Tag Archive | "great american beer festival"


MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Gordon Schuck/Funkwerks

gordonWhen MankerBeer went to Denver in 2011 we took some time off up in Fort Collins to meet with Bryan Simpson from New Belgium Brewing Company. Bryan led us round Fort Collins to visit some breweries we knew of and some that were totally new – like Funkwerks. Back in 2011 Funkwerks had recently opened an at the time they were housing another brewery that were to make a name of itself – Crooked Stave. Already during their first few years they have won several medals for their beers and been part of what I like to call the new US Belgian brewery tradition, breweries in the states that focus only on Belgian beer styles – and who does it good. When I got hooked on the craft beer thing about five years old most US Belgian inspired beers tasted like weak copies with little or no similarity of Belgian beers. Much have happened and more and more breweries start up, and eventually pass the Belgian breweries that used to be the forefront runners when it comes to certain beer styles. As we are now going back to Denver for 2013 Great American Beer Festival we plan to take the same trip north to Fort Collins and hopefully sit down in Funkwerks neat little brew pub to enjoy some beers and their tasty cheese platter. Thus it is only natural for us to ask Gordon Schuck, the one half of the team that started the brewery to see what has happened since we last visited.


MankerBeer (MB): The Funkwerks public opening party was held on February 1 (which happens to be my birthday) 2011 – But the Funkwerks story started earlier than that, how did your brewing career start and how come it led to the birth of Funkwerks?
Gordon Schuck (GS): I started homebrewing in 2003 and immediately fell in love with Belgian beer in general and Saison in particular. I also began competing in homebrew competitions to get feedback on my beer and immediately started winning medals. Ultimately, in 2007 I won the gold medal at the National Homebrew Competition with a Saison. This was the turning point when I decided to pursue professional brewing and open a brewery. I met my future business partner, Brad Lincoln, at Siebel Institute where we were both studying Brewing Technology. When we decided to open a brewery together it was only natural to focus on Saison.

MB: We visited the brewery in the fall of 2011 and had a great time sampling beers and cheese, what has happened since then?
GS: In 2011 at the Great American Beer Festival we won a silver medal for our Saison. This was a big honor because it is the largest beer competition in the United States and attracts the top breweries in the country. Last year the pressure was on to prove that 2011 wasn’t a fluke. Well, we won the Gold Medal for our Saison and a Gold Medal for Deceit, our Belgian Golden Strong, and title of 2012 GABF Small Brewery of the Year. Needless to say, we were ecstatic. Since then things have exploded. We have expanded distribution in three states and are currently planning an expansion that will double our production in early 2014.

MB: This will be your fourth year at Great American Beer Festival, has the possibility to attend the festival helped you and other “younger” breweries to introduce yourself to a wider audience?
GS: GABF is great for small up and coming breweries because it really is a level playing field for all breweries. The focus for the attendees is about quality of beer and not quantity of production.

More American breweries seems to be focusing on all-Belgian beer styles, what is key to brew high class Belgian beers?
GS: Belgian beers are unique. In no other brewing country are the styles seen as guidelines rather than rules and as such there is quite a bit of overlap. As a brewer, I love the ability to be creative and brew my beer rather than adhere to strict rules. Also, Belgian beers are at once complex and flavorful, yet balanced. This is what separates the great Belgian beers. Have a vision of what you want the beer to be, use a wide pallet of ingredients, layer flavors that complement each other, strike a harmonious balance, and ensure a dry finish.

MB: The number of US craft beer breweries has now reached it’s highest number ever, what is the most important lessons for all up-and-comers to be able to establish themself on the American craft beer scene?
GS: My advice to new breweries is to get as much experience and knowledge as you can, have a solid business plan, concentrate on a niche, and always strive for higher quality. Having deep pockets doesn’t hurt either.

MB: I remember that when biking around in Fort Collins there seemed to be an endless interest in craft beer, why do you think so many great breweries have found their home in Fort Collins?
GS: I think it’s a matter of culture. Odell Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company are the pioneers of the brewing industry and have created a culture of appreciation for craft beer in Fort Collins. The fruits of their labor has created a new generation of breweries. I don’t think we could have been as successful carving out a niche like ours anywhere else. That and the water. We have great water.

MB: What or who has been the most important inspiration for you and Funkwerks?
GS: There have been many but if I have to pick one it would be Pierre Celis and Celis White beer. That beer changed the way I thought about beer and ultimately led to where I am today.

MB: Earlier this year you brewed a collaboration with Bill Beymer of Odell Brewing Company and Peter Bouchaert of New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins Collaboration 2013), do you have any dream collaborator/-s that you would love to brew with?
GS: Of American Breweries, I’d love to collaborate with Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River Brewing Company), Tomme Arthur (Lost Abbey), or Steven Pauwels (Boulevard Brewing Company). Also, any of the Saison brewers in Belgium. That would be a dream come true for me.

