Recap of Telegraph’s Dia de Los Obscuras

Note: This column originally appeared in the May 7 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press

It can be hard to find the right words to describe a beer. After a while, words like floral, piney, caramel, chocolate and toffee all start to sound the same.

That’s part of the reason why I avoid writing reviews of beer. Who is to say that my palate is better than yours, or that my perception of a beer’s flavors should influence your appreciation?

But in the effort to avoid using contrived adjective after contrived adjective, my descriptions of certain beers can tend to be overly broad. For example, I’m fond of describing Telegraph Brewing’s beers as “unique.”

Unfortunately, I have no intention of abandoning this word when it comes to the projects that Telegraph and brewer Paul Rey are churning out.

Rey and Telegraph’s creativity were on full display May 3 for the Salsipuedes Street brewery’s second Dia de las Obscuras sour beer festival. With 10 beers on tap (only eight of which were actually sour, although all 10 involved wild yeasts) and a crowd of a few hundred people milling about, it was an intimate and altogether pleasant festival.

“I’m real happy with the way things turned out,” Rey said. “The main improvement from last year was having separate stations and spreading people out. That way everyone can just relax and not scramble to try and get a beer.”

I marveled at beers like the Indigenous Yeast Project, which was fermented with yeast captured and isolated by Rey underneath fruit trees from some property in San Roque.

“I’ve done it several times and captured wild yeast that’s produced DMS (dimethyl sulfide, a chemical compound that is undesirable in beer and tastes like old vegetables) or some pretty bad sulfur characters — just some harsh off-flavors,” Rey said. “This is the first one I’ve isolated that was really clean. I propped it up from a tiny jar to a growler with an airlock to eventually up to a 5-gallon carboy. A couple gallons of that went into this batch, which was about 12 to 13 gallons total.”

The beer itself was slightly reminiscent of Earl Grey tea.

I loved the tart and semi-sweet Framboise Palo Santo that was made with Telegraph’s house sour culture and raspberries. It was pink, sweet and fizzy enough that I could have enjoyed a whole pint of it yet complex enough that my party and I were content to sip on the small sample we were poured.

Then there was Johnny Parker. The sour ale is named after a friend of Rey’s and aged in a small wine barrel for about 18 months — about as long as Telegraph has been in its current location. In fact, the Johnny Parker beer was the first barrel added to Telegraph’s now sizeable barrel collection.

Apples were added, and there is a slight hint of apple cider to the beer. The plums and the peaches are less obvious, although the layers of intrigue are certainly added.

“It’s there for complexity, not to be an apple beer or a cherry beer,” Rey said. “It’s there for the complexity. I started with apples, then added some cherries — flavor giant is the variety… then some plums when I plummed the Gypsy Ale and some peaches. It wasn’t the same peaches that went into (Obscura) Peche, but it was the same peach tree.”

Johnny Parker was a favorite of mine, along with Demolicion Dos — a sour dark strong ale aged with a variety of fruit that included blackberries. I noticed that Johnny Parker was also a favorite of many of the area brewers that were in attendance.

I spotted brewers from the brewLAB in Carpinteria, Island Brewing Co., The Brewhouse, the Libertine Pub from Morro Bay and even local home brewer-turned-pro Josh Ellis who will be opening his own brewery in Goleta in the very near future.

I asked Rey what brought them all out to the event.

“Because they’re really into beer,” he said.

Perhaps. But I think they’re probably also really into Telegraph’s unique offerings.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and the author of “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” (St. Martin’s Press). His column appears the first Thursday of the month. Follow him on Twitter @Sean_M_Lewis.

 

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Valley Brewers + Fig. Mountain Homebrew Competition and Festival

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I received an email this morning from Sandy and Chris, the proprietors of Valley Brewers Homebrew and Winemaking Supply regarding an upcoming competition and festival. Further details can be found here at the event’s website, but here are some of the basics. I will also be discussing this prominently in my column in the News Press, which will run on Oct. 3 – so keep your eyes out for that.

Homebrew Competition Details:

– $6 Entry Fee + $4 for subsequent entries
– Bring two bottles of each entry

– Entries can be mailed in or dropped off at Valley Brewers between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27

– The winner will have his or her beer brewed professionally at the Figueroa Mountain Brewery.

 

Festival Details

– $40 gets you one 13 oz tasting mug, one pour of Figueroa Mountain beer, one food ticket, and three pours of Valley Brewers beer.

– The Best in Show beers of the homebrew competition will be judged at the festival.

Market Garden Brewery

Note: This story was originally published in Issue #74 of BeerAdvocate Magazine. Some parts have been edited, as there were errors in the original version.

 

There was a time when the city of Cleveland was a vibrant and bustling beer town. The neighborhood of Ohio City was the heart of the brewing district then, and it is emerging as a must-visit for beer drinkers once again.

Part of that revival includes Market Garden Brewery, which opened in 2011 by a group of business partners looking to expand from beer bars to brewing.

In The Blood

Founder Sam McNulty started his first restaurant when he was 21, an eatery and beer bar on the Cleveland State campus – where he was a student. Since then, he has taken over a small stretch of West 25th street in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood—just across the river south of downtown Cleveland.

It started in 2005 with the opening of McNulty’s Bier Markt, a Belgian beer bar, but continued to grow with Bar Centro, an Italian restaurant and beer bar; Speakeasy, a pre-prohibition style cocktail lounge opened in 2009; and Market Garden in 2011. Along the way McNulty has added to the ownership group to include Foran, Mark Priemer, and brewmaster Andy Tveekrem.

“I always wanted to have a career in beer, which is why at 21 years old I opened up my first restaurant and beer bar on Cleveland State campus,” McNulty said. “That was 17 years ago. It’s always kind of been in my blood, literally and figuratively. All jokes aside about enjoying drinking, I see beer as part of the social fabric of civilization. That sounds all grandiose and crazy, but I think beer plays an extremely important role in the cultural life of cities and neighborhoods. If you look at pub culture and all the great things that have transpired and conversations and ideas that have grown out of people enjoying beer together and entering into this melting pot, it seems like wow all these places and at last count we’ve got over 200 taps just on this street alone.”

Following the opening of Market Garden, McNulty’s group introduced Nano Brew—a former biker bar turned into a bicycle bar, complete with a covered bike corral out front and tools for bike repair behind the bar, where Tveekrem and his brewing team can experiment on a 20-gallon system.

“When the firsts several places opened up, people asked ‘why are you doing this? You’re just going to cannibalize your own business,’” McNulty said. “After the fourth place opened up people stopped saying that. Every time a good place opens up on this street, and not just our place we’ve had a lot of other restaurants and bars open up in Ohio City in the seven years since we’ve been here, every time a new place comes the rising tide lifts all ships.”

 

In The Garden

There are two things that set Market Garden Brewery apart from your typical brew pub. The first, and most important, is Tveekrem. Tveekrem started his career at Great Lakes and eventually made a name for himself as the brewmaster for Dogfish Head.

“Anybody going into the restaurant or brewpub business, 90% of the time they have problems it’s beer quality or beer consistency,” co-owner Mike Foran said. “To bring a guy like Andy in we just knew from Day 1 that the beer was going to be great, so it allowed us to focus on other elements of the brewpub to make it successful.”

Around the time McNulty and Moran were looking to open a brew pub, Tveekrem was back in town looking to open up a brewery of his own. The two took Tveekrem out to dinner at their Bar Centro location, and convinced him to join forces with them instead.

“We were looking around for places to start a brewpub and out of the blue I get a call from Sam and his partner Mark,” Tveekrem said. “They were thinking about this project, they had the land already purchased. It was across the street from their Italian restaurant. We met and had dinner and kind of hit it off, which was the main thing.

“I could just see the potential for letting it grow. It started a brewpub, but it could go beyond that and that’s always intriguing to me. It didn’t take me too long to figure out maybe I should put my money in with these guys and see where it gets us.”

With Tveekrem at the helm, Market Garden’s beer was all set. The next step was creating the write atmosphere to drink said beer. That’s where the second defining characteristic comes into play, as Market Garden proudly claims to own Cleveland’s first American-style beer garden.

“We do a few things that are different than the European tradition,” McNulty said. “We embrace communal tables, which of course they also do in Europe, but ours are cocktail height. And on the surface that seems like a minor distinction, but if you think about the difference of the reality of standing or leaning on a bar as opposed to hunkering down on a bench at a picnic table – the American version allows for a little more mingling. You’re more likely to meet more people.”

 

Playing Within Limits

Even with the playground/laboratory of Nano Brew at his disposal, Tveekrem doesn’t produce radical ales. Instead of exploring odd ingredients or techniques, something that his previous employer is known for, Tveekrem’s focus is more customer-oriented.

“Usually my focus is on drinkability,” he says. “How can I construct it so that it’s actually going to be all the flavors I want in there, but they’re actually going to be something I want to have another pint of or maybe two. It’s not just about packing as much stuff in a glass of beer as possible, but it’s about finding a way to round it out and have it all work together.

“I’m an old-school beer geek I guess. I went through the Beer Judge Certification Program and all that so I’m always kind of looking at styles and what makes a beer correct for a certain style and how to play within that range.”

With an emphasis on approachability in the forefront, beers like Pearl Street Wheat, a traditional Bavarian-style Hefeweizen with plenty of banana and clove notes, are among the brewery’s most popular. So is the aptly named Cluster Fuggle IPA, an English-style IPA brewed with, what else, Cluster and Fuggles hops.

“It’s not a west-coast hop bomb,” Tveekrem says. “It’s got a good malt backbone and there’s Fuggle hops in the end.”

That’s not to say that Tveekrem is averse to hops, as Viking Pale Ale is every bit an American Pale Ale designed to showcase the Cascade hops.

With its focus on drinkability and creating a communal atmosphere, Market Garden Brewery is an example of what a brewpub can accomplish when it keeps its customers at the heart of its decision-making process. The end result is one more step toward revitalizing a neighborhood that is becoming known once again for its high-quality beer.

Port City

Note: This profile originally appeared in issue 70 of BeerAdvocate Magazine

 

Bill Butcher and John Reeves did not build a small brewery. They did not set small goals, and they did not make small plans. No, they had ambitions as grand as anybody in the Capitol Building when they took over an old wedding supply warehouse and built Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Virginia – just outside the nation’s capital.

“It was always tied into the plan from the beginning to build a state-of-the-art brewery so we could brew great quality beer from the outset that could compete with well-established breweries from all over the U.S. and all over the world,” says Butcher, who owns Port City along with his wife Karen.

 

So Ambitious

Reeves, who serves as the brewmaster for Port City, has been with the brewery since the consultation phase in 2010 when he helped the Butchers plan and design their space. He was with them in 2011 when they broke ground to retrofit the building’s utilities to accommodate a package brewery, and he was there with a purpose – he wanted to make a good living in the beer industry.

“Unless you’re working for a big chain like Gordon Biersch where they have brewpubs all over the country, you really couldn’t move up,” says Reeves, who bounced from brewpub to brewpub since 1995. “You could only move so far up, so just beyond ambition I feel like I had reached a point at brewpubs where there was only so much more I could do. I wanted to get into kegging and bottling and I wanted something that was a challenge.”

In a city where a lack of ambition is seen as a personal defect, Reeves and the Butchers understood that success could only come at a price. That’s why they built their brewery in a 10,000-square foot warehouse, and it’s why they had a custom-built JV Northwest brewhouse installed in the facility.

Although Port City currently uses only about a third of its available space, that extra room will come in handy as inevitable expansions approach.

“I planned out the facility,” Reeves says. “I wanted to basically make it modular so that I could add things on. Every aspect of the brewing process I can add things to it. I planned out the milling facility so I could use super sacks later on and I could add a silo. I planned out the brewhouse so that I could add other vessels. Right now we’re able to do four or five turns in a day, but if need be I have the ability to add other vessels to go to maybe seven or eight turns in a day. The goal was to design a brewery that we could start off and do what we wanted to do in the first year, which was 3,000 barrels, but we designed it so that we could max out at at least 25,000 barrels.”

Butcher was ambitious as well. He avoided the cheaper route of hiring an advanced homebrewer or a young apprentice, and tabbed a then 15-year veteran of the brewing industry to run the show. Butcher understood what he wanted from his brewery, and he knew what it would take to achieve it.

“Our beer has to be good – not just from a local perspective, but it has to be good enough to stand up quality-wise with beers all over the world,” Butcher says. “People will try our beer once because we’re new and local and craft beer drinkers are always looking for the latest thing to try, so we knew we’d get a trial in the market. But we also knew that if we wanted great quality right from the outset, people would try us once and go back to drinking whatever they were drinking before.”

 

Local Ties

Even with the great ambitions of key figures at the brewery, this is not a story about a lust for power and money. For Butcher, whose family has lived in Alexandria for over 100 years, Port City Brewing was an opportunity to bring something that had been lacking to the local community. The Metro D.C. area is by no means a beer desert barren of options, but few of those options actually came from within the beltway.

“We noticed that all the beer we had been buying was coming from the west coast or far away,” Butcher said. “We saw that as kind of an anomaly and started looking for more local options on the east coast. We saw that there seemed to be room for more choices for craft beer. The more we looked at it, we saw that the Metro D.C. area was the only major metro area in the country that didn’t have a packaging brewery. So it just seemed like there was a need there.”

And so Butcher, a former Mid-Atlantic wine representative for the Mondavi family, brought his knowledge of the alcohol industry and turned it toward beer. He set about with the goal of becoming a producer of great beer that above all else supplied its own market with beer before expanding elsewhere.

The result has been an outpouring of support from the local community. Beer drinkers in the D.C. area, who range from 21-year-old college students to seasoned Capitol Hill workers and longtime locals, know their stuff. And they know when they find something worth drinking.

“The D.C. Metro, it’s very educated,” says Jenn Chace, who manages the tasting room at Port City where they sell pints and growlers. “With that comes sophistication as far as food and drink. As we all know, the craft beer industry has blown up over the past three years and it’s grown in D.C. They’re very excited to have us there and we joke in the area that people cross the bridge from D.C. to come see us in Alexandria. It’s been great.”

 

The Beer

None of the key players’ ambitions or local connections would matter much if Reeves did not know what he was doing in the brewhouse. For this reason, Port City’s primary focus does not lie in branding or marketing, but in brewing quality beer that can be enjoyed by all drinkers.

“I’m not trying to do Reinheitsgebot or please CAMRA or do things exactly as they’d be done in Belgium,” Reeves said. “Beer is not wine. Beer is beer. Wine is a delicacy, and cheap wine is kind of a condiment that you can have at a meal like ketchup or mustard; where beer is more like a staple, like having bread with your food, or it’s refreshing.

“I don’t have like a special La Chouffe goblet that I keep wrapped in a velvet box that I pull out to drink my beers. I want people to enjoy themselves when they drink my beer. I don’t need them to feel like they’re getting ready to bungee jump naked.”

As Reeves says, Port City’s beers are traditional, but “with a twist.” With the exception of Port City’s Porter, which Reeves has been perfecting since he was a home brewer, his beers seek balance between innovation and tradition.

The Monumental IPA, which calls attention to Washington’s myriad monuments, recently won a gold medal at the Virginia Craft Brewer’s fest, and features American Hops in a balanced IPA that more closely resembles British IPAs than the West Coast hop bombs in favor with American drinkers.

Similarly the Optimal Wit, which Reeves describes as a “labor of love” and which he originally brewed to get his wife away from Adjunct Lagers, blurs lines between the traditional Belgian style and aggressive American versions.

And like any ambitious man should, Reeves continues to strive toward perfection with each successive brew.

“One of the good things about brewing for a package brewery as opposed to a pub brewery is that I’m brewing the beers over and over again,” he says. “I’m very concerned about brewing them as well as I can.”

 

Iron Horse

Note: This profile originally appeared in issue 67 of BeerAdvocate Magazine

 

What do you know about the beer business? How familiar are you with things like three-tier distribution systems; local, state, and federal excise taxes; and the Tax and Trade Bureau’s regulations regarding beer labels?

If these terms and concepts come up in your barstool bull sessions, then you probably already know a hell of a lot more about the industry than Greg Parker, his father Gary, and Ross Chalstrom did when they took over Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, Washington.

All Greg Parker knew was that he liked beer.

 

Fragile Foundations

The Parkers, who are co-owners of Iron Horse with Chalstrom recently becoming an equity partner although he has been a part of the team since the start, did not take the traditional route toward brewery ownership. Even for similarly inexperienced industry newcomers, the process of opening a brewery or a brewpub is lengthy and informative. Neophytes develop relationships with distributors, equipment manufacturers, and the government as they maneuver through the intricacies of getting started. Many more seek out other brewers as consultants or tour other breweries in the area to get a sense of what is required.

Instead of going through those formative steps, Greg Parker went straight into business by purchasing an already operational location. He was working at a deli counter in Montana and mulling a return to college when he came across a notice for a brewery for sale.

“At the time I was making beer in my garage in Montana, and saw that the brewery came for sale,” Parker said. “I was able to talk my dad into helping my buy a brewery, even though neither for us had any commercial brewing experience.”

The brewery was a small operation called Iron Horse that was owned and founded by Jim Quilter in the summer of 2004.

“He liked the beer, but he didn’t wasn’t big into selling beer,” Parker said of Quilter. “He kind of hung out and waited for people to show up and not enough showed up for him.”

The Parkers came in and took over management of Iron Horse in March of 2007. By July of the same year, they were the outright owners. Greg was going to lead the day-to-day operations charge, but they brought in Chalstron, a college friend of Greg’s, to manage sales – despite the fact that he had as much experience in sales as he did in the beer industry, which was none.

“It was kind of random. We had been friends for a long time and after him getting married and moving to Montana we didn’t talk that much,” Chalstron said. “I helped him move (back to Washington) when I was trying to get into a graduate program because I was trying to be a professor. I helped him move and he told me what he was doing. At that point I liked craft beer and stuff, but for the most part I was a neophyte… About the time I met up with Greg and all that stuff at least I was aware of it. I look back and think of how little I knew.

“I think for me it was a little different just because I focus mostly on sales. I brewed a little bit, but if I was brewing our beer we’d never sell any beer. The learning curve for me was more that I had never really sold anything. I tried to understand what is it about craft beer that makes it unique, and what’s a good way to go about it. The learning curve was more watching other people who had done a good job and how they did it.”

 

Unique Experience

According to Parker, the move to Washington and the financial hardships that followed nearly split him from his wife, Natalia, who was eight months pregnant with their second child at the time.

“Apparently she’s got as bad of judgment as I do,” Parker said with a laugh. “I think probably she’s a selfless person and realized I had a job I didn’t like and I had identified a career path that was of interest to me. Even though it wasn’t good timing or necessarily a guaranteed path to success, she wanted me to pursue it.”

The couple stuck it out, and so did the business. When Parker took over in 2007, Iron Horse produced about 500 bbl per year. Now, it makes more than that in a month. Although he acknowledged things would have been easier had he entered the business with more experience in the industry, he credits his and Chalstrom’s inexperience and fresh perspective as crucial to the growth and success.

