As an avid craft beer enthusiast, self-proclaimed foodie, and longtime user of social media, I constantly peruse social media for great craft beer and food related content. So, when I came across the social pages of Brew and Feed it was as if the beer gods allowed me through the stainless steel gates of a majestic brewpub to explore all elements needed to create a dynamic food and beer pairing experience.
By way of Instagram, eleven year homebrewer and budding chef Robert Moreland documents his many beer and food adventures under the brand Brew and Feed. From images of the fresh fruit and veggies growing in his backyard garden to pictures of his homebrews paired with homemade mouthwatering eats, Moreland shines a light on good drinking and even better eating. More specifically, as eye candy for the craft beer lover, Moreland posts everything from his homebrewed Belgian Dubbel–which also doubles as a chicken wing glaze–to his trademarked DarkHeart Russian Imperial stout. (A stout he also uses in one of his homemade sauces). Wait, sauces? That’s right! Images of various phases of his meticulously curated sauces, blends and dry rubs–like “Farmhouse Ale Garlic Serrano Hot Sauce”, “Chai Spice Baking Blend” and “Espresso Rub”–are not only displayed on his IG, but are also available for purchase there and on the Brew and Feed website. And if you thought the wings sounded great, Moreland flexes his culinary muscles even more on the gram with pics of his homemade grilled chicken kebabs and grilled salmon—spiced with his homemade rub, of course.
But wait! Brew and Feed isn’t solely an Instagram based brand and Moreland isn’t only about sharing his own cooking and homebrewing skills. The Brew and Feed YouTube channel–which I’ve also taken a liking to–adds another layer of interesting and exciting content to their portfolio by documenting and reviewing the brews and the food of the breweries he visits across America throughout the years. Living by its mantra “Brew Strong, Feed Well,” the Brew and Feed brand seamlessly captures exactly that. Fortunately for me, I was able to catch up with Mr. Brew and Feed himself to find out what inspires him and his brand to continuously push the burgeoning culture of food and beer pairing. Check it out below!
TA: I know most beer drinkers begin their beer drinking journey consuming some of the macros and then they have some moment of clarity where they realize there are far better beers out there. Does this sound like your story? What was your moment?
BF: In 2002 I had a consulting assignment in Southern California and some co-workers suggested that we visit a place called the Yard House in Costa Mesa, CA. I was astonished by the selection and started drinking Fat Tire and other Amber Ales as well as Wheat Beers. Before that, I was drinking Colt 45, Molson XXX and Molson Ice.
TA: How did you get into homebrewing? What was the first beer you brewed?
BF: My wife bought me a Mr. Beer kit one year. The beer wasn’t great, but I liked the process and bought three more beer kits and kept homebrew on rotation. That was about 11 years ago. After about two years, a homebrew store called Brew Mentor in Mentor, Ohio opened about 15 minutes away from my house. There I learned to brew all grain batches using the brew in a bag method, then eventually built a cooler mash tun and started full boil all grain brewing. About 4 years after that I upgraded to a SABCO “Brew Magic” system and conical fermenters.
TA: What equipment do you use to brew your beer?
BF: I use one half-barrel recirculating infusion mash (RIMS) SABCO “Brew Magic” and two MoreBeer.com Ultimate Conical Fermenters. SABCO is an Ohio company that sold Sam Calagione an early version of the SABCO Brew Magic to start his original Dogfish Head brew pub in Rehoboth, Delaware. It’s a pricey system, but when you evaluate the nuances of how it is engineered, it is worth the money if you are serious about making good or even great homebrews.
I was also partial to them because I am from Ohio and was living in Ohio at the time I bought it and they are based in Toledo, Ohio. I consider it a semi-pro brewing system. I chose the MoreBeer.com conical fermenters because I needed to put them in the garage when I moved to North Carolina and it gets quite hot in there in the summer, but it also gets very cold in the winter. They are equipped with two thermoelectric cooling blocks which are cooled with two fans. When the fans cool, the block’s heat is transferred from inside the fermenter to outside the fermenter. These blocks can cool the wort inside the fermenter to 40 degrees Fahrenheit below ambient temperature. So, if it is 100 degrees in my garage I can ferment down to 60 degrees. The fans on the cooling block are connected to a temperature controller which has a probe that goes into a tube that goes into the top of the fermenter. When the target temperature is reached the fans go off. If the wort warms up, the fans kick on. This maintains the temperature right where I want it.
TA: What motivated you to start the Brew and Feed brand and how long has it been active?
