Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Middle Eastern Adventure




Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
When Yazan Karadsheh, the owner of the Jordanian craft brewery Carakale, walked into Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. this past February, I immediately was drawn to something in him that I had yet to understand. He shared his story of when he was attending college at The University of Colorado and a new future had been shown to him. He was in a Boulder bookstore and noticed a book showcasing the best breweries in the World sitting on the shelf. Being a proud Jordanian citizen, Yazan quickly flipped to "J" only to find that page skipping his native land. In that instant, he felt that instinctual and provocatively insane urge to make his own history, while forging a unique bond with his homeland. We shared stories of the hardships of the brewing industry, and how far we've come. It quickly became clear how his proverbial mountain to climb was MUCH more difficult than our climb. It took him 3 years just to obtain permits to open his brewery! I was inspired to hear his story which was based on an undying perseverance. We shared a beer together and quickly struck up a friendship. I knew that Patrick and I had European travels upcoming in May, so I suggested we brew a collaboration beer. As we entertained the collaboration idea, I had another idea regarding a Dead Sea salt gose. An idea that would be brewed with salt harvested straight from the Sea. The Dead Sea is a saline sea that separates Jordan and Israel and happens to be the lowest point below sea level, on dry land.  That's all it took to inspire both Yazan and I.  So, the dates were set.
In our past travels, we've realized the incredible importance of documentation. We believe the stories being told are a showcase for a global craft beer community. The idea of a TV show or a short documentary highlighting the events that encompass the overall story began to take hold. We spent months discussing business with various film teams, including Hollywood based teams that are uber-connected to the film scene. In the long run, we called our talented friends Matt Coats
Matt Coats
and Taylor Mason, 

Taylor Mason
who happened to document last year's #campcoolship. They too were inspired by the story, so much so they decided to do whatever it took to make it happen sans the overreach of Hollywood.  Both Taylor and Matt are high level videographers and photographers having worked with Superstars like Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and MANY more. They also happen to be craft beer lovers and they too were inspired by the prolific story of the cross global collaboration.  So, the crew was set and the road to the collaboration began.
Prior to our visit to Jordan, we had several phone calls with Yazan and his brew team to discuss the brew day and the general flow of our visit. They had never brewed a gose at Carakale before, but they were well versed in all things kettle sour. We quickly learned how talented Carakale's brewers Jordan and Andrew were. After sharing the "Wilderness Way" of kettle sours, we all felt the excitement regarding the trip. It's amazing to be the first craft beer collaboration in a country that hardly supports any craft alcohol culture. This was also set to be the first ever gose brewed in Jordan's history. It isn't an easy venture, to say the least, to get the essentials like raw materials to the brewery just outside of Amman. The grain and hops need to be ordered 6 weeks ahead of time with imminent delays to be accounted for.  Think about that! We had a conversation 8 weeks before a normal brew day and they feared that the grain, which slowly travels from England by boat and land, might not show. You quickly feel the hardships of the whole team at Carakale Brewery. The salt, grains, lactobacillus (souring bacteria) and hops were ordered and the travel plans were set. Damn we anticipated this one! 
As the trip approached we heard a variety of different stories, clichés and misconceptions regarding Jordan.  Some were people's general perceptions of the Middle Eastern lifestyle. I'll just get this out of the way now: Jordanians, just like the country's landscape, are beautiful. Upon arrival, we were treated like Kings and our entry to the Middle East went off without a hitch. Ok, I'll admit, they could use a driving lesson or two, but so can many Americans!  The night that we landed Yazan greeted us and made sure we had a hotel. We had spent the previous week with team Mikkeller in Copenhagen for the annual Mikkeller Beer Celebration which was full of excessive partying, as we do. We needed rest for the impactful week to come. To avoid boredom and excessive wordplay, I'll simply share the timeline and photos from here, with a nice sentimental wrap up.

Day 1 (Monday): -Arrival to Amman
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

After arriving at 2 am, we slept a few hours. We took the long drive from the Amman Airport Hotel into second circle. The cab drive into Amman was pure insanity and we quickly learned to get used to this driving style. We met Yazan and the film crew over a traditional Jordanian lunch.
This was another thing to get used to on our visit: the food is incredible! Yazan had a talented artist friend commissioned to create the beer's label. We smoked hookah while tossing ideas around for the beer's name, ranging from ridiculous to hilarious and inappropriate. We settled on "Dead Sea-rious", a play on words which fundamentally points to the underlying perspective we want to highlight, which is to remember to not be so serious in life! We eventually made our way to Amman's spectacular old town market to fetch spices, play a traditional Arabic guitar (Oub),
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
followed by a visit to the old Roman Colosseum




which was a breath-taking display of ancient Roman's influence on the Middle East. We eventually made our way to Carakale situated in the Blue Valley
just outside Amman. After a few beers and the initial tour we headed to the town of Madaba, 45 min SE of Amman. Yazan’s father was raised in Madaba as well as Yazan himself. He and his family are, well, a bit famous there. We met his cousin, Jamil, who had dinner plans for us.  This meal, an unforgettable occasion to say the least, was one of the finest meals of our lives. The kitchen had an old a brick oven kitchen, with an old-world patio setting. We finished the evening with libations which sparked hilarious conversations into the late night.