“We stumbled through the logistical side of it, the distributor relationships and behind-the scenes stuff,” Parker said. “We fumbled more than we scored. But I think the things we did right was we were able to bring fresh sets of perspectives to the business. Rather than coming from inside and wanting to do things the established way, we didn’t know what it was, so we just did it our way.

“I think that really made the difference because we took beers to market that didn’t have styles, didn’t meet expectations and were kind of their own thing. It allowed us to create a signature. We recognized that as our greatest strength in that we didn’t know what we were doing. You have to learn something unless you want to keep suffering, but we try to ignore as much as we can about the industry and continue to put our take on it rather than the industry take.”

The same went for Chalstrom, who was trying to introduce himself to the community while learning the ins and outs of salesmanship.

“It’s changed now, there’s more of a kind of a developed idea of how you sell beer and how you market it,” Chalstrom said. “I remember when we started, not many breweries had sales reps. I think by getting out there, a lot more people understood that we were young and we were unpolished and a little different. That gave us some uniqueness a little in the beginning.”

 

Rules? What Rules?

If you want to taste a refined Czech Pilsner, or a superb English Porter, then Iron Horse Brewery is not for you.

“We don’t try to hit styles necessarily,” head brewer Tyson Read said. “We try to do things that are a little different that don’t quite get a category.”

That unique approach includes is perhaps best typified by Iron Horse’s top-selling beer: a tribute to the brewery’s founder, Quilter’s Irish Death. Not quite a porter, not quite a stout, the beer defies classification.

“It’s kind of an anomaly beer,” Read said. “It doesn’t really fit anywhere. It’s got some of everything in it. Low hoppiness, dark in color. A lot of people like it, especially people who are new to craft beer. Even though it’s dark they generally like it probably because it’s fairly sweet, and low in hoppiness and alcohol – so it’s fairly drinkable for everybody.”

That isn’t to say that Iron Horse doesn’t make recognizable beers – they brew their versions of IPA, Cream Stout, Pale Ale, and so on. And Read, who unlike his employers was trained in brewing at UC Davis and was no stranger to the industry when he became the head brewer at Iron Horse in 2010, executes these beers well. Still, with Parker at the helm, Read is able to experiment and stretch the limits of what styles should look like.

That’s just the way they do things at Iron Horse. Don’t blame them though, they don’t know any better.

 

Sean Lewis is a freelance journalist, a home brewer, and is currently working on his first book for St. Martin’s Press.

Moon River

Note: This profile originally appeared in issue 62 of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

 

Some of the regulars at Moon River Brewing Company are greatly appreciated. Some, simply won’t go away. Some are content to get together every Friday evening at 6 o’clock to raise a pint and toast their friends. Others, according to taped testimonials on the brewery’s website, make their presence known by throwing bottles at bar staff and moving objects around the dining room – despite the fact that they have been dead for decades.

The Savannah, Georgia brewpub has a reputation as one of the more haunted locales in a town known for its ghost stories. Like those who fill the bar and dining room every week, they must like the beer.

 

Shut up and Drink

There exists an undeniable attraction to stories of visitors from beyond the grave. Savannah does little to discourage the tales that have made the city something of a tourist destination, and Moon River has its fair share.

There is the notorious drunk and violent soul of James Jones Stark that gets credit for much of the mischief, and tales of finely garbed women descending and ascending staircases before vanishing like a head of foam into an IPA. However, brewmaster and co-owner John Pinkerton prefers to keep his attention plainly on the living patrons.

“With all these ghost shows that have popped up over the past couple of years, Savannah has stamped its identity in the media as being a fairly haunted place,” Pinkerton said. “With my ego being wrapped up in the beer side of things, I have largely been the voice of skepticism on that front. But you‘ve got to admit at some point that it’s great for business.

“I personally cannot claim any experiences that I call paranormal. What I often point out is that the scariest things on this planet are living people. I don’t worry about the spirits of dead people. I worry about living people and in particular drunk living people.”

Pinkerton added that perhaps Savannah gained a reputation as a haunted town because it has long had a reputation as a drinking town – it’s no secret that things become a little unclear after a few beers and a few more glasses of rum. If Savannah is indeed a good drinking town, then perhaps the best place to have a pint is at Moon River – specifically, at 6 p.m. on a Friday evening.

Since sometime in the mid 1990s, the bar quiets down and samples of whatever Pinkerton feels like sharing are passed around the bar as one of the locals stands up and prepares the crowd with a traditional “wind-up” that invites everyone in the bar to listen up and get ready to welcome the weekend. It’s usually followed by a recap of the week’s events and news, sometimes a clever limerick (although Pinkerton notes that it’s a family establishment and the toasters are encouraged to keep that in mind), or a dedication to a friend and his accomplishments. They all end the same with a resounding cry to “shut up and drink your beer!”

“That’s the salutation,” Pinkerton said. “It’s been a very lively part of our Friday tradition. Even so many years later when you stand up for the toast. Being the owner I’m always keen to what people’s reactions are… everybody kind of gets into it.”

 

It’s Not What You Know

After years of brewery jobs—some bad, some good—Pinkerton and his wife Connie had begun considering opening an establishment of their own. Connie had her eye set on Savannah, and Pinkerton was considering a brewpub when a friend introduced them to John Hickenlooper.

Coloradans may recognize Hickenlooper as their current governor, but at the time he was just a businessman looking to establish a brewpub in Georgia. However, the State of Georgia wouldn’t allow Hickenlooper to have a controlling interest in a brewery due to a conflict of interest, so instead of going into business with Pinkerton, Hickenlooper introduced him to current co-owner Gene Beeco. From there, the two partners and a third—who has since been bought out after several years of missteps that nearly sank the business—took over the failing Oglethorp Brewing Company in April of 1999, changed the name and got to work establishing a new Savannah landmark.

But before that could happen, Moon River had to endure trying times.

“We came along and basically picked up the pieces after (Oglethorp) and made some improvements, but we struggled for quite a few years,” Pinkerton said. “Our silent partner’s idea of helping us get through that was to dilute us further and further until we almost had no stake in the place. By the time our relationship with him was over and we had a significant amount of debt.”

The partner’s idea was to liquidate the business and move on, but Pinkerton and Beeco weren’t ready to abandon a project in which they still believed. So rather than follow his advice, they came up with a plan and the funding to buy out his stake and began righting the business.

“Almost as soon as we penned that deal it was like the clouds parted and beams of sunshine came through,” Pinkerton said. “It was like our customers and employees knew everything was going to be fine. From that point on it’s been spectacular things. And just in the past year we’ve finally kind of leveled off.”

