Brew Masters – Recap and Thoughts on Season 1 Episode 2 -Chicha
In this weeks episode of Brew Masters, we are taken on a journey with Sam Calagione to Peru, where Sam learns about the ancient fermented corn based beverage Chicha. His camera crew takes him directly to the villages where the most authentic recipes are made. Basically, Chicha is a beer like beverage that begins with chewed up pieces of corn, the corn being the fermentable sugars in this drink. As only Discovery Channel can capture, we are presented with a graphical presentation how this beer works, and an up close shot of a very old disheveled looking gal who sits in ancient ruins, chewing corn, spitting corn, and straining her mashy goodness through a basket of hay. All the while, Sam and his buddy Dr. Vranich sit in amazement (or disgust) while they watch this go down. After this, they smash cut to drinking time, and surprisingly the Chicha doesn’t look as bad as it sounds. It looks like a big fluffy homebrewed wheat beer with a ton of sediment. The way Sam described it, and it having 1-2% abv, I would imagine it could be a distant cousin of a Berliner Weiss. By the end of this segment, we learn that good Chicha is made with a few local spices, and it’s character largely comes from the process, that would be hard to replicate in their brewery in Milton, DE.
As part of the plot for this episode, Sam wants to attempt a small commercial batch of this beer, to serve at his Rehoboth, DE brew pub. He tasks his Q&A lab technicians with figuring out who on the entire DFH team has the ideal saliva to break down 40 pounds of corn for this beer. Katrinka, Karl and Floris were tasked with running lab tests on everyone’s spit. It made for a tv moment for sure, but didn’t seem necessary. By the time it was said and done, everyone was chomping on some nasty looking raw corn. Some employees seemed to be killing time as if they were chewing sunflower seeds, some seemed utterly disgusted. I applaud Sam for wanting to keep this as authentic as possible. If it was me, I would have used technology to do the chewing/enzymatic breakdown, or I would have gone onto the next ancient recipe that didn’t involve this time consuming/gross as hell ritual.
All ends well, as DFH comes up with 40 pounds of chewed up corn, makes a wonderful recipe out of it, and serves up a handsome looking beer at their brew pub. I imagine this will have to make it to a bottle one day, but the question is, how can the efficiently produce this beer. I think the answer would be outsourcing to their new and loyal fanbase in the surrounding area.
The Vibe, Additional Thoughts and Questions
Last week, I felt a bit skeptical about this show, and the direction it was going in. To be clear, I understood this show was targeted at the noob, and not the grizzled craft beer veteran. I was still trying to push back the fluff to find entertaining substance. This week’s show was less fluff and more substance. I will give the producers one free pass on starting the show off with the same infomercial roll in package, as many might have tuned in based on the premiere episode’s buzz, and didn’t get to hear the quick history and introduction of DFH. I will say compared to the premiere episode, there was a separation between the documentary pieces and the reality show pieces. It started out real nice, with Sam and Dr. Vranich driving through Peru, sitting in a dungeon with the Chicha lady. I also have to give Sam props on the narration, it comes off very genuine, even if Discovery is feeding him some of those lines. The second half, that was more “reality tv” was a little corny (ha get it) for me, but really sucked me in to the moment. I really felt bad for the DFH staff having to chew that corn.
I like the direction this show is going, and think Sam might have enough crazy ideas to fill out a season of tv. I am not sure if the original idea was for him to travel around to other folk’s breweries, but I couldn’t see that working anyway. Great brewers do not always equal entertaining, tv ready personalities.
Quick shout out to Connie Park, a nice lady I’ve worked with over the years who I’ve never seen before, and it was cool to see more than a head shot of Mariah Calagione. She is truly a stone cold fox! Good woman behind a good man!
So here are the questions I’d like to pose to those of you who tuned in….
This episode got more into the thick of things, and did less introduction of the brand. Did you enjoy this weeks episode better than last weeks and will you tune in again?
If you were in Sam’s position, would you go to such lengths for pet projects?
There is an underlying theme in both episodes in which Sam and team are up against the clock for their batch of beer. Does this seem believable or is this just to give it that reality tv edge?