Three Brendan’s and one Jeremy talk Two Brothers Brewing.

February 25th, 2015

DSC_1163I wanted this to be a piece telling you how great a time I had with Brenden and Jeremy.  I wanted to talk about the war phone and record run time on the line.  It was going to be about how down to Earth they were and how it’s true that a beer mimics it’s brewer and vice versa.  I probably would have wrote something about how we talk about nearly all of their beers in the show and how they got their names.  I’m sure I would have mentioned something about tailgating before flights and Sidekicks and Forklift Drivers naming beers.

 

But that’s all in the show and you can listen to it in all of it’s awesomeness.  No, this write up is instead a love letter of sorts.  An explanation of why my Two Brothers trip meant so much to me and why they will always be one of my favorite breweries.  So, yeah, prepare for the lovefest.

 

I had my first Two Brothers somewhere around 2004-2005.  It was a Domaine DuPage and it was unlike anything I’d ever had before it.  There was something about the malty balance that satiated my thirst for something with a good body and soft sweetness.  Toffee and caramel prevailed but never overwhelmed me.  It was the kind of beer that would go well with a steak or a salad or a burger or desert or fish or even a ham sandwich.  Or, you could just have it on it’s own.

 

After that introduction, I made it my duty to seek out anything they made.  While this is DSC_1215commonplace for most today, at that time, I’d never really developed a love for a single brewery.  I was amazed at how no matter the style, Two Brothers presented it to me in a way that I could understand the beer.  It may sound cheesy, but they made beer that was perfect for my palate.

 

As my journey into the craft beer craze deepened, my love for the brewery never waned.  Rare was it to find my fridge with less than 12 beers and even more rare would be for 4 of them (those 6 packs weren’t there for decoration!) to not be a Two Brothers.  They were my home base.  My “Old Faithful”.  Enough so that I can still associate seasons with the beer that went along with them-

 

A Dog Days meant it was summer time and the grill was on with some baseball playing in the background.  A Northwind meant I was grilling in snow and a Bitter End bottle on the counter the next morning meant I needed just “one more” before the night was over.

 

The thing is, with Two Brothers, they weren’t just an appearance in my life. They were more like a textbook footnote that carried a short story with each I opened.  I’m always more than willing to give a brewery’s portfolio a chance, but at the end of the day, there is only a small handful that I will drink any that are within reach.  This isn’t a bash on those that I haven’t, but a serious endorsement for those that I have.

 

So there you have it.  An explanation of my love affair with a brewery that kicked off my desire for craft beers.  Now go grab your favorite Two Brothers, scroll back to the top of this page and click play so you can see how good of a time I had.

 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE

Like them on Facebook HERE

Check in on Untappd HERE

Find their beer near you HERE

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

Few Distillery

January 26th, 2015

Paul is standing on the other side of the bar watching me set up my recording equipment. gfs_39633_2_9 I’m not sure if he can see it in my face, but I’m currently suffering from one of the first hangovers I’ve had in years.  Having flown in the previous morning to a raucous Chicago homecoming that included me doing two shows with a night capped off in a bar playing Kung-Fu until 2am,  I find myself doing whatever I can to push through the fog in my head.  I’m going through a sound check when a train passes on the Purple line that the distillery backs up to, causing my sound meter to rise and the bar I’m set up at to vibrate softly.  Paul smiles and says “Yeah man, you get the whole experience here…”

 

It all started from a piece of family history.  Prior to World War 2, Paul’s family had owned a brewery in what is now the Czech Republic. His Grandfather, the lone family survivor from the Nazi takeover, was never able to reclaim the brewery.  It was after his Grandfather’s passing in 2008 that Paul decided it was his time to take over what was once a family legacy and open what would come to be know as FEW Spirits.

 

Wanting to open a distillery is one thing, finding a place at a rather full table in the industry is another entirely.  Coming from a creative background that included playing guitar, owning a record label and designing custom guitar pedals, narrowing his focus to bourbon would prove to be the perfect marriage of spirits and rock and roll.  What he did next is the process that separates him from the rest and why FEW is what it is today.

 

Do not let your wife come home and find you with 3 grand of bourbon on the dining room table.”

 

DSC_1139Paul is all about reverse engineering.  He likes to find a sweet spot where he can carve his own niche and build from there.   For most, this involves market research and some trial and error.  For Paul, it meant going out and purchasing enough bourbon to fill his dinning room table.  While his wife wasn’t the most pleased woman in the world, the results helped him find just what he was looking for.