Since that time, Pinkerton has been deeply involved with improving the beer community and knowledge on a local and national level. He is currently the president of the Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild, and is on the board of directors for the Brewer’s Association where he is part of a committee focused on connecting with the many brewpub owners in the BA.

“We want to connect better with the owners,” he said. “The actual direct members of brew pubs and to identify ways to serve them better. That’s been a process that’s coming along. We have monthly meetings and dialogues online.”

 

Pinkerton Style

The ghosts may bring in the tourists, and Pinkerton’s connections might gain him clout amongst the brewing community, but none of them would matter much if the locals didn’t drink the beer. To keep things interesting, Pinkerton has avoided falling into the trap of producing predictable brewpub ales that fit nicely into a handful of categories.

“What I rally like to do is make sure I’m covering a wide breadth of variety and each beer is distinctive. I always find it sad when you go into a brew pub and there are six to eight beers that all taste like lighter or darker versions of each other,” he said. “Sometimes that’s hard because you’re dealing with the same yeast strain or some corporate overlay… I want to make sure there’s enough contrast in the lineup.”

Part of that contrast comes from the fact that Pinkerton is not shy about keeping strains of yeast on hand at all times, but part of it comes from an approach to creating beer that he calls “Pinkerton Style.”

“Any style of beer I make is John Pinkerton Style,” he said. “I do, on occasion, make beers to style because I want it to be traditional and meet expectations of a traditional style… but by and large it just drives me insane to listen to the banter about whether something is to style and everybody’s opinions on it. I usually start with the caveat that this is a Pinkerton Style beer and you can judge it on its own. Don’t box me in.”

Beers like Swamp Fox IPA, a West-Coast IPA that is a favorite amongst the regulars, are a mainstay on tap, as is the sweet and roasty Captains Porter that has essentially remained the same since Pinkerton created the recipe during the pub’s early years. Then there are cult hits like the Rosemary IPA, which is in regular rotation at the brewery and claimed gold in the Herb Spice/Chocolate Beer category at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.

Whether they are to style or not, the regulars come back every week to have a toast and a couple pints of Pinkerton’s beers. Some of the regulars have simply been coming much, much longer than the others.

 

Sean Lewis is a freelance writer and homebrewer and is currently writing his first book for St. Martin’s Press

Spring House

Note: This profile originally appeared in Issue 61 of BeerAdvocate Magazine

 

No matter how good a beer is, it is always better when enjoyed with friends. Beer is the ultimate social beverage, and brewing should be a social experience as well. It’s beer’s social strengths that make events like beer festivals so appealing.

Where there is beer, inevitably people will follow. Perhaps few people understand this concept as well as those in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A small city that is bursting with a strong sense of community and a burgeoning beer scene where breweries like Spring House Brewing Company can flourish amongst its peers.

 

Good Neighbors

When Matt Keasey founded Spring House and opened the doors to the brewery in 2006 – which is located in the barn on his property outside the city limits – he learned a valuable lesson on just how magnetic beer can be.

“Down at the brewery I actually had a tasting room going and my house was just getting swamped with cars and people,” Keasey said. “I couldn’t really control it. My property was getting to be too overwhelmed. The brewery has a typical driveway with an oversized parking area. It was getting so packed with people coming down with tastings, that’s what made me decide to open up the brewpub a few miles away. The location wasn’t set up for that many people coming in and out. It was getting pretty crazy.”

Congested traffic at your brewery – whether it’s on your own property or not – would b classified by most people as one of those good problems. Still, it was a problem that needed to be addressed. So, Keasey decided to divert the traffic away from his property by opening a brew pub within Lancaster.

Although the one-barrel system located on premises is more for experimentation than anything else, it allows Keasey to sell Spring House beer on the premises and join a vibrant community of brewers and beer drinkers who seemed eager to welcome a new face in the crowd.

“It is a really good beer scene. Our brewpub is packed nonstop,” said Keasey via his cell phone over the din of customers that could be heard in the background despite the fact that he was outside the building and it was the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday. “In walking distance there’s probably about ten good beer bars and two other breweries within walking distance from here. I think Lancaster County has maybe eight to 10 breweries located in it. For the part of Pennsylvania where we’re at, that’s a lot of breweries for us.”

 

“I Hated My Job”

Keasey’s brewing career and interest in beer was nurtured in the same way as so many other modern brewers. He began as a homebrewer, but it didn’t take him long to figure out that he would rather spend his days shoveling grain out of a mash tun than spending hour after mind-numbing hour at his day job.

“My job sucked. I hated it,” Keasey said. “I met my wife, we were both with a pharmaceutical company and she came up to me and was like I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to go apply to a PhD program and I’m leaving. I was sitting there and said, ‘Well shit, I better figure out something too.’ We were sitting at work and said ‘what do you think I should do?’ She said, ‘Well, you love beer,’ and I thought, ‘That’s not such a bad idea.’ I love drinking beer and brewing beer, so I started looking into it.”

That was around 2000, and he steadily progressed toward his goal of opening his own brewery. He knew that it would be a dramatic leap to go from a kitchen operation to a full-fledged production brewery, so he turned to the area brewers for help. Keasey volunteered at various area breweries to get the feel of the professional systems before he ventured out on his own.

“That was fun,” he said. “You get to meet a lot of people, and a lot of people help you out when they find out you’re trying to start a brewery. They want to help you and see you succeed. That’s nice about being in the industry. I open my doors to everybody, if somebody says they’re looking to start their own brewery, nine times out of ten I let them in. It’s fun.”

But Keasey still wasn’t sure where the brewery would be located. He had recently moved to his current home, which was first settled and built in 1794 with a functioning spring in the basement that was tapped up until 1970 (hence the name Spring House), and was brewing a home batch in his barn when a friend from high school and homebrew helper suggested he build the brewery in the barn.

The idea stuck, and Keasey adapted his business plan and approach to accommodate a rural location instead of an urban one. So far it has worked out well, as it has provided plenty of space for the brewhouse and a unique setting for special events – such as the annual parties that accompany the brewing of the Spring House Pumpkin Ale.

“What I do is I get a pig roaster and I’ll get it for about two months,” Keasey said. “By the end of August into mid November it will stay at my house and we’ll roast pumpkins throughout two months. It’s pretty much a party down at the brewery, whoever wants to come can come cut pumpkins and we’ll throw them on the roaster…. We’ll have a few beers, roast pumpkins and shoot the shit.”

 

More Art than Science

One might assume that Keasey’s background in chemistry and pharmaceuticals would be a natural fit for a brewer. It is easy to picture someone with his background bending over a microscope analyzing yeast cells and scrutinizing procedures and efficiency reports. One might assume that, but one would be wrong.

“Seeing that I was in chemistry and I have a chemistry background and work in the industry, I try not to rely on science,” He said. “I go more for the art of it because I was just scienced out. I just do what I want to do down at the brewery. I will throw whatever in to see what happens.

“There’s a little bit of science that I do that I have to do in the brewing, but I try not to overscience my beer, so to speak. One batch might not be the same as the batch before because I’m continually tweaking my beers. I’ll have a recipe that I think is really good, and a lot of people will tell me it’s good, but I won’t be satisfied so I will go back and make a change or two here – changing my recipes just to see what I will get, what will happen if I do this, this or this.”

Keasey said the one beer he does not constantly adjust is Seven Gates Pale Ale, which is Spring House’s flagship and is one of the beers that finds its way to the bottling line located at the brewery. Most of the others are served at the brew pub or other accounts, where demand has Keasey and his small brewing team making beer four or five days a week – beers like the Gate Series, a series of beers based on the Seven Gates recipe that will showcase a single, different hop with each batch.

For now, Keasey is enjoying the freedom of being a small brewer. Although the demand suggests that the market could support it, Spring House doesn’t have much plans for expansion – apart from adding a barrel-aging room to the brewery and increasing production on the bottling line.

“We have a small group, me and two other guys in the brewery, we just crank out special beers that we want,” Keasey said. “I don’t know if we want to get into managing more people and producing beer. I like the size we are at… I’m not looking to get rich. I just love what I’m doing.”

 

Sean Lewis is a freelance writer and homebrewer. He is currently writing his first book, tentatively titled Malt, Hops and Heart for St. Martin’s Press.

Augusta Brewing Company

Note: This profile originally appeared in issue 60 of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

 

American beer has history. Through the grain grown in the Midwest plains and the hops from the Pacific Northwest lend the character of the nation to the beers they create. But most importantly, the history of American beer is a history of people.

Circumstances, fate and a certain business prowess have made the Busch family a predominant name around the St. Louis area, but Budweiser is not the only beer with deep historical roots, nor is Busch the only family with a legacy.

At Augusta Brewing Company, Terry and Jeri Heisler are keeping a family history alive by moving the brewery’s production operations from its current location in Labadie, Missouri to a facility that has been in Jeri Heisler’s family for over a century.

 

Family Tradition

Jeri’s Great Great Grandfather John G. Droege opened Droege’s Mercantile in Washington in 1867. It was a small community grocery store, but a successful one and he eventually moved to a bigger building in 1896. Over the next century the store and building were a part of a community that survived the Great Depression, two world wars and a host of changes documented in the annals of history.

“It’s a store where most people everybody in this town worked there at some point,” said Terry Heisler.

One thing that Droege’s could not withstand however, was the intrusion of much larger retailers like Wal-Mart and Target as well as a handful of regional brands that could offer cheaper products. And so, after more than 120 years in operation, Droege’s shut its doors in April, 2011.

And while some might see this as a tragedy, the Heisler’s saw an opportunity to start a new family tradition.

“My family seems to be happy with it and the downtown community in Washington is very happy with it,” Jeri Heisler said. “As with most small towns, you’re always trying to keep your heart and core of your community alive. This is an opportunity to do so by offering increased tourism and another activity for people to come to.”

The transition to the Washington facility, which the Heislers hope to open by the spring of 2012, will involve an upgrade from the current 10-12-bbl system that has cobbled together with used dairy equipment to a full-fledged brewing system with cylindro-conical fermentation vessels and a larger kettle to fill them. Brewing operations will take place in the basement below the main floor – a 76,000-square foot space that will include a large hole in the floor so that patrons enjoying beer in the tap room can peer down into the brewery.

The tap room will likely open before the brewhouse equipment is installed, with kegs coming over from the production facility in Labadie. That is phase one. Phase two involves adding more seating and more food to make the new space a full-fledged brewery and pub.

 

Around and Back

Like so many American stories, the history of Augusta Brewing involves a lot of blending and mixing of cultures and more than a little bit of improvisation. Although none of its beers are actually brewed in Augusta, the brewery does operate a pub of the same namesake there. The location dubbed “the brew house” by its owners will continue to operate in Augusta after brewing operations are moved to nearby Washington.

Formerly called Heartland Brewery, its name changed in 2000 to Augusta Brewing under new owner Steve Newcomb, who also ran Square One in St. Louis. He hired a fresh young brewer named Shawn Herrin, who had been working at Square One, to run the brewing in Labadie. He knew the Heislers as retailers (they own and operate John G’s Bierhouse in Washington), and when the stresses of owning and operating two separate breweries became too much, he sold to them in April of 2010.

“We bought the business in April of last year, and ever since we have been growing business and accounts,” Terry said.

As for the Heislers themselves, the love of beer did not start with the Bierhouse. It was fostered in the land of their ancestors when Terry, who served for 31 years in the Army, was stationed in Germany in 1985.

“Every time we went on vacation we always sought out craft breweries or the local brews,” Jeri said. “Most towns in Germany have their own little brewery and that’s what you get used to drinking.”

It was a roundabout road to Augusta Brewing for Herrin as well. His affinity for beer began with home brewing sessions with his father in Seattle, grew during college as he studied for a degree in Biology at the University of Missouri, and fully blossomed when he decided to make a career out of brewing when he got his first job at Trailhead Brewing Company in 2007 and went on to get a formal brewing education at Siebel. When the Heislers bought the brewery in 2010, they kept the young brewmaster at the helm.

“They’ve been great,” Herrin said of the new owners. “They took the chains off me and let my creative imagination run free. There’s a new energy to the brewery… Steve was getting a little exhausted running both businesses and running from St. Louis out to wine country and he didn’t have a passion for it anymore. It was nice to have a fresh look.”

 

Artisanal Science

Herrin’s portfolio at Augusta Brewing Company shows off Herrin’s creative freedom with a range of brews from their flagship Tannhauser Pale Ale to a variety of German-style lagers and wheat beers as well as a series of Belgian-style beers under Augusta’s “Farmhouse” label.

Herrin also said that the brewery is experimenting with souring beers in wine and whiskey barrels. It is all part of a broad approach that stands in stark contrast to the beer coming from the bigger brewery a few miles away in St. Louis.