MB: What will happen in Fort Collins during GABF, any bar/brewery events that you would recommend?
GS: GABF week is very busy in Fort Collins. Every brewery in town has brewery tours and the beer bars have special events so you can’t go wrong anywhere. If you can only do one, Mayor of Old Town does a tap takeover of all Northern Colorado breweries so it’s a great place to try a wide variety of what our region has to offer.

MB: For all GABF-debutants, what should one think about and/or not miss at GABF?
GS: Do some research and have a game plan for GABF. There are a lot of beers there you may not have a chance to try again so do your homework. Pace yourself and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

MB: Could we get an idea of what cool brews will be poured at GABF?
GS: We will have our medal winning Saison, Tropic King Imperial Saison, Deceit Golden Strong, our White beer, and a Quadruple we’ve been working on.

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MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF/SBWF: Jack White/Ballast Point

jackwhiteballastThe time has come for our first clash of the pre-series, where the interviewee will attend both our primary focus, Great American Beer Festival but this time also Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. Sweden and the Northern European market is gaining in importance for stateside breweries who slowly seem to understand the perks of exporting (the importer takes care of most of the business, no distributors, three-tier-systems or sales reps being sent out across the country. Just so happened to be the brewery and the co-founder which I will present today is from one of my favorite US craft breweries – Ballast Point Brewing Company. Jack White and co-founder Yuseff Cherney and their team are the reason why we have world class beers such as Sculpin IPA, Dorado DIPA and my latest love the imperial porter Victory at Sea. I remember my first Sculpin and the story that went with it, because back then (this might be 3-4 years ago) it was rare to find hoppy American beers in Sweden and when the beer had been transferred to my inner sanctum I knew that I wanted more. Over the years things have changed and a beer that once seemed impossible to find suddenly appeared at Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn, on draft for only a few bucks per plastic mug. Instant happiness. Two years later we will find Sculpin at Systembolaget (having monopoly and ruler of alcohol in Sweden) which is final proof that things are happening, not only in Sweden and the Nordic countries, but on the international beer scene.

This introduction focused more on my relationship with Ballast Point and Sculpin rather than Jack or Yuseff, so why not change that by checking in with Jack to see what is happening over in San Diego?


MankerBeer (MB): Along with Yuseff you started Ballast Point in 1996 and since then several Ballast Point beers have won different awards and the beers have found their way to remote places like South Korea and Sweden. What made you want to open your own brewery in the first place?
Jack White (JW): After college, I got into home brewing, and I quickly realized there wasn’t a good place in San Diego to easily get home brew ingredients or share conversions with fellow home brewers. I opened Home Brew Mart in 1992 to offer not only supplies, but a community for fellow home brewers to come and trade ideas. That’s where I met Yuseff, and together we took our home brewing passion to the next level to open Ballast Point.

MB: Ballast Point has been around for over 17 years, what is your take on what has happened with the American craft beer scene since then?
JW: When we started, there were a few other San Diego breweries just starting out, and for a long time, it was just a handful of us. Now there are over 70 craft breweries in San Diego, many of whom started as home brewers like us. I’m glad to see more attention being paid to craft beer; customers seem to want more quality and variety out of their beers, not just what’s coldest or lightest. It’s been great to watch the craft beer community grow around us locally and globally as well.

MB: During the fall of 2013 Victory at Sea, Sculpin and Sea Monster will be sold at the Swedish Systembolaget (monopoly outlet for alcoholic beverages) – How many countries do you export to and how important is exporting beers for the brewery?
JW: We export to 9 countries, from Asia to South America to Europe, and it’s been fun to see the international response to our beer. The craft beer community is still small, even on a global level. We are primarily recognized for a “West Coast-style” of brewing, but we are largely influenced by more traditional brewing techniques from around the world. We’ve had opportunities to collaborate with breweries in the UK and Japan, and those experiences just add to the creativity and innovation we bring to brewing in San Diego.

MB: Earlier this year Ballast Point launched the Homework Series, what can you tell us about it and how limited will be it be?
JW: Homework Series is a way to honor our home brewing roots, and it is the first beer we have bottled under our original Home Brew Mart name. For each “Batch” in the series, we ask one of our brewers to pick a brew from his (or her) home brew recipe book, and we feature that recipe right on the bottle for other home brewers to try themselves. As far as we know, it’s the first instance of a beer’s recipe being printed right on the bottle. We got a great response with Batch #1, a hoppy red ale our Director of R&D/Specialty Brewer Colby Chandler originally brewed for his wedding, and we will release Batch #2, a Belgian-style Double IPA, in limited quantities in October.

MB: What was the idea behind opening a microdestillery? Have you put some BP beers on old casks? Barrel-Aged Three Sheets Rum barrel-aged Sculpin!
JW: The distillery was always a dream of Yuseff’s that we are able to make into a reality. Yuseff built our first still himself out of a fermenter tank turned upside down. Once our spirits starting winning awards, we knew it was time to upgrade–we now have a custom copper Vendome still, and we produce seven spirits: Fugu Vodka, Three Sheets rum (white and barrel-aged), Old Grove Gin, and our Devil’s Share whiskey family: single-malt whiskey, bourbon, and moonshine. Having a brewery and distillery is fun because we get to do some exciting combinations, like barrel aging some of our beers in our own used barrels. “Nine Sheets” is our Three Sheets barley wine aged in our Three Sheets rum barrels – not for the faint of heart!

