Maya Contreras, Co-Host of PBS Television Series Brewed in NY

Last Call by | Feb 2017 | Issue #121
Art by Nathan Arizona

Since breaking out on her own as a writer and performer, Maya Contreras has interviewed everyone from Samantha Bee to John Oliver. Now, as co-host of the new PBS television series Brewed in NY, she can add scores of brewers to that list, too. In the show, which premieres this spring, Contreras and co-host Matt Archambault travel to the breweries, farms, and festivals that make up the state’s flourishing beer industry, where a new brewery opens nearly every 10 days.

What should viewers expect from the program when they tune in?
Viewers who are beer experts, like my co-host Matt, will learn more about the history of breweries that make some of their favorite beers. Viewers who are beer novices (like myself) will learn about [the] farm-to-glass, fresh ingredients, the importance of water profiles for each city, and how much thought and time go into craft beers. All of our audience will learn about the wonderful communities that are formed around these breweries.

In terms of beer and brewing, what distinguishes New York from its neighbors in the Northeast?
When people think of New York, they think of The Statue of Liberty, taxis, the Empire State Building—they don’t think about farms, and they should. The state of New York has amazing produce, which goes into our local beers. New York was also one of the largest hops producers in the country for many years, so there is a tradition here that many people don’t know about.

Which places were your favorites to visit?
That’s a difficult question because I loved each city that we visited. … I think two of my fondest experiences were meeting Neil Evans, owner of C.H. Evans Brewing Co. at the Albany Pump Station, and Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery. Neil introduced me to sour beer, and for that I am eternally grateful. [It] was clear that he got into the business because he is passionate about beer. Garrett echoed that sentiment and was chock-full of amazing stories of what led him to brewing beer in the first place.

Did you discover any interesting commonalities among breweries during your travels?
Yes. They’re all passionate about beer: making it, drinking it, experimenting with recipes, sharing that love with their customers, and none of them did it for the money. But that’s where the similarities end. All of them came to brewing beer or owning a brewpub or brewery for different reasons, all of which I find inspiring.

There have been a few TV shows about beer already. What’s different about Brewed in NY?
All of those shows are great, and each has a wonderful niche: Brew Masters followed one company, Brew Dogs focuses on competition among breweries, and Beer Geeks focuses on the process of making beer from start to finish. Our show really highlights the landscape of New York’s farm-fresh ingredients, brewers, festivals, and how craft beer in these gorgeous New York locations has driven tourism. Oh, what’s also different and new from those shows? A black Latina female co-host! Our program shows our audience that the craft beer movement is inclusive and welcoming to everyone.