Tag Archive | "MankerBeer Meets"

Photo: Brewchief.com

MankerBeer Meets: Pre-CBC: Bryan Baird/Baird Brewing

Photo: Brewchief.com

Photo: Brewchief.com

So far we have had interviews with breweries from New Zeeland (Sören Eriksen/8 Wired), China (Michael Jackson/Boxing Cat Brewery), Denmark (Amager Bryghus) and the US (most lately Doug Dozark/Cycle Brewing), just to mention a few. Copenhagen Beer Celebration will host not only breweries from 8 different countries (AUS, US, DK, NO, CH, BR, JP, NZ) but will have beer lovers from unexpected countries such as Turkey, India, United Arab Emirats and Brazil – beer lovers unite. Suitable enough we have an interview with Bryan Baird from Japanese brewery Baird Brewing to share with you all on this day of many origins. Baird Brewing attended CBC 2012 and now at CBC 2013 they are bringing it one more time, so check out what Bryan has to say about the Japanese beer culture, his own journey in the life of beer and what they are pouring at CBC.


MankerBeer (MB): You graduated from John Hopkins SAIS within the area of Japan Studies; from where comes your fascination with Japan and why did you end up starting a brewery there and not in the US?
Bryan Baird (BB): I first visited Japan as a newly minted 22-year-old liberal arts college graduate who wasn’t yet sure what to do with his life. I became fascinated with Japan in college primarily through a course I took on modern Japanese history. As a English language teacher in Osaka I instantly fell in love with the country and its culture. I stayed on for three years working and studying before returning to the U.S. for graduate school studies. After my first year in Japan, though, I knew that I wanted to be involved with the country for the rest of my life. During graduate school in the mid-1990s, Japan underwent a period of economic deregulation which, among other things, lead to the birth of Japan’s craft beer movement. This captured my attention as a passionate beer enthusiast and ultimately led to my determination to pursue craft brewing in Japan.


MB: After completing the American Brewers Guild’s 3-month intensive brewing science and engineering program you had an apprenticeship at
Redhook, before that how much practical brewing experience did you have and what experience have you brought with you from Redhook?
BB: I had no practical brewing experience before attending the Guild program and apprenticing at Redhook. To be honest, the experience at Redhook was mainly valuable for showing me how I didn’t want to pursue craft beer brewing. Redhook was a big craft brewery back in 1997 and the vibe around the place was very corporate. Brewers were treated more as factor inputs than skilled artisans. I never forgot that. At the end of the day it is brewers who make beer, it is not the equipment. The equipment constitutes an important tool, but it is human passion, judgement and skill that lend to craft beer its soul.


MB: Baird have been around for a relatively long time; as an American living in Japan what is your view on the ongoing US craft beer movement over the last ten years?
BB: In a word, phenomenal! The American craft brewers have really led the way with their passion and irreverent creativity. The craft beer movement in the U.S. is a representative microcosm of all that is good about American culture.


MB: We find more and more of your beers in the Nordic countries, how many countries do you distribute to and what are the future distribution/expansion plans?
BB: We are about to break ground on a new greenfield brewery where are initial capacity will be around 20,000 HL expandable to 60,000 or 70,000 HL. We hope to be producing Baird Beer there by December of this year. With that new capacity you will see us become more proactive on the export front. We are just getting started in our efforts to export Baird Beer to Europe.


MB:  In an article from 2010 it seemed as your predicament for the short-term beer revolution in Japan wasn’t looking to bright, with too many craft breweries of less quality, has that changed?
BB: Craft beer in Japan only accounted for 0.3 percent or so of the beer market in 2010. I haven’t seen more recent statistics but I don’t imagine that is too much higher than that. The truth of the matter is that out of more than 200 craft breweries in Japan, perhaps only 20 or so are really growing. The vast majority of makers are for the most part unknown and becoming more so. Japanese consumers are very sophisticated and for more of them to become excited about craft brewing, more breweries have to be crafting a broader array of outstanding beer. This is now happening. I am optimistic about the future.


MB: From where does the Japanese breweries take their inspiration? The few local Japanese craft brewed beers I’ve tried don’t seem as influenced by other ‘beer traditions’ as I expected?
BB: I don’t think I can answer this question as I don’t believe there is a single or main source of inspiration. That is part of the problem: too many Japan craft breweries have no philosophical underpinning to their beer brewing methods. That said, some of the better breweres clearly have sources of inspiration (eg. Swan Lake Brewery in Niigata brews beautifully clean ales inspired by the American craft beer culture; Fujizakura Kogen in Yamanashi prefecture brews a wonderful lineup of German-inspired beer – particurlarly noted for its weizen brewing; Shiga Kogen in Nagano prefecture is an old-line sake maker whose beer is eclectic and interesting and probably influenced by several sources).


MB: Any specific local Japanese breweries should one keep an eye on in the future?
BB: See above comment.


MB: What would you say are the main influences of the beers Baird produce? Do you try to be Japanese with an American twist or American with a Japanese twist – or maybe just be Baird?
BB: I am first and foremost a beer enthusiast who enjoys the breadth and diversity inherent in beer. I drink very broadly and appreciate all classic beer cultures. In that sense, I am very American in my approach to brewing. My taste preferences, though, are very heavily influenced by Japanese culinary culture where balance and harmony of flavor are highly prized. We strive to brew beers of character, which we define as the interplay of balance and complexity. I think many American craft beers give short shrift to balance. They taste interesting for half a pint or so, but by the end of the glass the drinker’s pallete is exhausted and she will not want to order another. The drinker should always want or be tempted to order another – that is balance.


MB: What challenges are there with brewing in Japan when it comes to legislation, markets or maybe the beers that people tend to prefer – which affects what you might brew or how you can develop?
BB: The legal landscape for brewing in Japan is very reasonable and fair. The only drawback, and it is a big one, is the extremely high taxation applied to beer. We brew beers that we love and think very little about the consumer market. I would be brewing Baird Beer in the same way no matter where I was located.


MB: Copenhagen Beer Celebration have breweries from all parts of the world this year; being among the more remote ones (seen from a European perspective) how important are events like this for you – both for the brewery but also for you as a brewer?
BB: Events like this are fun; they are very satisifying to participate in and that is what is most important. Beer enthusiasts everywhere tend to be very interesting, well-educated people and it is a pleasure meeting and interacting with them. Moreover, meeting with and drinking other brewer’s beer is a terrific way to find new inspiration. Personally, I have never been to Copenhagen and having beer as an excuse to visit is a pretty cool thing.


MB: What should beer fans at Copenhagen Beer Celebration really not miss?
BB: We will be pouring a wide selection of Baird Beer but two in particular are rare and brewed with unique local Japanese ingredients – (1) Fruitful Life Collaboration Ale (together with Mikkeller) which is fruited with five varieites of fresh local citrus fruit, and (2) CBC Celebration Ale which is a herbal ale incorporating Japanese green tea leaves and fresh wasabi. These are not to miss!

Thank you Bryan for taking the time to answer our questions! The list of beers at CBC is growing for everyday, while you have Baird Brewings beers below you can find the full list of beers at this link. Changes may occur and not all beers will be served during all sessions.

Baird Brewings CBC Beer List:

  • Rising Sun Pale Ale
  • Suruga Bay Imperial IPA
  • Angry Boy Brown Ale
  • Morning Coffee Stout
  • Bureiko Jikan Strong Golden Ale
  • CBC Celebration Ale
  • Fruitful Life Collaboration Ale (Baird-Mikkeller)

Posted in MankerBeer Meets:Comments (3)

Photo: Todd Bates / Creative Loafing

MankerBeer Meets: Pre-CBC: Doug Dozark/Cycle Brewing

Photo: Todd Bates / Creative Loafing

Photo: Todd Bates / Creative Loafing

Gulfport, a mid-western town in Floridas that received its current name in 1910 and has a population of 12-13.000 citizens. Gulfport is also home to Peg’s Cantina, a brewpub where the brewer in today’s MankerBeer Meets used to work before eventually starting up his own brewery. Doug Dozark worked at Cigar City for a couple of years before taking the role of head brewer at Peg’s where he worked for a while before feeling that it was time to start what is now becoming Cycle Brewing. Copenhagen Beer Celebration will the first time Doug has brought his beers outside of the US and among the beers are Cycle Brewing beers, Peg’s rarities like Rare DOS as well as other G.O.O.D beers (more on the beers here). Make sure not to miss Doug and his beers and do not hesitate to ask him about the emerging beer scene in Florida or what we can expect from Cycle Brewing in the future.


