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Meet the Bluejacket Brewing Team, Part Two

As you know DCBeer recently had an extensive sit down with Greg Engert in which we talked about beer culture, DC's craft beer scene, ChurchKey's fifth anniversary, and much more. We are now getting to know Engert's cohorts and comrades at Bluejacket, which coincidentally celebrated their first anniversary this fall. Brewers Bobby Bump, Josh Chapman and Owen Miller, along with brewing apprentice Ricky Cheatham, make up the brewing team at Bluejacket and, along with Greg, are responsible for the over 120 beers brewed this past year. Yesterday, we started with Owen and Ricky. Today we hear from Josh and Bobby.

Josh Chapman

What are you drinking right now?

Wicked Weed Malice – Definitely one of my favorite breweries, and this beer is no exception. Deft blend of Bretty funk, acidity, tamarind sweetness, and blood orange pop. I could probably put up residence in their funkatorium.  

Bluejacket is known for having a collaborative environment. Do you think this eases or complicates the brewing process?

A bit of both. I'd hearken back to my ministry days, and say it's akin to 'Iron sharpening iron.' I think it hones and refines what we do while we each put forth our own ideas/passions. Because our inner collaborations are based off a fair amount of time working together, normal civilities can get dumped as we get straight to the point. Just like an old MTV Real World episode, except with actual adults.  

Is there a hierarchy within the Bluejacket brewhouse?

Not really, and we don't attempt to make one. We've each got our own aptitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. What we try to do is have people operate out of their strengths and influence/instruct in other's areas of weakness or inexperience. I'm not sure it could work with everyone, but Owen, Bobby and I have a unique blend of personalities that allows us to be real and open with each other without really stepping on toes.

What is the most challenging aspect of working at Bluejacket?

Spreading the wealth. We do so much and have such drive and passion for various styles/techniques that making sure we focus on each aspect with the proportion it needs gets difficult.  There's no real manual for what we're trying to do here so we've got to trust/respect each other and know where we're headed to keep things moving the right direction.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at Bluejacket?

FREEDOM!!! (William Wallace voice assumed) – It's really mind-blowing the things we get to try, the people we get to connect with, and the clientele we get to serve. There are no dumb ideas here, and if there's an opportunity to make what we do better, we'll give anything a shot.  

Which beer holds the most meaning to you?

Not sure I could pinpoint one just yet. Even beers that have come and gone are still evolving in my brain. We're barely a year old and so many beers that we've made once changed along the timeframe of their service. I'm really looking forward to year two to reflect on what we've done, what we've learned, and what we want to replicate/change because of it.

For which beer(s) did you create the recipe/which beer(s) are you most proud of?

We've all got our hands in each recipe to some extent, but the cool thing about Bluejacket is that each of us brewers gets to take the lead in our areas of passion.  Rheinard de Vos is one of those beers for me.  I'm head-over-heels for sours and really spent a lot of time combing over every inch of the beer from recipe to brewing to babying it in the fermenter. It's so much of what I love about the flavor profiles you can get with beermmaking that mirror what I loved about my cooking days. Rheinard is such a fully composed plate for me, and it's a cool crossover between my past and present professions.

What do you make of the DC beer scene? What are the most endearing aspects of being a brewer in the small town of DC?

Young and thirsty. Thirsty for excellent/unique local craft beer, but also thirsty for a craft culture and community to belong to and make their own. It's really a privilege to be a part of something so new and vibrant.

Can you share a time when something went wrong, or not as planned but was still salvaged?

We've had a beer not sour as much as we had planned/hoped for. We did some blending sessions adding a much more sour beer, but in the end the light acidity ended up allowing the other elements to shine and pop much more than they would have had we pushed the acidity further.  

What else would you like the DCBeer readership to know?

We're in this together. All the area brewers that I know are very open to dialogue and constructive feedback. We do this on a professional scale because we're passionate about beer and want to share that passion with others. I'd love to see a more cohesive communication between our area beer lovers and us as brewers. When we get feedback like "It's a fine stout, but it's no Abraxas," that doesn't translate to helping us get better or meet our consumers needs/desires better. Focused, specific feedback is incredibly useful, even if a beer doesn't immediately change because of it. The best thing about this craft beer movement is that, like the beer itself, it's alive and evolving. I might like my Berliner Weisse to have a more moderate tartness than someone else, but it doesn't mean that either one of us is more right than the other. The discussion that happens over that is what's most important/enjoyable and effective at creating a local culture.  

