Southwest Brewing News October/November 2010 : Page 1
By David Mulvihil ou’ve got to experiment to make new things happen,” says brian Thompson, owner/brewer at Telegraph brewing Company, Santa barbara. It’s this kind of creativity that drives his fervor to provide standout beer in a sea of sameness. and this is where the trail of two different beers from two diverse breweries begins. IlluSTraTIon by HanS GranHEIm The Path of the Telegraph The long and windy road a beer can take from its initial inception to the point of release can take many paths. Thompson’s excitement for originality, coupled with a determination for balance and taste, contributed to the development of a new special brew. The inspiration began one day as he and his team of brewers, Will Durgin and Scott baer, were working in the brewery. Gypsy music came on the radio and ideas started flowing. “What See Trail p. 5 FIT TO BE TIE-DYED. Saint Arnold owner and Founder Brock Wagner drives a blinding brewery vehicle in Houston's annual Art Car Parade. PHOTOS: ESHEPUL Event Calendar ........................................ 2 Queen of Quaff ........................................ 3 From the Editor ....................................... 3 Best of Show ............................................ 4 Directories & Maps ........................... 12 -15 Arkansas .................... 8 Oklahoma .................. 9 N Mexico/SW Texas ...10 S California ..............16 San Diego .................17 S/C Texas .................18 Austin .......................19 N Texas ...................20 Nevada .....................21 C Arizona .................22 N Arizona ................ 23 S Arizona ................. 23 RE-BEERTH. This former Houston ISD warehouse is the new home of St. Arnold Brewing Co. in Houston, Texas. It’s an example of the brewery’s commitment to urban renewal and preservation. That’s saying a lot, since what was once a three-person operation now has upwards of 20 employees and a new multi-million dollar brewery. Instead of the view into the brewhouse he used to have, Wagner’s office window now looks out on downtown Houston a scant half mile away. “When I was looking for a building, I really wanted to be near downtown,” Wagner notes. He had expected to end up well outside Houston’s center, but the impending demise of an old Houston Independent School District warehouse made his dream come true. “When we found this building, I couldn’t believe it and the building was going to get torn down,” he recalls. Even with the right building, getting into it wasn’t easy. See St. Arnold p. 6
The Trail Of Tow Beers
<B>The Path of the Telegraph</B><br /> <br /> Ou’ve got to experiment to make new things happen,” says Brian Thompson, Owner/Brewer at Telegraph Brewing Company, Santa Barbara.<br /> <br /> It’s this kind of creativity that drives his fervor to provide standout beer in a sea of sameness.<br /> <br /> And this is where the trail of two different beers from two diverse breweries begins.<br /> <br /> The long and windy road a beer can take from its initial inception to the point of release can take many paths.<br /> <br /> Thompson’s excitement for originality, coupled with a determination for balance and taste, contributed to the development of a new special brew. The inspiration began one day as he and his team of brewers, Will Durgin and Scott Baer, were working in the brewery. Gypsy music came on the radio and ideas started flowing. “What Would a Gypsy beer be like?” Stereotypical visions of these spirited wanderers came to mind; a people constantly on the move and enjoying a lifelong journey. They determined a tribute beer would somehow need to capture the rustic roots and wild nature of Gypsies. Slivovitz, a plum distillate, and in Thompson’s words, “…a rotgut of the Balkans and Eastern Europe,” was likely a drink that Gypsies enjoyed. Capturing a bit of this essence would also honor their character. In the final formulation for Gypsy, the historically peasant grain of rye pays tribute to Gypsy peasant roots. Local Santa Barbara plums provide the rustic component, and brettanomyces marry the flavors and lend the “wild” component.<br /> <br /> Telegraph’s abbey-style ale (with added rye and Telegraph’s house yeast) was initially brewed via their standard brewing process, providing the base to which local plums and brett were combined in the aging tank to develop into this unique beer.<br /> <br /> <B>Arriving at #14</B><br /> <br /> “It was great when we got approval to brew something special, but then hard to decide what to brew. A barleywine?... Well everyone makes a barleywine. A black IPA? No, that’s been done. An Imperial stout?<br /> <br /> Everyone does that too. We had to make something original.” This is how Master Brewer Matt Brynildson details the beginnings of the expedition that brought about Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Anniversary Series.