Tasting thousands of beers is tough work, but award-winning blogger Christina Perozzi (beerforchicks.com) and craft-brew expert Hallie Beaune took on the challenge to write their hopped-up book The Naked Pint (Perigee 2009). With the perfect balance of authority and fun, The Naked Pint taps into beer history and styles, even offering up a few homebrew recipes. Perozzi and Beaune met five years ago behind the bar at Father’s Office in Santa Monica, California, and have since tasted countless beers, consulted with numerous brewers and hosted beer-pairing dinners across the country—all in the name of research. Over barleywine, barrel-aged brews and a few seasonal ales at Portland, Oregon’s Saraveza Bottleshop and Pasty Tavern, we chatted about Keystone Light, brewing while baking, and the otherworldly combo of beer and cheesecake.
Imbibe: So what was the collaborative process like co-authoring this book?
Beaune and Perozzi, together: We’re actually the same person!
Perozzi: But, no, we actually work really well together. We’ve known each other for about five years, which in Los Angeles time is forever. During the writing process, I’d write a part and then she’d write a part, so we’d switch back and forth. And we both had veto power over what the other one had to say.
Beaune: But we respected each other’s writings enough where I don’t think that either one of us actually vetoed anything. Being friends for a long time we definitely share a similar writing style and sense of humor. We’ve also worked together behind a bar, so we definitely get each other on a beer-driven level. We appreciate a lot of the same things when it comes to food and drinks.
Imbibe: Do each of you recall your first experience with beer?
Beaune: Um, I drank Keystone Light from a can. Growing up in Arizona, it was all about light lagers. And then I went to college at the University of Puget Sound, where I was first introduced to local microbrews, and that was my first experience with anything that didn’t come out of a can.
Perozzi: Being from St. Louis, I drank a lot of Budweiser growing up. And I didn’t really progress for a long time until I started working at Father’s Office [in Santa Monica]. I was the kind of girl who identified with Budweiser; I thought that drinking it made me seem down to earth.
Imbibe: So, in that transition from Keystone Light and Budweiser to locally brewed craft beers, was there an Aha! moment for either of you?
Beaune: I think for both of us it was working behind the bar at Father’s Office. Even when I was first introduced to microbrews in college, I still didn’t really know anything about what I was drinking—about hops, malts, barley—I didn’t know what made beer taste the way it did. And then, working at Father’s Office, we had to learn about ingredients, flavor profiles and brewing specifics. I think, as it is with anything, once you start to educate yourself about it you appreciate it so much more.
Perozzi: And there’s no mass-produced, industrialized beer sold at Father’s Office, so if someone asked for Budweiser we’d have to know which beer to recommend instead, or if someone wanted a Newcastle we’d need to understand what flavors they were looking for.
Imbibe: Where’s a good place to start with translating mass-produced beers to craft brews?
Beaune: We encourage people to find the flavors they like and use everyday food descriptors to express them. Whether it is nutty, chocolaty or lemony, I think its good to start with your palate. You don’t need to understand all of the specific beer styles, just have an idea of the flavors you’re looking for. And make sure you’re trying something that is produced locally, on a smaller scale with better ingredients.
Perozzi: It’s also about getting rid of that idea that beer is only meant to wash down your food. No, that’s what the water is for. You don’t think of wine, Champagne or cocktails in that way, so why beer?
Imbibe: So, what are a few pairing tips for people to keep in mind?
Beaune: We often say beer is a better pairing for food than wine. Any food that is typically difficult to pair with a beverage—like asparagus and artichokes—actually pairs really well with beer. And it’s a lot of fun to experiment. We definitely offer suggestions but encourage people to try different beers with the foods they’re eating.
Perozzi: Once you start thinking about the nuances of the beer you’re drinking, it’s really easy to imagine flavors to complement it. Start out with parallel pairings of similar flavors—like how white ales are an obvious pairing with Indian food because both integrate lots of coriander spice. We also like to tell people to look at beer almost as a sauce that accompanies the food. Like a rauchbier with barbeque—the smokiness of the beer plays off of the sweetness of the meat, just as a marinade would do.
Beaune: I absolutely love cheesecake with beer. The great thing about that combo is that you can play with several different beers for totally different effects—a chocolate stout instead of chocolate sauce or a lambic or gueuze instead of cherries on top—all are excellent, but very different. I think there are definitely better pairings than others, but sometimes you just stumble upon things.
Imbibe: Were there any interesting beer anecdotes that you came across while researching the book?
Perozzi: The whole history of beer is really anecdotal and based on old pub stories. It makes it really difficult to check anything, but we both like trying to sort beer legend from actual history.
Beaune: I think for me, I was surprised by the extent to which women used to brew beer. It used to just be something women did while they made bread. That’s something we’ve used a lot to encourage more women to get into beer, saying, “Look, we’ve been doing this a long time, it’s not like a foreign substance to us.” It was really cool to learn that.
Perozzi: At the end of the day, we wanted to address both men’s and women’s misconceptions about beer. Since we’ve worked behind a bar and we know how to talk with someone about beer, keeping it focused on flavor profiles and personal palates. A lot of beer books are textbook-y and focused on origin or style, and while that’s all good to know, it’s not an easy place to start. We wanted our book to appeal to both the novice and the geek.