I’ve spent the last three days working with the New Belgium crew on some cool ideas — and one of the best parts of the strategic work I do with breweries is that I get some serious QT with great people behind some of the country’s most important beers. There’s some things that just sort of emerge on day three after spending every minute of the day together, that you’d never get to in a short brewery visit. We’re all people after all, and it takes awhile to get beyond all the shop talk and the actual work you’re trying to get done, before you can start to relax and share stories that have no real purpose beyond just being funny, or personal, or killing time. And these are the stories of which I’m so often most appreciative.
So by day three, I had a chance to get Lauren Salazar to sit down for an interview. By day three, she was finally free for an hour between blending, sensory, operational meetings, education, and some of the strategic work we were doing ourselves — so we set up the mics in the Armstrong hotel in downtown Fort Collins, Colorado and dug in.
Lauren is one of the reluctant pioneers of sour and wood-aged beer in America. It’s not a role she ever specifically sought out, but after 18 years in the cellar working alongside Eric Salazar and Peter Bouckaert, she’s emerged as one of the most progressive and artful blenders in the country. Younger drinkers today might take beers like La Folie for granted — it’s everywhere now, and available in some markets year-round. But that’s actually astonishing. And her work at New Belgium has directly influenced many of the newer sour beer producers in the US. And she’s still working on new projects that lead the way.