 

“When trying that much bourbon, you realize they all have something going for them.” Paul explains.  So rather than searching for the good and the bad of each bourbon he tried, he instead focused on finding a sweet spot that he could build from. It was less about “What can I do better?” and more “What can I do differently?”

 

I’m a big fan of breaking the rules, but I like to know the rules before I break them.”

 

While you won’t find any of their awards hanging on the walls, the results speak for DSC_1106themselves.  The accolades that FEW has collected in it’s short 3 years range from but aren’t limited to ‘Craft Whisky of the Year’ by Whisky Advocate and the highest rated Gin in 5 years from the Beverage Tasting Institute. Paul has proven that his process works, even if some purists don’t agree with it.

 

In order to yield those different results, FEW effectively “breaks” their equipment by using it for something other than it’s initial intention.  Making Bourbon in German Pot Stills is one of those equipment “breaks” and it’s because of this Paul finds himself telling others that his Bourbon doesn’t taste like Kentucky Bourbon for a reason-It simply isn’t.

 

Craft is what the consumer makes it, not what we say it is.”

 

DSC_1150When I bring up the difference between craft distillers and mass producers, Paul’s answer not only defines FEW but happens to be one of the best definitions of craft I’ve come across-“I don’t really like calling us a ‘craft distillery’.  Trying to say we’re a craft distillery and someone like 4 Roses is not is bizarre to me.  There’s more craft in 4 Roses than an awful lot of products on the market.  To me the defining line of craft is where the intention is.  Is your intention on the product? Is the intention on the profit?  Where is your intention and how are you acting on that intention?”  

 

In the end, FEW is all about creating an experience for their customers by being a part of their lives. “It’s about fathers and legal aged sons enjoying a drink.  If we cared about profits, we’d be doing something different.” Paul explains with a chuckle.  “I’m the world’s luckiest guy!  I have a great family and make whiskey for living.  I work two blocks from home and I love what I do and when I go to sleep at night I know that it’s been a day well lived.”  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a hell of an experience to me.

 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE 

Like them on Facebook HERE

Find their spirits near you HERE

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

Sketchbook Brewing in Evanston

January 6th, 2015

orange doorI first heard of Sketchbook from the owner of Few Distillery in Evanston, Paul Hletko.  We’d scheduled a show together  (check back for that in 10 days!) and I was trying to figure out how to make the most of my Chicago trip and squeeze one more in.  Unsure of the area, I reached out to Paul who immediately informed me of a brewery where one of the brewers had won the Sam Adams Longshot Competition.  If that wasn’t enough to sell me, the fact that it was a block away from where I’d be doing my show with Few closed the deal.

 

Fast forward a couple weeks later and I’m stepping off the Purple Line in Evanston.  With my carry on in tow, I made my way to their alley entrance off of the corner of Main and Chicago.  The orange door marking the entrance was impossible to miss and the thought of a beer and cover from the cold front that had moved in that day had me opening the door into what I would find is more than a nano brewery, but an idea brought to life.

 

When homebrewers Cesar Marron and Sean Decker set out to create Sketchbook Brewing,DSC_1073 they wanted to focus on creating something small with an emphasis on community involvement, educating the consumer and promoting sustainability.  It’s an easy thing to say but to do it they’d need the same thing everyone else does to bring an idea to life-money.  Seeing as how community was a focus, they turned to the social funding site-Kickstarter.

 

Their campaign was a successful one.  Already having roots in the Evanston area and hot on the heals of Cesar’s Longshot Victory (make sure to listen to the show for this experience alone) for his gratzer, Sketchbook Brewing took in an amazing $15,000 in it’s first 5 days.  With the buzz surrounding their campaign and added support from the community, they were able to extend their goal to $25,000 which allowed them to purchase a cold water tank and heat exchanger to reduce their footprint and conserve energy.

 

Keeping with the sustainability and community involved theme, they decided to open as a Community Supported Brewery.  Much like you’ll find in brew pubs and nano breweries throughout the US, Sketchbook offers a growler program that allows 300 members 1-2 growler fills a month for 6 to 12 months depending on their plan.  Some of the benefits at surface value are easy to pick out, your grains are paid for in advance, a certain customer flow is guaranteed and your waste is minimized through growlers.  For Sketchbook though, it allows them to focus on educating their consumer.

 

DSC_1095When I asked Cesar about the biggest difference for him from homebrewing to running Sketchbook he laughed and said “I can’t select who is going to taste my beer anymore!”   A lot can happen from the time it leaves the tanks to the time it makes it into your glass and by running the growler program, they’re able to keep their hands on the beer a little longer which assures them that when someone drinks a beer from them, it will be as close to their intention as possible.

