Interview with Diane Catanzaro

Lorenzo Dabove, aka Kuaska, chats up the big names in beer

Diane Catanzaro, “Beer Drinker of the Year” 2007

(in italian)

Hi Diane, for me you are the brighting smiling beer-drinker of the World. Your family name is typically Italian, did you still have relatives living in Italy?
Lorenzo, there are some distant relatives in Catanzaro region, in the town of Tiriolo, where my great-grandfather came from. But they did not stay in contact after he came to the US and settled in the NY-NJ area. My dad went to Tiriolo some years back and managed to find some of these relatives…by talking to people in the local bar, of course!

Tell us please something about you and how you has become so skillful about good craft beers..
A combination of an adventurous palate and joining a homebrewing club got me started on this journey. Always I knew there had to be more exciting tastes out there that what was available before the craft beer revolution. Exploring beers and traveling to great breweries and beer cafes satisfies my sense of adventure. Others may want to parachute out of planes or climb mountains. For me, my thrill is discovering and enjoying great beer!

I met you  in Belgium as teacher of a group of happy students. Do you like to preach the word of good quality beer to younger generations?
Absolutely…Today I am traveling to Belgium with a group of 14 college students. Some of them are my “Beer Scholars” and we’ll visit breweries, taste beers, and they can write their research paper about some aspect of beer, brewing, beer-culture, etc. Yesterday a friend told me he was at a beer tasting and overheard some college students bragging they’d been to Cantillon! My students!! When he told me this I was so proud!!

Tell us about your experience at “Beer Drinker of the Year” contest adding some anedoctes before and after the winning..
The contest is a way to show that beer drinkers are serious about their beer, but know how to have fun also. It highlights beer knowledge, beer appreciation, but with a sense of humor also. The “finals” are before a live audience and the finalists get all kinds of questions from the judges about beer, related to history, styles, brewing, beer trivia, etc. You win not necessarily by being the most knowledge, but it is a combination of knowledge, appreciation, personality, and “heart”. The best part is when people hear about the contest and discover that beer drinkers don’t always fit the stereotype!

Have that prestigious award changed something in your life?
Well, it really has brought a sense of accomplishment….. self actualization as a beer lover! It is like reaching beervana!

Do you know Matt Venzke, “Beer Drinker of the Year” 2008?
I had only met him once before the contest, at a beer tasting. He lives about a half hour from me. Just last night he was made an honorary member of our homebrew club, the Hampton Roads Brewing and Tasting Society at our meeting at St George Brewing. A true beer nut, and very deserving of his win.

I know that you are related to Oskar Blues Brewery who brew astonishing canned ales, am I right? If yes, why do like that brewery?
My brother in law does marketing with Oskar Blues and we’ve enjoyed watching their success.  They are a great brewery and brewpub, very involved in supporting the local community, and nice people. They took a leap of faith that people would buy great beer in a can and it has worked out very well. Their Ten-Fiddy Imperial Stout is amazing!

US craft beers are becoming more and more popular and appreciated in Italy. Which are the brewers and the beers do you recommand to our readers?
I don’t know what is available in Italy, but some of my favorite American craft breweries are Dogfish Head, Allagash, Pizza Port, and Jolly Pumpkin.

Italian craft bees are currently widely available in US. Which ones are your favorites?
We don’t get a  lot of Italian craft beers in the Norfolk, Virginia area where I live. But, when I can get them, I love the Birrificio Italiano with cherries and the one with currants… they are dry, tasty, surprising beers. I wish I could get them all the time! Le Baladin Wayan, Super Baladin Nora I can occasionally find, and I really like these a lot. When I had the Super Baladin it reminded me of Vapeur’s beers from Belgium…. I wonder if they have shared yeast? A really tasty beer. Panil Barriquee is also nice, as I love the sour beers. I am always telling people about the Italian craft beer movement and people are so surprised. Most folks in the US have no idea. But seriously, in Italy in July, do you want a room-temperature red wine or a tasty Italian craft beer? Nothing against the wine, but nothing refreshes like a a tasty beer in my opinion.

Thank you Diane, see you in San Diego for the World Beer Cup?
Unfortunately no World Beer Cup….. Portland craft beer festival in July though!!!