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SaveOnBrew Exclusive Interview: Hoptron Brewtique Founders Amanda K. Danielson & Sue Lara

04.16.2013 08:10 AM

Where do you go when you live on Long Island and you need to find some obscure local nanobrew? Why, Hoptron Brewtique, of course!

Founders Amanda K. Danielson and Sue Lara started their beer shop to offer the options they wished to see in stores -- growlers, craft-a-six-packs, local beers, and homebrewing supplies. They also wanted to host beer tastings and special events that would convert people to the wonderful world of beer and expand their palates. Check out this exclusive SaveOnBrew interview with Sue and Amanda to learn more about creating a community of passionate beer lovers!   

SaveOnBrew: Tell us a brief history of the Hoptron Brewtique.

Amanda K. Danielson: We started HoptronBrewtique (HB) because we thought that our local community of Long Island (LI) needed a place that focused on craft beer – local, regional, and American microbrew.  I had been interested in craft beer for a long time – going to events, reading every book I could get my hands on, becoming a Cicerone beer server – and I really enjoyed getting people who didn’t know or like beer to become beer lovers.  I wanted to proselytize! And my first convert was Sue.  But we kept waiting for a really cool bar to open around us like they have in New York City -- with the growlers to go and mix-a-six options, and after a while we just decided we might as well be the ones to open it.

SOB: In your opinion, what makes a high-quality microbrew?

Sue Lara: A high quality microbrew doesn’t have to be only for beer geeks – it doesn’t have to just be a big double IPA at 10% or anything.  It certainly can be, but there are so many great styles and so many that are totally accessible to people.  But what it has to have are great flavors and consistency in the product –- it either always tastes the same or at least almost each time it’s drank.  And I think the best microbrewers understand styles completely and know how to make perfect examples of Kolsch or Belgian Dubbels, but because they know styles, they also know how to deviate from that style to really play with flavors and push boundaries.

SOB: What are your most popular selling beers – and what makes them such hot sellers?

AKD: We have a large amount of people who come in that are super new to the craft beer world, so we sell a lot of what you call 'gateway beers' –- Blondes, Kolsches, German pilsners -- great beers and quality beers that are lighter than, say, a stout, but that are still really flavorful.  And we are so focused on local beers, so we have beers on tap from local nano and microbreweries that you don’t get to see all the time, and those are very popular as well 

SOB: What were your ‘gateway’ beers into the world of craft beer?

SL: My gateway beer was definitely Blue Point’s Toasted Lager.  I never liked any beer, really, but I loved that one.  And I didn’t really venture away from that beer for a few years, but then Amanda and I would go to beer bars in the city, and do tastings, and of all the beers I loved, I loved Ithaca Flower Power, and that was my gateway into IPAs and then DIPAs.

SOB: We notice that you sell mix-and-match six-packs and draft beer, but mainly people buy in growlers. What special considerations are there when buying fresh growler beer? 

AKD: People want to go to a place that has a nice selection of beer to go that fits whatever they are doing that day, that night, etc. So we try to have a large variety – low and high in ABV, strong, light, all different flavor profiles.  And we have special growler fills that remove the oxygen from the growler so it fills the growler with less alcohol loss and it also keeps the beer fresher for a few days longer than average.

SOB: What is your favorite food to have with beer?

SL: Beer really goes great with everything, but I think my favorite combinations are anything with cheese (just like life!) There are so many similarities between artisanal cheese and beer -– what they’re made from, how they’re made, the tastes... and the carbonation from the beer does wonders with awaking the taste buds on the tongue!

SOB: On your About Page, you say you are ‘ever aiming to change the perception of beer.’ What do you feel the overall perception is now, and where do you see it going in the future?

AKD: Beer gets a bad rap sometimes in the mainstream culture.  It’s still seen as something macro, drank only in summer on a hot day, maybe straight out of a can.  And it’s viewed as only the tastes and flavors that the macro guys offer –- mainly adjunct pilsners. But beer is so much more than that, and we are really trying to bring great beer, what it really is and what it really can be, to the masses.

SOB: It’s no secret that women have long been ignored by marketers of beer. Yet, more and more women are developing a taste for beer with the explosion of flavors found in craft brews. What observations do you have about the female craft beer drinker that others might not see?

AKD: There is definitely still a stigma with women and beer and it’s something we fight against all the time, from women themselves and from men –- their husbands or boyfriends. But if we sell the products as what they really are –- great flavors with ingredients like chocolate, coffee, ones with fruit overtones, or clean and crisp, whatever –- we are more successful breaking down the barriers than if we just say 'Here is a porter, try it.'  

And we also fight what I call the color barrier with beer -– the perception with mostly new drinkers that say they don’t like dark beers. We tell them that dark isn’t a flavor; it’s only a color.  You can have a light colored double IPA and it will kick your you-know-what, or you can have a Long Ireland Breakfast Stout at 3.5% that is super drinkable and very light in mouthfeel. And it’s really just that we’ve been taught forever that dark beers are heavy, or bitter, and that women won’t like them.  So we really have to break through that, but I think that we are making the most success converting these very same women to all that microbrews have to offer.

SOB: Can you tell us a story that paints a picture of the Long Island beer scene?

SL: I think the best example of the awesomeness of the craft beer scene on LI is certainly the Surge Protector beer and its creation. Hurricane Sandy devastated a large amount of our local coastal communites here on LI and Barrier Brewery in Oceanside was one of the microbrewies that were deeply affected.

But the local brewers rallied together and they all created a beer called Surge Protector that was released this past January and the proceeds went to help Barrier and Long Island Cares –- a food bank here on LI. 

You know, these guys are essentially competitors of each other, but they came together to help out their fellow brewers and I think it shows the connections that LI breweries have with each other, and really the humanity that’s behind it. They’re not just making a commodity, they’re trying to make like a little better for LI.

SOB: What educational experiences would you recommend to a mainstream beer drinker who wants to develop an appreciation for craft beer?

AKD: I think coming to a place like HB or to a local microbrewery, having tastes of the different beers they have, learning about the brewers and how they’re changing the landscape of beer locally.  You can read all the books, study styles and ways of brewing, but without getting out there and dropping the pretenses of what beer should be or should taste like, and just opening your mind and just taste the beer, you really are missing out on all the absolutely fantastic things surrounding local, microbrewed beer.

For more information on Hoptron Brewtique, visit http://hoptronbrewtique.com or follow them on Facebook.

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