“It is a science and you try to control as many variables as you can, but being a small artisanal brewery you have to kind of go with it,” Herrin said. “I don’t want to say I shoot for the hip or anything because you spend a lot of time in formulation and doing what you can to make a quality product, but really what it comes down to is catching lightning in a bottle and trying to manage that lightning in the bottle. I try not to stress out about the finest details – just keep things clean and try to have fun as much as I can.”

So far, Herrin’s approach has worked out well for him and Augusta. The brewery’s Hyde Park Stout won a gold medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, and is a fine representation of the simple and traditional style.

In all, Augusta Brewing Company represents a long journey for its owners and brewmaster – with winding roots that travel back to a German immigrant who built his version of the American Dream over a century ago. With each pint, Augusta’s patrons become a part of that history.

 

Sean Lewis is a freelance journalist and is currently writing his first book, tentatively titled Malt, Hops and Heart for a major publisher.

Bridge Brew Works

Note: This profile originally appeared in Issue 56 of Beer Advocate Magazine

 

Collaboration is not a trend amongst craft brewers, it is much more integral than that. There is no #collaboration hashtag floating around the twittersphere that a handful of breweries saw and thought it might be fun to try working with another brewery to come up with something neat.

Just as the labels creativity and craftsmanship have become synonymous with the better breweries around the country, so too has collaboration. At breweries like Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville, West Virginia, collaboration between co-owners and brewers Ken Linch and Nathan Herrold is the norm.

 

Community Collaborators

While Linch and Herrold worked together to develop Bridge Brew Works’ portfolio (see sidebar), the brewing duo wouldn’t be real collaborators unless they brought in different brewers to come up with something unique. There is just one problem—there aren’t too many breweries near Fayetteville. Of course, that’s exactly why BBW was founded in the first place.

“If you look at the state and where breweries are located, there’s nothing around us in West Virginia,” Linch said. “We figured we’ve got good tourism here and people from out of state, a lot of them, have their own local brew pubs and breweries. When you’re traveling you like to try out the local beers, at least I do, and we felt that this area… had a pretty good opening for a small brewery.”

One of BBW’s first customers was a local restaurant, Pies and Pints, that specialized in gourmet pizza and craft beer. The restaurant’s owners were stoked to see a new brewery launching close by, and put them on tap quickly. When those same owners mentioned an interest in brewing their own beer, Linch and Herrold were happy to welcome owner Dave Bailey and employee Ryan Heastings in to collaborate on a brew.

The result was a hoppy pale ale, a certain departure from Linch and Herrold’s more balanced and malt-forward approach, and BBW’s first seasonal. Part of the project is to have fun and to brew interesting beer, but from a business standpoint Linch sees the collaboration as an opportunity to work with BBW’s customers at an intimate level.

“There is a certain amount of wanting to do business with the locals as much as we can. We do enlist the restaurants that buy our beer,” Linch said. “We do try to go around and do a little video or take a picture of us at their establishment and help them with their sales. We try to be active on Facebook and try to pump them up as much as we can. I think they appreciate that – it’s a hands-on approach that they certainly don’t get from the macro brewers and distributors. I think that’s a value added that we can offer.”

Linch and Herrold recently collaborated with West Virginia BJCP beer judge and home brewer Rich Ireland on a Kolsh. Brewed with German malts and noble hops, Ireland developed the recipe during one of his many trips to Bavaria.

 

Two-Headed Beast

Linch and Herrold’s daily operation is an exercise in collaboration. The duo officially started pumping out beer in January of 2010, the two have been discovering their own niche within the company since.

“It’s a joint effort,” Linch said. “We work, maybe that’s surprising to people that we work really closely together on both aspects. My background is in engineering and Nate (Herrold)’s background is in business management. His father ran a business, and so far it’s been a pretty good match. I’ve had plenty to learn from him on brewing on the big-boy scale, and there’s a lot—anything that requires math skills and some other computer skills or whatever that I can pick up the slack there.”

Although both are longtime home brewers, Herrold, the younger of the two at 37 to Linch’s 50, brings the professional brewing experience to the group. He got his start at a brew pub in Morgantown, West Virginia called West Virginia Brewing Company, which has since switched owners and names. But Herrold also brings in the bold personality that served him well as a white-water river guide on the nearby New River Gorge (the brewery takes its name from the iconic New River Gorge Bridge).

“I’ve met a lot of the owners of local business around here, but I think it also helps when we have the opportunity to go to shows and kind of market your product,” Herrold said about the personality quirks that go along with somebody who spends his summers guiding tourists through rapids and on fishing trips. “I think it kind of helps in the personality aspect in order to sell your product. When you’ve got to cold-call somebody on the phone or you go to a potential account, I think that has given me, with having experience in that realm, it’s given me a lot of confidence to do that.”

Linch and Herrold have found a way to effectively blend their unique skill sets and personalities to the point where brew days have become a quiet affair that hardly requires any back-and-forth between the brewers as they perform their roles in a monastic manner of quiet collaboration—and this harmony is on full display in the beer.

 

Brewed to Style

So many new brewers boast that their beers do not fit comfortably into style guidelines. This attribute of craft brewers seems to represent a sentiment that since the brewer is already bucking conventional beer (what Light American Adjunct Lagers became in this country), he or she may as well buck all convention and brew truly unique and expressive beer.

That approach does not sit well with Linch.

“There’s 300 or so recognized styles of beer around the world,” Linch said. “In this area and I think its similar around the country – there’s some small breweries or brew pubs that are putting out beers that they don’t necessarily classify into a style. I loosely consider that beer to be hippie beer.

“To me, that’s a slap in the face to brewers and recognized styles. That’s not to say we won’t put something out that is in between styles, but we feel there’s enough known styles out there that we don’t need to hide behind anything. If you use the best ingredients and make an honest product then you can stand behind that.”

For that reason, BBW’s two flagship beers, available only on draft, focus on using traditional ingredients to brew traditional beers. Linch describes the Long Point Lager as a Dortmunder. It is brewed with German malt and Noble hops in the late additions. Bridge Brew Ale is an ESB brewed with Scottish malt and English hops for flavor and aroma.

“We definitely try to make strides in those directions,” Linch said. “Like I said, they’re recognized styles and we feel that especially just starting out that we kind of need to prove that we can brew a beer to style. Maybe later on if we want to do something more creative people will follow along a little better than if you start off brewing with, I don’t know, raisins and crazy stuff.”

Linch and Herrold do step out from the style guidelines a bit with their latest beer, which was still pending label approval at the time of this writing, dubbed Trubbel. At 11% ABV and fermented with a Beligian yeast strain, it comes off like a Quad, except it is pale. Linch calls it a Strong Blonde, and it is one of a handful of higher-gravity beers brewed by BBW that finds its way into 750-ml bottles.