MankerBeer (MB): Taking off from brew pub Peg’s Cantina in Gulfport, Florida Cycle Brewing is a rather new adventure. How would you describe Cycle Brewing and the journey so far?
Douglas Dozark (DD): Cycle brewing is really just a reflection of where are as a brewery, Peg’s is very small and Gulfport is a great but also tiny community and our beers are starting to outgrow our location. We are opening the Cycle Brewing brewery in downtown St Petersburg, only a few miles away but with a greater impact on the community that has really supported our beers and our message of fresh local beers. So far things have gone very well, there has been some question of why we would depart from the name and reputation we established with Peg’s and the reality is that Peg’s is not a brand, it is a place that started as a restaurant over 8 years ago and only became a brewpub about 4 years ago. Peg’s is not an identity we can export and we think that’s great for Peg’s and an opportunity for Cycle to be the next step.


MB: What have been the biggest obstacles so far when setting up Cycle Brewing and have they in any way had any impact on the brewery?
DD: The only obstacle we have had is location scouting, and the size and location of our brewery has certainly impacted what we can do. We decided to get a prime, but very small location so that we can maximize our presence in the downtown area and also to help manage our growth, it’s hard to say no to bigger tanks and more sales if you have the space, even when it’s not the right move for the quality of the product.


MB: With over two hundred new US craft breweries starting up per year, what would make Cycle Brewing different or why should a beer drinker chose a Cycle Brewing beer over one from say Cigar City?
DD: As the head brewer and more or less creative director of the company I can say that our approach to brewing is what sets is apart, and in several styles I think that’s true. Session IPA is something we have worked hard on and our 2 different yet similar approaches to the style, Freewheel and Fixie, are beers we don’t see a lot of comparison to in our market. Our barrel aged stouts have been a big part of our reputation and to some degree our Florida Weiss (let the style debate begin!) has been a pioneering beer. All of those make for a good reputation and a quality product but what I think will truly make people choose our beer is our message and efforts to support the community. St Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Area in general wants local, and we provide that but our company is getting involved wherever it can in grassroots efforts to improve this city. We are a beer company, we love beer and we work hard to make great beer, but there is more to life than beer and we embrace that.


MB: Your RareR D.O.S is currently ranked as one of the world’s best imperial stouts; do high reviews raise our own expectations or put pressure on you?
DD: The rankings are fun to see, it’s quite flattering to get that kind of attention for a beer brewed 30 gallons at a time and put into 15 gallon barrels. I think I can honestly say that I am my harshest critic, so the pressure has always been on to make the best barrel aged stout or really beer in any style. Beer and reviews are subjective, I think we all understand that you will never please everybody but for me when I taste my beers, especially from the barrel I have to be very honest with myself when asking is this the best barrel aged beer I’ve had? Would I stake my reputation on this beer? I want the answer to be yes but sometimes it’s not and I have to go in a different direction with it.


MB: When looking at Peg’s menu it is difficult not to get hungry; what food and beer pairings would you suggest among your own beers?
DD: Right now I would say a Freewheel with the fresh salsa and chips has been hitting the spot for me, also the Shrimp Burrito, the lighter fare with a 4.7% Nelson Sauvin hop bomb goes very well together.


MB: In a recent article in the Tampa Tribune I read that only 5.6 percent of beer sales in Florida come from microbreweries, a relatively low number when compared to other states. Why do you believe Florida lack behind in craft beer sales?
DD: I think there are many factors behind Florida’s sluggish embracing of craft beer, location, age demographics, reputation and therefore expectation for the beer scene. All of that is changing and what I see now is a building wave and growth in craft at a greater rate than most other states. Florida craft beer sales are rising, and fast.o I think all of the craft breweries owe at least a small thank you to Cigar City for seizing the opportunity to make innovative quality beers and grow large enough to get them out there to everybody. They showed that if you make a great product people will buy it and now we have some momentum and I expect craft market share to grow significantly each year for quite a while.


MB: I read in Tampa Bay Times that you’re focusing on beers and IPAs, being a good fit for the Florida beer drinkers – but what else is in line for the future?
DD: Hard to say what is next, I think bright hops character and sessionable ABVs are going to continue their rise and we are certainly excited about that. I have a feeling the culinary ties with beer in terms or pairings and even recipe formulation will continue and using ingredients beyond the basic 4 has a ton of potential.


MB: Before you started as head brewer at Peg’s you worked four years at Cigar City – what lessons and experience would you highlight from those years?
DD: The years I spent at Cigar City were enlightening in many ways. The best thing I learned was what kind of brewery I want to run and what direction I want to go in personally. Working for such a fast growing and creative brewery opened my eyes to the possibilities for recipes, events and planning, and so many pitfalls and problems I want to avoid for my brewery. I learned about various equipment options, how many people it takes to operate and one of the most valuable was how to deal with errors.


MB: What should beer fans at Copenhagen Beer Celebration really not miss?
DD: We are bringing a lot of great beers, both Rare and RareR DOS, a collaboration with Jonathan Wakefield brewed with Dulce de Leche and hopefully our session IPAs fixie and freewheel held up well on the journey across the ocean.


We are happy that Doug wanted to answer our questions and we know that all of you beer lovers are thrilled to see the below list! The beers then? Changes may occur. Different beers will be poured during different sessions and well, you know the drill by know. For the full list of beers attending CBC check out this post!


Cycle Brewing CBC Beer List:

  • Freewheel Session IPA
  • G.O.O.D Night Imperial Stout
  • Fixie Session IPA
  • G.O.O.D Bottom of the 9th Brown Ale
  • G.O.O.D Rare DOS
  • G.O.O.D RareR DOS
  • G.O.O.D Dancing Cody IPA
  • Patch Kit Wheat Porter
  • Hazelnut Imperial Stout

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IMG_20130408_190431 (kopia)

MankerBeer Meets: Middag och ölprovning med Thornbridge

IMG_20130408_190431 (kopia)Förra veckan var minst sagt välfylld med spännande ölrelaterade events; i Göteborg hade man premiär för En Öl & Whiskymässa, Menno Olivier från De Molen startade sin två veckor långa vistelse i Sverige – och så var brittiska Thornbridge på besök. Ett bryggeri som snabbt seglat in på mången svens ölfanstasts radar. Inför kvällens ölprovning på mysiga Bishops Arms Folkungagatan i Stockholm stämde vi middagsdate med en av bryggeriets bryggare Matthew Clark och bryggeriets marketing manager Alex Buchanan.

Redan när jag anländer sitter de båda britterna (Alex är visserligen skotte) tillsammans med M2 och Stefan Johansson från bryggeriets svenska importör Galatea Beer Spirits & Wine och dricker öl och skrattar likt de har suttit där bra mycket längre än de minuter jag missat.

De sitter och pekar i en folder som illustrerar bryggeriets rätt imponerande uppsättning öl. Förutom en kölsch, Tzara har de allt från den hos Odell Brewing Co. nyligen bryggda välhumlade red ale’en Colorado Red och för oss svenskar välkända öl som Raven och Bracia. Jag lär mig snabbt att pekandet och det som det pratas om inte riktigt är synkat utan samtalen kretsar mer kring den brittiska ölkulturen och hur den börjar förändras till hur fasiken jag och M2 valt att pyssla med öl. Det är avslappnat, vänskapligt och precis som ett möte mellan människor som delar en passion ska vara.