 

With a brewery portfolio focused on sessionable, flavor filled and style focused beers, they’re able to educate the consumer by giving them a beer they can finish a 64oz growler of. While the idea of a 64oz growler of a 12% barleywine may appeal to some, you can include me in that list, it’s hardly an educational piece if you can’t remember what it tasted like or if you could only drink half while it was still fresh.

 

Sketchbook Brewing is committed to the idea of staying small.  Community, education and sustainability is in everything they do and they don’t plan on leaving that behind any time.   It’s not about getting bigger for them, it’s about staying smaller, which is why they’d rather open another 7 barrel Sketchbook in another part of town or a different state.  Who knows, maybe in a few years you’ll have one in your neck of the woods.DSC_1086

 

Before I left, I had to know where the name came from.  When asked why Sketchbook, Cesar Marron responded that a Sketchbook is typically a small and intimate house for ideas.  This one just happens to have an orange door on it.

 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE 

Like them on Facebook HERE

Check in on Untappd HERE

Find their beer near you HERE

 

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

A beer is brewed with homebrewer Rob Fink

December 30th, 2014

I’ll never forget the first time I tasted someones homebrew.  It was 1997 and I had stopped over at a friends house in Louisiana driving back to school from New Orleans.  We went out to his back porch where an old fridge sat, surrounded by buckets.  Opening the fridge, he handed me a bottle with a half scraped off Sam Adams label.

 

“It’s my dad’s hobby.  He makes beer when he’s bored.”  My buddy grabbed an opener from the fridge and popped the tops off of both.  At this time I was really only drinking whatever I could get my hands on so I wasn’t going to turn a beer down.  I was just skeptical.  I mean, how good could a homebrew really be?  Tipping the bottle back, I took my first swig and my eyes opened wide “Dude!  This…This tastes like beer! And he makes it at home?!”

 

DSC_1236Flash forward 17 years and I’m standing in a kitchen with Rob Fink.  There’s a 55 pound sack of Maris Otter leaning against the cabinets and he’s getting his home made grinder ready for 18 pounds of it.  There’s some Minutemen playing on an iPad and I can see the steam coming off of his Mash Tun out side.  There are some papers with his water profile on them to my right and I’m sort of taking it all in and that’s when I see it.   A Bodem Coffee Grinder.

 

It’s odd what can impress people, but seeing that grinder sitting there with a drip cup next to it, I realized that Rob was all about capturing flavor.  Most folks go the Mr Coffee route.  It’s easy and there isn’t really a whole lot of thought that goes into it.   To use a Bodem and a drip cup though, that takes time.  It’s the opposite of instant and there’s a small labor of love that has all kinds of rules.  It’s a flavor rabbit hole of sorts that I stopped falling down after getting a french press.  Rob went further though and if this was his process  to get his coffee just right, I couldn’t imagine what doing a brew with him was going to consist of.

 

DSC_1252

Just about every professional brewer I’ve met got their start in their backyard or on their stove top.  With the craft beer scene explosion taking place, homebrewing has taken on a mind of it’s own as well.  I’ve seen home set ups that not only rival nano breweries but some brew pubs as well.  Still though, at the end of the day, you can have all the equipment you need to pump out thousands of barrels per year, if your process isn’t sound, your beer will show it.

 

Having been involved in homebrewing for 8 years, it’s his love of the process that separates his end result from others.  When we decided on a brew day and what we were going to be brewing (an imperial ESB that most of my friends found to be too boring to brew), Rob took to researching the history of the style.  From the recipe all the way down to the best water profile for a traditional version, he dug as deep as he could to come up with the best recipe for his beer.  And we’re back to the rabbit hole again and that willingness to go further than others.

 

DSC_1286Throughout the day, I was able to experience his process by not only brewing with him, but by trying some of his beers.  Now, I could use this spot to talk about each of them, but with Rob being a Cicerone I feel that there’s nothing I could say that would do them justice except for one of them.  It’s always interesting trying someones homebrew.  I’ve had my fare share of both good and bad homebrew and while I will continue to drink much of the beer my friends make, it’s very rare to come across one that I would consider buying from a store shelf.

 

20141218_132211_Richtone(HDR)

When I drank Rob’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale, I understood immediately another twitter users comment’s regarding Rob and why he urged me to go sit with him.  This wasn’t just some regular, really good home brew.  This was the real deal.  I took my time drinking his aptly named “Pumking Killer” not because I wanted to make it last but because I couldn’t believe how great it was.  This wasn’t just someone playing around, this was a beer that not only would easily sell if it were on a shelf, but a beer that would sell out from store shelves!

