DOWNTOWN — The last thing you want to say to Christina Perozzi is “Oh, I’m not a beer drinker.”
“That, to me, is like throwing down the gauntlet,” Perozzi said as she sipped her Allagash White, an unfiltered Belgian-style brew flavored with coriander and bitter orange peel. Or at least that’s how she described it as she held the glass up to the warm light of Father’s Office, Santa Monica’s premier craft beer bar, and inspected the cloudy white tinge.
How can you argue with one of the top beer sommeliers on the West Coast?
The term “sommelier” conjures images of wine experts in stuffy French restaurants that look down their nose at you when you mention the movie “Sideways.” But Perozzi sees beer as an equally sophisticated beverage without the pretension of white table cloths.
Accordingly, she calls herself the Beer Chick, complete with custom T-shirt and pink and white blog at www.beerforchicks.com. And this Beer Chick is on a mission, namely to proclaim the good news of craft beer to its most under-served population: women.
“There was a need amongst people, especially women,” she said. “They didn’t have a lot of knowledge, and when they did have that beer knowledge it was empowering and kind of made them cool, kind of made them unique.”
Feminism in a pint glass, who would of thunk it.
The path to beer maven-hood was round about at best. Perozzi was raised in Edwardsville, Illinois, the heart of Anheuser-Busch country, an irony she now recognizes. Educated in journalism and communication at Indiana University, Perozzi promptly found employment in everything but.
“Actually, I was a musician,” Perozzi said. “I decided I was going to be a singer songwriter, so I packed my bags and drove to Los Angeles where I became a waiter.”
Her mother was so proud.
“I went back and forth from bartending to waitressing to thinking maybe I could make it in the corporate world. But every time I tried to get a nine-to-five job I wanted to throw myself through a plate glass window,” Perozzi said.
Out of desperation, Perozzi approached a friend who managed Father’s Office and begged for a job. It turned out to be a fateful decision.
Perozzi needed to make a living and clearing dishes at the bar was not the way to do it, but to get promoted to bartender, she needed to have an intimate knowledge of beers that most drinkers accustomed to Budweiser had never heard of.
“There are no mass-produced industrial beers here. You had to know what to give someone if they wanted a Newcastle and five beers from that in order of intensity that they would like, too,” Perozzi said. “I started learning about it and totally nerded out on it.”
When she first started at Father’s Office, Perozzi refused to touch any beer but the lambic, a style flavored of overripe fruit and so brightly carbonated that it’s almost soda. Her tastes broadened as did her responsibilities at Father’s Office — she eventually took on the mantle of manager.
Perozzi has moved on from the retail scene to become a one-woman beer promoter. Restaurants getting hip to the cache of the beer scene hire her to put together beer lists that rival their already impressive assortment of wines.
Although she’s busy improving the way the Westside drinks — Perozzi jokes that she needed to get her passport stamped to cross east of the I-405 — she continues to labor to make beer more accessible to the layperson.
Perozzi just put the finishing touches on her first book, “The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer,” which hits streets on Nov. 3. In it are all the topics that fascinated Perozzi about beer when she first learned the difference between a lager and a hefeweizen, but in a fun, female voice that she hopes will be more entertaining than the dry, technical books she had to reference.
Though the book was originally pitched for women, that focus slowly morphed as Perozzi and her writing partner, Hallie Beaune, realized one critical fact.
“Men don’t know anymore about beer than women do. They really don’t,” Perozzi said.
The book owes its genesis to Santa Monica’s section of Montana Avenue and every coffee shop Perozzi stationed at in an attempt to get out of the solitary confinement zone of her apartment. There also might have been a visit or two to The Daily Pint, which she holds up with Father’s Office as one of the best beer places in all of Los Angeles.
“It’s a nice place to do work, especially if you’re writing about beer because it’s really hard to write about beer without having a beer or knowing you will have a beer soon,” Perozzi said with a laugh.
What better way to celebrate good beer than to drink it, after all, and that is what Perozzi is all about.
“I mean it’s beer,” she said. “Beer’s supposed to bring people together, encourage conversation, loosen your tongue a little bit. It’s social lubricant, basically. And it’s a way to celebrate. It’s supposed to be casual, it’s supposed to be fun.”