Back Home Beer: Born by Persia, Brewed in NYC
A few weeks ago I was hanging out in the Game Room in Industry City with my son Sam, playing Centipede (quite well I might add). After a few hours at the Arcade, we had lunch in Japan Village, followed by some cozy time by the fire pit at Sahadi. As you might imagine, an adult beverage was needed, and at the wide window bar at Sahadi's, I discovered a gorgeous pink-hued Persian-style beer brewed in NYC. I proceeded to drink it with surprising amounts of joy and ease. I then purchased several cans to take home with me. My mom and Craig loved it too.
The beer was so good, so unique in flavor and color, and the cans so beautiful, I needed to find out the story. So I did what any self-respecting reporter would do. I went on Instagram and sent a DM. Here's what I found out.
Back Home Beer is made by Zahra Tabatabai, a 39 year-old Iranian-American writer who was raised in the South and now lives in Brooklyn. Growing up, Zahra kept hearing her relatives speak about the beer and wine made back home by her grandfather who lived in Shiraz. Her parents, aunties and uncles, who all lived in Iran before the revolution, spoke lovingly not only of his beer and wine, but of the vibrant culture that flourished in Iran before the revolution. They constantly reminisced about how much they missed it "back home."
While Zahra knew she could not bring back the Iran of her relatives' youth, she decided maybe she could bring back the taste of her grandfather's beer. And so she enrolled in a home brew class at Bitter & Esters and started making Persian beer. She used ingredients indigenous to Iran, but brewed it in Brooklyn.
A couple of years went by, and lots of taste tests later, in October she launched Back Home Beer. For Tabatabai, the beer is deeply personal. It is an ode to Back Home—to what Iran was like before the revolution – to the vitality of the arts, culture, culinary and distilling communities that thrived there. Tabatabai hopes to honor what Iran was and to expand the understanding and appreciation of the culture and its people.
Personally, as someone whose maternal family is Persian, this beer is really meaningful to me as well — it brings back memories of big family gatherings, with platters of rice for days, and joyful (super loud) relatives chatting in Farsi, playing cards and backgammon, smoking cigarettes and drinking black tea with lump sugar in glasses tucked inside ornate brass sleeves. Indeed, there is memory in the beer, and a nostalgia for Persian food and feasts that reminds me of my wild and wonderful Persian family.
Back Home currently makes two beers, part of a "Persian Poetry Series" —a celebration of writers in Iran. The beautiful labels, etched with poetry quotes in Farsi script, are made by an Iranian woman artist who lives in Teheran. Her Gose Sour, made with cured sumac and dried cherries, bears a Rumi quote that translates to: “If light is in your heart you will find your way home." The Persian Lager, which is brewed with salt from a mine in Northern Iran, is a nod to the pinch of salt her relatives used to sprinkle into cold lagers on hot summer days in Shiraz. The can bears a quote from Omar Khayyam: “Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life.”
This week, on Friday March 11th, in honor of the Persian New Year Nowruz (which is March 20th), and International Women's Day (Tuesday March 8th), Tabatabai will launch a special New Day IPA. The beer is modeled on "khorshid khanoom," the so-called Sun Lady who is a symbolic figure for the Persian New Year, representing everything from power and strength, to beauty, rebirth, and sunrise.
The New Day IPA label was created by @minamjafari, an Iranian designer in DC. Mina's gorgeous artwork incorporates two of the seven symbolic items displayed on the “Sofreh '' in honor of Persian New Year: the apple (a symbol of beauty) and the sumac (a symbol of the sunrise, for a new day). It will be available for a limited time for the month of March so make it a point to try it soon before it's gone. Cheers!
Back Home Beer is sold at 100 different shops and many restaurants in NYC (Shuka and Shukette are two) and Washington, DC with plans to expand distribution in the future. Follow them on Instagram for their latest news.