Thursday, April 28, 2011


Tomorrow Chef and I are working an event together, for the first time in almost two years.  We work well together, as long as I don't ask questions like "Do you think you should stir that more?"  or  "Is that burner too hot?"  I have no idea why I question him like this, particularly because usually I have no clue how to cook whatever it is he is making.  This Friday, I will bite my tongue and let him do what he knows best.   All the area's best chefs and many great small farmers are joining forces for a Slow Down, a fundraiser for our local Slow Food Convivium at Intuition Ale Works.
According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, the word intuition is defined as the power or faculty attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference. In other words, a gut feeling.  If you recall, a few months back I posted about a certain fabulous beer tasting, that showcased Intuition's incredible brews each paired with local fare.  What struck me most about that meal was the flavor profiles of the beer...I just couldn't wrap my head around them.

The lovely folks at Intuition asked Chef and I to come for a tour of the brewery a few weeks ago.  We of course jumped at the opportunity.  It takes a certain type of panache to pull off a great beer with unique flavor, and we wanted to know more about this craft, and the crafty people behind the beer.  Heck, we just wanted more of their delicious beer.    
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Cari Sanchez-Potter, business manager extraordinaire and food blogger, who set before us this gorgeous flight of every beer they have on tap.  The gal knows how to make an introduction. A veritable rainbow of brew.   Chef and I happily sat down at the bar and began to taste.  As we sipped, this gentleman, or should I say genius, Ben Davis, owner and brewer of Intuition Ale Works, saddled up to the bar and began to describe in fantastic detail each beer, how its particular brewing process influences its flavors.
He spoke as if he were discussing the intricacies of fine wine, which makes sense.  Ben used to be in the wine business in California, but returned to his roots in Jacksonville in order to raise his family and there he found a burgeoning craft-beer market desperate to be tapped.  

Ben told us about hops, and how like wine grapes they are vines that thrive in particular regions, mainly Washington State here in the USA.  Recently there was a bit of a hops shortage due to weather and farmers making the unfortunate choice of switching their crop to corn for ethanol.  But unlike wine, it is not the fruit of the vine that determines the taste of beer. As he delved into the flavors of each beer, we learned that 70% to 80% of the flavor from beer comes from the type of yeast used while brewing.  Yeast is something that mystifies me...

It is alive for one thing.  In fact, its use has been documented by humans for over 4,000 years.  The domestication of this tiny fungi is responsible for two of my most favorite indulgences, booze and bread.  It exists everywhere in nature, but you have to capture it in order to cultivate it.  It is sexual being that reproduces like wild fire.  As it grows, it is stressed which causes it to release flavor compounds.  I didn't ask how one stresses yeast out.  Maybe they yell at it...or slap it around a bit?  Who knows, but just look at that glass of yeast. 

As Ben guided us through the brewery we came upon this giant machine.  From what I understand once you have your hops and your yeast it is then boiled, filtered, and fermented by this crazy machine and its various holding tanks:
While the above looks like the lab of a mad scientist, the process of brewing beer is as organic and natural as the day is long.  And what better way to end a long day than with a tall glass of cold beer.  Or eleven.
We did our best to treat the flight like a proper tasting, leaving a little sip in each glass.  But I am not going to lie, it pained me to do so.  The team at Intuition Ale Works have something special going on in this little warehouse tucked away in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville.  It just so happens that Chef and I are going to be calling this neighborhood home soon, and I have a beer gut feeling that their taproom is going to become a favorite watering hole.  At least that is what my intuition tells me.

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