MB: In 2010 Ballast Point brewed 20.000 barrels with the goal this year to be almost four times that. How do you feel when looking at where you started and the brewery today?
JW: I sometimes joke that it took us 17 years to be an overnight success. We are growing very quickly–and most of that growth has happened over the last few years. It’s humbling to look back at where we started in the back of Home Brew Mart and how far we’ve come, and I’m excited for what we have on the horizon.

MB: With more and more US craft breweries expanding and quadrupling their production over the last few years, are we still to talk about “micro” and “craft”?
JW: “Micro” is an interesting word – it’s all relative. Ballast Point is growing, the craft industry is growing, but it’s all still a fraction of the overall beer market. What is encouraging to me is that people are still opening up “micro” and “nano” breweries; the growth in the industry just allows more room for the small craft producers.

MB: The new canning line seems to be up and running, why the decision to run both a canning and a bottling line?
JW: For us, the decision to produce cans came down to the ability to ave great beer while doing the things we love to do: we love fishing, hiking, sailing, being outdoors or at sporting events. In most cases, these are areas where bottles are prohibited, and we didn’t want our customers to have their options limited simply because they can’t have bottles in certain places. We have done a lot of quality testing and there is no difference between our beer in cans or our beer in bottles; in some tests, the beer in cans actually performs better.

MB: What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
JW: Festivals like these are important because they draw consumers from all over, and also allows us to see what our peers are doing in other parts of the country. I know brewery registration for GABF sold out in a matter of hours, so I’m looking forward to trying some of the new breweries on the scene; it’ll be exciting to see some old friends and many new faces.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
JW: With the size the festival has become, it’s hard to say what the can’t misses are. Obviously, the Ballast Point booth is a can’t miss!

MB: What cool Ballast Point brews will be poured at the festival?
JW: Sculpin IPA
Grunion Pale Ale
Even Keel Session Ale
Navigator Doppelbock
Longfin Lager


We say thank you to Jack and hope that people try out Ballast Point both at SBWF and GABF this year. We will spend some time with Sculpin later in October and our hope is to give you a great insight into the brewery and the people working there. So long and thank you for all the fish! All you who will be in Sweden for SBWF should mark September 27 in your calender/wall papers as there will be a Ballast Point Tap Take Over and Monks American Bar Sveavägen in Stockholm that day (Facebook event here). Nine (!) different beers on draft, among them beers such as Calico Amber, Black Marlin Porter, Fathom India Pale Lager and Smoked Helles Lager. Miss out and blame yourself. During that weekend Jack will also be at SBWF, so if you see him say hi.

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MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Shawn DeWitt/Coronado Brewing Co.


Photo: Olradet.se

My relation to California based brewery Coronado Brewing Company have not been a long one. The first time I tried a beer from the brewery, previously only a brewpub on the Coronado island outside San Diego was as close back as to May this year. Since then a lot has happened; they held a short seminar at Danish brewer Mikkeller’s Copenhagen Beer Celebration and their beers are now found at most proper beer bars in Sweden. Despite them being new to me they have been in productions since 1996 when brothers Rick and Ron Chapman decided that it was time to dream less and do more, thus they opened up their brewpub in their hometown of Coronado. Now, 17 years later they recently released their collaboration with Cigar City, the California Common The Last Spike and with the new brewery brewing capacity increased by twelve times the old capacity, making it possible for them to reach outside their home market and even to go international.

If that was not enough their co-owner, co-founder and man-of-many-trades Shawn DeWitt happened to be in Sweden earlier this summer where he held a “meet the brewer” event. Unfortunately the event was held a little too far away for us to attend but as we will travel California and visit the brewery after GABF we already now took the liberty of talking to Shawn about the brewery, the US beer scene and GABF.

MankerBeer (MB):
Coronado Brewing Company has been around for a while, but only recently hit the Swedish market. Could you tell us about yourself and the brewery?
Shawn DeWitt (SDW):  Coronado Brewing Company started doing business on August 30th of 1996 as a brewpub. We only had a 10 barell system with 3 10 barell fermenters and a four head tap tower. I am one of the founding partners and was our first brewer. I also managed the restaurant, ran our first bottling line, did sales, was our director of brewery operations, president of the San Diego Brewers Guild, and currently our regional sales manager.

We are coming up on 17 years of existence, have expanded the brewpub to now have 12 20 barell fermenters along with the 3 10 barell fermenters. We have opened up a production/tasting room facility in San Diego that has a 30 barell system, 6 60 barell fermenters, 2 90 barell fermenters, 5 120 barell fermenters, with another 4 120 barell fermenters coming. We will double our barells sold this year from last.

