Craft beer expert Bamforth on food, wine, art (and beer) at Jernigan’s

Nationally renowned craft beer expert Charles Bamforth from UC Davis spoke at Jernigan’s Grill & Tap House in Nevada City on Friday, providing insights to the booming market, along with some entertaining anecdotes.

One of them: how Bamforth managed to persuade CEO August Busch III of Anheuser-Busch to donate $5 million to UCD’s Master Brewer Brewing Program.

The clever plan: Bamforth helped draft a letter signed by Robert Mondavi, who has funded the school’s renowned winemaking program and performing arts center, urging Bush to do the same with UCD’s brewing program. And he agreed.

The lunch-lecture was another sign of the growing popularity of craft brewing in the Sierra Foothills, as well as a reminder that some nationally known craft beer aficionados are right in our own backyard.

Bamforth, a PhD who has written several books about beer, began his work in the brewing industry in 1978 and joined the UC Davis faculty in 1999. He is Distinguished Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences on campus and is nicknamed “The Pope of Foam.”

We enjoyed Bamforth’s humorous and entertaining lecture. Attendees included Tom Dalldorf of Nevada City, publisher of the well-regarded Celebrator Beer News and a craft beer expert himself.

The lunch-lecture was hosted by Sean Cox, proprietor and manager of Jernigan’s Tap House & Grill in the Seven Hills District of Nevada City. The ol’ Republic Brewing Company — in the midst of a major expansion — is right across the street. (Cox, Bamforth and Dalldorf are pictured above, in that order).

Beer more popular than sex at UC Davis?

Bamforth started his informal talk by pointing out that his Intro to Beer Brewing was voted best general education class for 2013 by UCD students, “more popular than the class on sex, or the one on nutrition,” he joked.

He also talked about the wholesomeness of beer, a current research topic. In 17th century England, even infants drank beer, partly because the purification techniques made it safer to drink than water in some villages.

Beer has essential vitamins (such as B vitamins), minerals and antioxidants from the raw materials and is made from soluble fibre, contributing to a healthy diet.

Bamforth also spoke with pride about the UCD Master Brewing Program. Graduates hold key positions in large and small breweries worldwide.

He also joked about the rivalry between wine and beer connoisseurs and his own experience “one upping” a winery at a recent wine and beer pairing. First off, he quipped, the wine salesman mistook a fine veal dish for pork. (“You Philistine.”)

UC Davis has its own wine and beer rivalry. The school is well known for its school of Viticulture & Enology, established in 1935 following the repeal of Prohibition.

It also is known for the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, named in honor of the winemaker and his wife, who made a $35 million gift to UC Davis. It funded the Center and the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company a donor

Anheuser-Busch, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (established by homebrewer Ken Grossman) have been major donors to the UCD Master Brewing Program.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico is opening another brewery in North Carolina, largely because it wants to continue distributing beer regionally in refrigerated trucks, ensuring the best quality, Bamforth said.

Among the beer giants, Anheuser-Busch has its own brewery in Fairfield. Bamforth also observed that rice grown near Woodland is used to make Anheuser-Busch beer.

For his part, Bamforth is a craft brew lover, but he also cautioned the audience not to dis the major brewers, because they also have some highly talented brewmasters.

He noted, however, that most UCD students in his program want to be craft-beer entrepreneurs rather than work for one of the major beer breweries.

After the lunch-lecture, Bamforth walked across the street to meet with ol’ Republic Brewery brewers Jim Harte and Simon Olney, who are expanding their operations to include bottling.

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