I get goosebumps thinking back to 2011 when social media introduced me to one of Jordan’s brilliant minds. His brewery was far from being ready when chef Bruno (my culinary instructor) and myself showed up at the site. Our curiosity was the main drive to explore what turned to be Jordan’s first microbrewery. Five years later, the brewmaster is still on his promise to mark Jordan on the world’s craft beer map. Carakale’s battle is a story of hard work, dedication and ambition. It is as well a story of a friend, a dreamer and an achiever.
Almost one year after that visit we met coincidentally at Murphy’s Pub. At that time, Yazan was putting the final touches on the multimillion project that would soon change the beer industry in Jordan. As the pieces of the brewery were coming together and production was soon to start, Yazan invited us (Chef Selma’s Table Team) for an afternoon tour at his brewery to taste his freshly brewed Ale.
His journey started at What’s Brewin’; a home brew store in Colorado, USA after quitting his position at Halliburton as an engineer in the oil fields among the mining town of Rock Spring. The Master Brewers Program at UC Davis was the turning point in Yazan’s education and career where soon after his graduation he went back home to start his own microbrewery. The first beer Yazan managed to brew in Jordan was at a “micro” brewery that he designed and assembled himself at his parents’ backyard.
Upslope Brewery in Boulder to Carakale Brewery on the hills of Fuhais
The tough start of establishing a brewery in the Muslim country of Jordan did not stop Yazan from engineering his Blonde Ale; Carakale’s very first beer. “It becomes even difficult when you are the first to introduce craft beer. The market is used to drinking a beer that is corn-brewed, over filtered and carbonized,” he adds. Carakale’s flavorful ale was altered to suit the tastes of the public who claimed that the beer was too bitter and aromatic. “I could have lost the business if I did not change my approach. The Blonde went into another recipe development process to gain better market acceptance,” Yazan explains. It was clever to twist the characteristics of the Blonde to build Carakale’s business pillars and to increase awareness of craft beer. Not long after, a Pale was born. The British style bitter beer with caramel, butterscotch and biscuit notes was a daring statement that reflected Yazan’s unique style and his future vision beers of Carakale.
The basic ingredients of malt, water, hops and yeast are the determining factors of the style of beer the brewmaster is creating. “It is a reverse production cycle. I engineer back my beers starting at the final product,” states Yazan. In this approach, Yazan studies the final beer and deconstructs its elements to its basic four ingredients. As simple as it sounds, the brewing process is technically sensitive. The base malt, yeast type, hops quality and time attributes differently to different beers. The malt (germinated and kilned barely) attributes to different taste, texture, color and the beer’s flavor and aroma. Other grains can be used in the base malt such as -but not limited to- rye, sorghum, soybeans or oatmeal, each adding a distinctive taste, color, texture and mouthfeel. To complement the sweetness from the cooked malted (the wort), hops are added to create a unique punch. During the boiling of the wort, addition of hops at different times create different effects to the beer. “Adding the hops at the beginning of boiling wort attributes to bitterness while adding it towards the end attributes for flavoring. If added at the last few seconds, hops would attribute to aromatics,” Yazan’s adds.
The beer canvas is not complete without adding a splash of yeast. Whether a lager or an ale (bottom or top fermenting), the yeast is the sole ingredient that will digest the sugars releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol as a byproduct. The fermentation process takes place in a controlled environment for several days. Single yeast strain or a mixture of yeasts are chosen with reference to their growth rate and extent of fermentation as well as the aroma and flavor they attribute to the beer. The green beer then goes into several stages of maturation, conditioning and treatment to be then suitable for human consumption.
The challenging market in Jordan is far less competitive than international markets Carakale is targeting to penetrate. Yazan’s continuous innovation offered Jordanians unconventional beer styles such as the whiskey ale, Mocha Stout and winter ale to name a few. His next step is to infuse local flavors into his beer. Local herbs and spices like za’atar and cardamom or even Arabian dates are some examples of how the beer would be signed off by Yazan’s Arabic origins. “The world is thirsty for craft beer. Mature markets helps pushing the boundaries of creativity far more than blonde or pale ales.” The strive to placing Jordan on the world’s map and to be a leader among the Middle East through Carakale’s signature craft beer is a mission which has just started. Yazan’s determination, creativity and ambition make his beer, Amman and this country great.
*Pictures courtesy of Carakale Brewing Company and Yazan Karadsheh