MB: For a while you were the president of the San Diego Brewers Guild, apart from promoting local craft beer are there any practical benefits the guild assist with which might help newly started breweries?
SDW: The guild provides direction for new breweries who want it. The guild fields many emails from guild members and new potential members in regards to info needed to start a brewery or help with the permit process.

MB: In my opinion San Diego is one of the most craft beery cities in the world, are there any simple answers to why so many of the top US craft breweries has located themselves in and around the city?
SDW: Currently we have 72 breweries in San Diego with another 35 in planning and I believe that is the case because of the early successes of the first breweries that began in San Diego in the mid 90’s. We have many talented brewers in town and many stay because of the weather and the brewery environment we have here in San Diego. We all work together to help promote craft beer as a whole.

MB: I really have to know, what is the story behind the beer and the name Idiot IPA?
SDW: The story behind the idiot ipa is that it is our double ipa and we first brewed that beer about 8 years go to keep up with our fellow brewers here in San Diego. The name came from the first time we all sat down together and had one pint. After one pint, our general manager of the pub at that time, stood up to go to the restroom and said he felt like an idiot after just one pint. Thus the name took off and was called idiot ipa. It comes in at 8.5%.

MB: Between 2010 and with the new brewing facility opening last year you have increased the product from 5.000 to 60.000 barrels, thats a lot of beers. How does a brewery adapt to such an increase in production capability?
SDW: The adaption process is a challenging one on many levels. For starters, you have the increase of need for money to buy more tanks and equipment to support the expansion of your barells. You also have to hire more people and train them up to fit into your brewery. What I think is the most challenging aspect of growing is your ability to secure all of the hops, malts, and kegs you need to expand. Hops and malts are a commodity and each year you really don’t know how good of a yield you will get. Obviously you need hops and malt to make beer and when they become tight, that is when I get quite nervous. As for the kegs, you have so many new breweries opening up and it is simple supply and demand. Right now pub kegs or one way kegs that we send to Sweden are in very tight supply and we actually could not send Sweden any draft beer on this last order due to a lack of kegs.

MB: The demand for craft beer, all over the US but also internationally appears to grow every day. Still many breweries would have to triple or even quadruble their brewing capacity before being able to deliver beers to all national markets that request their brews. How will the craft beer brewery scene look like in the future? Will we have more larger craft breweries or will they have to be protectional and focus more on the core markets?
SDW: Currently we have approximately 2600 breweries in the US and most of them are of the nano size or quite small. For those breweries, you most likely would not see their beer in any markets other that their own. The bigger breweries understand that the foreign markets for craft beer are growing and are planning for that with extra capacity. However, I do know that the rule of thumb for shipping beer is to not short your local markets. Thus the beer will stay here in the US if it is limited.

MB: When going to San Diego, what new breweries and beer bars should one make sure not to miss?
SDW: In my opinion, one of the best new breweries in San Diego is Society Brewing Company. They make great beers and have a cool tasting room. I would also say the new Ballast Point restaurant in Little Italy would be one you have to hit while you are here. If you go to the San Diego Brewers guild website, there is a guide of all breweries in San Diego.

MB: We love food, and we love beer. What food and beer pairings would you suggest for the Coronado Brewing beers?
SDW: Our favorite food pairings we have done in the past couple of years has been with Cheese. We like pairing our idiot ipa with a red snap dragon cheese and we liked our Hoppy Daze (Belgian ipa) paired with a cheese by the name of purple haze. I believe any of our ipas will pair very well with most cheeses. Of course our coffee stout pairs well with most desserts. Our mermaid red goes well with our pastas.

What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
SDW: What I look forward to most in the GABF is seeing many old friends and trying beers I have never had before. It is very important to the US beer scene as it supports our BA (brewers association) who is our watchdog and leader on many beer topics here in the US.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
SDW: If it is your first time to GABF, then I highly recommend taking time to go east in Colorado and do brewery tours. It is amazing to see how many cool breweries there are, New Belgium, Odell, Oskar Blues, Lefthand, Avery, Great Divide, Boulder Brew, and so many more. You can hit most of these breweries in one day.

MB: What cool Coronado brews will be poured at the festival?
SDW: We will ofcourse be serving all of our core beers and the fun beers we will have our Berry the Hatchet (berry beer), Rye Dogg Ipa ( rye ipa), Rauch Sham bo (smoked lager), Old Blighty (ESB), Borracho Brown (American brown), and our Saison. So lots to choose from.

Some great beers there that will be poured in Denver during GABF. We high five Shawn for taking the time to deal with us and we look forward to visit the brewery and brewpub in San Diego. If any of you readers out there have any recommendations in or around San Diego, except for the obvious world class breweries, please tell us. We love a good dinner and hidden gems.