Alex berättar om hur bryggeriet startade för att bit för bit växa ifrån det gamla bryggeriet i vackra Thornbridge Hall. Idag har man istället bryggeriet i nya lokaler inte mycket längre bort, men känslan för god mat och dryck sitter kvar. Mat undrar ni? När bryggeriet 2004 startades utav Jim Harrison, ägare av Thornbridge Hall och hans affärspartner Simon Webster så var tanken att erbjuda riktigt bra öl. När man sedan kom i kontakt med krögaren och kocken Richard Smith så var steget att inkorporera även restauranger och egna pubar inte lång bort. England har en annan tradition när det gäller att driva egna ölställen och många bryggerier har även krogverksamhet – så även Thornbridge. Man har allt från egna pubar, utan mat, till barer med enklare menyer och slutligen ett par restauranger som Richard ser till håller klassen.

Om vi tar och återgår till starten. 2005 slog Thornbridge upp portarna och bland bryggarna finner vi namn som Stefano Cossi och Martin Dickie. Italienaren Cossi kom från en utbildning inom Food Science and Technology i Italien medan Martin, som senare blev ena halvan bakom BrewDog startade sina studier på International Centre for Distilling and Brewing i Edinburgh. De båda var med och la grunden till de öl som numera är bryggeriets sortiment och vissa menar att man kan känna igen mycket av det Martin bryggde hos Thornbridge i vissa av BrewDogs öl Mottagandet från de brittiska ölfantasterna var minst sagt varmt och redan första året kammade IPA’n Jaipur hem ordentligt med lovord på CAMRA Awards (Campaign for Real Ale). Som en kul anekdot så jobbar jästnörden Cossi idag för Coors..

IMG_20130408_193643 (kopia)Nutid. Under middagen tar vi och frågar de båda hur de ser på den brittiska ölkulturen och varför den stagnerade så under en längre tid. De håller delvis med om att det har varit en lång väg att gå men framhåller att väldigt mycket sker nu nu och i samband med att fler och fler börjar intressera sig för öl så blir också exponeringen av craft beer större. Alex förklarar hur man förut hade få som provade eller skrev om deras och andra brittiska bryggares öl men i takt med att öljournalister och bloggare blev vanligare och allt mer professionella så kom också fler “vanliga” öldrickare att upptäcka vad öl kan vara. Samtidigt har också flera brittiska bryggerier börjat knyta starkare band och Alex framhåller att det är en positiv konkurens. Även om marknaden kanske inte är jättestor och inte kan svälja hur mycket öl eller bryggerier så är alla vänner och arbetar för samma mål – man vill lyfta ölen. Sedan är det en attitydsfråga, hur dricker man öl och vad är öl. Ska ölet drickas ur pints, ha lägre alkoholhalt och du ska dricka en sort under en kväll? Även här menar de att en förändring är på väg i takt med att medvetenheten och intresset ökar.


Kvalitéens roll på Thornbridge är viktig, väldigt viktigt – varje halvtimme handplockas en random flaska från tapplinan för att man ska kunna mäta syre- och koldioxidnivåer, smak, doft och utseende – allt ska vara perfekt och hålla en jämn kvalitet. Här lyser bryggeriets tre ledord innovation, passion och knowledge igenom klarare än någonsin. Matthew berättar hur de hela tiden, för varje ny batch öl och varje ny batch med råvaror analyserar allt från humlens nivå av alfasyra till dess smak och arom. Passar den inte eller når inte upp till kvalitetsmålen så får den bytas ut. Genom att göra olika single hop-öl kan de lära känna varje humlesort och under kvällen är det här arbetet något de båda återkommer till – kvalitet, kvalitet och åter kvalitet. Istället för att tillsätta humlen i fasta omgångar där den riskerar att “kokas ur” så tillsätter de humlen under hela koket samtidigt som den gamla humlen fiskas upp, detta för att undvika kokat kål och istället få en fräsch humlearom med genuin humlekaraktär. Kort och gott – jämför med thé. Många av de humliga öl vi dricker har en karaktär vi förknippar med en viss humle, däremot kan den skilja sig rätt markant beroende på om humlen hanterats rätt (behålla fräschör) eller överdoserats (klibbigare, kraftigare, saknar fräschör).

Kanske är det just på grund utav deras ständiga passion och nogrannhet som flera av världens mest förnämsta bryggerier har hört sig för och velat göra olika typer av samarbeten med dem. Förutom samarbeten med Dark Star (UK), Terrapin (USA), Kernel (UK) och Bridge Road (AU) så har man gjort uppmärksammade öl med både Sierra Nevada och Garrett Oliver från Brooklyn Brewery. Garrett var på Thornbridge Hall för öppningen utav det nya bryggeriet och passade då på att göra en 11% stark barley wine, Alliance som också lades på olika fat. På 11% har Alliance blivit bryggeriets starkaste öl. Matthew menar att balans och drinkabilitet ska vara i centrum, du ska kunna dricka ölen och då fungerar det inte med för starka öl, dessutom är många öl starka “bara för att”. Genom att veta vad du gör kan du uppnå samma smaksensationer och komplexitet redan på receptstatidet – ännu ett tecken på den medvetenhet som blivit ett fundament för bryggeriet. Just nu är det rätt lugnt på samarbetsfronten, en anledning menar Matthew är att det är så mycket jobb att man ofta bara sitter och blir frustrerad på den tid som krävs på att tweaka recept och bolla idéer medan det man vill göra, att brygga ölet sällan “bara görs”.


Ölen då, var de något att ha? Under kvällen kom vi att prova hela nio stycken utav bryggeriets olika öl; Tzara, Chiron, Halcyon, Jaipur, Kipling, St Petersburg, Raven, Honey Heather och Imperial Oatmeal Stout – de två sista speciella öl brygda i det gamla bryggeriet (därav märkningen Thornbridge Hall).

IMG_20130408_205531 (kopia)Tzara, en kölsch style ale (de får bara kallas Kölsch om ölet bryggs i tyska staden Cologne) bjöd på friska toner av halm, lite banan och en mullig men lätt kropp som gör den perfekt när du vill ha något trevligt för att släcka törsten. Det här är en öl jag hoppas vi kan få se på svenska uteserveringar i sommar då den är det perfekta mellantinget mellan en lager och en ale. Därefter kom Chiron, en pale ale namngiven efter den mytologiska figuren som också står  staty utanför Thornbridge Hall. 5% alkoholstyrka för fram fräscha toner av citrus, tallbar och gräs i näsan och med endast någon vecka på nacken så är det som att smaka på en nyskördad humlebassäng. Krispig och uppfriskande, men den bör drickas relativt färsk för det är mer utav aromhumlen och en balanserad måttlig bitterhumling.

Sedan var det dags att bryta av och gå upp ett steg i form av den mörka IPA’n Wild Raven – en öl som när den först släpptes i Sverige togs emot utav en delad skara öldrickare. Vissa ansåg att Sorachi-humlen var för tydlig medan andra höll den som den bästa mörka IPA’n de provat. På grund utav en namntvist så har Raven nu fått tillägget “Wild”, dock är det samma öl som tidigare. Eller samma och samma? Både jag själv, men även andra provningsdeltagare anmärkte att den kändes lite mildare och mer balanserad. Matthew förklarar att man genom att ha ändrat lite på maltbasen troligen har modifierat den totala beskan. Anledningen är att en stor del av ölets beska och bittra toner kommer från malten. Med en en mer balanserad maltbas får ölet tydligare toner av de rostade choklad och kaffetonerna jag föredrar där humlen ger perfekt kryddning till ölet. Kanske har de också låtit de övriga humlesorterna Nelson Sauvin och Centennial balansera upp Sorachihumlen mer.

Näst på tur var samarbetsbrygden med australiensiske bryggeriet Mountain GoatThorny Goat. En balanserad och rätt mild mocha porter med toner av choklad, en nypa lakritspulver och milda kaffebönor. Väldigt behaglig för att vara 6% och som ni nyss läste så är balansen viktigare än att göra en alltför kraftig öl – något jag första gången jag drack ölet hade svårt med men ju oftare jag har provat den ju mer tycker jag det är skönt med en mocha porter som faktiskt är riktigt lättdrucken.

