With Arizona Beer Week rapidly approaching, it seemed appropriate to talk to someone who’s a beer expert. I know, I know, most people out there love beer. But I wanted to find someone who not only loves beer, but is also a beer expert.
If you’ve been to Handlebar Tempe, you’ve probably seen Nick Nitz. He’s often helping out at the bar, wearing a baseball cap and chatting with customers. But Nick is more than just a friendly guy, working at a bar. Nick is the Resident Beer Geek for Handlebar Tempe. He’s currently preparing to take his Certified Cicerone test this year. A Cicerone is to beer what a Sommelier is to wine.
He’s from Baroda, MI, a small town about an hour and a half east of Chicago and has been at Handlebar Tempe since they opened back in September of 2012. In January 2013, he was promoted to the Beer Geek position. In addition to his beverage management duties, Nick still enjoys occasionally bar tending part-time.
In November, Nick and his girlfriend took a trip to Colorado to tour some breweries, learn about their brewing process – and of course drink beer. (After all, that is his job, right?) They had the opportunity to tour four breweries: Left Hand Brewing Co., Oskar Blues Brewing, Odell Brewing Co. and New Belgium. “Everywhere we visited bolstered my love of the craft beer industry and the people that make it up,” he said. “Also, being an avid home brewer, seeing production brewing on such a large scale was very educational. Those guys really know what they’re doing.”
The most important question I asked Nick received a much unexpected answer. I wanted to know – in his opinion – what is the best beer out there. “I could go on and on about my favorite double/triple/experimental hop variety IPA, but I think Logan Thompson from blogaboutbeer.com said it best. The best beer in the world is the beer in your hand.” He says that every beer has a proper time and place, whether it’s a Tecate and lime by the pool or a barrel aged Imperial Stout in the winter. “Food pairing with beer is way more fun than wine pairings,” Nick says. “Beer has a wider variety of styles and flavors.” He says that there are guidelines to follow, such as spicy foods with IPAs and chocolate desserts with big stouts. “I heard Dr.Bill Sysak from Stone Brewing Co. suggest pairing IPAs with carrot cake. I was skeptical but that pairing is phenomenal.”
Arizona Beer Week, which is February 15th-22nd this year, is a week long celebration of craft beer. The event was started in 2011 to celebrate craft beer in Arizona. Statewide, there’ll be events from Flagstaff to Tucson –and of course, here in Tempe. The fourth year of this beer lover’s paradise is poised to be the biggest yet. In Tempe, the party kicks off with the annual Skirt Chaser 5K race on Saturday, Feb. 15th. Some of our other Tempe bars and breweries are also having special promos and events. Handlebar Tempe is partnering with Four Peaks Brewing Company on Monday, Feb. 17th at 5 p.m. Together, they’ll be tapping kegs of Barrel Ages Sirius Black, Tequila Barrel Raj IPA, and of course, the famous Pumpkin Porter. On February 18th, Handlebar Tempe will be having a Sierra Nevada Tap Takeover starting at 6 p.m. 24 Sierra Nevada beers will be on draft, including a few that rarely make it to Arizona.
For more information about Arizona Beer Week and other Tempe events, be sure to visit the Tempe Tourism website or call 800-283-6734.