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Beer gets beaten up by wine all the time. But a sure sign that my favorite beverage is elbowing its way up to the same status wine and spirits have long enjoyed is this year’s list of nominees for James Beard Foundation awards. In what is considered the equivalent of the Oscars for the food industry, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware is the sole brewer going up against winemakers, sommeliers, mixologists and distillers for the Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional award (notice the word “beer” is not even in the name of the category…yet).
Last year was the first time a craft brewer made the list when Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and celebrated authority on craft beer and food, was nominated. This year Oliver made the list of semi-finalists but was not chosen as a nominee. In local news, sommelier and mixologist Todd Thrasher of Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve and PX was a semi-finalist this year in the same category but did not make the cut for nominees. And of course Y&H’s former steward Tim Carman is up for an award again this year.
Calagione was likely chosen as a result of the success of his 15-year-old craft brewery and the popularity of his Discovery Channel show, Brewmasters, which aired in its first season this winter. Through his innovative beer and infectious charisma, now broadcast to millions, Calagione has been bringing craft beer to the masses, and at the same time working to eleveate the status of beer in a wine and spirits world. I, for one, wish him luck. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in New York City in May.
Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel