Over the past six weeks, I really got some great perspective from six different brewers. These six brewers come from all walks of life and are inspired by different things but have in common their desires to brew at the highest standards. For me, the biggest takeaway from this series of interviews is how diverse our local brewers really are. The unique styles of brewing provide an opportunity to enjoy local beer from a vast array of styles whether you prefer constant innovation or traditional styles. Here is the interview series in its entirety. Be sure to less us know what you thought, and, as always, support local beer!
What do you think is the most underrated style of beer?
Favio Garcia of Lost Rhino – Well-made low ABV beers.
Bill Madden of Mad Fox – Kolsch of course! Check out the RateBeer or BeerAdvocate sites, and you will see crappy scores for Kolsch style beers up and down. Even the award winning ones.
Jonathan Reeves of Port City Brewing – I think that the most underrated style would be the adjunct beer. Now, most folks would think I mean the American lager, but there are other styles like the witbier that involve raw grains. My wit is nearly half wheat and oats, and it is not an easy beer to brew because of this. I also see the adjunct beer as a style that could lend itself to a great deal of experimentation, particularly so as many brewers look toward using local ingredients to make their beer. Until there are local maltings (which I see coming), the locavore brewer will have to rely on native cereals and/or starches.
Ernie Igot of Heavy Seas – I would say the Imperial Stout…maybe because this is one of my favorites.
Matt Brophy of Flying Dog – Or maybe better put, under appreciated: Flanders Red Ale.
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales – [Beers that have a ] lack of style….I understand styles and why they exist, but I find it frustrating and limiting on an artistic level to feel that you need to conform within set guidelines.. but a style that I enjoy and is under appreciated is a good pilsner. I just spent a few days in Rome and must have drank 10 liters of Tipo Pils!
You are eating your last meal on earth. What are you eating?
What are you drinking?
Favio Garcia of Lost Rhino – Blackened Burger with Blue Cheese and a fresh Spitfire Ale from Kent.
Bill Madden of Mad Fox – A Grandma Pizza from Umberto’s in New Hyde Park, Long Island with a spicy, hoppy IPA.
Jonathan Reeves of Port City Brewing – Wow. Kinda dig being alive and living on this planet, so I can’t say that I have ever thought about this too much. Would also think that if I knew it was my last meal, I’m sure indigestion would probably get in the way of making it enjoyable. That said, I think it would be some beasties from the sea: a crustacean, fish, mollusk, or cephalapod, or a combination. Washed down with a sessionable hoppy ale or lager.
Ernie Igot of Heavy Seas – Ruth’s Chris steak cowboy ribs medium well with Heavy Seas Black Cannon beer.
Matt Brophy of Flying Dog – Green chili smothered burrito. Simcoe Imperial Pale Ale.
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales – Sitting in a field with some stinky raw milk cheeses, rustic bread, chutney, and lots of saison.
You’ve just been given a free firstclass chartered flight to any brewery in the world. Where are you headed?
Favio Garcia of Lost Rhino – Westvleteren
Bill Madden of Mad Fox – Brasserie a Vapeur in Pipaix-Leuze, Belgium to brew a batch with Jean Louis Dits and enjoy some Saison de Pipaix at the source.
Jonathan Reeves of Port City Brewing – I almost did this trip a few years back, but life had other plans. Franconia would be that destination. This northern region of Bavaria has a large number of small breweries and some small maltings. Nearby in Bavaria and Czech are hops. Many different beers brewed from local ingredients.
Ernie Igot of Heavy Seas – Bitburger Brewery in Germany where I trained in 1986.
Matt Brophy of Flying Dog – Westmalle, Belgium
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales – Orval, of course.
The past five years have been a collective alpha acid overload. Is this trend here to stay? If not, what’s the next big trend?
Favio Garcia of Lost Rhino – Love the hops. Beer with big hop flavors are here to stay but alcohol percentages will go down.
Bill Madden of Mad Fox – I believe the IPA, big beer trend is here to stay, we cannot keep enough hoppy beers on our menu at Mad Fox Brewing Company. We are pushing for a new trend in extreme session beers and it is going very well for us with our Fennec Ale which is an English style Ordinary on cask dispenser. At 4.2% abv, folks are able to savor a few of these without the impact of a lot of alcohol.
Jonathan Reeves of Port City Brewing – I don’t think the [Alpha Acid Overload] will remain here to stay. Much like classic rock’s long guitar solo, there will always be people who like it, but many will move on. I see breweries focusing more on sustainability and as a result breweries sourcing more local ingredients and as a result producing more territorial beers. I see local maltings being a big trend as well. This may lead to a whole slew of new regional styles in the US. Cool stuff.
Ernie Igot of Heavy Seas – It will still be here in the next 5 years, but the wood- and barrel-aged beers are getting popular.
Matt Brophy of Flying Dog – Some say sours; I’m not sure about that. I think hops are here to stay.
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales – The current hotness is sour/wild ales..The session beer concept is having its go as well (and for good reason). Also, throwing beer into barrels could not cause more hype these days.
With regard to consistency, what’s the toughest part of brewing beer on a commercial scale?
Favio Garcia of Lost Rhino – You got to keep your yeast happy. Yeast management can be hard to do in a small microbrewery. And [as] the brewery grows, keeping your brewers happy.
Bill Madden of Mad Fox – Getting enough hops to keep some of our IPAs on tap consistently. With regard to the day-to-day challenges, managing the yeast strains with only six fermenters has been a struggle for us at times especially since we try to do many styles that require various German, Belgian and English strains of yeast.
Jonathan Reeves of Port City Brewing – Easiest question so far. Packaging, especially bottles. Your line is the most complicated device in the brewery, lots of moving parts and with all the consumables: glass, 6 packs, cases, labels, and such, very expensive to run. Package beer’s quality and stability is what keeps me up at night. I keep hoping that we have built our beers to survive in the wild. So far, so good.
Ernie Igot of Heavy Seas- It is doing small batches to target big volumes, like brewing 100 bbl batches at a time and doing 600 bbls a week all year round. In big breweries, you have the ability to blend 6 – 7 brews in a fermenter tank and subsequently blend 3 tanks during filtration.
Matt Brophy of Flying Dog – Dealing with agricultural ingredients that can change a bit from harvest to harvest. But then again that is the beauty of craft as well.
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales- for me being a ‘gypsy’ brewer, the biggest issue I struggle with is not always having a consistent location to produce all of my beers.
What brewing tradition is something you feel is critical that we not lose sight of in our current trend of constant innovation?
Favio Garcia of Lost Rhino – The art of lagering.
Bill Madden of Mad Fox – None, constant evolution of innovation should prevail but what seems to happen is that previous traditions come back again and again.. Take the style of porter which practically disappeared in the UK and it took the American Craft Beer industry to bring it back. What is old is new again.
Jonathan Reeves of Port City Brewing – Beer seems to have an inferiority complex these days. It wants to be extreme, or it wants to be a delicacy. It’s beer, it’s to be enjoyed as a refreshment or as a staple with a meal. Sure there are some big beers and I like to make them, but I haven’t lost sight of the concept of making a balanced sessionable beer for daily consumption.
Ernie Igot of Heavy Seas- I would say the Imperial Stout…maybe because this is one of my favorites.
Matt Brophy of Flying Dog – Tradition itself. Traditional world beer styles is what interested me in brewing years ago. I think innovation and brewing beyond style guidelines is great but I would hate to lose sight in the future of the past.
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales– I think innovation itself at times is often quite over looked.. Following trends is not innovating.