The first time my mother went to a beer festival was two months ago, at Juicy Brews Tucson. The idea that her son quit his job to found a craft beer “media company” that also puts on a roaming festival circuit had never really made sense to her. It sounded a lot like a millennial’s euphemism for having wanderlust and a burgeoning drinking problem.
So when she rolled up to the festival — in the Juicy Brews shirt I had mailed her — it was the first time she saw that her youngest child was doing something real. She was ecstatic and more than a little relieved. It was also the first time I got to introduce her my new “colleagues.” Mostly brewers, distributors, food truck chefs, and ice truck delivery drivers. One person she immediately hit it off with was Chase Saraiva. He’s the head brewer at Arizona Wilderness, who was pouring at the fest, and the nicest guy in each and every room he walks into.
My mother’s a middle school science teacher at an all-girls school near Baltimore, where I grew up. She cares about youth and education at a level that even my best self can only admire. So, in time for Mother’s Day, I thought I’d give my mother a chance to interview someone who made a profession out of science. Like all brewers, Chase can inspire her students in a way that she can’t while standing at a chalk board. Without further ado, here’s my mother asking (via email) Chase about a life she only knew existed once her son started filling her fridge with bottles of beer.
Love ya mom.
Charlotte Smith: Travis was brewing beer in my kitchen when he was in high school. (Definitely supervised!) When you were younger, were there any adventures, classes, or occasions that foretold of your current adventure in craft beer?
Chase Saraiva: This one really got me thinking. Looking back, it’s hard to say if any one thing pointed directly to me moving this direction for a career. As a child with Portuguese and German ancestry, I was introduced to a variety of unique dishes other children may not have had the chance to experience. I believe it was this sort of “head first into the water” approach to diverse foods (think fish eyes and blood sausage!) at a young age that inspired my love for flavors. During my schooling I was more drawn to the sciences than other subjects, so it makes sense I would find a combination of the two to make into my career. One great aspect of brewing is that it’s so multidisciplinary that people are drawn to it for many different reasons. For me, it was the blend of science and the culinary arts that hooked me.
CS: You use science in a way that’s very fun and exciting! What can you tell my science students about a life’s lesson that you learned while developing your craft?
CS: Experiment with purpose, don’t blindly follow what others tell you, and maybe the most important of all; often times one can learn more from a failure or mistake than a success or expected outcome. Focus on learning from those failures and mistakes and you’ll consistently make yourself better.
CS: What’s the beer that actually hooked you on craft beer?
CS: Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron. I was in college at the time and was mainly familiar with the taste of American adjunct lagers. Then one day this monstrous, malty, wood-aged brown ale came rushing over my pallet and hit me with flavors I never thought possible. Before this I had known beer mostly as a commodity consumed in large quantities from the base end of a red solo cup triangle. Things have changed a lot since that moment to say the least.
CS: You collaborate with a lot of other breweries. This isn’t a concept I had ever heard of! Why do you collaborate with other breweries, and how do you decide who you’re going to work with next?
CS: The Why: Collaborations can be (but certainly aren’t limited to) inspiring, engaging, educational, refreshing, progressive creative outlets, relationship and community building, and just damn fun; they can align like minded individuals and open conversations between those with contradicting opinions.
The How: We choose who to collaborate with based on meeting and building relationships with people in the industry who have similar mindsets and ideologies on brewing as us. Beyond this, we like to collaborate with people whom we admire and have inspired us.
CS: I’ve heard of the “New England IPA”. What beer is unique to the southwest/Arizona?
CS: Tiswin! Definitely not a style that has garnered much attention or a cult following like that of New England IPA’s, in fact it’s probably closer to extinction. Tiswin is more of a historical style originating in the Southwest made by Native Americans from fermented corn.
CS: The enormous following of craft beer is amazing to me. Why are people turning out in large numbers to sample beer at festivals and at breweries?
CS: It certainly is an exciting time to be in the craft beer industry, isn’t it?! I don’t believe the success of the craft brewing industry or its following can be distilled down to one or even a few factors. To me it’s the return of a focus on locality, beer’s current place in society, imagery and culture with a splash of “against the man” spirit. Any of which can be added with restraint or reckless abandon to a patron’s glass and in turn connects them to the product, the brewery, and the industry as a whole.
CS: The beer in Arizona was so good! Where do you see the beer scene in your state heading?
CS: As a market in the US, Arizona is still a bit young compared to those of Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, etc. so we still have ample room to grow and innovate. My hope would be we learn from these markets which have been so successful. Take their mistakes, turn them into our successes; take their successes and augment them in ways that help us carve our own paths and eventually become an example to inspire others.
CS: We met at Juicy Brews Tucson, so I wondered what you enjoyed the most at the festival?
CS: Since our beer doesn’t travel very far from the brewery on most occasions, it’s always nice to be able to share our work with others that may not have the opportunity to stop by the source. Also, the venue was incredible! How often do you get to enjoy great beer while looking around an auto museum? It was well organized and the attendees were super kind.
CS: I didn’t know anything about beer until Travis started bringing beer home for Thanksgiving. How do you educate friends/family/your mother about what you do?
CS: Haha, it’s funny you ask. Many times when I explain I’m a brewer, I’ll get the “OH MAN, so you just get to drink beer all day?” response. In reality, yes, we do taste beer throughout the day, but it’s SO much more than what many think. We’re tasting and analyzing every step of the process, allowing us to better understand the product being created in front of us so we can deliver the best possible pour to the consumer. In order to really break through and have people understand some of the things we do I oftentimes try to find a relation to something they are familiar with. Like yeast’s role in beer related to people having dinner.
CS: I just rewatched the movie, 3:10 to Yuma, with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. If these southwestern cowboys walked into your bar in Tucson, what would you pour them?
CS: A tall glass of Wilderpils, our take on the American Pilsner. All that fighting and roaming around the desert probably gets a bit tiring so they’ll need something to quench their thirst. After they’ve settled in for a bit, our BA American Presidential, a whiskey barrel aged stout with local cacao nibs and peppers.
CS: You are young and successful, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CS: I hope to be pushing the envelope with what people think beer can taste like, continue to develop meaningful relationships, and take brewing to Mars!
CS: You’re sending me a gift package of beers for Mother’s Day. What have you included in the box?
CS: 1. Sangio Cerveza, our soon to be released mixed culture wine/beer hybrid with Sangiovese grapes.
2. Southern Tier Crème Brulee, the first beer my mom actually enjoyed.
3. Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, the beer that brought me to the light.
4. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the first beer I ever tasted.
5. I’d throw in some nice chocolate and a good book to enjoy beside them as well.