BF: Brew and Feed has been around for almost as long as I have been brewing. But, it became an official company January of 2018. My main hobby before brewing was backyard farming, cooking Indian food and making salsa. I used to make videos about cooking 12-13 years ago, around the time Chef G. Garvin was at peak popularity. When I started brewing I started a now defunct online persona and blog called EC Rebel AKA Eclectic Rebel. The EC stands for East Cleveland. Eclectic Rebel was used because I was the only African American that I knew who had the hobbies I had, so that was my attempt to make cooking and brewing cool for other folks like me. When I decided to make the persona public by creating a public Facebook page the persona didn’t translate well and I didn’t think it would be scalable in the long run for where I wanted to go with it. So, I kept it simple for people to understand. I like to brew beer for people to drink and make dishes that pair with it to feed people.
TA: The Belgian Dubbel glazed chicken wings on your Instagram look delicious. How long have you been cooking with beer and what inspired you to do so?
BF: Eleven years ago, when I started brewing beer, I immediately started to pair the beer with food. I started cooking food with beer in 2016 after I ordered a book called The Best of Cooking with Beer on Amazon.com. That’s where I got the recipe for those wings. The original recipe was for IPA wings, but I thought a Belgian Dubbel would be better and I think it is.
TA: How did you learn to craft homebrew infused sauces like your “Pale Ale Chipotle Hot Sauce” or blend such interesting flavors like coconut and ghost peppers in a sauce?
BF: The hot sauce thing is interesting. I am actually teaching myself how to make my own hot sauce and have been experimenting with a few recipes. While I work out the process and figure out the most cost-effective way to bring my own sauce to market at a fair price, I have a company that produces the two hot sauces that I sell. The recipes are theirs, not mine. I just curate the sauces I think craft beer people would like and retail them with my branding.
TA: What is your favorite beer to brew and why?
BF: My favorite beer to brew is Czech Pilsner. They are extremely challenging to brew, even for the best professional craft brewers, which is why you do not see them often. They also have a snappy hop bitterness like an IPA, but are without the malty “carmelness,” which I enjoy. Because there are no dark specialty malts in the grain bill and it is lightly hopped, it is difficult to mask any of the myriad of technical flaws that can emerge in a brew that is not brewed with good sanitation and brewing process. Also, since it is a lager, the fermentation process takes longer because it has multiple stages of fermentation temperature adjustments as well as a period of time required to cold condition (lager). You have to brew these beers literally a dozen times to dial in your process from grain to glass to get them right, and due to the length of time it takes to make them, that can take years for a homebrewer.
TA: What is your favorite dish to prepare and why?
BF: My favorite dish to make is hard to say, but I would say it is a tie between tacos and baked and grilled wings. Tacos are the perfect food. I make mine with unsalted taco seasoning and 99% lean ground turkey meat and I mix it with black beans and top it with salsa, avocado, sour cream, and shredded spinach. I use either crunchy corn taco shells or corn tortillas.
If I use flour tortillas I use whole grain. It’s got all the bases covered, but without a lot of fat and salt and plenty of fiber. The “Feed” side of brew and feed is about eating sensibly. For wings, I bake them then grill them. I do not believe that anything that is fried is food. I don’t rebuke folks who fry food, but if someone likes to put something that isn’t food in their digestive tract, who am I to tell them they shouldn’t? I like wings because they are quick and easy to make and can be brined in beer to give them a hint of the beer you are going to drink with them.
TA: Of all the breweries you’ve visited and reviewed on YouTube thus far, where was your best experience? Who had the best food and who had the best beer?
BF: Wow. Great question. There are a lot of great breweries out there. I will start with the city that has impressed me the most so far. Keep in mind that I still have a long list of places to visit like Seattle and Denver, both of which I have previously visited, but that was before Brew and Feed. Austin, Texas has impressed me the most so far. With a bazillion breweries you would think you would run across a lot of crappy ones, but they have a high percentage of breweries that produce technically correct beers. I am working on a rating scale for breweries, so I can be fairer in my assessment on them. A brewery can have beers that I do not like stylistically but could be making technically correct beers and they should get points for that. My favorite breweries tend to be either small breweries that have a large catalog along with consistently great beers–like High Branch Brewing in Concord, North Carolina or Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, New York–or breweries that have good beer and amazing food, like Butcher and the Brewer in Cleveland, Ohio.
TA: For clarification purposes for the readers, can you expound on what you mean by “technically correct beers?”
BF: A technically correct beer is a beer that doesn’t have unpleasant flavors, aromas or mouthfeel; nor flavors, aromas or a mouthfeel that doesn’t complement one another. The American Homebrewers Association and The Brewers Association have standards that define the technical attributes of each style of beer for homebrewers and commercial craft breweries respectively. However, I don’t believe that a beer needs to meet the recipe standards in these guidelines to be technically correct. Otherwise you would never get a style like the New England IPA, which is now included in the style guidelines. However, I think every brewer, homebrewer or professional, should familiarize themselves with the various types of off flavors and flaws, what causes them, and how to correct them.