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Photo: DrinkEatTravel.com

MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Patrick Rue/The Bruery

Photo: DrinkEatTravel.com

Photo: DrinkEatTravel.com

I remember my first three beers from California based brewery The Bruery. This was at the beginning of my evolution as a beer writer and beer lover and I remember how they opened a whole new world of beers for me. They were uncommon in the way that they used “unusual” spices and had flavors my rookie palate hadn’t experienced before. As time passed and I had my first taste of the 19.2% ABV imperial stout Black Tuesday, by then the most expensive beer I had ever tried I got to learn that as a Swede The Bruery’s beers were not to be found easily, neither to be taken lightly. This was back in 2009/2010, only 1-2 years after Patrick Rue opened the brewery in Placentia, California. Since then a lot has happened, both for myself and my journey into the land of craft beer but also for The Bruery. In 5 years time they have managed to open up and close a specialty store in Orange County which provided customers with beer, cheese, wine etc, they have earned several awards for their beers and have now grown and reached the peak of where it might be time with further expansion.

Over the last year I have been lucky enough to get to try a representative variety of The Bruery beers as several have been available in Copenhagen while some have been aquired through beer trades or as gifts. The often high ABV beers follow the US craft beer “trend” where the breweries go their own way and thanks to a loyal fan base they dare to experiment with flavors, styles and additions of unsual ingredients. For our MankerBeer Meets-series leading up to Great American Beer Festival we have tried to focus on the most prominent breweries among these and we are now happy to present you with Patrick Rue of The Bruery.


MankerBeer (MB): After attending law school you chose a different path and went all in for another passion, brewing beer. When did you begin brewing at home and when did you realize that brewing was the passion to follow in life?
Patrick Rue (PR): I began homebrewing at the beginning of my first year in law school in 2003. Rachel, my wife, told me I needed a hobby because all I was doing was studying and going to classes, and I had become a boring person. Once I started homebrewing, I immediately became hooked– it dominated most of my time (and I became boring in a different way)! When it came time to choosing what I’d be doing for a career, I didn’t have a mortgage, or kids, or anything to lose, so Rachel and I took a chance and started a brewery. Luckily my family supported the idea and provided the funding.

MB: Was it set from the start that you would focus on Belgian(-‘ish) beers? What had inspired you?
PR: Belgian-style beers have always been among my favorite styles to brew and drink. The wide range of styles, characteristic strong yeast character (high attenuation, fruit driven esters), ability use of spices, fruit, oak barrels, souring bacteria– these are the beers I love to make and they are a lot of fun to drink. Spending some time in Belgium with my wife before starting up The Bruery helped solidify my excitement of Belgian beer and its culture.

MB: In retrospect, have The Bruery become the brewery of your dreams? Would you have done anything differently or are there things you wish to adjust or add in the future?
PR: The Bruery has grown beyond my wildest dreams, about double the size of my initial very optimistic business plan at this point.  At this point, we’ve grown about as large as we can in our brewery, but we don’t have any immediate plans to start a new brewery. With the crazy growth of other craft breweries and the amount of new brewery entrants, I think this is a perfect time to take a breather before taking on any major expansions.

MB: Beer conservatives and non-understanders tend to criticize breweries that brew strong or oddly spiced beers. Compared to drinking heavy, high ABV wine they have a hard time drinking beers above 7-8% ABV. Several of your beers are on the higher %-scale, are people sometimes too narrow in their perception of what a beer can be?
PR: I accept that not everyone is going to enjoy our beers, we’re a niche brewery and by design we know we aren’t going to be everyone’s favorite brewery. We create pretty unique beers that certainly aren’t for everyone. I do think our beers are pretty balanced, even our very high ABV beers. I feel that we’re successful as long as we have a small but loyal following of customers.

MB: The demand for, and interest in US craft beer has seen a crazy increase over the last few years resulting in a demand which seems difficult for many breweries to satisfy. For The Bruery a beer such as Black Tuesday could sell out before even being brewed. How do you handle the demand, trying to satisfy as many as possible but not letting go of the year round or “regular” special beers?
PR: We’ve attempted to deal with our demand with our more time / labor / cost intensive beers by creating several clubs (Preservation Society / Reserve Society / Hoarders Society) where our biggest supporters can have guaranteed access to these beers. We realized a few years ago there is no point in meeting demand with beers like this would consume too much of our efforts. We like brewing new things, not just the same old beers, and our capacity is only what it is.

MB: Is it possible for the US craft beer scene to keep growing? Will it be possible for breweries such as yours to satisfy more than only a few core markets? Do you want to go inter/-national?
PR: It is certainly possible for the US craft beer scene to keep growing– craft beer’s market share by volume in the U.S. is well below 10% (much lower in other parts of the world), and most breweries are in a growth spurt right now. It’s not my priority to satisfy demand– at this point we aren’t looking for permanent tap placements, we like our beers to be at the right places (specialty markets, great restaurants and craft beer bars), and we’re already fairly wide spread, distributing to 22 states and a few countries. Niche breweries tend to need a shallow, wide distribution model, or severely limit production and sell most production on-site and locally. I think we have room for growth, but I don’t see us trying to become a large player in the overall craft beer industry, though certainly we want to be a big player our niche of craft beer. I like being the niche brewery, being able to create what we’d like and be able to find a home for it.

