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Five things I learned about beer brewers

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Brewers are a strange bunch and the media types who cover them, even stranger -- but a handful of the former managed to put up with more than seventy of the latter this afternoon for a Great American Beer Festival luncheon that paired a variety of beers with five courses of food.

It's a difficult life.

The goal was to educate the journalists on how beer can be paired with food, what makes beer an even better accompaniment than wine, and what drives the beer industry.

But since the Brewers Association, which hosted the lunch, was preaching to the choir as far as I was concerned, I focused my attention elsewhere, on the brewers themselves.

Here are five things I learned:

Brewers come from lots of different backgrounds. Joe Fox of Denver's Del Norte Brewing used to be in waste management; Mayor John Hickenlooper was a geologist before he became a brewer. Of course, mayors come from lots of different backgrounds as well.

Brewers will use anything to make beer. Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon, puts hazelnuts in its Hazelnut Brown Nectar Ale, while Bend Brewing Company, also of Oregon, uses dangerously hot slabs of granite and basalt to caramelize the malt for its Rocksy Stein Lager.

Brewers had interesting childhoods: Patrick Rue of the Bruery in Orange County, California, used to sit around his grandparents' home when he was a kid eating sauerkraut and drinking flat ginger ale. Thus his Hottenroth Berliner Weisse.

Brewers are restless. "Sometimes I wish people would hurry up and drink the brew so I can try another style," said Eric Bratrud of the Estes Park Brewery, talking about his love of brewing. His gift to this luncheon was Long's Peak Raspberry Wheat.

Brewers have the best jobs in the world (aside from beer journalists), and they are full of good quotes. "Beefsteak and porter make good belly mortar," quoted Brett Porter (no relation) of the Deschutes Brewing Company, reciting a Scottish proverb.

As for Mayor Hickenlooper, he advised the crowd that beer is part of the Denver's DNA, then warned them,"Don't let yourself be over served" -- before adding, "If you're driving."

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