Det var så dags för de avslutande ölen och nu åkte de kraftigare brygderna fram – först ut den 80 IBU kraftiga (imperial) IPA’n Halcyon. Ölet påminner rejält om en upphottad och vuxnare Chiron. Även den här flaskan är helt färsk så det är blommande sommaräng, mogna citrusfrukter och en avslutande touch av humlekotte som provas. Den sista trippeln öl går sedan helt i mörkrets tecken – först ut bryggeriets russian imperial stout – Saint Petersburg Russian Imperial Stout. Med stundtals rivig och ibland subtil lakrits, aningen rökighet och mer mörk choklad tycker jag att ölet visar att det ibland kan vara gott med en välbalanserad och enkel kraftig mörk öl än en komplex och varierad dito. Ibland vill man ha något extra, ibland vill man ha något rakt på sak utan krussiduller.

Kvällens verkliga höjdpunkter var de två sista ölen; Heather Honey Stout som med helt underbara smaker av ljunghonung penetrerar en redan rejäl och fyllig stout för att likt Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter skapa lycka i min mun. Ölet, som har fått jäsa med champagnejäst har under ett halvår varit uppdelat på tre fat – en tredjedel i franska ekfat, en tredjedel i Pedro Ximinez sherryfat och en tredjedel i rödvinsfat från Bordeaux. Rökighet, mörka torkade frukter, honung – allt blir perfekt. I min bok var det här var världsklass! Sist ut bjöds det på Imperial Oatmeal Stout, även denna jäst med champagnejäst men lagrad i ett halvår i Kentucky Bourbonfat. Kokos och bourboninslag tar för sig och låter mildrande vanilj och choklad ga komplexitet. Visst är bourbonen rätt tydlig, men man är dum som klagar – ölet är trots allt “bara” på förvånansvärt låga 11%.


Ni kanske tänkte på det där med att Raven fått byta namn, och jo, även Saint Petersburg Russian Imperial Stout har diskuterats då man inte kan heta likt en stad. Vad alla verkar ha missat är den halvt barbystade kvinnan,Flora som utgör den staty som pryder trädgården på Thornbridge Hall syns på samtliga flaskor..

IMG_20130408_203406 (kopia)Kvällen avslutades sedan nere i baren där vi pratar vidare om vad som kommer att ske framöver. Alex och Matthew förklarar entusiastiskt om den bredd och variation de vill ha på deras öl, de ska inte bli ett bryggeri som bara gör en typ av öl. Så när jag och M2 frågar varför de inte gör mer extrema öl så får de något lurt i blicken. Matthew berättade redan under middagen hur man lagt undan lite fat för framtida experiment och att vissa av faten innehöll brettanomyces. Vissa fat hade redan legat en längre tid men skulle få ligga än längre för att de suröl som de innehåller ska utvecklas på ett förtjänstfullt sätt. Han nämner också att man arbetar med ett par berliner weisses som man får se om man sedan kommer att “smaksätta” med frukt, bär eller annat eller om man låt de vara som de är – just nu vill man bara få rätt laktokaraktär på dem. Förutom dessa nyheter så har man en European Series på gång där man vill göra lite mer traditionellt Europeiska ölstilar, bland dem en weizenbock, abbey ale och så vidare. Vi lär förhoppningsvis få träffa de båda i Sverige igen, det var Alex andra besök och redan på Stockholm Beer så blev han förtjust i Sverige och önskar komma hit under varmare årstider. Rätt otippat håller han också på att läsa om Sverige då hans nuvarande kvällsäsning utspelar sig just i landet – så håll utkik, för i år kan det det bli en brittsommar!

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Photo: Steve Coomes / InsiderLouisville.com

MankerBeer Meets: Pre-CBC: Sam Cruz/Against the Grain

Against the grain, that’s where I’ll stay
Swimming upstream, I maintain against the grain

Photo: Steve Coomes / InsiderLouisville.com

Photo: Steve Coomes / InsiderLouisville.com

Yeah, it’s hard not to start with a quote from one of my favorite bands, Bad Religion and the song with the same name as the brewery whose brewer and co-owner I will present you with in the next sentence. Sam Cruz is his name, co-owner and brewer of Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse is his game. He is also part of the four man team which decided it was time to do something different, why follow the mainstream and brew what is expected or tradition? Why not just go with what you want to do? Consequently, the brewpub and smokehouse in Louisville, Kentucky have their own take on how to brew beers. Without being over to the US most Europeans have probably not had a beer from ‘AtG’, except maybe at Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen where thanks to Mikkel’s friendship with the American brewers visitors have been able to occasionally find a new and exiting AtG beer.

Personally, when I try new beers from a new brewery I like to know about the brewers, the brewery and its history. Knowledge is king and might often explain the story and variety of flavors in the beer. So what better way to prepare for CBC than to ask Sam all about the brewery, music, that Justin Biibier kid and about anal pleasure. Oh, sorry An Ale Pleasure.


MankerBeer (MB): Against the Grain is as much a brewery as a concept of what beer is and can be – tell us about the story and the brewery?
Sam Cruz (SC): Essentially, we were tired of the regular old ‘stuff.’ At Against The Grain, we have thrown the, traditional, mode of thought (producing the same thing over and over…i think they call it consistency) and shifted our thoughts to producing amazing beer consistently, which can be any given style or twist on it. We hang our hats on quality and want people to know that there is a world of options out there….and we make them…and to top it all off, they can all be good!


MB: You have a certain approach to what to brew, and in my opinion a great one – with a spectrum of six categories (Session, Hop, Whim, Malt, Dark, and Smoke) which is enough, then you brew beers that fit into any of them – when did you come up with that idea? Why not make a few beers and keep them rolling?
SC: The truth is that our entire business concept is based on the idea that we can produce new and exciting things, always changing. In a previous life, we were brewers for Bluegrass Brewing Company, while there we noticed a trend of the ‘specialty’ or ‘seasonal’ beers we made being the first tanks to empty. This coupled with the boredom of repetitive brewing of the same brands led us to decide that what the world needed was a brewery that threw caution into the wind and was willing to experiment. Much like the path carved by our friends at Mikkeller, the object is to produce beers without boundaries. To not be afraid of experimentation and innovation.

So why not make the same brands repetitively….well…. its boring. I like to drink different beers, I think that its about each beer being an experience. Since we are making so many different beers, we can use them as a tool to inform or teach our customers all the nuances about beer that we love.


MB: Any beers that have been brewed so far that turned out way different than what you expected and which you weren’t satisfied with?
SC: We’ve actually had a great deal of success and have yet to put a ‘dog’ in the market. So I guess the answer is no. Some of the beers are received better by folks and others not so much. But up to this point, everything is as it was intended to be. Since we are so experimental at times, we are often identifying new flavors expressed in beer, so ultimately we are looking to create something for everyone at some point or another.


MB: The four founding fathers of the brewery all have different background within the food and/or beer industry – do you all share the same idea on what you want to create with the brewery or what do you disagree on?
SC: So far we are all on the same page. The beauty of the team we have assembled is that we all have very different areas of expertise, while still being skilled and experienced brewers. So naturally the decision making process lends to the most adept of the four of us, in any situation, drifting into a leadership role for the given situation. When it comes to the beers, the synergy amongst us allows us to create ideas for beers as a group.


MB: I love your graphical profile with the bearded tattoos hop freak – who is behind it all?
SC: We are very fortunate to have found the right artist to reflect the personality of our brands. Robby Davis (a Louisville native), is responsible for our illustrations, label/poster design, and overall branding (logo). A little story…I met Robby years ago at a back alley art show known as The UnFair. I was checking out the work there and happened onto his stuff. Immediately I knew he would be the one for my beers. So I took a card and told him he’d get a call someday to design the labels for my beers. At the time he didnt take me all that serious. So right as we were getting the project together and deciding on who would do our branding, I tracked him down and the rest is history… He is now a vital component in our brand imagery and the direction of our brand design. Id have to say, there is no one on the planet who is more ‘in tune’ with the Against The Grain brand. If you’d like more information on Robby, you can find his website… www.robbydavis.com


MB: You opened up just 2 years ago, in retrospect – should you have done anything differently?
SC: Its hard to say that we would have done anything differently. I can say this, had I known what I know now, we would have planned to brew more beer for distribution. We have come to a point where our distribution sales are as important and fruitful as our in-house sales. Against The Grain is located in a baseball stadium, so we do a substantial amount of beer sales at the tap here in Louisville, but I and my partners believe it very important that we spread the word and message of our brand all over the world.