MB: I am constantly amazed with how great friends most brewers seems to be, it’s like one huge family sharing a common dream. What brewers do you admire and/or have inspired you the most?
PR: That’s a tough question, I admire a lot of folks in this industry. Getting started, local brewers Rick Smets (formerly of Left Coast, starting up Stereo Brewing) and Dave Moody (formerly of Back Street, now at Alcatraz Brewing) let me hang out with them and helped me understand how professional brewing is different from homebrewing. Matt Brynildson is someone I admired as a homebrewer and still greatly admire, and had the opportunity to taste through most of the barrels of the Firestone 10th anniversary blend with him (I won it as a Best of Show prize– cool, huh?). This was a great opportunity to understand how their barrel program works, and the amazing things that can happen when the right beers are blended together. Guys like Tomme Arthur and Vinnie Cilurzo were quite helpful in advice on barrel aging and packaging. Steve Wagner and Greg Koch at Stone were amazingly helpful with bouncing off ideas for my business plan, and became our first distributor when other smaller distributors weren’t willing to take a chance on a crazy homebrewer.

MB: Beer blogs, ratebeerians and “beer experts” are growing in numbers, do people tend to be too serious and nerdy about beer nowadays or is it fun too see people sharing the interest in great craftmanship?
PR: I think it’s great that there is such a large following for craft beer, and that people are willing to share their beer experiences with others.  These are educated beer drinkers and some of our biggest supporters. The increase in communication that the web has provided is certainly one of the big factors in craft beers growth, and we follow BeerAdvocate, RateBeer, beer blogs, etc. very closely and try to be a part of these communities as well.

MB: So, GABF. What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
PR: I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, and making new ones. GABF is a very large festival, so it’s difficult to stand out or be remembered when the week is over.  Winning medals certainly help with this. The GABF experience for the attendee shows how diverse and alive craft beer is right now, and the love brewers put into their beers. Just reading articles and seeing pictures from the event shows the world how important craft beer has become.

MB: For all GABF-debutants, what should one think about and/or not miss at GABF?
PR: I love trying beers from breweries that I don’t get to try on a regular basis. I try to spend a good amount of time visiting breweries that have just started in the last year and try their lineup, followed by some favorite breweries of mine that don’t have distribution in Southern California (Cigar City, Perennial (who I was introduced to last year), Founders, Bells, the list goes on…). Sam Adams Utopias is always a priority as well, great stuff!

MB: What cool The Bruery brews will be poured at the festival?
PR: We’ll be pouring some pretty fun beers– Chocolate Rain, Oude Tart with Cherries, and Sour in the Rye with Peaches, along with a few others.

We are greatful for stealing some time from Patrick who have been busy travelling Belgium (read all about it on The Bruery blog) and we hope to be able to offer all you MankerBeer readers out there a follow up article on the brewery as we will try to make it there during our post-GABF trip to California. Until then, cheers and keep on rockin’.

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MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Jamil Zainasheff/Heretic Brewing Co.

If you’re 555, i’m 666
[what’s it like to be a heretic?]

I’m not saying that former homebrewer celebrity Jamil Zainasheff is a fan of Slipknot or even know The Heretic Anthem but he sure as hell has the same carefully careless attitute to things. Jamil, with a background as host of The Brewing Network internet radio show “The Jamil Show” and co-writer and writer of books about beer decided that after homebrewing since 1999 ut was now time to open his own place. heretic_brewery-1024x692Said and done, Heretic Brewing Company opened 2011 in San Fransisco and the well respected site Serious Eats listed the brewery as one of the three up-and-coming Cali’ breweries that you should keep your eyes on. In the same article they give a quote from Jamil which perfectly explains his credo “So what’s their secret? “Do it right or don’t do it,” said Zainasheff, “Dump it if it is wrong.” If that’s heresy, tie me to a stake.” To be honest I had never heard of Heretic Brewing Co. before I read the article in Serious Eats, but while reading up on more about Jamil and the brewery I felt that the aura of caring more about beer appreciating those with a shared passion than to please everybody spoke to me. On their webpage you can follow Jamil and his thought on geekyness, how passionate beer drinkers are shaping the craft beer scene by demanding more of their local breweries (Swedes, time to take action?) and how it really is to work at a brewery – great reads which I recommend you to read through.

Well, that was Jamil in my words, time to let Jamil give you his own.


MankerBeer (MB): The first time I heard about you and Heretic Brewing was in an article highlighting the three most interesting new breweries in California. Jamil, who are you and what did you do before deciding to start up your brewery?
Jamil Zainasheff (JZ): I’m just another person that has made craft beer my life. It all started when my wife gave me a Mr Beer kit for Christmas of 1999. From that start I turned brewing into a full time passion. Now it is a full time career. Before this I was managing software development for some well know software companies.

MB: You must feel liberated to be able to do whatever you feel like, pushing the perception of what a beer can taste and be. How will this translate into the beers that will be brewed and for the future of the brewery?
JZ: It is nice to be the one that writes the checks. Even if everyone thinks you’re about to do something stupid, you are still free to do it. I’m not sure what will happen going forward. When it comes to technology, the theory goes that amazing new inventions in the future are always unpredictable. If it is something we could predict, then it wouldn’t be so amazing. I think the same holds true for beer. We see what might happen in the next six months or maybe a year, but five years from now is a true mystery. For now I am content to play around with barrel aged sours while the rest of the crew keeps our mainstream products bubbling along.

