A Passion for Beer: Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker…

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While beer bars such as the Toronado, Brickskeller, and The Publick House captivate beer geeks and the media, hundreds of lesser known publicans endeavor everyday to spread the gospel of better beer to their customers. In the Boston-area, beer lovers need look no further than the Cambridge Common for such an underappreciated beer bar, where several dozen beer dinners, tastings, and other special events happen every year. At the heart of the Common beats the passion of its managers, Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow. This beer-dedicated pair presents thirty taps, fifteen regularly rotating, selected from their deeply cultivated relationships with like-minded local breweries. “I love the fact that we have so many local crafts on tap,? says Baker. “New England is full of so many amazing craft breweries and it’s an honor to be able to showcase them at the Common.? They recently spent their vacation traveling to breweries and festivals throughout New England trying new beers.

Education, access, and experimentation are the big three secrets to their enthusiastic operation. Schalow and Baker treat regulars like family and help nudge some of these relatives to transition from macros in ice cold glasses to new craft beers. “Well, as we say around the Common, ‘changing the world, one beer at a time,’? says Schalow. Under their leadership, the Common also promotes a philosophy of fair pricing on food and beer, a rarity in price challenged Boston. Baker, the Common’s beer buyer who is also known as the Keg Shaker, also oversees the kitchen and its use of beer in cooking, having previously cooked at the Boston Beer Works brewpub.

The pair half-jokingly dreams of turning the Common into a brewpub. But until that day, Schalow and Baker just look forward to learning more about beer to aid their teaching efforts. In addition to their pub work, they recently helped found Women in Beer, a group of dedicated beer lovers, including men and women, who work to celebrate the contributions of women in the beer business. While Cambridge Common may not be on most beer geek radars, it should be. As Schalow notes, “Those of us that love craft beer are really all in this together, just a bunch of geeks on an incredible journey.?

–Article appeared in Issue 31 of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

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