Andrew Roan knows beer. The 24-year-old congressional staffer and graduate student at the Airforce Air Command and Staff College spends his free time brewing at Moishe House Capitol Hill, where he lives. Roan learned beer making when he was a teenager in Boise, Idaho. That was after a stint as a professional whitewater kayaker that “gave my parents a few heart attacks.”
WJW caught up with Roan last week as he was cleaning beer bottles in preparation for his next batch.
Can you summarize the beer-making process?
Get grain. Grind it up. Put it into water. Put it with yeast.
How did you get into beer making?
The beer scene in Idaho is a little bit bigger than it used to be on the East Coast. Because it was more pronounced, it was easy to understand what was going on in the process. I used to brew for Payette Brewing Company in Boise. Then I went to college and drank the swill we all drank.
Where was that?
Colby College, in the middle of nowhere Maine.
What beer changed your life in college?
I still can’t remember the name of it, but it was a lambic that I got from my history professor senior year, where he brought us over for dinner. I randomly got it, and it was one of the most utterly incredible, earth-shattering beers.
What was so earth-shattering about it?
I love sour beers because they’re hard to make and to make one different from the other is hard to do. So you’re multiplying difficulty by difficulty. Every beer is a reflection on the brewer. It’s like the brewer is speaking to you. There’s no other way to describe it, other than it’s an art form.
How did you keep up your brewing hobby after college?
Up until a month ago I worked in a brew shop in Rosslyn.
If you were a beer, how would you taste?
Somewhere between a New England IPA and a West Coast IPA. Something that’s confused between its West Coast roots and New England.
What is the importance of hops?
Hops are a preservative agent. Hence, why you have India Pale Ale. The British ended up adding more hops to a beer when they were shipping their pale ale from India to England. That’s why you have the hoppiness that you do. Europe may have invented beer, but America has perfected it.
Do you imagine what historical figures drank?
Absolutely. Beer is not something new. It’s one of the most ancient drinks in the world.
Did the Jews drink beer in ancient Egypt?
Yes. This is why I think you can have kosher for Passover beer. The Israelites would have brought beer with them. At the time, the differences between beer and water were slim, in that you brewed beer because water was utterly unsanitary to drink. It would have been 1 or 2 percent proof. Something very low that you’d have to drink an obscene quantity off of to get drunk off of. So because of that, they would have brought essentially beer with them. Because they would have had to have had that stable water source. I mean, you can’t just go dip your cup in the Red Sea.
Do you have a beer bucket list?
There’s a little brewery in Belgium where they only distribute beer from a monastery. People line up for days to get it, and I would happily do so because apparently they have some crazy unique yeast that they’ve cultivated at this monastery for centuries on end. It’s ridiculous.
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