 

When we were wrapping everything up, I couldn’t help but wonder where this guy is going to end up in a few years.  Everyone has plans and his is a solid one that will undoubtedly lead him to a production brewery.  He posses the knowledge and the skill set as well as the desire to one day possibly own his own brewery.  With all that said, at the end of the day I believe it will be his humility that will push him to his end goal.  For Rob, a mistake isn’t a set back, it’s just fuel for the torch to help him discover what’s at the end of the rabbit hole that is process.

 

Make Sure to Follow Rob on Twitter HERE

Check out some of his work with WTOP HERE

 

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

Koval Distilling

December 16th, 2014

There it sat in the dimly lit store that had long closed for the night.  It was so close we could almost taste the contents.  My focus shifted from bottle on the other side to our reflections in the window.  There were eight of us left and we weren’t going to let our night DSC_0853end until we had at least one more taste.

 

A familiar glow lit one of my cohorts faces from below and a big grin formed on his face.  “This way!” he exclaimed, walking with purpose behind us all and down the street.  “It says they have some at a bar over here!”  Like a pack of hyenas, we chortled and laughed down the street making our way to what, we hoped, would be the end to our search…

 

Both Robert and Sonat Birnecker were career academics living in Washington DC when they decided to open Koval.  Born from the love of the idea of working with their hands and creating something scratch, they decided to take money they’d saved to buy a house and purchase a still instead.  The next step to bringing their dream to life was finding a home for the still.

 

DSC_0876Having grown up in Chicago, Sonat reached out to Aldermen to see if they could find someone who not only was welcome to the idea, but would help guide them through the political machine that is Chicago.  47th ward Alderman, Gene Shulter, was more than up to the task.  With open arms, Gene welcomed them to the Ravenswood neighborhood and helped introduce them to a developer who had the perfect space.  Now all they had to do was make a product people would be interested in.

 

When you’re married with children, convincing your wife that you’re heading out to the bar with your friends for a little imbibing is pretty much a no-go.  A dinner group that meets once a month though is a little easier to sell.  The intended results are still the same, it just goes by a friendlier name.  It was at one of these dinner groups that I had my first taste of Koval.

 

When we chose Big Jones as our place of meeting, it wasn’t just the deep south family style cuisine that attracted us there.  They also have a Bourbon Society and an incredible menu to choose from.  When going over the drink list that night, I came across a name I’d never seen before -Koval-Lion’s Pride White Rye.  Seeing as how it was Rye and from Chicago, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

 

I still remember the glass being placed in front of me.  The smell was light and other than aDSC_0897 slight film left behind while swirling it, one could easily mistake it for water.  That first sip was a game changer for me.  The spice from the rye played with my tongue just enough to let it know it was there but it was the finish that got me.  It was clean.  There was no burn, there was no unng, there was only…warmth.

 

I grabbed the attention of the table and passed the glass around with an emphatic “You gotta try this!”.  The look on the face of those who got to try before it was gone said it all.  We spent the rest of that dinner talking, not about the food, as great as it was, but about this white whiskey that we would eventually finish.  Armed with smartphones and a name, we headed out into the night searching for another bottle and wondering aloud as we walked the streets “How could a white whiskey taste so…clean?”

 

Robert Birnecker has helped set up over 70 distilleries in the US and Canada over the past 5 years.  He comes from 3 generations of Austrian distillers and is the Adjunct Distilling Professor for Siebel.  Having never truly left academia behind, Robert now finds himself teaching workshops to future distillers.  His refinement of the distillation process doesn’t end with the product, Robert also has a hand in the automation technology and design.

 

When I told Robert and Sonat about my experience I’d had 4 years early with my friends, he explained that the reason their spirits come out so clean is that they use only the “heart cut”.  There are three parts that make up a spirit, the head, the heart and the tail.  By taking only the heart cut, you’re left with a clean spirit.  This is a process not used by many DSC_0901because you’re then left with the extra product.  Koval sees this as an opportunity and actually re-purposes the head and tail to use for gin, vodka or a liqueur.

 

Our dinner crew made it’s way south on Clark Street.  We were getting close and we could feel it.  “Acre!  It’s gotta be at Acre!” the one in front said, quickening up the pace.  You’d have thought we believed if we didn’t get there fast enough that they’d run out of it.  We were truly in a “one more until it’s gone” mode.  Trying anything else at that moment would have been unfair to it’s maker.  The comparisons would have only drawn the ire of our group.

 

Opening the door we pushed through into the half empty bar and restaurant.  Mutterings could be heard among us “Is it here?”, “Do they have it?”.  Turning from the bartender with a dejected look on his face, our guide shook his head no.  Then a sly grin crept across his mouth as he opened it to speak “But they do have some Koval Millet.”