-Tuesday: We awoke in Madaba, groggy and jet-lagged. Oh well, let's go! We headed to the town’s historic Church, which was established 150 years ago by Yazan's lineage. One of the reasons it was built was to preserve the oldest tile made map of the dead sea region dating back to 560 A.D.
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
Upon exiting, a group of Indian tourists noticed Patrick looked like Jesus. Oh shit this was such a funny moment unfolding in front of me. It started with a man boldly exclaiming, "Look it's Jesus!" That spawned into numerous selfies and even a few moments of truth by a few traveler's wondering if this Arizona Jesus was the real thing. Turns out a famous Danish photographer, Jacob Holdt,
Patrick and famous photographer, Jacob Holdt
happen to snag a photo of the action. We later learned he had previously won a Pulitzer prize for his work. Patrick is famous!  After another delicious and somewhat divine meal
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

created by a man who started the restaurant 25 years prior, we headed towards the dead sea. Upon our arrival my mind was racing in dismay. This desert landscape was mesmerizing with its spectacular display of desolation. It truly is other-worldly.
As we snaked our way to the sea, no one other than Yazan knew what was in store. For all we knew we would be spending the night under the stars alongside the Dead Sea. Well, Yazan had a trick up his sleeve and decided to treat us to a 5-star resort deep in the Dead Sea Valley.
Hell yeah! We quickly moved ourselves to the beach and began the ancient ritual of being perplexed by the bodies buoyant nature in the salty sea. It truly is mind blowing.
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

We applied a thick layer of mud to our toxin-filled bodies and allowed the mud to dry.
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
After re-soaking in the salt water, there is a calmness to the soul. A true rebirth to the inner-being. It was surreal and should be on everyone's bucket list. We enjoyed the evening with Carakale beer and rested. Another spectacular day.
 
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats











-Wednesday:  Collaboration Brew day.
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
Brewers Andrew and Jordan were crushing it, and had been for several weeks. Jordan (the country), being a predominantly Muslim country, is greatly influenced by the Muslim holiday Ramadan even though Yazan himself does not practice the Muslim religion.  They had to play catch up before the shutdown of the countries alcohol sales came into effect. They mashed, then sent the wort to the kettle.  The lactobacillus, coriander, and sea salts were added and it was official, the country’s first Gose was in the tank! That evening Yazan took us to his cousin’s restaurant in Amman where we ate an old-world traditional Middle Eastern meal of goat’s testicles, lamb brains, chicken livers, and hummus. Yum! 
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

-Thursday: Wadi Rum here we come!
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
As we embarked on the adventure we could hardly have comprehended what amazing day was to come. The 3-hour drive had many aspects that reminded me of Arizona's deserts. Jordan may not have the same green mountain to low desert contrast as Arizona does, but it's beauty lies in its ability to strike you with awe.  Unbelievable views stated as we descended into Wadi Rum. We arrived at the site of a couple of Bedouin guides who vowed to take us where they took Matt Damon while he was filming the movie "Martian".
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats



Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
The filming consisted of 2 vehicles, one with Yazan, Patrick and myself while the other truck romped through the desert behind us. The enchantment of Wadi Rum is incomparable to anything else. We filmed through sunset and sipped authentic
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats


Bedouin coffee, which was a real treat. This part of the documentary will be prolific! We ended the night at a primitive hotel in the desert, under a clear night dotted with stars.
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats















-Friday: Petra!
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
 Again, we had little expectations upon arrival to Petra. The long, winding dusty road in makes you believe it's impossible to find. Though, upon arrival, you quickly realize how much of a tourist trap it is. Not to fret though, the payoff is incredible! A .5-mile romp through a winding slot canyon dumps you right into the ancient city. Talk about captivating! The treasury, known to many from Indiana Jones and the lost crusades, is a magnificent structure formed in 315 B.C. right out of the red rock. We had a security guard (for the filming) and he lead us up to a tribal hut high above the cliffs. We worked a badass scene, thanks to Taylor's nimbleness, where he was high in the cliffs while filming us riding camels through a slot canyon. Seriously, Petra is spellbinding. That evening we celebrated our film wrap up and enjoyed Amman.


-Saturday, we flew away from the country we quickly grew to love. A small piece of our Wilderness soul was left behind. Sad Face.

Wrapping up:
To say it simply: Patrick and I were profoundly affected by our trip to Jordan. But, not so much for the obvious reasons. Sure, the culture has some contrasting values and the differences can make simple tasks, to a newcomer, somewhat difficult at times. The overall fact is simple: everyone on the planet is connected based on the ultimate desire for a significant survival. In other words: they have the same struggles and desires and the same wants and needs as we all do. Amman and Phoenix too had many comparable and somewhat coinciding facets of their perspective societies. The main one being that they both have a desert soul. Like Phoenix, Amman was filled its perpetual emptiness with millions of compassionate beings, many of which were outsiders of Jordan , there to begin a new chapter to their lives. At one point we were encountered by a dust storm
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
and Yazan was surprised we didn’t flinch due to having experienced many dust storms in our own backyard. Jordanians learn English early on in their schooling making visiting Americans experience an easy transition. Amman’s newest part of town had night clubs, music stores, coffee shops, burger joints, hip restaurants and cocktail lounges. The countryside was filled with farmers and sheep herders dawning the traditional garb that 1970’s Hollywood somewhat confused and clouted the imagery with a disingenuous theme.

The theme of the documentary and the collaboration could have been easily convoluted. We weren’t filling a void, nor were we there to talk politics. We were there to extend, and take the extended, olive branch that we believe the world-wide craft beer scene once offered to us. We must continue the ideal that we’re in this together.
Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats
 It’s a shame some governments can’t get along due to conflicting histories and cultural differences. But, for Yazan and myself, we just really like beer. More importantly: We really love celebrating the planet that we live on.

Cheers!

(stay tuned for the documentary)

Also, an incredible story on Carakale here:
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-c1-middle-east-beer-20140505-m-story.html





Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats


Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats



















Photo courtesy of @Matt Coats

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