Evan S. Benn, editor in chief of INDULGE magazine and brand ambassador for Cervezas Alhambra sits down with columnist Kristen Oliveri to discuss how one food and beverage journalist fell in love with the beer industry. As author of Brew in the Lou, Benn took his adoration for beer to new heights by tracing the history of beer production and consumption to the beginnings of breweries such as Anheuser-Busch, Falstaff and Lemp and up to the current explosion of microbreweries. Today, this Miami-based beer expert can be found and followed on social media @EvanBenn on Twitter.
Q: What attracted you to the beer industry?
A: I started covering beer as a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2009. It was right after InBev had taken over Anheuser-Busch and people’s loyalties really began to shift from macro to micro. Of course, this was taking place throughout the country but it was very pronounced in St. Louis, which has always been a huge beer city and historically tied to A-B products. I wrote a book — “Brew in the Lou” — in 2011 about St. Louis’ beer culture and by the time I left for Miami in 2013, there were more than 20 craft breweries within a two-hour drive of downtown St. Louis. That was the most that had thrived there since before Prohibition. The beer industry continues to interest me because of the personalities that create and consume the products.
Q: What are some of the more interesting trends you’re seeing currently in the beer space?
A: I am a big fan of the trend toward session beers — those with 5 percent or less alcohol by volume. By ‘session,’ it means you can have more than one (or two) in a drinking session without fatiguing your palate or your liver. Brewers are packing a ton of flavor into these beers, so drinking them is a treat.
Q: What are your thoughts on beer cocktails? Yay or Nay?
A: I almost said ‘Nay’ because I usually steer clear of beer cocktails. But I just had a Lagerita at Zuma Miami the other day for brunch and it changed my opinion. Homemade sweet and sour mix topped with a few ounces of clean, crisp lager. It was a refreshing revelation.
Q: Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?
A: I don’t see the craft beer trend slowing down. Just the opposite, actually. I think as more breweries come online and as better beers become more readily available, people will continue to grasp onto the versatility of craft beer and its popularity will keep surging.
Q: What types of gluten-free beers do you like? Is anyone doing that really well in the space?
A: I remember when the first gluten-free and gluten-reduced beers started coming out and they were miserable! Since then, I’ve been really impressed with some of the options out there. Omission Lager and Omission Pale Ale are standard bearers. Stone Delicious IPA and New Belgium Glutony Pale Ale are two of my favorites in that space.