 

Koval currently has a wide assortment of heart cut spirits coming out of their distillery onDSC_0873 Ravenswood.  They’ve moved down the street since they opened, having expanded their operation and have picked up 20 employees along the way (one of which makes some damned good home made caramel).  Robert and Sonat may have left academia to open Koval,  but they’ve kept their academic approach.  From educating future and current distillers in process to teaching consumers about flavor profiles with their single grain spirits,  Koval will always be apart of the heart of craft distilling in North America.

 

 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE 

Like them on Facebook HERE

Find their spirits near you HERE

 

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

Goose Island

November 26th, 2014

Dude is such a great descriptor that can mean so many things to so many people.  To me though, it's a moniker bestowed upon only a few.  You see, I do this weird thing where, when meeting people, I try to imagine what character they'd play in a movie.  Now, I've seen a lot of movies, but my character reference is usually broken down by movies I've watched more than the average person.  The Big Lebowski is one of those movies and to be able to play The Dude, you have to have a very unique personality.

 

Upon my arrival at Goose Island,  I was directed to the conference room where I could set DSC_1068up for the show and told that someone would be with me shortly.  Wheeling my suitcase and bags I'd been lugging around with me through Chicago from my early morning flight, I entered the room and started pulling out my mixer and mics, never really giving a thought to what was on the table.  It was once I finished setting up that I took a second to look over the beauty before me.

 

There, spread out across the table, was a lineup of all of their Vintage Ales and 2014 Bourbon County varieties.  Truth be told, I thought it was just set up for me to take pictures or maybe they had a meeting coming up with someone of importance.  There was never even a thought in my head of what was about to take place.  As I began to test my levels, Sam(antha), the communications manager for Goose Island came in and we began talking about her time there and how much she enjoyed working Goose Island.  It was during this conversation that Brett Porter walked in.

 

Brett is only slightly shorter than myself with a very "matter of fact" disposition.  It's almost as if everything could be "Oh Well, I guess we can do this"  while giving you a grin that let's you know he's doing exactly what he wants to be doing at that moment.     Standing to shake his hand, he looks at the table, then me, then back to the table and says in that "Oh Well" way- "Well, my day just got a whole lot better."

 

In that moment, I realize two things- 1)Holy mother of God.  These beers were for us to drink!  2)I'm going to be drinking them all with the Dude who made them.

 

DSC_0947Tours always lead before the beers, and Goose Island is about as impressive of a brewery as it gets.   Brett explains everything in that "ho-hum" way of his from how much he LOVES his Buhler Grinder to the efficiency of their barrel steam cleaner to the tanks he helped design that house Matilda.  He's not just invested in the beer.  This brewery is his playground.

 

The drive from the brewery to the barrel warehouse is a short one that takes you through the industrial section of the west side of Chicago.  Before leaving, he points across the street, making sure I take notice of their old barrel warehouse.  "Wait until you see where we moved to.  You can see the curvature of the Earth in that place." he tells me.

 

When you first step foot into the 134,000 square foot warehouse, you don't really know DSC_1031where to look.  It's a cavernous place where the amount of barrels within eye shot is nearly overwhelming.  The only way to capture the full size in a picture would be to use a panoramic shot.  Walking around I begin to imagine what goes into keeping the football fields worth of barrels up to snuff.  It's a massive undertaking and Brett is quick to introduce the guys that keep it clean while giving them shout outs for the work they do.

 

With plans to create a tap room, learning center and host events, this is a massive space DSC_1058that just becomes easy to get lost in.  Looking around, I begin to realize that this is the future of Goose Island.  And with the staff they've amassed at Goose Island, this isn't about being the biggest barrel program out there, but the best.

 

Before we leave, I catch Brett just surveying the place with that grin of his.  He's right where he wants to be, but that's just my opinion, man.

 

 

I've started something new here.  Below is a playlist that breaks the show down by all the beers that we tried a couple of tangents we broke off to.  Feel free to listen all the way through or if you happen to have one of the Vintage Ales or Bourbon County variants from 2014, skip right on to it to hear Brett explaining the beer. 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE 

Like them on Facebook HERE

Check in on Untappd HERE

Find their beer near you HERE

Our Pairing Coming Soon

 

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

We Set a Course for Veteran Owned and Operated Heritage Brewing in Manassas VA

November 18th, 2014

Making my way through the front door, one can’t help but notice the massive riveted metalDSC_0513 plates with a bomber girl hand painted on it.  It hangs there, just above the tasting bar born from pallets and opposite the 20 barrel brewhouse.  The two are separated by only  a red stripe that acts as an imaginary fence, separating the brewers from the drinkers.