MB: Are there any lessons learned that you would like to share with all the young home brewers who dream of one day opening up their own brewery? What obstacles have you yourself experienced so far?
JZ: People ask all the time if they should go to school before opening a brewery. Yes, business school. It wouldn’t hurt to get some sales and marketing experience as well. Getting enough money can be tough. Brewing beer, that is the easy part.

MB: Looking at the list of beers on your homepage I find all kinds of beer styles, rather than going for a west coast, Belgian or any other style of beers. Are there any beer styles or breweries that you prefer or admire and which have inspired Heretic?
JZ: Russian River is probably my north star, the one that inspires me the most. But there are so many great breweries and great beers out there that I get inspired every time I stop by some place new. I think in the end, I just want to make great beer. Sometimes people try to be too interesting and unusual, at the cost of having a nice drinkable pint. I don’t really care about brewing specific styles, but rather different beers that are creative and highly drinkable.

MB: The Craft Beer segment gains new market shares every month, but it is still a long way up to the fizzy yellow water drinking segment – what is required for craft beer to take that next big step and establish itself as the normal instead of something “premium and fancy”.
JZ: I think many of the new breweries are starting out with quality beer. And when new consumers come across them they have a great experience. That is going to keep building momentum for the industry, as new people come to craft beer and find it exceptional. Exceptional will become the standard, the expected.

MB: Who is the contemporary average craft beer drinker? Do beer drinkers appreciate great craftsmanship or are trends and nerdiness affecting what people drink and think?
JZ: It is the Millennial generation that is driving the rapid expansion of craft beer. Some certainly will jump on and off seeing it as trendy, but I believe that generation of people is honestly about quality of life and experience. Making the most of the time we have. Drinking craft beer is just such a rich experience. It is a rich experience not just of flavor, but a rich social experience. It is a great way to enjoy life and those around you. Seems like a great way to live life, not just a trendy one.

MB: In a February article in Beer Pulse you said that the distribution plan was to start filling up Cali, then possibly to open Washington and Oregon, maybe later on Colorado. Now half a year later, how well does it fit reality, have the local thirst for Heretic brews been higher than expected?
JZ: That plan is still on track, although expanding to other states is taking a little longer than anticipated as we keep expanding production to handle our local markets first.

MB: What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
JZ: There is really only one thing I look forward to at any beer festival and that is people. Meeting up with old friends and making new friends that are as passionate about craft beer as I am. For me, that is the greatest part and the one that I keep returning for each year. I think as an event, GABF has taken on a status that has become legend in the beer world.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
JZ: Try to mix with other people. If you find yourself standing around on your own, or even with a group of friends, make a point of talking to a stranger. I can guarantee you, they are a beer lover too. Smile, say hello and comment on some beer you liked or didn’t like. If you do that a few times, you’ll find yourself with a group of new friends pretty quickly. Some people come back to GABF every year to meet up with dear friends that they made there at GABF.

MB: For my second to last question I’ll bring back an old favorite – what would you rather do, happily down a sixer of Coors or listen to Justin Bieber for a full hour?
JZ: I think Coors and others, like Budweiser for example, are well made beers. Nothing wrong with them, but they are more of an alcohol delivery system than they are a full flavored experience of life. Regardless, I probably wouldn’t drink a sixer of anything in one sitting, unless it is a good session beer. So give me the Biebs. I am really good about being able to ignore what is going on around me when I need to.

MB: What cool Heretic brews will be poured at the festival?
JZ: We will have our core brands. Evil Twin, Evil Cousin, Gramarye, and Shallow Grave. We will be introducing some new beer as well, such as an Imperial Stout. Possibly some new barrel aged beers. And maybe, just maybe, we will have one keg of Miscreant, our barrel aged sour. Two years in the making, 16 months of that in Cabernet barrels, it is a thing of beauty right now. We’ve been releasing it a little here and there over the last 6 months. I tasted it yesterday, and now I consider it a perfect, flawless beer. I am extremely proud of that effort. Too bad it will take another 2 years to make more.

Thank you Jamil. I hope all you readers appreciated this as much as we did, and we hope to give you a special from the brewery later this year!

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Damian and Jesse

MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Jesse Friedman/Almanac Beer Co.

Damian and Jesse

Damian and Jesse

In this, the second interview from our pre-Great American Beer Festival we move from Ryan Sentz, Funky Buddha and the east coast to the west coast and San Fransisco.

