Craft Beer: West Coast to Middle East

I love beer, which I think I get from my father, a life long fan of the Australian label Fosters, and Ireland’s Guiness. Nowadays I drink from a wide variety of well known brands like Becks and Pacifico, to craft beers like Stone, Sierra Nevada, Karl Strauss, and New Glarus Brewery, having been a huge fan of the latter for as long as its been in existence. Though I’ve been living in Istanbul for a while now, I haven’t tried many Turkish craft beers yet, choosing to settle instead for what’s on restaurant menus and in grocery stores, which translates to “whatever trendsetters deem hip at the moment”. Right now, that happens to be Belgian beer, and with a big marketing budget thanks to AB-InBev, its showing up everywhere. What is refreshing about New Glarus brewery in particular, is that they are not interested in any type of global expansion, but instead prefer to be a business that is by Wisconsin, for Wisconsin. Speaking of this midwestern state, the founder of microbrewery Karl Strauss out of San Diego, California got his start working for Pabst Brewery, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This summer, I’m taking on the challenge of finding the best craft beers the Middle East has to offer, including Turkey, and kicking it off by having a few handcrafted beers brewed in Istanbul by local brewmaster Suat, out of his home, in Caddebostan.

Me: “Suat, how long have you been brewing beer?”

Suat: “Under three years. Its been an interesting learning experience for me. With every batch I produce, I learn a new technique, something different to tweak.”

Me: “Where do you get your hops, and would you consider foraging for your own hops here in Turkey?”

Suat: “I get a variety of hops online that give each batch a unique flavor. I brew regularly, and the hops have a few months of shelf life in the refrigerator once opened, so I’m not wasting any product if I’m opening several bags. I would consider foraging for wild hops here in Turkey if the taste is right. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m open to it.”

Me: “How long is the process from start to finish, where I’m able to uncap a cold one, and take a sip? Also, currently whats your cost per bottle?”

Suat: “It’s a 28 day cycle, and the cost is 2.50 TL which is somewhat high at the moment, due to heavy taxation on supplies.”

Me: “What do you think about making a business out of brewing beer?”

Suat: “I might turn it into a business in the future, but that would require an injection of capital and resources that I’m not ready to put in at this time. The political climate in Turkey is not conducive to alcohol related business, so its expensive and tedious to  get your product to market.”

Me: “Where would you recommend a novice like me to enjoy craft beer in Istanbul?”

Suat: “I drank a lot of beer from a craft brewery by the name of Taps that used to have a small operation in Suadiye, but now are headquartered in Bebek. You should totally check that out. It was one of the first brands to produce craft beer in Turkey. Another great name is Bosphorus Brewing Company, located in Gayrettepe. Also, I know someone brewing craft beer in Baliskesir and another here in Istanbul.”

Me: “Ok, well then its obvious to me that we need to start an annual craft beer festival in Turkey….are you in?”

Suat: “I brew in small batches, but its totally doable.”

Me: “Whats it like to be part of the craft beer culture in Turkey?”

Suat: “Its a very small world of passionate beer enthusiasts.”

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Coffee. Beer. Climbing Tall Things.

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