Brew Masters – Recap and Thoughts on Season 1 Episode 3 -Punkin & Portamarillo
Discovery Channel mixed things up and aired episode three of Brew Masters the night after episode two. This could mean a few things, none of which I will be able to verify quick enough. Perhaps the show is doing better than expected, and was bumped to a better day. It could also mean the show isn’t doing as well as anticipated, and they are shuffling it around to see if it does better in another slot. Having a DVR makes this a non-issue for me, as I can record this, and still eat dinner or catch some Monday night football, and have time to sit down and pay attention to the show later that evening once my kid is in bed. Anyway, onto the show.
Episode three was broken into two themes, and aptly named Punkin & Portamarillo. To stay in line with the theme of this series, Sam is on his quest to make a beer never made before, and this time, wants to make a beer with the New Zealand native tomato like Tarmarillo fruit. First, Sam flies the rapidly successful Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing in from New Zealand. Much like the last two episodes, Sam puts a time restraint on himself, and makes it his goal to have this yet to be brewed beer ready in time for Beervana. The beer sounds interesting, as it is intended to be a hoppy, smokey porter. The focal points of the beer include tamarillo’s smoked with Pōhutukawa wood, melded into a New Zealand hopped porter that would come in at 7-8% abv. There was concern the beer was not going to showcase the fruit well, and that it might be too bitter. The bitterness concern came when they tasted the wort and found it to be far too bitter from the over-roasted malts and the smokey char of the fruit. Sam and Eric dialed down some of the bitterness and brewed the beer. Sam flies his family to New Zealand, with the keg of Portamarillo JUST IN TIME for Beervana. Sure enough, Sam shows anxiety over crowd acceptance of this beer, which is met with nothing but on camera praise. Not only is this being poured for the festival, it is entered in to a contest for festive ale. Unfortunately, Portamarillo didn’t win that day. All and all, it was a nice little journey for the Calagione family.
The second story, which was intertwined with the Portamarillo story, was the challenges of getting Punkin Ale out the door and onto shelves. Dogfish Head has done a great job in keeping their standards high. Just recently, they announced their famous 120 Minute IPA would not be making a 2010 appearance as it didn’t meet their high standards. There are probably other batches, we don’t hear about, that never make it out of the warehouse. In this episode, a big oversight was made on the bottling line. Rather than pry off style bottles, DFH received twist off style bottles. These will not work with their pry off crowns, and would make for skanky skunky flat Punkin Ale if sent out for consumption. After Katrinka (awesome smart chick in the QA lab) finds out about this booboo, she looks visibly sad, as not only is the crown issue costly, but she is also wrangling with air contaminates from brew house construction.
After Katrinka takes some air samples, and the bottling line identifies Punkin Ale with the wrong bottle, they wind up having to dispose of some beer, and luckily, send staff home with some. They cut to New Zealand a few times, as these blunders are shared with Sam while he is a zillion miles away. Sam holds this beer near and dear to his heart, as this was his first home brew that launched him into professional brewing. I think it’s sad when any beer is wasted, I can only imagine how they must have felt.
The episode ends with Sam and his adorable daughter Grier at a Punkin Chunkin festival, enjoying the launching and exploding of pumpkins. A very solid episode, with a lot of depth; comedy, drama and tragedy.
The Vibe, Additional Thoughts and Questions
This show has hit its stride for me. I really think what we see is what we get with Sam and his team. I was admittedly skeptical at first, wondering how someone can have such a large task at hand, and still remain fun, playful and optimistic. Some of the feedback we received here at thefullpint.com was negative towards Sam, referring to him as a d-bag or an aloof jock. I think the exact opposite. Sam is a man-child with a can-do attitude, and the acquired resources to make stuff from his imagination come to life. It amazes me to be frank. I think if we polled any of the team members at DFH, they would tell us he skips around that place, dreaming up magic potions all day long, making catapults, making tree houses and occasionally getting his buzz on. Also, congrats on the promotion Pain Reliva Bryan got. He comes across as very talented on the show.
As for the magic of TV, I think anxious moments are shoe horned in to make compelling TV. It’s very convenient that every special new batch of beer has to be made by a beer event deadline. It’s also a little hoaky having Sam get all nervous about his beer being liked and accepted by the crowd, just to show 3-4 people praising it seconds later. The producers scaled back even more on the DFH infomercial, while still keeping brand new viewers up to speed.
I’d like to leave you with a few random questions to be answered by you in the comment section below:
- At the season 3 mark, have you settled into the show?
- Do you mind that the show was moved to Mondays?
- What is your take on Bryan Sellers and his “dynamic” with Sam?
- How awesome is Luke’s dad’s toast art?