked that if it were an actual coffee, it’d be pretty weak. Ryan said that there was actually a lot of coffee used, “about a half pound of coffee per keg…with a blend of Sumatran, Ethiopian and Central American coffee.”
Although it sounds like I only spent the night drinking, the reason I enjoyed the event so much was because of how engaging Rick and Ryan were. The backstories and explanations were much appreciated and between each tasty they talked with everyone and asked for our opinions. “So what do the college kids think about this one,” was a question posed by both Rick and Ryan after a few of the beers. We couldn’t really find anything to complain about but they were happy to chat. We found that Rick’s daughter would be starting university this year and he was excited to talk about our experiences back home at university and while we study abroad here. I also got to chat with Dave who is working in Amsterdam. He also loves to homebrew on the side, so he elaborated about his experiences with trying to brew his own beer. “You never really know what you’re going to get,” he noted with a smile. Although the beer was great the intimacy of the event was even better. The tasting was also catered by Keekas, who provided fantastic salsas, guacamole and chips. The Mexican style paired well with the SoCal beer.
The night was nearly perfect and we left the bar extremely happy. We had had wonderful conversations and I was excited to hear about the brewing process as well as the success of international distribution. Rick shared that about 9% of Coronado’s annual sales were international. I also asked, as Rick was making his final rounds, what differences in craft he sees between east and west coast in America. He said the style as well as the availability of ingredients could create major differences but he admitted that it doesn’t necessarily restrict beer on either coast. “Massachusetts is one of our best markets,” Rick explained with a laugh. I was really happy how much Rick enjoyed talking about craft beer–particularly the scene in Boston, which is what I’m most familiar with.
As I said, the night was nearly perfect. I walked outside to find the front wheel of my bike unattached to the rest of the frame. I didn’t think that much of it, a relatively easy fix, until I noticed that someone had broken the lock in an attempt to steal my bike. However, instead of just stealing it, the would-be thief decided to leave my bike a mangled mess. After a long time attempting to reconnect the wheel, we managed to make it “rideable.” Amsterdam is notorious for its bike thieves and this was a lesson not to get too attached to my bike. The warmth of the beer and the evening stuck around regardless, as I road home on my broken bike.