MB: You seem to have a lot of fun at the brewery and just by looking at your webpage you get the impression that you all do what you love to – is Against the Grain the perfect place to work?
SC: Im a bit biased 😉 But I’d say yes. Right here and right now, we have very little turnover in our brewery and restaurant. We employ anywhere from 25 to 50 people depending on the season and most of them have been with us from day one. Our company philosophy is pretty simple… We love beer, beer is fun, we love fun. This philosophy translates to our team having a great time. Since our concept calls for a lot of upheaval and change, it is impossible to get complacent or in the rut of day to day work. So new and fresh ideas are always welcomed, quirky and fun projects are a must, and poking fun at, an otherwise, too serious world is apart of our thought process.


MB: There is both a brewery and a smokehouse, any amazing combos you could share? Why not with a side order of some great tips for music to it?
SC: Based on our being a smokehouse and frankly a hearty love of smoked beers, Id say any of our smoked beers with our signature smoked pork. Its slow smoked in a great big country smoker…low and slow. That shit is killer!

A great pairing of music and beer….perhaps you havent heard of the most metal beer ever…Save Ferrous. Any Slayer rip and Save Ferrous and youve got a pairing!


MB: Danish brewers Tobias and Tore from To Øl were over earlier this year and now we see the result at CBC – An Ale Pleasure, fittingly aged on two different woods. Hos was their stay at the brewery and what’s your opinion the beer?
SC: Tore and Tobias were great. I am eternally grateful that they were able to come out and work with us. It was a pleasure to hear about how things are going for them and what their thoughts on Kentucky were. I have to say, that the their stay was too short. We were almost on a whirlwind tour of party time here. The first night (they were majorly jet lagged) I took them to a seedy bar on the other side of the city and we got trashed. It was a good start to a busy weekend. The beer is amazing. For the CBC there are only 2 variations available, but we actually split the beer into 8 different parts and have aged them on all different woods. The one aged on cherry wood is my favorite thus far. I believe it will be at CBC. Very good recipe for the wood.


MB: So if you had to choose, would you rather down a sixer of Miller Lite or listen happily to Justin Bieber for a full hour?
SC: Since I was in a state college here in the US, I have a ton of experience crushing light beers…so for the sake of familiarity, gimmie the sixer! Id have to gouge my ears out if someone tried to force Bieber on me…. besides, isnt he a rapper now or something. 🙂


MB: CBC is not only a great opportunity to meet your European beer drinkers, but also a great place to meet some of the best brewers of the world. Its your first time at CBC, what expectations have you got?
SC: My biggest expectation is come away with a more accurate picture of the Euro beer drinker… but realistically, I expect to raise a little hell, drink some beer…pick on some folks. Eat foods im not accustomed too… Long for a nights rest at my country home…no seriously, im really looking forward to connecting with some of the other brewers out there. It has been, far and away, one of the most valuable tools knowing other brewers. There is so much to learn, so many ideas to gather, and of course a world of people to work with at some level. Im really looking forward to that.


MB: What should beer fans really not miss at Copenhagen Beer Celebration?
SC: We brewed a collab beer with Menno Oliver of De Molen, Bo & Luke. There will be a version of Bo & Luke aged in a port barrel after aging in a bourbon barrel…its fuckin rad! Get it. Beyond that, Everything going is pretty sexy… id drink them all!


Thanks Sam for giving us some insight into AtG and what you guys are all about! Now lets see what beers beer freaks at CBC will be able to try (changes may occur and different beers will be poured during different sessions)! The fantastic full list of beers at CBC can be found here (will be updated day by day).

Against the Grain CBC Beer List:

  • Shit Jeans
  • Goldern Sower
  • Green Dragon
  • Wakatube
  • Booby Trap
  • MacFannybaw
  • Port Barrel  Aged Bo & Luke
  • Kentucky Ryed Chiquen
  • To ØL & Against the Grain Collab “An Ale Pleasure” – aged on 2 different types of wood

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MJ-Hop Fields

MankerBeer Meets: Pre-CBC: Michael Jordan/Boxing Cat Brewery

MJ-Hop FieldsCopenhagen Beer Celebration 2013 showcase one of the craziest line-ups of breweries I’ve seen with breweries from unexpected places such as Brazil, Japan, New Zeeland – and China. You seldomly see craft beers from the closed and isolated China, The Boxing Cat Brewery tap takeover at Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen a welcomed exception. Together with US born brewmaster Michael Jordan the CBC team have managed to get ahold of 9 different beers that will be poured during CBC. It will be wicked fun to try some proper beers from China and to be able to get an idea of where the Chinese beer culture is developing. We knew we had to get ahold of Michael to check whats happening on the other side of the wall and to hear how an American citizen makes the decision to become a brewer in China. Lets start rocking!


MankerBeer (MB): A brewery, in China, with an American brewer? For those unfamiliar
Michael Jordan (MJ): The brewery was founded in April 2008 by 3 people from diverse backgrounds. Kelley Lee had been in Shanghai for awhile and had opened a few restaurants prior to opening Boxing Cat Brewery. She is an American Born Chinese that grew up in Los Angeles. She got here degree at USC before attending culinary school in France. The other parter is Lee Tseng who originally hails from Toronto but was born in Taiwan. He had also been in Shanghai for awhile and dabbled in real estate and opening the first Illy cafe in China. The last founding partner was Gary Heyne who originally hails from Houston, Texas. Gary had been in Shanghai for about 2 years and had opened a brewery prior to Boxing Cat Brewery but the management terms were unacceptable so he wanted to open his own brewpub. The 3 of them met and decided it was a great idea to open an American themed brewpub in Shanghai focusing on Southern cuisine and craft beer modeled after North American standards. The influence of North American brewing standards is evident in our beer menu as we like US craft beers and brew many different styles that are popular in the US. We also like to experiment and use some local ingredients such as Sichuan Peppercorns and Fresh Ginger in a Belgian Tripel we do. We take pride in our innovation and pushing beer boundaries while educating people about craft beer in China. The beer culture in China is much different in that they often shotgun 5 oz beers (ganbei) while eating and it’s a “face” thing to show how much beer you can drink in dining occasions. This beer is extremely light in flavor and alcohol so they can do this easily. It’s not easy to do with Boxing Cat Beers as our beer has flavor and of course much higher alcohol.

I’m an American craft brewer that has been brewing professionally since 1995. Most of my time has been spent working in the Portland, Oregon area. I have seen many different breweries including the following in chronological order; Nor’Wester Brewing Co., Saxer Brewing Co., Henry Weinhards, Grand Teton Brewing, Couer d’Alene Brewing Co and Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. My last position in Portland was a great 5 years where I was eventually promoted to Lead Brewer for Swing Shift operations. I left Widmer in 2008 to move to Denmark and work for Bryggeriet S.C. Fuglsang in Haderslev. I was Brewmaster for Fuglsang and had some responsibilities on the QC side in the malting plant in Haderslev. I enjoyed my time in DK but needed more creative freedom and found an awesome opportunity in China of all places. I have been with Boxing Cat Brewery since October 2010.

Education wise: I studied Life Sciences in University so lots of Biology and Chemistry. My original goal was to join the medical field after University. I began homebrewing in 1993 and fell in love with the hobby. I witnessed (and participated) in the first big wave of craft brewing and thought it would be a fun industry to join with the idea that I could open my own brewery someday. Along the way I have taken some brewing courses at Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago and some online courses from Heriot Watt in Scotland. I used this education to pass the rigorous Diploma Brewer Exams from the IBD in London.

