Tag Archives: Paul Kavulak

Beer Festivals

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For those not yet indoctrinated into the world of craft beer, the term “beer fest” is likely one that evokes images of Munich during Oktoberfest or something else in the realm of drinking for the sake of consumption.

In every one of these articles, we’re searching for deeper meaning, however. For our discussion here, we’ll be exploring beer fests in the sense of discovery, education, shared interests, and time spent broadening what the world of craft beer can mean to you.

Beer fests of late—those with goals such as those I’ve just mentioned—are built around a four- or five-hour experience where fest-goers pay a nominal fee in exchange for a fantastic day spent with brewers, brewery owners, beer zealots, and others just like yourself who are out to learn.

Sure, it’s entirely possible to spend your time at a beer fest tasting four-ounce samples at a rate that would be staggering to most. But those little four-ounce samples—the overall number of which is usually determined by your own tolerance of the day’s fun—are geared to allow you to taste a broad spectrum of breweries, particular styles, and unusual offerings, all under the auspices of fest organizers eager and ready to help you understand the particular pour. They bring along history, anecdotal information, and an introduction to the people and the culture behind the world that has become craft beer.

So are there beer festivals that exist locally that offer such learning opportunities? Absolutely. And the better fests out there actually provide for cab rides home and other people-friendly elements geared to not only get and keep your interest in craft beer, but to ensure you’re fully enjoying yourself and able to return to the next fest!

Nearly every single weekend in the Omaha area you’ll find some sort of beer or craft beer-related event. I draw a distinction because beer in general can be anything—imports, macro brands, and macro brands made to look like American-made small-batch craft beer. Both are good but, in my opinion, you’ll find the true culture embedded in the little brewery owner doing his best to get you to notice.

Timing is everything, so if you’re up for an afternoon of smiles, check out Sunfest in late July, which is put on by the folks at The Crescent Moon, 36th and Farnam streets. Or check out the Great Nebraska Beer Fest in late August in Papillion. You might also check in with some of your local Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits guys, as they have numerous educational mini-fests running quite often. I think you get the point though…Get out there, sample a few brews, and learn a little!

And as always, drink responsibly and designate a driver.

Follow a Craft Beer Calendar

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To many, reaching for a beer is a pretty simple affair—grabbing whatever is on sale or sits on top in the cooler. But I’m not here to advocate for simplicity when it comes to your choice of beverage. Putting some timely thought behind your selection can pay some great dividends!

As I write this, the sun is shining, the temperatures are finally rising, and the desire to get outdoors is overpowering. Just as certain craft beers pair beautifully with particular foods, so too do the myriad styles of craft beer find select pairings with the seasons, hence, the phrase “seasonal beers.”

Seasonal beers offer their peak appeal within a particular time of year. Certain styles have become the norm for the type of activities people find themselves involved in or the type of weather they’re experiencing. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Darker, maltier styles are well-suited to the colder months due to their more filling and higher alcoholic nature, for example; thus, they are popular in the fall and winter.

But we’re now several weeks into spring, so which craft beers marry well with springtime? Spring seasonals tend to have a straw or golden color, a lively effervescence, and a bitterness rate geared toward quenching a growing thirst.

Pale ales, “smaller” IPAs (just a bit bigger in stature than pale ales), and wheat beer styles are perfectly suited to the warming temperatures and activities of springtime. And like good wine, beers also have many intriguing variations and tilts on a style that will keep you entertained throughout the season. You need not chose just one seasonal option—you can find several you enjoy!

One of my personal favorites is wheat beer—American, German, Belgian—and with brews from so many little regions within these countries, the list is quite long. Wheat beers are generally made with 50 percent wheat/50 percent malted barley. Most are cloudy in nature due to the yeast and proteins left in suspension because of a deliberate lack of filtration. Differences emerge in the artistry of the brewer. American wheats are fairly straightforward, less challenging, or possibly a bit less entertaining, while the German wheats can be hugely effervescent and possess a nose bursting with banana, clove, and vanilla. There are many variations within the German ranks, but as I’m here to guide you, I’ll send you right to an immensely pleasing German Hefeweizen (pronounced “hefay veitzen”).

Most area grocery or bottle stores carry a nice selection of seasonal craft beers, and the local brewers either have one on tap year-round or are just gearing up for the seasonal change. This is one of the easiest times of the year to make your own personal-best seasonal choice.