Some off flavors are desirable in some beers, but they are not the result of bad brewing process, but rather an intrinsic of the ingredients. For example, some wheat beers may have some subtle sulfur notes that come from the yeast, but it is only acceptable if it is very subtle and doesn’t overwhelm the other attributes of the beer. Off flavors like wet cardboard or rubber band are almost never acceptable, but in some sour beers leather and horse blanket are acceptable. Mouthfeel is also important. A brewery not having a filter is no excuse for having a beer that is full of yeast, malt and hop proteins and having an overly thick mouthfeel for the style. There are beer fining techniques that can precipitate yeast and proteins to fall out of solution, that will improve the mouthfeel of the beer. Good recipe design can improve the mouthfeel of a beer that has a mouthfeel that is too thin. There are also specialty grains that can help improve mouthfeel. Good brewers know when they have brewed a technically correct beer and consumers tend to gravitate toward these beers.
TA: What is the most important element of a beer? The grain or the hops?
BF: Water is the most important element in beer. All breweries have access to the same grains and hops, but water varies from city to city, so if a brewer doesn’t know what is in the water that they brew with, they don’t have control over the largest ingredient in their beer. Without getting into the technical details, water-chemical composition can determine how efficiently grain starches are converted to sugars and how effectively hop character shows up in the finished beer, depending on the style of beer.
TA: What is the overall goal of Brew and Feed?
BF: To fuse independent craft breweries and their beer with local food artisans to grow a community of folks who appreciate both. I believe this market doesn’t exist and would consist of older folks with disposable income and upwardly mobile younger folks who want a more enriching experience that connects them to the local community.
TA: Do you have plans to be a lead brewer at a brewery or start your own someday?
BF: My dream is to brew beer commercially but in a unique way that is not being done. I have some ideas about how I would do it, but no serious plans right now.
TA: I’ve been watching and enjoying a lot of your YouTube videos. Should we expect more brewery videos on your channel in the future?
BF: I have Brew and Feed reviews for Louisville, Kentucky; Providence, Rhode Island; and Plano and Dallas, Texas in editing right now. On my list of cities to visit next are Charleston, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina for part three of my Asheville series. Other cities could pop up randomly, which is how most of them happen.
TA: Where do you see Brew and Feed five years from now?
BF: We want to grow the event management wing of our company to festivals that do not exist today. The nature of which is proprietary, but more to come on that soon if we don’t get distracted by a better idea that comes up before the idea is fully baked. I tend to not let an idea lead me off a cliff. No matter how far along it is, I will drop it and focus on something else if it loses its appeal to me.
TA: You have dropped a lot of gems for my readers. But, before we come to an end, can you share some advice for any novice homebrewers out there looking to strengthen their brewing skills or potential homebrewers looking to take up homebrewing as a hobby?
BF: Read a lot and brew a lot and seek to learn how to manipulate every recipe and brewing process variable. If you are not the member of a homebrew club, join one. You will find homebrewers that have been brewing for a long time there and you can learn a lot from them. There is also a bit of healthy competition in homebrew clubs, which is motivation to brew better beer. If you do not have a homebrew club near you, just lay out a list of things you want to learn about brewing each year, and work on that when you brew that year. For example, if you want to learn to brew with adjuncts like fruit, honey, or candy sugar; learn what it means to use these and brew beers that have these adjuncts and apply that learning to some of the beers you brew that year.
Brewing more could mean consuming more, so be careful with that. Learn to brew beers with less ABV first. It will help you avoid drinking a lot of 8-9% ABV brews at home. And though those are less expensive to brew, they are also more of a challenge. Start by brewing very simple beers and brew them repeatably before you move up to beers with complex grain bills and higher ABV’s. Otherwise, you’ll be adding a lot of variables to the recipe and brewing process before you fully understand how to manipulate them. Lastly, have fun with it. You will not make the best beer or even good beer the first few years you brew. Your friends might like it because they like you, but stay humble and keep improving with each brew you make.
Great advice from a man who’s on his way to potentially make some big things happen within the craft beer community. When the world of craft beer is merged with quality food, it is an experience like no other and with the production quality and knowledge Brew and Feed is bringing, there’s bound to be some great things happening in their future. You can stay up-to-date on their progress and purchase their merchandise via their social media and website listed below:
Facebook and YouTube: Brew and Feed
*All images courtesy of the Brew and Feed Instagram account