MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Brian “Spike” Buckowski/Terrapin

Photo: Jason Thrasher

Photo: Jason Thrasher

Tomorrow morning our flight departs from Arlanda with the aim of Newark for further air transportation to Denver where Great American Beer Festival kicks off just days later. With that our pre-GABF interview series has now come to and end. We have interviewed brewers from north to south, from east to west and with all possible preferred styles and backgrounds, all with the hope that you who will attend GABF will get even more exited but also to let all of you who aren’t know more about some of the best breweries from the states. Our last intverview is with Brian ‘Spike’ Buckowski from Terrapin Beer Company. Terrapin has been around for a while but somehow I have never really been able to properly work my way through their beers, something I hope will change over the next coming days. To prep for this I let Brian be our outro for this year’s interview series. See you on the flip side.

 

MankerBeer (MB): You met co-founder John Cochran in 1998 but it would take some hard times and lots of work before the first beer was poured in 2002, how has the Terrapin story evolved from there?
Brian Buckowski (BB): Wow! That would take a book to answer, not a sentence. The biggest thing is the size and scale of our operation. The first year, we did around 250bbls. This year we should hit 35,000bbls. Going from a contract brewery to owning our own, was huge in the sense of being able to be more creative with recipes, and hosting people at the brewery.

MB: In 2011 you sold a minority interest to MillerCoors subsidary Tenth and Blake Beer Co. A deal which seems to have been the best for the brewery despite possible critique of “selling out”. Has it been difficult to explain that move?
BB: Not really, Our original investors wanted to pull their money out of the company after 3 years. We had limited options for capital, and a short amount of time to raise it. The Tenth and Blake folks stepped up to bat for us.

MB: Where would the brewery have been if the deal wouldn’t have happened?
BB: Not sure, I don’t really want to speculate about it. We are in such a better place now than we were before. Things happen for a reason, and we lucked out and the brewery is doing great.

MB: I read on John’s blog that you sold more beer in July 2013 than in all of 2002-2004, how much will you be able to brew now without exanding again?
BB: We can produce around 35-38 thousand barrels at our facility without expansion. We are working on getting some tanks in next year.

MB: Being around for such a relatively long time, what is your take on the US craft brewery scene and the growing numbers on breweries? Is there room for all of them or is there a risk of flooding the market?
BB: I think it’s great that all these new breweries are popping up. It’s great for the craft beer market, but there will come a day when the market will get saturated. The solid breweries that make great beer will survive, while the ones that don’t or are under capitalized will fade away.

MB: What combination of food, Terrapin beer and music would you suggest the beer drinker who wants the perfect pairing?
BB: I would have to say a Rye Pale Ale, Pepe’s Pizza from New Haven, CT and a Grateful Dead show. Without Jerry, only two of those are obtainable today.

MB: Home brewers apsiring to one day start their own brewery often asks ut to ask brewers for good advice, so – what are the most important steps for someone who wants to start their own commercial brewery?
BB: Get ready for a pay cut, long hours and a lot of learning about business and brewing. If you are serious about it, volunteer at a brewery first to see if you can handle it.

MB: What are the future plans for the brewery, what can we expect to see?
BB: I think with the succes with Recreation Ale in cans, you will probably see another canned product in the future. We will always strive to make some unusual and more creative beers in the market place. And of course more collaborations here and overseas.

MB: What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
BB: I’m looking forward to all the new breweries that will be there this year. As you know, it sold out in record time. Also for me, I get to see old friends and collegues in the business.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
BB: Don’t miss your favorite beers of course, but try ones that you have never had before from breweries that you’ve never heard of. Also, check out some breweries in the area.

MB: What cool Terrapin brews will be poured at the festival?
BB: We will be pouring Tree Hugger, Dr. Krunkles, Recreation Ale and Pumpkinfest. 

Thank you Spike! We look forward to try some more Terrapin beers and I speak for most Swedes when I say that we wish to see more of the beers here in Sweden.

Magnus "Manker" Björnstjerna

Grundare och skribent på MankerBeer.com. Från ett fokus på allt vad USA har att erbjuda och med en kärlek till gedigen amerikansk mat, bra bourbon och framförallt all landets fantastiska öl har Manker nu börjat förstå storheten i belgisk öl.

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