PHOTO BY SHOKA
Amber Clemons studies a flash card at Fieldwork Brewing Company. She’s sipping the brewery’s Lilith, a golden Belgian ale, and wants to better understand its flavor profile.
“It’s not exactly what I expected,” she says, examining the compact three-ring binder collection of information cards Fieldwork helpfully provides curious drinkers. “I’m used to Belgians that taste a little on the funky side and this one is a lot less funky—it’s got a lot more sweetness to it.”
It’s not just curiosity that drives Clemons to learn more.
Drinker Holic Binge Binge Holic Holic Drinking Drinking Drinking Drinker Drinker “My philosophy on beer is trying to find what I like—I’ve been trying as many different types of beers as I can to get a mental crib sheet,” she says.
Those mental notes serve a greater purpose. As the influencer behind the Hopular Culture social media accounts (find her on Twitter, Instagram and Untappd) as well as a forthcoming blog and podcast, Clemons shares them with an ever-growing audience.
Her followers are varied in tastes and beer expertise but, she says, she posts with a particular drinker in mind.
“It’s that person [who is] making that turning point in their taste,” she says. “It’s the person who says, ’I want to grow up from the Coors Lights of the world. How do I take that next step?’”
Clemons, dressed today in a “Save Water, Drink More Beer” T-shirt, knows that road. Her own journey to the center of the craft beer boom started with a Coors Light on her 21st birthday. The watery American lager didn’t impress much, but a few months later, after she’d relocated from the Bay Area to Sacramento, Clemons heard about the Capitol Beer Fest at Cal Expo. Intrigued, she decided to attend, even though her motivation wasn’t exactly educational.
“Being a younger drinker it was like, ’Oh, it’s all you can drink for these many hours?’” she says with a laugh. “Yep, I’m going to drink my money’s worth; and I tried.”
She tried—and she learned that brews existed on a spectrum far beyond those convenience store beers.
“It just opened my eyes—beer could not only taste good, but [different brews] could taste different from one another.”
Since then, Clemons has been on a mission to try as many types of beer as possible and educate others on her findings. Those intimidated by all things hoppy, sour and hazy, however, needn’t worry. Clemons’ approach is subtle—so stealth, in fact, that her friends nicknamed her the “silent assassin.”
Instead of preaching or trying to sell someone on a beer, Clemons tries to find a gateway drink for the beer-shy.
“I slip in a little [information]—something like, ’this style has this flavor characteristic,’ and let it settle.”
Her own sense of adventure comes naturally. Her grandfather was a chef and Clemons says she inherited his curiosity and adventure in the kitchen.
Now studying culinary arts with an eye toward working in the local restaurant industry, Clemons says she’s excited about Sacramento’s prospects. The scene here continues to grow and while Clemons admits she’s wondered if the craft beer bubble might burst, she believes it’s relatively healthy for now. Sure, a few places have shut down recently, but the local market is probably only at “70 percent” capacity, she says.
“There’s a beer for every fit, flavor-wise,” she says. “[But] we still have room to grow. I think we can handle more.”