 

In the back of the brewery among the tanks were large stacks of cans and a crowd formed around a canning line.  A figure broke from the pack and made his way towards me.  Having been around military for the better part of my life, the gait of someone who’s marched is a familiar one.  This man approaching me was Veteran, Brewer and owner of Heritage Brewing -Sean Arroyo.

 

After a quick introduction, Sean informed me that Wild Goose was in the house that day to install their new canning line.  Now, I know from talking to brewers how important of day it is to get something like this going.  There’s something special about packaging your product en masse and I offered to come back, but Sean wouldn’t have it.  We’d scheduled our time, he was going to hold himself to it.  He offered to take me on a tour of their brewery and then let me wander around for photos while they finished some things up before a break, then we could sit down and talk.

 

Walking through Heritage with Sean, the first thing that stands out is the uniformity of everything.  It’s always impressive to see how breweries make use of their space, but this was something else.  Everything was spotless and almost show room like.  When I point this out, Sean informs me with a chuckle “We have a bit of an obsession with our power washer.”  Making our way past their tanks, we head out the back of the brewery and across the street to their packaging and barrel house.

 

DSC_0465Massive stacks of their Kings Mountain and Freedom Isn’t Free take up the majority of space in the warehouse.  With stacks of grain lining the back wall, my focus goes right to the barrels that are lined up opposite of the cans.  Lined up 12 across and 3 high, it’s nearly impossible to not notice they’re all from Catoctin Creek which is up the road a ways.  When I ask about it, Sean informs me that they have a deal with Catoctin Creek to be the sole purchasers of  their Rye barrels.  A big deal in the ways of securing barrels for a smaller brewery and even more important considering the Rye is not only local, but Organic.

 

One of the focuses at Heritage is not just staying local, 92% of their beer is local sourced, but staying in the USA for all of their ingredients-100% of every beer is a USA product.  And staying local isn’t the only thing, they use all organic base malts as well, which is why those barrels are important to them.  While it’s not the easiest route, they work hard to get their hops and grains from local growers and even any of the add ins like fruits or even peppers and bacon (yeah, I said bacon!) for some of their one off bottled beers.

 

The local focus is not only important for the beer, but also the area.  Heritage Brewing exists mainly in part to them running a kickstarter that reached out to the folks of Manassas.  Sean, who got his start as a homebrewer while serving in the military, wanted to find a place for his family in Virginia to root down and call home after developing a love for the state while stationed in Quantico.  He reached out to the folks of Manassas to make sure there was not only a market but a desire for them to be there and the fulfillment of their kickstarter campaign proved just that.

 

Heritage now employs 13, mostly of which are veterans.  They have a strict hiring process DSC_0532that is multi-phased and allows them for eventual profit sharing.  The goal for this is wanting to invest in guys who want to stick around for a long time, which is understandable considering they built the brewery with their bare hands, from the steam fittings to the glycol pumps to and all the way down to the pallet bar.

 

This brings me back to the moment when I’m walking around the brewery, taking pictures while waiting for Sean to get another break from the canning line installation.  All I can think looking around is how this isn’t for show.  These guys are the real deal.  The massive Garrison Flag that lines the tank wall is a piece of pride for them.  The Minuteman insignia that makes up their logo isn’t something to be taken lightly.

 

As I’m moving around the brewery, taking photos, Sean approaches me.  I’m taking some DSC_0451artsy photos of the cans that are going to be the first ones to go through the line.  I turn to him and ask him how cool it feels to have all this.  To have his beer about to go into the the cans we’re in front of.  “These cans mean a lot to us.  It’s not something we really talk about, but we had these printed on 9/11.  That was a day that really changed our lives and was a reason we joined up.”

 

*It’s important to point out 1% of all of their profits go to charity.  This past Veterans day, they did a collaboration where 100% of their proceeds went to the Aaron Grider Foundation.  They also had “buy a vet a pint month” where you could purchase a pint for vets.  These guys are the real deal and if you get a chance to come by, please make sure you thank them for more than just their beer.”

 

 

Aaron Grider Foundation HERE

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE 

Like them on Facebook HERE

Check in on Untappd HERE

Find their beer near you HERE

Our Pairing Coming Soon

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

There’s a Brewery in Williamsburg Virginia Where Not Only Consistency is King

October 21st, 2014

I always end up with a “moment” every time I do a show.  Sometimes it’s captured while recording and I’ll make note of it so the listener can look for it.  Others take place when the microphones are off or while we’re touring a facility and I get to write about it.  Then, there are those that happen that will always be between me, the beer and it’s maker.  If I’m lucky a trip to a brewery will provide me with all three.