With quality beer focused on traditional values, Linch and Herrold are banking on the fact that trends will pass, but great beers live on.

 

Sean Lewis is a freelance writer and home brewer. He is currently working on his first book.

Marshall Brewing Company

Note: This profile originally appeared in Issue 54 of BeerAdvocate Magazine

 

Socrates held the position that he could not teach a man anything that he did not already know. To oversimplify one of western civilization’s greatest minds, he believed that all knowledge was innate and the act of learning was little more than remembering what one already knew.

Socrates goes on to show his associate Meno that even a young slave who did not have the benefit of an education could solve a relatively complex mathematical problem when posed the right questions.

Eric Marshall; founder of Marshall Brewing Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma; isn’t one of the world’s greatest philosophers, nor does he claim to be one. He is, however, helping Oklahomans to discover knowledge that mankind has known for thousands of years. Mainly, that beer is good, and good beer is better.

 

The Students

No new brewery enters the market without obstacles in front of it. Even in the Meccas and Medinas of the beer world, newcomers are forced to prove their worthiness. A weak IPA or a watered-down Stout could spell doom for a start-up in San Diego.

When he started Marshall Brewing Company in 2008, Marshall had a different challenge ahead of him. As he grew up in the Tulsa area, the 30-year old brewmaster had seen small brewpubs and microbreweries spring up in the 1990s. Then he watched as those same places folded their doors and dusty legers, as the locals clung to their favorite national brands. Oklahoma was a beating heart for the American Adjunct Lager and its producers, and seducing drinkers with hoppy ales and rich lagers was no easy task.

“I don’t’ think people were necessarily ready for it,” Marshall explained of the boom and bust of the 1990s.

It took time for America’s heartland to accept the challenges that small brewers were offering, but Oklahoma eventually warmed to the idea that a local outfit could produce a product as good—if not better—than the big boys could in St. Louis or Milwaukee. As craft beer from the coasts emerged in liquor stores and beer pubs began popping up in Tulsa, Marshall saw a change in Oklahoma and recognized that his home state had finally caught up.

“Oklahoma has always kind of been behind the pack,” Marshall said. “I like to say things start at the coast and work toward the middle. Oklahoma tends to be sort of behind, so now the fact that we’re able to be here and do things that others don’t do, there’s a void in the market that we’re able to step up and fill.”

And MBC continues to educate the thirsty masses of Oklahoma. Marshall rarely passes on an opportunity to speak to his fellow Oklahomans at events and festivals, and the brewery enjoys taking part in “beer universities” hosted at some of the area pubs that aim to educate patrons on the flavors and wide variety in the world of beer.

 

Teaching Credentials

Enjoying a good book here and there might make somebody an interesting partner for conversation, but does not qualify that person to teach English. Likewise, a brewer needs a strong background and proper credentials if he is going to try and remind his customers of the fundamental truth that beer is good—in other words, he has to know how to make good beer.

Marshall’s brewing career started in a familiar place—his kitchen—but it was in Germany where it truly took root. During his junior year at Tulsa University, where he studied German and international business, Marshall went abroad to Germany and fell in love with the beer culture.

“It really just kind of stuck out at me and I really enjoyed it,” Marshall said. “I just fell in love with the culture behind it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at that point. I came back for my senior year and my dad had actually turned my old bedroom into a home pub, and we convinced my dad if he invested a little money in a nice homebrew system he could serve his own beer at a pub, so he thought that was a great idea.”

Marshall describes the ensuing months as if it were a sickness, as he became obsessed with brewing beer for the home pub. He was thirsty for more, but could not find the knowledge he needed in Oklahoma. As he professed his desire to brew professionally to some family friends, they put him in touch with Munich-based brewmaster Stefan Grauvogl, who in turn helped Marshall turn his dream into reality.

“He basically set me up with some different people (in Germany) and I kind of jumped around,” Marshall said. “A few weeks here, a month here, just getting experience in a bunch of different settings. But also experiencing the different regions and cultures of Germany. Unlike here, there’s different areas that have different tastes and specialties. In Bamburg there’s the Rauchbiers and Smoke Beers, while down in Bavaria they’ve got the Helles and Hefeweizens.”

Marshall honed his craft in old-world breweries while America was undergoing a craft beer revolution of sorts. He received his diploma in Brewing Technology from the World Brewing Academy, and came home to work as a brewer for Victory Brewing in Downington, Pennsylvania. Shortly after, Marshall decided it was time for him to return home, and to bring good beer back to Tulsa.

 

Teaching Materials

Ale has been the poster child of the craft beer movement, but Marshall was unafraid to introduce a craft-brewed lager to Tulsa. Marshall’s Old Pavilion Pilsner was inspired by his experiences in Germany, and remains a symbol of the brewery’s dedication to producing quality beer in Oklahoma.

Old Pavilion Pilsner is not a macro clone in a craft beer costume, but a hand-crafted lager that stands out as a testament to just how good old-world styles can be.

“We’re definitely in the bible belt of the US being in Oklahoma, and to be able to bring that celebrated culture and the freshness and the quality associated with the places I studied in Germany—I make a German-style Pilsner, and I tell people we make this beer because I love this beer,” Marshall said. “I love good fresh Pilsners and it’s definitely got a place near and dear to my heart. That’s one of the main reasons why we brew it.

Beyond that, it’s the celebration. Obviously, when designing a beer it’s an art that draws from your experiences and what you’ve learned.”

As Marshall puts what he has learned on display, his students are starting to develop their own tastes and are growing under his tutelage. The easy-drinking Sundown Wheat was introduced as MBC’s main beer, but has been surpassed in sales by the brewery’s Atlas I.P.A.—an English-style IPA that was born during a hop shortage in 2007.

“We had to take a different approach, so we took a more traditional English approach to it where there’s more balance on the IPA side of things, and not over the top with hops,” Marshall said. “A little bit considering what the market will bear and craft something that is approachable and easy to drink.”

As Marshall Brewing grows and the local drinkers grow as well, the brewery hopes to experiment a little more and push the palates of its fans—as it did with El Cacuey (essentially the name for a Latin American boogeyman), a Black IPA debuted last Halloween and the first of Marshall’s Loco Gringo series of limited release beers.

It is summer now, but school is still in session at Marshall Brewing Company, and it will be as long as Oklahomans stay thirsty.

 

Sean Lewis is a freelance journalist and beer writer, and is currently working on his first book