Now, get out there and try a few!

Craft Beer & Charcuterie

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sometimes, a craft beer is best when enjoyed all by itself. A singular item to cut away the day’s stress or a social lubricant to foster communication and social interaction.

The reality is that craft beer is best when paired with other fine things in life. Sure, events loom large when one considers a beer’s largest stage, but if you think about it for a moment, beer—and specifically craft beer—finds its shining light in moments shared with food.

Beer & Food pairings have become the norm. Detailed and very deliberate styles and brands of craft beers married up with very specific and extraordinary foods. The results are oftentimes completely beyond the expected. I mean, who would think that a very bitter India Pale Ale when paired up with a pungent bleu cheese would find taste descriptors that tend toward sweet, candy, or even dessert-like? Malty craft beers with smoked Gouda cheese resulting in an entirely new taste experience—a perfect creaminess on the palate, where the carbonation from the beer cleanses and washes, preparing the taste buds for the next encounter.

Some of the extremes in this Beer & Food pairing phenomena find sanctuary in charcuterie and craft beer. Craft beer, we understand at this point, is defined as small-batch, extremely flavorful, and painstakingly created beer. Charcuterie may be more foreign to some of you. Simplified, charcuterie is a French word for “cold cuts”—but not your fridge variety. Charcuterie is the equivalent of craft beer within the custom realm of sausages, salamis, artisanal meats, cheeses, accompaniments, and sheer culinary excitement. Paired with their counterpart in craft beer, we find a confluence of substance and liquid not found independently. You owe it to yourself to find some of the local venues who specialize in either and sometimes both.

Great craft beer can now come from almost anywhere—a grocery store, tap house, brewery, or bottle shop. And if I can provide some guidance, The French Bulldog in the Omaha area has some fantastic charcuteries to begin your path toward experimentation. They know the craft and understand how to convey to the first-time patron of a C&CB encounter a common language to impart understanding, remove doubt and fear, and open a world of flavor, taste, and sometimes extremism that is not elitist.

It’s a realm of discovery, Beer & Food pairing. You truly owe it to yourself and friends to seek out the corners of existence. Once you do, you’ll be forever changed.

Give these combinations a try:

  • The buttery and tender flavor of prosciutto complements Lucky Bucket’s soft-bodied Wheat and tangy sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Capocolla’s flavors of white pepper, cinnamon, and cloves taste great with Lucky Bucket’s Lager and smoked Gouda.
  • Lucky Bucket’s IPA gave bleu cheese a creamy flavor, balanced by Pancetta, an Italian, Croatian, and Slovenian bacon.
  • Certified Evil by Lucky Bucket pairs well with the spices of Genoa Salami and a smooth, fresh mozzarella cheese.

Beer & Food

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chef, baker, vintner, cheesemaker, distiller, brewer. All require incredible talent and painstaking skill to climb the higher rungs within their respective arts. Look at the titles again and to an extent, I’m betting your definitions of each are likely fairly superficial—a baker makes pastries, a vintner makes wine, a brewer makes beer, etc.—and that’s fine if they were. Each is given to an individual discipline, and all are bent on pleasing people, and for good reason. After all, these tradesmen and women are asking John Q. Public to trade his hard-earned cash for their well-crafted product.

But if you take a closer look at these professions and think a bit deeper…about how broad their fields of expertise must be to excel…you realize on second thought that a winemaker, for example, has quite a few different wines to master as part of their repertoire. The brewer? Hopefully, you were able to come up with a few different styles given your own personal experiences. And it’s quite alright if you couldn’t name 10 different styles or 40 or 75…That’s why I’m writing this column.

My name is Paul Kavulak, and I’m a brewpub owner, along with my wife, Kim. Within the confines of this article and this magazine, we’ll explore the world that has become craft beer. I’m not here to judge other brewpubs or dwell too long on any given facet of brewing but rather to educate and enlighten readers on all the varieties of beer—beer that is made by small, independent, and privately owned breweries focused entirely on the quality of their products, the enjoyment of their fans, and the education and inclusion of so many of you who may not have already joined the ranks of the craft beer movement.

Already a fan? Fantastic. Together, we’ll learn a bit more than we knew yesterday. No one likes a lecturer, so I intend to push my own envelope and take you along for the ride. Join me.