In general I like to experiment with beer and have 100% freedom with my current job. It has allowed me a great creative outlet while producing some wonderful beers that our customers get to enjoy. It’s a great situation for me personally and to also participate in the pioneer movement of craft beer in China.


MB: You have worked at places such as Widmer Brothers and Danish Bryggeriet S.C Fuglsang – what are the ups and downs with suddenly starting to brew beer in China?
MJ: The ups and downs of brewing in China primarily revolve around the infancy of the industry. It’s challenging to educate customers but I feel that we do that well and put our best foot forward when brewing International styles. I refuse to dilute an American IPA because the locals might find it too bitter. We have expats that crave a true American IPA or Imperial Stout so we do it properly and realize the locals will either not like it or take awhile to warm up to. In the end if anybody can enjoy 2 or 3 of our beers that we offer I’m a happy brewer and the business is happy. So far we’re doing well so we haven’t departed from that equation.

One big issue is sourcing quality ingredients. Over time I’ve gotten us to use 100% imported raw materials because our focus is on the quality and having the best craft beer in China. I’ve used my contacts to source American hops and am proud of what we’re able to accomplish using these hops. Of course they’re not cheap but it’s about the quality for us and passing some of the extra price onto the customers that appreciate a quality product. The imported malts available in China are great but limited to 2 different vendors. I work with these vendors to provide me with malt but it’s difficult to forecast malt needs 3-4 months in advance and make sure they arrive in time. So we have to take on a buffer of storage as the importer will not stock much malt in country. The pricing is also elevated a bit more than I deem necessary so hopefully over time more competition will drive down the price. Paying 3X the amount from my days in DK or USA can be hard to swallow at times…..Liquid yeast is also difficult to obtain so we go through extra measures to bring it into the country or propagate in the brewery. We can easily buy dry yeast but the varieties are too limiting for what I want to do. I’ve always used liquid yeast and feel it’s a better product so we go through the difficult measures to make the beer top notch.

The last challenge is probably the biggest. We can only produce our beer on a brewpub scale right now due to the regulations and restrictions put in place by the government. Operating as a brewpub is easy and basically falls under restaurant licensing. If we want to build a microbrewery and distribute our kegs outside our own locations then it falls under a different classification that is extremely hard to overcome. They want to treat us like a huge brewery so we have to adhere to the same guidelines as the big breweries. From an operational aspect this is easy as I’m sure we operate much better from an environmental aspect. The taxation policies and what’s required to obtain the production license are the real hurdles. We’re still trying to do this and hope to overcome these challenges in the coming years as our end game is to distribute throughout China with both kegs and bottles.

The upside for craft beer is tremendous in China even though their are many challenges. People are very interested in diversity of products and can appreciate a flavorful beer. The disposable income of Chinese is growing so “luxury goods” are becoming more and more appealing. It’s fun to be on the pioneer side of this movement as Boxing Cat and myself are really able to help shape the future of craft beer. We take a role in educating customers but also working with other craft breweries in China to promote craft beer. We do this by organizing craft beer festival or starting something like Shanghai Beer Week. We also do some co-op purchasing amongst ourselves to fill containers of malt and source ingredients together while importing them ourselves. There is a lot of excitement of craft beer in China right now and it’s amazing to have this opportunity. Working with other International brands such as Mikkeller has also been awesome as it sheds light on brewers working together while also getting a bit of media attention for craft beer.


MB: RateBeer currently list 37 Chinese breweries, including 6 that now are out of order. Why the low amount of breweries, doesn’t at least a few of the over a billion Chinese like beer?
MJ: Ratebeer is not widely used in China as the website is often blocked by the government. To access this site or other sites like facebook/twitter you have to use a VPN. Therefore Ratebeer ratings/listings are low in China and not really reflective of what is happening with craft beer in the country. Untappd is an application that is gaining usage and something that I use and help moderate within China. In the end China is the worlds largest country for beer consumption due to the 1.34 billion people that live here. The per capita consumption is low compared with Western countries but when it shifts 1-2% a year it’s a massive jump in total consumption. We don’t worry too much about that in the end. If craft beer can get a portion of 0.5% we’ll all be rather happy!


MB: What would it take to start a Chinese craft beer movement, much of what has been seen in other non-traditional beer countries?
MJ: Well I think the Chinese craft beer movement has already started dating back to 2010. The interest in craft beer is seen with the surge in more and more brewpubs opening and beer festivals catering to just craft beer. We’re seeing increased interest with imported beer with craft beer here from USA, Scotland, Wales and Denmark. More and more bars/pubs are opening and carrying great imported beer from Belgium plus craft beer from Mikkeller, North Coast, Brooklyn, Rogue or Brewdog. In the past 2 years a quarterly beer publication has started called Hops Magazine. Recently they started publishing a Chinese language edition and it’s really taking off. The interest in homebrewing is also surging forward with many local homebrew clubs forming and some homebrew competitions happening. It’s a bit of a complete package and I see lots of great things happening for craft beer in China. Craft breweries (including Boxing Cat) are being asked to participate in the huge Chinese beer festivals so I think the recognition of our little industry is happening. The more exposure we receive and use that opportunity for education the better we’ll all fair in the end. In the end I do a lot of staff training regarding our beers so our staff can help educate our Chinese customers. Simple stuff like literature explaining beer styles in dual language goes a long way. Having a tasting tray so people can taste and discover beer on their own is also a great experience. I really feel that we’re doing many of the things you see happening in other countries, we’re just a bit behind. Luckily China likes to move fast so maybe we can catch up a little bit:)


MB: As a beer drinker in China, how do you find craft beer to drink at home or in bars?
MJ: You can drink craft beer at either home or bars. There are not a lot of places to drink craft beer as far as bars go so you have to seek it out or know where to go. Craft beer in bottles is perhaps easier to find as we even have beer specialty shops that will deliver beer to your doorstep. I order beer for deliver from a company in Shanghai called Cheers In. It’s a great service where you can shop online and choose a time for delivery while even requesting that the beer be delivered cold. If you order a small volume around 8-12 bottles depending upon price the delivery is even free! Of course seeking out the local brewery is a great way to discover craft beer and probably also meet other craft beer aficionados in the respective Chinese city.


MB: You brew everything from hoppy pale ales to IPA to a smoky porter but who is the average Boxing Cat beer drinker in China?
MJ: We do brew a diverse range of beers at Boxing Cat. Last year we brewed something like 35 different beers which is pretty good for a little 1000 liter brewhouse only serving beer within their own locations. Our best selling beer is Right Hook Helles. It’s our lightest beer (4.5% ABV, 15 IBU’s) that we offer year round and it’s a lager. In general Chinese are used to lager beer so it’s no surprise it’s our best selling beer. Saying that it’s about 1% ABV higher than their used to and it has lots of taste and body when compared with Tsingtao. Our second best selling beer is TKO IPA, so complete opposite side of the spectrum. The expat customer base is primarily responsible for this consumption but we’re seeing more locals try this beer. They like the citrus notes but sometimes the bitterness (62 IBU’s for TKO IPA) is a bit much for them. If this is the case we try to let them sample Sucker Punch Pale Ale as it has similar citrus notes from the Citra hops with less bitterness (38 IBU’s). We have a few new beers that we’ve done recently that have been enormously popular so we’re still figuring out the local preferences as well. One example is Contender Extra Pale Ale– brewed with Mosaic hops and dry hopped rather liberally with this same hop variety. Lots of tropical fruit notes in this beer but low bitterness at 16 IBU’s. Some of the local Shanghainese food is a bit sweet so the local preference is along sweetnes so some of our newer beers are along these lines, such as Ringside Red Lager (malty with low hop character).


