Monday, September 27, 2010

My Friends Are Cooler Than Your Friends: Adam Curfew of the Utah Brewers Cooperative

I can say with great confidence that 99.9% of the population who didn't grow up in Utah typically associate it with Mormons, polygamy, Karl Malone (who is dead to me), Sundance, and that Band of Horses song that has nothing to do with the Great Salt Lake.  For myself and others who grew up there, the reality is somewhat different.  True, everybody has blond hair and blue eyes, and yes, Tony Danza did get his ass beat by a snowboarder outside of a nightclub in Park City, but Utah is much more than a bunch of wholesome white folks that wear an extra layer of underwear, and a lot has happened since someone showed Mr. Danza who was really the boss.  Lately, my behated state of rearing has been enjoying a fair amount of food and drink press.  Cristiano Creminelli's artisan salamis and sausages are the latest cure for common cured meat, the High West Distillery is making moonshine from oats, and the Utah Brewers Cooperative (also known as Wasatch and Squatters) took home the hardware for best mid-size brewery at the Great American Beer Festival.  Adam Curfew, good friend and brewer for the UBC, sat down with me after recovering from the week-long hangover associated with celebrating the win.  We discussed his likeness to the 'Hoff, why brewing in Utah makes you a better brewer, and the chances of Wasatch and Squatters making it out here for Philly Beer Week. Check it out after the jump, and next time you find yourself in Salt Lake, head down to the brewery for a tasting.

Fidel Gastro: So you're from Utah. Are you Mormon? That's always the follow-up question after "You're from Utah?"
Adam Curfew: Ha, that's always the follow-up question. You would think the fact that I make beer would make it obvious that I'm not [Mormon], but its usually,  "Oh you brew beer. That's are you Mormon?"  I thought when I got the horns ground off the questions would stop but no.  Damn you Brigham Young!

FG: How long have you been brewing beer?  How long with the UBC?
AC: I've been brewing for 15 years, 11 of them professionally.  I worked for Squatters for 1 year prior to Squatters and Wasatch merging to form the UBC, and I've been here a decade.

FG: How long have you been a Brewers fan?  Don't the Yankees suck?
AC: I keep thinking I should be a Brewers fan, but I'm not. I'll root for anyone who is playing the Yankees.  When you live in a town without a major league team, you become a fan of whatever team you played for in little league, so I like the A's.  My local team is the Salt Lake Bees, Triple-A all the way.  Plus, they sell our beer at the stadium and the brewery gets season tickets.

FG: What's in the tanks right now?
AC: Provo Girl Pilsner, Polygamy Porter, Full Suspension Pale Ale, and more.  We have 22 tanks so we pretty much have everything going all the time.

FG: And what's your favorite?  Favorite to make?  Anything special on the horizon?
AC: What I'm really excited about is Wasatch Winterfest.  It's one of my favorite beers. Squatters IPA is another favorite. It makes up about 75% of what I drink. I'm also aging our Devastator Double Bock in a few port casks. Those are coming along nicely.

FG: Tell me about your typical workday/workweek.
AC: I get in and grab a cup of coffee, then basically start running and don't really stop until it's time to leave.  It's a little hard to describe exactly what goes on, if I am running a filtration its about an hour and a half setting up, two to three hours of actual filtration, and then an hour and a half of cleaning up. Lately, I've spent a lot of time setting up and training the operators on our new 5-liter mini keg filler. If I'm working in the brew house, I spend the day making wort (unfermented beer).  The really good days are when we do tasting sessions. There's nothing like getting paid to drink beers on a Friday afternoon.

FG: Do you honestly not think that you look like David Hasselhoff?
AC: The Hoff aint got nothing on me.  I thought about sending you a picture of me drunk on the floor and munching up on some Wendy's, but that will have to wait.

FG: How have the arcane Utah liquor laws affected you and your brewing style during your tenure?  Do you feel that the limitations have made you more creative (Selling beer in Utah requires the alcohol content to be less than 4% ABV)?
AC:  I think it has made me a better brewer. having to make lower alcohol beers really forces you to make clean beer.  You really have to learn to control all of the brewing parameters.

FG: How has Utah's beer culture evolved since you've been in the game?  Bullshit liquor laws (and Mormons) aside, it seems like an ideal place for a craft brewery, what with all the stinky hippies and granolas settling there for the fresh powder and gnarly mountain biking trails and all that other stupid hippie shit.
AC: Utah is becoming more and more of a craft beer state, but it seems that craft beer is really blowing up across the country.  I'm really happy to see that it is becoming less of a hippie thing.  I don't trust anyone who acts like they can only drink craft beer because they think it makes them cool or whatever.  Drink beer because its delicious, not because it fits some image. Beer is about having fun and enjoying yourself.

FG: When you're not drinking Squatters or Wasatch, what's typically in the icebox?
AC: Sierra Nevada is probably my favorite brewery.  I'm really digging their Torpedo.  I like the Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA and Odell IPA.  I'm kind of a hop head obviously.  I also love Rodenbach Grand Cru, and who doesn't love a pint of Guinness?

FG: If you had to pick the best beer of all time, what would it be?
AC: That's a really difficult question.  Rodenbach Grand Cru or Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

FG: Are you guys only selling in Utah at this point?  Does the newly gained notoriety mean you guys will branch out?  I have to say, I've seen more than my fair share of Polygamy Porter t-shirts outside of Utah.  I always want to go up the people and high five them, but then I tell myself that it might be creepy, especially as enthusiastic as I can be about such things.
AC: We are in Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Nebraska, and more to come. We just finished a huge expansion which is allowing us to expand our reach.  I always want to high five people in the grocery store when they are buying my beer but I never do.  I think we must have sold a million Polygamy [Porter] t-shirts

FG: Any chance you guys will make it out to Philly Beer Week next year?  Please?
AC: I doubt it, but who knows at this point.  I'd love to come and check out the Philly beer scene.  Plus, it's been a while since I've had a cheesesteak, cheese fries, and a strawberry soda from Steve's Prince of Steaks.

FG: Well, we hope you can make it out.  There's room on my couch, and I'll clean out the fridge if you bring some beers along.
AC: Thanks.

FG: No, thank you, and congrats on the win.
AC: Cheers.

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