Q&A: Slumbrew’s Caitlin Jewell

Adam-Caitlin-JeffToday marks the launch of Slumbrew’s seasonal Flower Envy Saison. And with the husband-and-wife duo in store tonight from 5 to 7 pm to celebrate the release with a tasting, we had a few questions for Caitlin Jewell, Slumbrew’s co-founder and marketing maven. Jewell dishes about the Certified Cicerone exam, their soon-to-be released white IPA, and the future of craft beer (spoiler alert: it’s bright).

You recently took the second level Cicerone exam recently, right? 
I set a three year time frame for myself to pass the Level 2 Cicerone exam but after only four months of prep I got a little overexcited and decided to sit for the exam in Orlando in April. Truth be told, I just heard back that I got a 70. You need an 80 to pass so I’m back to “studying!” This has been such a passion project, but challenging with our schedule and a new baby, to squeak in the volumes of reading. I’m so glad I had to study the Beer Judge Certification Program. This guide and the entire Cicerone exam are being revised presently so I’ll be sitting for the exam again but with new material next time.

What was the most difficult part? The easiest?
I was caught off guard by the depth of the food pairing questions. Fifteen years of craft beer study prepared me for the brewing process, tasting, and style components so those were not difficult. I was one of two folks in our room of twelve that passed the tasting portion of the exam. The off-flavor class at Craft Beer Cellar was of great help. I will be retaking the entire 3-hour written exam, which includes 18 pages of fill-in-the blank and three long-format essay questions.

Now that you’ve taken the exam, how would you recommend someone approach studying for it?
Jeff gave me a Kindle Fire for Christmas just for Cicerone studying. This was immensely helpful. Avoid the Cicerone online flash cards, there are mistakes in some of the answers and they’re not actually from Cicerone.

Rumor has it you’re working on opening a tasting room. Any hints on when that might come to be?
We’re incredibly anxious to open a tasting room, but real estate in Somerville has been limited and expensive. We have walked away from multiple locations in this project. We’re very optimistic about the current location we’re in discussions with.

What new brews are y’all working on?
I am so excited about Jeff’s most recent project: Sittin’ on Hop of the World, a white IPA brewed with peaches! He came back absolutely covered with peach pectin on the brew day. I’ve been waiting for this beer for years, so I’m over the moon that it’s coming (albeit limited release) in a few weeks.

With the two of you heading up Slumbrew, and with two small kids at home, how the heck do you find time to do it all?!
We’re having the absolute time of our lives. The boys are healthy and adorable, the beers have been well received, and we’re out promoting every moment we can. My motto lately has shifted from “Done is good,” to “Do the absolute best you can.” Jeff’s mom is the unsung hero of Slumbrew. She has helped us to achieve so much so fast by ensuring we are all well cared for. We’re blessed. Blessed and tired.

How have you and Jeff seen the craft beer industry shift and change since you launched?
Since we’ve launched there have been many other companies to launch and there are many more to come. I’ve said this before but here’s the thing: There are those that will argue that the recent growth of micro producers in America is not sustainable and naysayers fret that there may not be enough consumers to support this growth. I find this to be absurd. Everyday in America 94 percent of the beer consumed is produced by only a handful of large producers. If you don’t think 94 percent of the market share is up for grabs for the small craft producers, then you haven’t spent much time with folks born between 1980 and 1991. This generation is a remarkably different consumer than in the recent past. To understand them is to understand the future of craft beer. You may think they’ve grown up in a virtual world, but I believe they are highly connected to their real physical communities in very interesting and meaningful ways. For this generation, hyper-local wins over consumerism, recycling is a choice not a chore, and big-box loses to hash-tagged #shoplocal at every pass. This generation makes healthier choices than when my 21-year-old self enjoyed a balanced diet of Heineken, Diet Coke, and Ring-dings. Words like sustainability flow out flawlessly and they demand to know what they’re consuming and how it was created. I love that this generation eats and lives healthier than I do and probably ever will, and they have a true appreciation for artisanal foods and beverages.

Five beers you’re really digging right now?
Jeez! That’s kinda personal! It’s shameless to plug our beers but Jeff created Flower Envy Saison for our wedding in 2009. It’s Saison season and our anniversary is next week, so lots of that. Also, Dogfish Black & Blue, Port Brewing Mongo, Reissdorf Kolsch, and Notch Brewing Saison.

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