MB: Have you ever though of brewing a beer with traditional Chinese ingredients and/or for the typical Chinese cuisine?
MJ: We definitely brew with traditional ingredients. I mentioned the Sichuan peppercorns and fresh ginger in Tripel Threat earlier. I brewed Bruce ChiLee IPA with Mikkel when we did the collaboration brew. This beer used local green chillies with medium spice and a large Simcoe hop addition. We’ve brewed with local pumpkins in our Fall seasonal beer. I made a wheat beer using kaffir lime leaves, kaffir limes and lemongrass. This beer was popular so I need to brew it again. I’ve done a collab beer with Great Leap Brewing based out of Beijing where we used Yunnan Black Tea in the beer. Another example would be the mango ale we made. I’m currently working with a local coffee roaster to make a coffee beer. This coffee beer is based upon a Pale Ale recipe using single origin coffee that has berry and chocolate notes. In the end using local ingredients is great and something I’ll continue to explore. The food in our 2 restaurants is American so in the end I’m pairing our beers with American cuisine. Occasionally I’ll sneak a growler into a Chinese restaurant to see how it pairs with different Chinese cuisine. It would be fun to play around with this some more but that most likely won’t happen until we get our production license and distribute to local Chinese restaurants.


MB: You have been with the brewery for a little more than two years, what is your vision? Do the bureaucracy and problems with importing ingredients ever frustrate you and would it be possible to expand or find new international markets?
MJ: Our vision is to be the most innovative craft brewery in China that is Internationally recognized. We want to open a production brewery and distribute throughout China and potentially look at other export markets. It’s a big challenge as I discussed earlier but something we will battle and eventually overcome. I definitely get frustrated at times…luckily I have a never die attitude and realize that we’re in a unique position to shape the future of craft brewing in China. I’ve never had this type of opportunity in the nearly 20 years of brewery experience. I knew coming in the job would be challenging so I signed on with that intention. We’ve figured out ingredients issues since I arrived and it’s a great feeling when you accomplish something that has been a huge hurdle. For better or worse I share my experiences with other brewers in the country….It’s who I am based upon my brewing experience in the US or Europe. Brewers share information to better the movement for the entire beer community. We have a few players in China who don’t get that right now. In the end it’s their loss and something I’ve seen before. Most likely those players are only in the industry to make money and don’t have the passion that the rest of us have. If history has taught me anything those same breweries won’t exist for very long.

We’ve figured out how to export beer for a few beer festivals such as Copenhagen Beer Celebration. It’s difficult and costly. I believe most beer was shipped via boat to Copenhagen. Our beer went on a plane so it’s pretty damn fresh and has seen limited abuse from transportation. We mainly due this to eliminate delays with customs and shipping issues but it feels good to send beer to DK and have it arrive and clear Danish customs in 10 days after it left the brewery in Shanghai!!

Of course exporting beer like this is not a long term business solution so we’ll participate in a few International beer festivals but we cannot do too many at such a high cost. In the end there are so many opportunities within China that we want to focus on the local market and not get ahead of ourselves. We want to do well in China as that’s our primary focus.


MB: What should beer fans at Copenhagen Beer Celebration really notmiss?
MJ: I feel we have a diverse lineup of beers we’ve sent to Copenhagen. I think hopheads will like TKO IPA and Firecracker Imperial Red…maybe Sucker Punch Pale Ale too. King Louie Imperial Stout is a beer I’m very proud of and I think the Bourbon edition is tasting awesome. 13 months in Jim Beam Barrels has treated this beer well. We shipped extra kegs of this beer along with TKO IPA and Bare Knuckle Barleywine. I hope people can enjoy Chinese craft beer with a bit of an American attitude!!

Thanks for reaching out to us and see you in Copenhagen!!


We thank Michael fore taking the time to put some light on the Chinese craft beer scene and sharing some of the difficulties with pushing craft beer in such a closed country. CBC will be a great opportunity to try a wide range of The Boxing Cat’s beers and don’t miss out on giving Michael some praise or feedback on what you try! We are looking forward to it! Below is the list of beers, as always the preliminary line-up where changes may occur and differ throughout the different sessions – Pink! For an overview on all the beers – consult this amazing online list of beers (which will be updated frequently with more beers, and maybe new breweries)


The Boxing Cat’s CBC Beer List:

  • Sucker Punch Pale Ale
  • King Louie Imperial Stout
  • Firecracker Imperial Red Ale
  • Bare Knuckle Barleywine
  • Donkey Punch Porter
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged King Louie Imperial Stout
  • Ringside Red
  • Undercard Imperial Brown Ale

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MankerBeer Meets: Pre-CBC: Wayne Wambles/Cigar City


Photo: SeriousEats.com

At last year’s Copenhagen Beer Celebration one of the best stands, according to me, was the one all the way in the back where breweries like Westbrook, Farmer’s Cabinet and Cigar City could be found. Not much of a surprise as we Scandinavians aren’t too spoiled with beers from either of them. For CBC 2013 two of the three are coming back (Westbrook and Cigar City) and there were cheers coming from all over the beer community when the CBC crew announced that Cigar City was coming back. The brewery are sending over head brewer Wayne Wambles to spread some of Florida’s best beery love and as the brewery are expanding into the restaurant business and are establishing plans to produce mead and cider we took the opportunity to see what he would be bringing to CBC and what is happening over at the brewery in Tampa.


MankerBeer (MB): Wayne, how would you present Cigar City for someone new to craft beer?
Wayne Wambles (WW): Cigar City Brewing is a brewery that embraces its surrounding culture and environment. Their beers often have tropical fruit notes and/or tell the story of the history of the surrounding area, which is Tampa, Florida. Ybor city has a rich history of hand rolled cigars. In the 1880’s, cigar manufacturers attracted thousands of immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Italy, which rolled millions of cigars for the next fifty years. The city of Tampa became referred to as the Cigar City.

The brewery also uses items like Cuban espresso and guava in their beers. Cafe con leche, which is made from Cuban roast espresso and scalded milk, is a drink that was popularized by Cuban immigrants. Cigar City produces a sweet stout with this same coffee roast. Another Cuban import is the guava pastry. The brewery uses guava in one of their saisons.

Finally, the brewery doesn’t limit its concepts to strictly local culture. It intends to be more diverse by making beers like Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. This beer is a transplant from central America. Hunahpu is the Mayan god that gave chocolate to the Mayan people. This beer is a fusion of culinary and zymurgy. It blends the religious and culinary concepts of the Maya with modern day mole and the Holy Trinity of chili peppers. Mole is a secret sauce made from a combination of chocolate, chilis and spices. The Holy Trinity is a combination of ancho, guajillo and pasilla chilis, which is used in the beer as well as Peruvian cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans and Ceylon cinnamon. The Mayan culture made the first chocolate drinks using meticulously hand ground cacao nibs, chili peppers and spices.

Cigar City Brewing paints a vivid picture of history and culture infused with culinary on a canvas of zymurgy.


MB: After working for almost six years at Buckhead Brewery & Grill and then at Foothills Brewing for a little over a year you joined Cigar City in 2008 (march 24 if I got my facts straight). What experiences and lessons have you brought with you from your past employments?
WW: Buckhead Brewery is where I was allowed a great deal of initial creative freedom. This is the brewery where I solidified most of my recipe formulation for traditional beer styles. I also was constantly experimenting with different raw materials…hops, hop extracts and many specialty grains, as well as yeast strains. This chain of brew pubs went through a fairly rapid expansion that I was a part of several times. This allowed me to see what kind of issues one has to face when constructing a brewery.

Foothills allowed me the first view of a hybrid facility. It was a production facility and a brew pub that was also self distributing. I learned many things about self distribution but could not apply them to my experience at Cigar City because Florida is limited to the three tier law. Raw material purchase strategy and hop allocation were things that I discussed and attempted to harness during my time in North Carolina.

To be quite honest with you, there were many things that I wasn’t prepared for when I left North Carolina to work at Cigar City but I promised myself one thing. I constantly reminded myself that this opportunity was a “do or die” situation and I pursued it that way to the best of my ability. I might not have always made the best decisions but I’m still breathing so I guess that I managed things fairly well.


