Tim Quirante is a busy guy. Tim is the manager at the much beloved Liquor Collection in Honolulu where he handles beer orders and helps customers navigate their vast beer selection. For the past year, he has been a friendly beer guide Bar35‘s Wednesday night “House of Brews” beer tastings. Once a month he co-hosts the “Brewer’s Table” at Brasserie Du Vin where they pair four gourmet courses with five delicious beers in an elegant, private room. Oh, and he just started training as the assistant brewer at Hawaii Nui Brewing in Hilo. Tim spends a couple of days each week in Hilo at the brewery and the rest back on Oahu where I was able to catch up with him on a rare day off.
Where are you originally from and how did you end up in Hawaii?
I grew up in Northern California, but have lived in a number of cities throughout the state. After living a few years in the Bay Area I met my wife, and when she got a job offer in on Oahu, we jumped at the chance to come to the Aloha State.
How did you first get into craft beer? Do you remember the first craft beer that got you hooked?
I got hooked on craft beer as a result of pride and defensiveness. I grew up in a small town, and when I went to college, everyone else seemed to have great stories about the cities where they had lived. Nobody had heard of the town I was from, and I got tired of saying, “3 hours north of San Francisco.” Finally I started saying I grew up near the Sierra Nevada brewery, and people would simply nod in approval. I drank a lot of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to show pride in my roots, and on occasion, to show how “tough” I was, I’d drink Bigfoot Barleywine. You could say I kinda skipped over the “gateway” beers. Once you get hooked on a beer like Sierra’s Pale Ale, there’s no going back to Macros.
You recently started at Hawaii Nui Brewing? What will you be doing there?
I’m pleased to be part of the Hawaii Nui family, but am still learning the ropes from Head Brewer, Richard Greene. He’s a very patient mentor, and I’m thankful that he’s taking the time to show me all the quirks of the Hawaii Nui facility. I now have experience in helping brew all of the brewery’s recipes except Tsunami and Ele’ele, know how to clean and sanitize brite tanks and fermenters, and have run the CIP process on the brewing station a couple of times. Eventually, my role will be an Assistant Brewer, and will be able to step in and give Mr. Greene some well deserved days off.
What is the most popular (Craft) beer style sold at Liquor Collection?
There’s not really one best selling style at our store. Contrary to what I assumed when I moved to Hawaii, big, strong flavored beers do sell well no matter how hot or humid the weather. Some of our best sellers are Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, and Ayinger’s Celebrator Dopplebock. Neither is “refreshing” or thirst quenching, in the traditional sense, but thankfully our customers are shopping for taste, quality, and complexity.
Are there any beers or styles that you always have to keep on the shelves?
One of our goals at the Liquor Collection is to promote as many styles as possible. We want enable people to literally experience the world of beers and styles that are out there and this translates to having a constantly rotating selection of domestic and international beer. However, out of respect for what they have done for the craft beer movement, I think brands like Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Anchor should have a spot on every beer shelf. I also have been quoted as saying that no self-respecting beer retailer should be caught without Orval. In short, you need to honor history and tradition, and then classic examples of styles, and finally focus on the new, exciting, and boundary pushing beers.
What beer style would you like to see gain more popularity?
There are a lot of beers styles under the radar. I was just speaking about the importance of tradition, and related to this, I think that many historical styles should be re-invigorated. We forget that in the US beer market, before Anchor Brewing Co. there were basically no Porters or Barleywines and before North Coast Brewing Co., there were no Russian Imperial Stouts. It took breweries with courage, and a grasp of history, to bring back these styles. I would love it if more breweries tried their hand at the Gose style from Leipzeg or Roggenbier from Regensberg. Aloha Brewing made a Gose and Rogue made a Roggenbier, so cheers to them!
What is the most satisfying parts about your jobs?
At the Liquor Collection, I often assist customers in putting together an assortment of beers in a mixed six-pack. I try to listen to what flavors and styles they like and then suggest styles which are both within their comfort zone and also beers that will push their understanding a bit. When someone returns and is excited for me to assemble another, I know I’m doing a good job.
With the beer dinners and tastings, I just love to see the look on the Bar35 customer’s face when they take their first sip of a style they’ve never had… it can be a real epiphany. And, when my pairings are on target at Brasserie Du Vin, well, it can be simply magical!
What type/style of craft beer would you give to the person who normally only drinks Bud Light or Heineken? How do you introduce someone to more flavorful beers?
I believe in the stepping-stone beers, or as I like to call them, “gateway beers.” These include styles like Cream Ales, Golden Ales, Munich Helles Lagers, Amber Ales, and Schwarzbiers just to name a few. If you can push someone’s threshold of bitterness, or sweetness, or sourness just beyond their comfort zone, with time they will become accustomed to it and start to crave these flavors. Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Co. calls craving more and more hops a, “Lupulin Threshold Shift.” I just call it understanding more intense flavors.
What are the most important things people can do to properly store their beer in Hawaii? What are some of the biggest misconceptions about cold storage?
Why didn’t you ask me this first?! This is SO important! Think of it this way: beer is made from plant matter (barley and hops.) Cabbage is also made of plant matter. If you are buying cabbage, and there is a choice of a head that has been refrigerated for a week or a head of cabbage that has been warm for a week, which one do you think will taste fresher? It’s a no brainer. The same is true for beer.
The two primary things that contribute to premature aging of beer are HEAT and high frequency light (brown bottles and cans protect beer sufficiently so don’t worry too much.) The common mis-conception is that if your beer is kept refrigerated and you purchase it to take it home, the temperature increase in that half hour drive is going to skunk the beer. This is simply incorrect. If you buy beer that has been warm for a week or two, that beer has been aging and is closer to tasting stale. If you buy a beer that has been refrigerated until your purchase, and you have a half hour drive, the result is that you have a beer that has basically been aged for 30 minutes. This will be a much fresher and better beer! Studies I’ve read show that for every 10 degree increase in storage temperature the rate of aging goes up by 2-3 times! So, if you want to taste an optimally fresh beer, (and for IPAs, one that tastes hoppier) buy beer that has been kept refrigerated.
What breweries that are not currently distributed in Hawaii would you most like to see get here?
All of them. Haha, no, maybe not all of them. I think that Lagunitas would be a good fit in Hawaii. Epic, from Utah is making good beer. Ninkasi, Bear Republic, Highwater, Rubicon, Avery, Alpine, Alaskan, Stone, Cigar City, Big Sky, oooh, GREEN FLASH! I just heard New Belgium is expanding to Canada before Hawaii. What’s up with that!?
Where do you see the Hawaii craft beer scene in five years? How would you like to see it grow?
I’ve seen things grow tremendously in just the last year. I’d say in five years, a major change will be that the bars that currently have BMC on tap come around to local craft beer and offer more choices. Brave people like Troy (Real a Gastro Pub) and Brian Paisley (Pacific Breach) will start new pubs and breweries with a focus on exciting and interesting flavor. Not only do I think it will happen, but that is exactly what I’d love to see happen–which is one reason I’m happy to be in Hawaii at this point in time.
You recently took the Cicerone exam. Do you feel it is important for more servers, bar owners, and people involved with craft beer in Hawaii to become Cicerone certified?
I think that whatever you do in life, you should try to do it well. If you are in the beer business, one easy way to tell if you’re doing your “homework” is to take the online test to become a, Certified Beer Server through the Cicerone program. It’s not expensive, it doesn’t take much time, and it gives you an honest idea about what your knowledge level is, and where you can improve.
What beer do you like to drink after a long day of work?
Whatever’s the newest beer at the Liquor Collection– gotta do my homework. If not that, Hoptimum.