Central Market’s Expand Your Brewniverse is an annual fête, and each year it becomes more evident that the beauty of the event isn’t merely the sheer quantity of selection available (though it’s significant) or the high quality of the beers they present (though it’s astounding). What is most impressive about Central Market’s annual two-week celebration of lagers and ales and all points in between is this: even as they invite you to Expand Your Brewniverse, they are expanding their own.
It’s a celebration that extends beyond Central Market’s substantial beer department and into the rest of the store – breads, cheeses, meats and veggies will all play their pairing part in the brewing bash. Starting on September 12th and running through the 25th, Expand Your Brewniverse will feature brewmasters and brewery founders from across the country to help explain their creations and experience them as well, while cooking classes and dinners round out the fortnight-long fest.
To help guide us through where Expand Your Brewniverse might take you, we spoke with Jason Charles, the Beer and Wine Manager at Dallas’s Greenville and Lovers Lane location.
Thanks for chatting with us, Jason. First off, what can folks expect to find at Expand Your Brewniverse?
Expand Your Brewniverse is a two-week event where everything throughout the entire store is focused on beer. We’ve got a laundry list of brewmasters and brewery owners coming in. We’ll kick off the event on the 12th (at the Lovers location), with Rich Doyle, the owner of Harpoon Brewery, Brock Wagner from St. Arnold’s Brewery, and Ron Extract up from Jester King. I’m really excited about them.
So for these entire two weeks everything is focused on the beer: the types of sausages we’re going to produce in the meat market area, the types of fish we’re going to be featuring, and all throughout the grocery department – basically the entire store. The majority of the brewmasters we have coming in will be demonstrating and doing tastings and bottle signings in the department. We also have a beer dinner set up with the founder and owner of Brooklyn Brewery on the 18th (at the Lovers Lane location); that will be in our cooking school, and will go through an entire meal, pairing Brooklyn beers from appetizer all the way through dessert.
So it’s not just all about the beers themselves, but also about how they might be ideally paired?
Absolutely. We try to bring beer and food together. As much as people associate wine with food, there aren’t as many people – especially here in the US – that associate beer with a lot of different types of foods. But as many different styles of wine there are out there, there’s that many, if not more, styles of beer. Every producer has its own interpretation of what an IPA is or a Pale Ale is or what a Special Lager is. All of the intricacies and the different types of fermentation, the different yeast strains they can use to create different flavors; each of those brewmasters has his own idea of what he thinks is right, down to the water they use when they’re making the mash, the type of barley they use when they’re using the malt, the type of hops they use, or where those hops or that barley’s even grown. Really, there is a sense of terroir, like people associate with wine, that you get that with beer. It’s everything from the yeast strain to the barley to the hops, and even the water.
Which means the flavor profiles among the beers you carry can vary pretty widely?
Yes, especially now with the whole idea of doing flavored things – an idea that initially started with vodka. Now, though, beer is starting to see a little bit more of that aspect. People are using things like raspberry in their production – Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch is a great example of that; they use saffron, honey, and muscat grapes in the production of the beer. Especially here in the US, people are starting to play around with beer recipes. It’s an attitude of ‘Hey, let’s try this fruit in there, let’s just play around and see what happens.’ Boulevard in Kansas City is on the forefront of that. It is absolutely obscene how good their chocolate ale is, and it’s different year to year, because of that different in terroir and how the hops are treated that particular year. The particular barley they’re using to malt, to develop those chocolate flavors, can create a lot of difference in a lot of those specialty beers that they only produce one time a year. It can almost be looked at and appreciated the same way people look at Burgundies and Bourdeaux’s in just seeing the nuances from one year to the next. That’s the sort of mentality we’re starting to see in the production of those specialty beers.
So the beer aficionado can come in and find something new – but what about someone who’s just starting to find what they like in a beer?
Well, every single one of our Partners in the wine department is as versed in beer as they are in wine. We can take a look in your basket or ask you what you’re having for dinner that night and automatically go to the proper pairing for, say, what the specific protein is and then finding out what the preparation method.
But as for how adventurous the newcomer to beer might be, I think everybody is getting a lot more adventurous. I think that a lot of people are really opening up, broadening their horizons and enjoying the stuff from the craft beer market – and that’s where we really focus, the craft brews and the microbrews.
So when someone comes in and asks you what to get, you can lead them there?
Yes, we’ll ask them a few questions and find them something they’ll really appreciate.
I’d really appreciate a beer.
I’m sure you would (laughs). We’ve got a lot of them for sale.