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Good Beer Hunting

Aug 20, 2020

Welcome to the Good Beer Hunting Collective podcast, the show where members of our team interview each other to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of our favorite articles. I’m Ashley Rodriguez, and I produce Good Beer Hunting's podcast.

In my past life, as a barista and coffee writer, one of the questions I struggled with was an essential one: what does it mean for coffee to be considered "specialty?" What makes the coffee from your local cafe different than what's in the can at your grocery store? Although there is a technical definition for "specialty" coffee, there are also a thousand other questions to ask. What do customers like? Which coffees grow well in an ever-changing global climate? How do ethics play into the definition?

Likewise, I imagine "craft beer" is equally muddy—difficult to define explicitly, but something that most beer drinkers can still identify on sight. In this episode, I talk to freelance writer Paige Latham Didora. Paige is based in Minneapolis, and recently wrote a story for Good Beer Hunting about Vine Park Brewing Company, the first Hmong-American brewery in the nation. Along with telling the story of Vine Park's founding—from its past as a contract brewery to its new lease on life after the brand was taken over by four Hmong-American entrepreneurs—we also talk about what it means to be a craft brewery. For example, the Beer Judge Certification Program recognizes 34 styles of beer, and while it's not an exhaustive catalog, roughly half the styles that are recognized are European in origin. Where does that leave beer styles from other parts of the world—like Asian Rice Lager, in this case—not just in terms of representation, but in regard to the identity or value we assign them?

Paige's article not only tells the story of an upstart brewery, but pushes the reader to think critically about how definitions are made, and what it means to be a craft brewer. But first, I spend a little time getting to know Paige better, learning what drew her to Vine Park and its founders, and talking about how to make a beer menu that's designed to serve a specific community. Here's Paige.