 

There are 4 moments that stand out to me with this one and I’d like to share 3 of them with you.

 

The story of how Dan Westmoreland got his start with Anhueser Busch is one you don’t hear happening much these days.  While slowly getting into home brewing, Dan found himself with some questions and figured that the best place to get answers aside from the library was from a pro.  So armed with a name and a phone book, he called up the Brewmaster at the Williamsburg Brewery…

 

DSC_0332Flash forward 35 years, I find myself following Dan around the same brewery he phoned that day.  Dan has an infectious enthusiasm that wears off on you.  It’s real and shows through as almost a child like giddiness as we make our way through the facility.  It’s just as we step off the packaging floor and into the QA room that I have my first moment.

 

When dealing with a production scale of this size, consistency is king.  The amount of testing that goes into every product that finds it’s way out the door of the Williamsburg Brewery is mind boggling to me.  From being in constant touch with the water treatment facility in town all the way out to those born on dates you see on the side of the can, everything is monitored to maintain that the experience remains the same every time.

 

It’s while we’re walking through the QA area though that I see some cans sitting in glasses DSC_0401of water with covers over them.  I don’t know why this one thing of everything in the QA area piqued my interest, but it did.  Noticing, Dan smiles and points while saying “That’s to test the cans.  We place them in deionized water overnight and send that water up to the tasting room where it’s checked daily.”

 

While it makes complete and perfect sense, this is mind blowing to me.  It’s the first point in my visit where my perception of the beers coming out of this brewery begins to fold on itself.  Look, I came into this with an open mind, but I’ve never once thought about any of these beers as anything other than a drinking beer.  Maybe it was the remains of my beer elitist shell coming off of me, but the idea that the experience means so much to them that they essentially drink can water for irregularities, blew my mind.

 

Making our way past the QA room and into the innards of the brewery, Dan pushes some DSC_0412doors open and we’re met with a cool rush of air.  On either side of us sits the barrels where the beers are lagered.  The tanks hold 1500 barrels and they are lined up from one end to the next.  It’s an incredible site when you think about all the beer within eye shot.

 

Dan is explaining the aging process to me when we walk up to a what looks like a big colander that’s mated with an old school lottery shuffler.  There, inside, sits strips of Beachwood. “Each one of these strips is cut to a particular depth, width and length in order to provide the greatest DSC_0426amount of surface area.  Now, while yeast doesn’t have hands, it definitely loves to get up and close an personal with these strips.  It’s all about the happy yeast, Brendan!”

 

Dan is smiling and talking about happy yeast still as we head off towards another set of doors.  It’s here that the second moment takes place.

 

I find myself in a room that can only be described as something reminiscent of a missile silo.  The massive round structures that stretch off into the darkness above are numbered.  Stepping through a doorway I look up and there, stretched above me is the bottom of a 5000 barrel fermentor.  It’s then that the scope of production really begins to settle in.  With the average size of yearly production for breweries I’ve done show’s with coming in near the 5000 barrel a year mark, I stand below one of twenty that are  housed in this “room”.

 

Then it happens.  While Dan is pointing out an electronic message board that is attached to tubing that makes it’s way up and into the fermentor he starts to get excited.  I’ve heard this excitement before.  It’s no different from a home brewer who just got a new wort chiller or a nano brewer who has gone all electric or a micro brewer who just got in a 60 barrel bright tank.

 

His excitement isn’t so much about the equipment itself  in so much as it is about the refinement of the process.  It’s another tool that will help him consistently create the beer that he not only wants to make, but drink as well.

 

“Happy Yeast! It’s what it’s all about!” Dan nearly sings as he continues the tour.

 

After some more touring of the innards, I find myself standing in the brewhouse control DSC_0492room.  It instantly reminds me of my trading days with screens lining the wall.  Numbers and colors flash while some of the brewers keep their eyes on the boil.  The outlines of kettles are the only thing that really make any sense to me.

 

It’s funny to think that back in the day they had to do everything on this scale but by site and phone.  There was a point where Dan would call over to another brewer to let him know he was sending beer his way.  The automation of it all has been a defining factor in the consistency of the beer.  Not that it hasn’t always been, but it’s now down to where they can essentially have a finger on every little process from a centrally located area.  While it’s made it easier, it’s also made it much more efficient and in my opinion, I think it shows.