Bobby Bump

What are you drinking right now?  

FV13 by Allagash Brewing Company…a great sour beer near and dear to my heart.

How long have you been working at Bluejacket, and where did you work before?

My brewing career began in Seattle, WA working for Schooner EXACT Brewing Company. After 4+ years, my wife Cristina and I missed our friends and family on the east coast so we relocated to Portland, Maine where I began brewing with Allagash Brewing Company. We survived one long winter in Maine before we decided to move south to DC, where I have lived a majority of my life and my parents (Karen and Joe) and sister (Kristin) still reside.  After several months of getting settled in DC and interviewing with local breweries, I accepted a lead brewer job with Bluejacket in September of 2012! I began in June of 2013, four months prior to Bluejacket opening the doors to our customers in October 2013.   

Bluejacket is known for having a collaborative environment. Do you think this eases or complicates the brewing process?

Personally I find that it eases the process. We brew such a large variety of beer styles that I feel like this is the only way we can continue to push the boundaries and create a diverse range of quality beers. For example, I like to brew Brett beers and IPAs while Josh likes to brew sours and fruit beers (especially of the pink variety), and Owen prefers dark beers, and fortunately Greg likes all styles…if we only brewed what we liked, we would lack a complete lineup and the beers would all have a similar character to them.

Is there a hierarchy within the Bluejacket brewhouse?   

Within the brewing team, I have the most experience brewing, so naturally I have encountered more problems in the brewery than Josh and Owen. As a result, this allows me to offer guidance to them when we need to troubleshoot an issue. Often times we communicate "friendly reminders" on best practices so that we can function effectively and efficiently as a brewery and a team. I feel like the three of us have embraced the team atmosphere, and we all do our best to make sure that the workload is divided so that we can be as productive as possible every day.  

What is the most challenging aspect of working at Bluejacket?  

For me it is managing our yeast. To me, pitching enough healthy yeast is the most important part of the brewing process. With as many different styles of beer along with a wide range of ABVs and other contributing factors, it can be a challenge to keep yeast healthy to ensure proper fermentation. The other two brewers better have said the same thing or commented on keeping wild and non-wild parts separate.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at Bluejacket?

Being encouraged to develop new beers ALL THE TIME.  No style is off limits…We brewed a Jamaican Jerk mesquite smoked beer with Jerk spices, pineapple, mango, and habanero for instance.

Which beer holds the most meaning to you?

We just brewed our first coolship beer several days ago, so let me say that. Other than that, I would have to say 9 Pound Hammer, a double IPA that we rotate on every few months. I feel like it does a great job of showcasing hops from the Pacific Northwest, and it reminds me of my younger days when I was just getting into craft beer and fell in love with hops and northwest IPAs. I feel like my brewer buddies from the northwest would be proud to drink this beer as it is a nod to them for encouraging me when I was just a newbie in the industry.  

For which beer(s) did you create the recipe/which beer(s) are you most proud of?  

Tough question…Either Full Bloom (Brett Saison) or Spectre (Brett IPA). Both started as my concepts and recipes that allowed me to use Brett Drie for 100% of fermentation.  I feel like Spectre is a perfectly balanced dry IPA showcasing aromas of funk and Citra, while Full Bloom is a funky, dry, and crushable saison with notes of strawberry in the nose. It comes in at 5.7% ABV. 

What do you make of the DC beer scene? What are the most endearing aspects of being a brewer in the small town of DC?

I dig the DC beer scene and love seeing new beer bars and microbreweries pop up around town. Each city I have lived in since being in the beer industry has its own unique approach to beer. It's exciting to brew in DC because it is still a relatively young beer scene as far as local breweries go. I think that generates healthy competition that drives breweries to focus on quality and creativity and the customer benefits in the end by having a better overall product.  

Can you share a time when something went wrong, or not as planned but was still salvaged? 

As a young brewery we try new techniques all the time, especially with our sour beer program.  We brewed our second batch of Rheinard de Vos using a new souring method that didn't sour as intended.  Instead of dumping the batch and trying again, we pitched some Brett Drie (since the pH did drop down to the perfect pH for Brett fermentation), and the flavor profile is developing pretty nicely in stainless right now, so I would say it has been salvaged.

What else would you like the DCBeer readership to know? 

Stay open-minded to new beer styles.  Support your local brewery and other local small businesses.  Beer is supposed to be communal, so share beer you like with people and don't over complicate it, keep it fun.   

Thanks to Josh and Bobby for their time!

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