The conflicting opinions and the discussion of what is a brewery and who really is a brewer circulated frequently in Sweden and the Nordic countries some years ago when the term gypsy/ghost/phantom brewer popped up. While several of the Nordic and European brewers who lacked their own brewery went to the states to brew beer it has been more infrequent to see US craft gypsy breweries. Fittingly for us and for our pre-GABF interview series we contacted Jesse Friedman who partnered up with Damian Fagan to found Almanac Beer Company. The attentive eye probably spot that they use the word Beer and not Brewery. Since 2010 the San Fransisco based team collaborate with local farmers to find the best ingredients and then brew most of their beers at Hermitage Brewing Company a few miles south in San Jose. Thus they are gypsy breweries, and happy to be. Their artisan ales with a local touch and seasonal flavors have received great feedback from the beer community and they quickly made themself a name on the beer scene. For us at MankerBeer they were among the first we were eager to talk beer, GABF and US craft beer with, so I am very happy to present Jesse Friedman.

MankerBeer (MB): Almanac Beer Company premiered in 2010, before that both you and Damian were home brewers. What led the two of you to decide it was time to start this project, and what is Almanac Beer Co.?
Jesse Friedman (JF): We met through a local homebrew club. We were both brewing beers using local farmer’s market produce in homebrew experiments. Looking at the local beer scene, it seemed like there was a unmet demand for beers brewed with the same inspiration as the local food culture: using the local farms as inspiration to create beers infused with a sense of Northern California. And Almanac was born!

MB: From where came the inspiration to go all in with the artisanal farmhouse style? Any specific brewery or brewer?
JF: We’ve both beer nerds at heart, so we take inspiration from all sorts of beers. The classic sours and lambics of Belgium are both a huge passion for us. But we also love the local hop drenched beers from Sierra Nevada and Russian River.

MB: It is not as common with gypsy brewers in the US as it seems to be here in Europe, what considerations have been made in the choice of breweries to work with?
JF: It’s all about finding the right partnership. Your host brewery has to want to be in the business. We brew most of our beer at Hermitage in San Jose, that has become and integral partner for us. They’ve grown with us, and let us really stretch as a brewery.

MB: Do you have any intention to open up your own brewery? If not, how will that affect the possibility to expand and increase the production?
JF: We’re open to lots of different growth paths, but also think if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We’re very happy brewing where we are now. But we’ve also got some more plans up our sleeves for next year.

MB: I love the way you collaborate with local farms and how it gives an extra sense of understanding and history to the ingredients that goes into the beer, how do you find these farms?
JF: At the farmer’s market of course. Turns out that farmer’s love beer as much as local chefs do, and are usually thrilled to work with us. Especially since we always bring back beer for them to share at the farm.

MB: When not drinking your own brews, what other breweries or beers do you prefer?
JF: There is so much great beer to be had in the SF bay area right now. Current favorites include: Sante Adarius, Ale Industries, Headlands Brewing, Heretic, Hen House and of course, Russian River.

MB: When coming up with the idea for a new beer, what steps are taking in considering the style, selecting a partner farm, possible barrelling etc?
JF: Delicious is the only yardstick that matters. We subscribe (especially with our barrel program) to the belief that if you but great ingredients in, you’ll get great beer back. We look for inspiration in food, beer, farms and farmer’s market. No idea is too out there to at least try as a homebrew batch (though lots of ideas get rejected there.)

MB: It is more common to see US breweries focus on farmhouse beers today than a couple of years ago, is it due to a more mature market and beer scene or the brewers, maybe something completely different?
JF: Perhaps. As craft beer grows it makes more and more room for new styles to find an audience. IPA is still king around these parts, but everyone is always willing to try something new. It’s part of what we love so much about craft beer culture is an openness to new (and old!) flavors.

MB: Where in San Fransisco should one go to enjoy some Almanac brews together with some great food?
JF: We’re extremely proud of our restaurant list. Try us at Bar Tartine, Locanda, Contigo, Flour & Water, State Bird Provisions, Foreign Cinema or bring in some takeout to Toronado.

MB: What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
JF: We are STOKED to be pouring. It was only a few years ago we were attending as beer fans, and now we get the chance to step around to the other side of the table and share our brews with likeminded beer lovers. Its exciting, overwhelming and humbling to be served alongside such amazing breweries. Plus, I can’t wait to try new beers from breweries i’ve never heard of from across the country.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
JF: Try something new! Talk to the brewers, drink LOTS of water, and don’t engage in the yelling at dropped glasses shenanigans.

MB: What cool Almanac brews will be poured at the festival?
JF: We’re very excited to pour a 100% barrel aged lineup. On Tap:

Farmer’s Reserve No 3 – Wine Barrel aged Sour with Strawberries and Nectarines
Farmer’s Reserve No 4 – Wine barrel aged Sour with Buddha’s Hand, Meyer Lemons, Cara Cara Oranges
Barrel Noir – 50% Bourbon Barrel aged Dark Ale, 50% American Stout
Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine – Aged in Brandy Barrels
Dogpatch Sour – Flanders Red ale brewed with cherries

We give our gratitude to Jesse for answering our questions, the Almanac stand will without doubt be one of the first for MankerBeer to visit. If you want to know more about what they are up to you should follow their brewery blog or Jesse’s own blog Beer & Nosh.

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