 

As we leave the brewhouse, I can feel Dan’s excitement picking up again.  Going back to that phone call Dan made to the Brewmaster 35 years earlier, he tells me how he was invited to come on down to the brewery for a personal tour.  I’d ask later on what he remembered from that tour, and one of the things that stood out most was where our tour was ending.

 

The Tasting Room.  DSC_0514

 

This speaks volumes to me.  It was the final thing that changed my mind about the beer being brewed by Anheuser Busch.  Dan wasn’t just keeping the yeast happy or tasting can water or getting excited for new equipment that helped him create a more consistent beer which meant keeping the experience the same so he could sell some beer.  He was doing it so he could drink it.

 

At the end of the day, what more can you ask for from the guy tasked with making the beer you drink?

20140923_172245_Richtone(HDR)

 

 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE andHERE

Like them on Facebook HERE

Check in on Untappd HERE

Find their beer near you HERE

Our Pairing Coming Soon

 

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

Brooklyn and Williams Brothers Wee Heavy.

October 9th, 2014

Just throwing this on here because I think it's kind of funny.  This is what I do when tasting a beer-I record it and just let go then I'll take it and write out the parts that work best for me.  Anyway, I thought I'd share this with you guys because I pretty much have an orgasm while drinking this beer.  No, I'm not stoned and I haven't even had a beer to this point.  Not sure how long I'll let this one stay up here but will probably keep it in the review.  

Sorry for all the popping, this recording was never meant for others to hear. 
00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

Right Proper

October 6th, 2014

In the Shaw neighborhood of DC is a statue of Duke Ellington. He’s seated upon a music note playing a piano that, as it curls behind him it stretches off into the sky. A master of his craft, Duke was a creative genius who created original music through multiple layers while somehow mastering the ability to fit all their complexities into 3 minute segments, just short enough for the old 78 rpms they’d be played on.

 

The varying degrees of depth being molded into such small and easy listening time frames is an amazing thing when you think about it considering the medium.

 

Located just a stones throw from the Duke tribute sits a small, 5 barrel brewpub that has something of a Willy Wonka Factory feel to it. With an unassuming front, the building it’s located in sits in the shadows of the historic Howard Theater. Sidewalk patio seating and big windows that look into a rustic dining area, it’s more than possible that you could walk right by without thinking that it’s any more than a bar.

 

DSC_0796Stepping through the front door, you’re greeted with murals that depict fermenters coming to life and Gatling gun wielding chipmunks sitting atop the Capitol building while two lazer eyed pandas battle to the death. Throw in a few barrels right in the middle of the seating are and a tribute to the Shaw neighborhood on the opposite wall and it almost feels as though you’ve fallen into a Dali rendition of a brewers dream.

Making your way to the bar in the back, you’ll pass their cheese counter that you calls to be paired with a growler fill or perhaps for that late night snack you’ll crave after a night at their bar. Speaking of the bar, it’s a continuation of the dreamscape stretching to a seemingly never ending place. Looking through the windows that line the wall behind the barkeeps you can see the brew-house and barrel room-the soul of the brewpub.

DSC_0756

 

Sitting at the bar and going over the menu is when it really hits you though.  The usual cadence for folks when trying a new spot out is to look at the ABV portion of the menu.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a refined beer connoisseur  or Johnny six pack-to a man, or woman, that number with the percent sign next to it is usually the major and often defining influence when it comes to choosing a beer for the first time.  And if that’s what you do when you go over the beers on tap at Right Proper, boy are you in for a surprise.

 

Nate, the brewmaster for Right Proper got his start like most others-homebrewing.  A man who hates to pigeon hole beers by locking them down to a style, Nate gets his jollies by making big flavored beers that are balanced with a small alcohol count like the Lubitsch Touch-a light smoked ale that comes in at a very sessionable 4.7% that is easy drinking yet eye opening with an incredible secondary smoke that wisps it’s way to the front of your palate after the beer has already made it’s way down your throat.

DSC_0801

With a focus on high fermentation characteristics, Nate looks to bring you “delicate beers with really good personalities”.  Right Proper is changing how you look at balance by reestablishing the fulcrum between flavor and alcohol and making it a teeter totter that allows you to experience complex beers at very session friendly levels.

 

It’s almost enough to make you wonder if Duke himself wouldn’t extend that smile a bit further when thinking about the layers of complexity being fit into a glass that allows you to listen to it over an over again because of that take on balance it’s achieved.

 

Visit their Website HERE

Follow them on Twitter HERE

Like them on Facebook HERE

Check in on Untappd HERE

Find their beer near you HERE

Our Pairing Coming Soon

 

00:0000:00
Share | Comments | Embed | Download(Loading)

- Older Posts »