MB: Many of your most sought after beers are only made in small batches, poured only at the brew pub or sold locally. What is the Cigar City brewing capacity and how do you handle the demand on some of the beers?
WW: Our current brewing capacity is around 25,000-30,000 bbls a year. That is a decent chunk of beer. It is a little more complicated than you think, however. Allow me to explain.

In 2009, we sold beer for the first time. There was some consumer demand in the local market but we found that we had extra beer. Our first market outside of Florida was New York. They embraced our brands. All was good.

Next, we went into Philly. They also liked what we were doing with our product and would have taken more.

Shortly afterwards, we brewed a collaboration with Mikkel at Cigar City Brewing, thus developing a relationship with Mikkel and Jeppe. Henrik was also involved and began to import our beer to Denmark and spread it throughout Europe.

Slowly, year after year, our home market of Florida was demanding more product. The locals were finding our brand and seeking it out. The demand became so great that we could no longer supply the consumer demand in the state of Florida. This, in turn, forced us to pull our beer out of all other markets, even the panhandle of Florida, and focus heavily on our local market.

In the last month or so, we have moved back into the panhandle of Florida again but we currently have no plans to distribute outside of Florida anytime soon. That is the grand scheme of things but I don’t think that answers your question.

We believe in making solid base beers. A solid base beer allows us to add many things to one beer and develop different concepts inside of a single brand. There is a branch of the brewery that works on development of small volumes of beer that is just for the tasting room. They don’t make the beer but rather use existing beer to create blends and variations of different brands. We take these beers and sell them at the tasting room to see how the consumer responds to them. It allows us to take a little more risk at minimal waste of product should we make a bad blend.

That is why these beers are more limited.


MB: What brewing style would you say you personally have and how well does it mirror the beers Cigar City produce? When at home, what would your personal pick for the evening be?
WW: I have gone through multiple stages of approaches to brewing.

Initially, I wanted to learn as much as I could about raw materials and process. Then, I moved on to trying to identify and produce examples of various styles of beer, which is probably the stage that I dedicated more time to than any other thus far. I still like to use the style approach occasionally but I also attempt to bend that style into my personal interpretation. That can sometimes evolve into something that is very different than it was in the beginning of the process.

I also attempt to bond with the concept of the brewery. As I have stated above, I feel like tropical notes in many of our different styles is just one of the many things that I can do to breathe life into our concept and make it tangible for the consumer. We live in the subtropics with water and tropical flora all around us. I feel that it should be present in our beer as well.

I also feel that there is a rustic element based on the history of cigars, the immigrants that performed that function and the cigar in general. I have approached this in several ways. We have used Spanish cedar, the wood used in the construction of humidors for cigar storage, to age our beers on. This provides forward notes of white grapefruit and more subtle notes of white pepper, sandalwood and clove. The use of chili peppers and dark malts can also add rustic notes like tobacco and leather.

My personal pick for the evening would be Jai Alai IPA. I drink it more than any other brand that we produce. I designed it to fit our concept and as a result it is one of my favorite beers on the planet.


MB: You brew classic styles but often with a twist – either in the form of cucumber extract in the saison, baseball bats in the IPA or mint in the brown ale. Where does this experimental gene come from?
WW: Every single one of the above examples weren’t my ideas.

The cucumber concept came from an event that we were doing with a martini bar that specialized in cucumber martinis. We decided to take a sessionable saison and add cucumber essence(essence is different than extract…it is distillate of the actual cucumber with no alcohol added…it’s a concentrated version of real cucumber) and the result was a Summer hit. We brewed five or six more batches than we planned during the Summer of 2012. It has become an official Summer seasonal now.

The baseball bats are part of a nonprofit organization called Operation Homefront. It is for a great cause. They supply financial support to the families of soldiers that never came home and to wounded soldiers. The sales of the beer are donated to this cause and the baseball bats that the beer ages on are auctioned to the public to raise even more money for this organization. We participated in this last year and we are proudly returning to participate again this year.

Finally, the mint brown ale was a small volume beer that we blended for Christmas one year.

The cucumber beer and the mint beer were both developed by the same department that makes all the small volume beers that are featured exclusively in our tasting room. We refer to that branch as the “Treatment Department”.

My creativity started with cooking and then moved towards brewing. I worked in restaurants and bars for many years(from the age of 15-25). It taught me the importance of the knowledge and quality of raw materials. I also learned that process can make a big difference in final product. Perhaps one of the most important things, I was constantly exposed to many cultures, having worked in Mexican, Greek, Italian and many other types of concepts. Having that breadth of contact allowed me to explore global possibilities.


MB: Florida has not really been famous for the amount of breweries, but lately it seems as it if starting to change? What does the Florida beer scene look like and why?
WW: The Florida beer scene has been changing for quite some time now.

As I have stated above, most of Florida has this tropical feel. South Florida also grows many exotic and tropical fruits.

The climate of Florida is warm most of the year. It encourages many consumers to drink lower alcohol beers. As a result of the climate and the access to tropical fruit, a new style of beer has emerged in Florida. We call it Florida Weisse. It is a Berliner-style weisse that is infused with different tropical fruits. When I say fruit, I mean fruit. Lots of it! Many of these beers have so much pectin haze that they will never drop clear. It makes for a refreshing, tropical drink during the warm months(most of the year).

There are a great deal of nanos popping up everywhere. Some of them have rapidly moved to larger production due to the success of their brands. That’s inspiring to many home brewers and that is what continues to fuel the nano movement in Florida.


MB: Johnathan Wakefield brewed some collaboration with you that are now ranked among the top beers of the world, with him opening up his own brewery – is there a chance that we will see collaboration with him again, maybe one that will get bottled?
We brewed another collaboration with him late last year. It was based on the Aguas Frescas concept, which are fresh fruit drinks that are served at Latin restaurants and bodegas. We decided to start a series of beers called the Cervezas Frescas series in which we would use large amounts of fruit to create these concepts as well as consider making versions of Carribean cocktails in the form of beer.

The first beer in this series is called Guanabana. It is a tropical fruit that is also referred to as soursop. It has a flavor similar to a mix of pineapple and strawberry with sour citrus and finishing with a creaminess that resembles coconut and/or banana. The base beer was a higher alcohol version of a pale ale hopped with New Zealand and Australian hops for the tropical fruit notes to tie the base beer to the fruit. It was only available draft.

We are working on another brand to continue the series. So far no plans to bottle any of these beers yet but there is a good possibility that will happen in the future.


MB: On the topic of collaborations and your collaboration with B.Nektar (Camp Braggot Ghost Stories) – our mead loving guest writer Kristopher wanted to ask if you are considering trying that again.
WW: That collaboration took well over two years of planning. We kept pushing it along slowly. The label design took just as long as the recipe. The feds didn’t like the fact that we put the word “meadery” on the label, claiming that it was misleading so we had to drop the title to the name of the meadery and leave it at that.

Our next move with B. Nektar is to make a mead in Michigan. We are currently discussing spontaneous, wild or sour. Not sure what we will end up with.


MB: What does the future hold for Cigar City; any expansions, new markets or crazy beers in the pipeline?
WW: Yes, no and always.

We will max out our fermentation capacity in the new facility this year. That will allow us to produce up to 50,000 bbls annually by the end of year six. This year(the end of year five) should put us in the neighborhood of 30,000 bbls. I’m still amazed when I think about how we were able to obtain regional status in four years.


MB: What should beer fans really not miss at Copenhagen Beer Celebration?
WW: This will be my first year attending. Perhaps I should ask them/you that question.

We are going to be pouring a three year vertical of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. I would recommend that to attendees.

Cheers! Looking forward to sharing a beer with all of you!


We thannk Wayne for taking the time to answe all our questions and for giving us a hint of what we can expect from Cigar City in the future. The Hunahpu’s vertical will run over all three sessions (or as long as they last) and as always changes in the below line-up may occur and the other three beers will not be poured at all sessions. Go pink!


Cigar City CBC Beer List:

  • Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout 2011
  • Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout 2012
  • Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout 2013
  • Humidor Black IPA.
  • Cheers.
  • Jai Alai

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