Behind the brews
Before becoming the manager of Pangaea Two Brews Cafe (2743 Franklin Boulevard), James Anderson worked a range of jobs: construction, auction-house curator and even a teacher’s assistant for children with autism. Now, Anderson is working toward becoming a certificated cicerone—essentially, a beer master.
“When I first started working here, I was drinking Miller High Life and Budweiser,” Anderson admitted. “It’s not because I didn’t appreciate a better beer. It was simply because that’s what I had. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but after I’ve worked here for a while, let’s just say I enjoy drinking new things that are exciting and unique.”
If you could drink only one beer the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would drink the Orval. It is a Trappist beer, meaning still made by the monks. … When you pour it in your glass, the beer will change flavor from the time that you first start drinking to your last sip. It’ll start out crisp, a little fruity, dry and tart. Then as it starts to warm up and the carbonation dissipates, you end up with a beer that is fruity, slightly sweet and very smooth. If I were on a deserted island, that’s the beer I would drink.
IPAs are very popular in Sacto. What’s your favorite?
I enjoy the style of the IPA, so I’m open to drinking any of them. However, here at Pangaea we do what is called the IPA Suicide, which is basically the seven different IPAs we have all together in one glass.
When I came up with the idea, it was because people would say, “Explain to me the difference in all of your IPAs.” Now, when you have seven different IPAs, that’s a lot of talking just to serve a beer. So I decided, “Why don’t we stick ’em all in one glass?” Believe it or not, it is very tasty.
Tell me about the barrel-aged beer “craze”?
I like the barrel-aging idea. What they are saying, essentially, is that you can brew beer, and then take that beer and put it in a barrel that was used to age or ferment a different spirit. The beer itself is going to take on some of the flavors of the wood of the barrel and whatever the previous spirit was.
Now, sometimes there is too much barrel flavor. … I’ve tasted certain beers where it’s obvious that it came out of a barrel and, you know, the barrel is kicking you in the face.
Interesting. Now, at the other end of the price spectrum, what is your favorite cheap beer?
It’s a beer made by the oldest brewery in the world, and it’s called Weihenstephaner. The Weihenstephaner Original Premium we sell retails here for $3.49 a bottle. [It’s a] half-liter bottle, and the fact that it comes from the oldest brewery means they know what they’re doing. So the fact that you can drink one of their beers here in the U.S. for that price and that size is a pretty good deal.
What’s a good beer to enjoy during the mornings, for brunch?
Beer is a situational thing. So if you don’t like wheat beers and I tell you a wheat beer is a good breakfast beer, it doesn’t matter if it is a good breakfast beer. If you don’t like it, then it’s not a good breakfast beer, right? So you’ve got to take into consideration what you like.
A good international beer?
I referenced the Orval already, and that is a Belgian beer. A French beer I really enjoy is called Cuvée des Jonquilles, which means “beer of the daffodils.” If I’m drinking a German beer, I enjoy the Pinkus Organic Pilsner [and] the Weihenstephaner Original Premium. I mean, really, my taste goes on and on.
The only beers I can’t drink are the Hefeweizen. Hefeweizens make me fart—just call it what it is. That’s probably gonna be in the article: “If James drinks a wheat beer, he will probably crop-dust the entire facility.”
Ha! How about a favorite beer-and-food pairing?
Right now, it’s the Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale with the cheddar cheese, hands down. But for my Super Bowl party, [I did] a stout-oyster pairing, and that is going to be the kickoff [meal for] Beer Week here at Pangaea as well.
Have you ever brewed before?
I have brewed once with a friend, but I haven’t done it by myself. Quite honestly, I’m not that interested in it. I’m interested in drinking it. I’m interested in serving it. I do the best I can to know more about it, because when I deal with customers, often times they want to know what the beer is about, what it’s gonna taste like, you know. They’re surprised when they hear a little bit of history about how that style came to be, or why we serve it in certain glass.
So I look at us bartenders and beer servers as the tip of the spear, because I’m the last physical contact with the product before the consumer enjoys it.
What beer should people drink at your funeral?
I would say drink the beer that has the shortest line. (Laughs.) You don’t have to wait as long!