T’was the night before Thanksgiving and I’m taking a little downtime to check out the chatter on Facebook. And lo and behold look at this, a lengthy rant from Charlie Bamforth about beer getting treated as a second-class citizen in The Bee.
Bamforth is a beloved professor who holds the title of Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis, which in short means we have one of the world’s great beer authorities in the greater Sacramento region. Bamforth’s also the author of numerous beer books, a list of which can be found here.
Anyways, Bamforth took to Facebook to blow off some steam about The Bee and beer. Here’s a sample of what he said:
“Okay, I am now getting officially frustrated that The Sacramento Bee continue to call their Wednesday section ‘Food and Wine’. Please list the number of wineries in the immediate Sacramento region. Then count the number of breweries. See what I mean? Sacramento is a beer town. Sure we have some good beer stuff from Blair Robertson — but that is shoved away in the Friday tabloid bit and not celebrated in the Wednesday paper. The New York Times call their Wednesday equivalent ‘Dining’. Is it too difficult for the Bee to change the title to something like ‘Food and Drink’ as I suggested to some folks who I thought were decision makers there some while ago? ... And in today’s Bee, articles on wine but nothing on beer. Okay, that’s it. Done ranting.”
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First of all, we consider Bamforth a friend here at The Bee. He graciously lent his palate and expertise to a blind tasting a few years back at The Bee with buffalo wings and beer pairings. Bamforth also invited me to help judge a student brewing competition at UC Davis. Beyond that, Bamforth is a genuine, good-natured guy and the perfect person to share a pint with.
We’re not engaging in any sour grapes here, but here’s an answer to one of the key questions in Bamforth’s post.
As for the number of immediate wineries in the Sacramento region, that would be roughly 100 wineries when just considering Amador and El Dorado counties. This doesn’t even account for Lodi, which is the state’s largest wine grape growing region with 100,000 acres of vineyards and home to the wine industry’s largest conglomerates.
By comparison, the number of breweries in the greater Sacramento area numbers around 30, but this number continues to grow steadily.
That said, we think Bamforth makes some valid points. His post generated a few dozen comments, much of it “here here” shows of support from those in the beer industry, with an overall sense that the media tends to be wine-centric while relegating beer to the akin of a kids’ table at Thanksgiving.
Truth be told, we love beer here in The Bee’s features’ section. Blair Anthony Robertson launched a “Beer Run” column in April to keep tabs on the local brewing scene and beyond, along with penning a recent A1 story on the rapid expansion of Knee Deep Brewery. As a staff, we collaborated on a regional beer map that ran in a special beer issue.
My own “Wine Buzz” column has sometimes included notes on beer, including a few food-and-beer pairings for the Thanksgiving table. (To that, Bamforth said, “Beer should not be in a Wine Buzz column, it should be in a Drink Buzz column.”) And as much as I love wine, I’m a regular at the fantastic Davis Beer Shoppe (recent purchases include Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew, Mikkeller “It’s Alive,” Stone Brewing “Enjoy By 12.13.13” and Prairie ’Merica’).
So, with all this excitement about beer, is it time to change the name of the Food & Wine section to something more egalitarian about beverages? Spirits enthusiasts also point to the rise in Sacramento’s craft cocktail culture, and that wine should perhaps share its prime-time billing.
Perhaps the time’s arrived to have a discussion surrounding the points Bamforth mentions. The enthusiasm for beer —and cocktails — continues to not only grow locally but launch numerous homegrown businesses.
I say we all grab a pint —or a Bordeaux glass, or an old fashioned glass — and talk about it.