<br /> <br /> Brynildson and his team started down the typical road of making a number of these and other beers, in search for that singular ale. The individual beers were very good, but they wanted more. An epiphany was in store that would divert the crew onto a road to a new and more unique adventure. Beginning with their 10th anniversary, the Firestone crew came up with the idea of utilizing many of these individual beers, aging them in various oak barrels (bourbon, whisky, rye, brandy, unused charred, and used Firestone Burton Union barrels), and enlisting local winemakers to assist with blending and to decide on the final blend that creates a new first class brew one, in Brynildson’s words, that is, “….something greater than the sum of its parts!” In this year’s formulation, Parabola imperial stout will likely be a major component. An American barleywine called Abacus, and a new beer, Sticky Monkey, may also be in the mix. Firestone 14 is the series fifth release.<br /> <br /> <B>Packaging</B><br /> <br /> Brewing/blending is just the beginning of the voyage that brings a beer to market. The label also takes some necessary sidetrips; first stop, the designer.<br /> <br /> Firestone Walker enlists 3i Design out of San Luis Obispo to assist with label design. “Each year we seek to maintain the brand equity we have built, but still add a bit of a different look,” shares Jamie Smith, Firestone Walker’s marketing manager. This year’s label includes FW’s signature “coat of arms” - with upright lion and bear - and adds an oak branch graphic above the 14, a tribute to the components oak barrel roots.Firestone Walker’s development of its prestigious beer box also allows it to stand out on the shelf. But, per Smith, “Clever packaging doesn’t go far without having quality and taste in the product itself.”<br /> <br /> San Diego artist David Lozeau contributes his talents to Telegraph’s label designs. Telegraph’s signature labels traditionally display a horse-drawn beerbarrel wagon theme, paying homage to the heritage of early brewers, and the transportation they used to drive their goods to market. This theme was morphed first for their Rhinoceros Rye Wine special release.<br /> <br /> A rhinoceros replaced the horses pulling the cart. For Gypsy, a modification of the wagon is in store. Instead of beer barrels, the wagon carries wandering Gypsy minstrel players.<br /> <br /> <B>TTB Tripping</B><br /> <br /> Label approval often involves roadblocks and detours in navigating with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Labels are designed in accordance with TTB requirements, but differences in interpretation can often arise, causing the approval process to stall. If the beer, or any component, is aged in spirits barrels, a Statement of Process (SOP) is required so the TTB can be assured that the barrel process did not result in increasing The alcohol by volume. Beers with non-standard ingredients also require a SOP. The addition of fruit and brett required Telegraph to submit a SOP.The necessary trip to the TTB for label authorization can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to two months.<br /> <br /> <B>If You Brew It, They Will Come</B><br /> <br /> With current production around 1,500 barrels/year, Thompson’s modern day horsepowered wagon, the Telegraph van, is no longer how most beer travels to market. As a one-man marketing and sales team, Thompson has teamed up with a number of different distributors to transport his Beer to the Santa Barbara area and other destinations in California, Arizona and Chicago.<br /> <br /> Firestone Walker, with 80,000 barrels produced annually, has contracts with major distributors for pickup, warehousing and selling/servicing accounts. FW has a marketing team of three, supported by a field sales team of 20.<br /> <br /> For specialty beers like Gypsy and 14, the quality in the bottle, coupled with the following developed for the brewery, really help them sell themselves, requiring very little marketing to sell these beers. In turn, these scarce offerings act as catalysts and marketing agents that enhance exposure to the brewery and its core product line.<br /> <br /> Gypsy’s distribution will be extremely limited, and its journey is expected to be short lived due to a production of only about 100 cases. Firestone 14’s 1,000 cases are also expected to sell out quickly, with distribution in Firestone’s western markets and minimal, select allocation to accounts east.<br /> <br /> Avid fans are expected to be forging their own happy trails this fall, making pilgrimages to Santa Barbara and Paso Robles to be among the first to secure these new offerings. Those not able to make the trip will likely be camping out at their local bottle shop. Gypsy is expected to release in mid-October. On November 6, 14 will debut to the public.
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A Successful Road
That’s saying a lot, since what was once a three-person operation now has upwards of 20 employees and a new multi-million dollar brewery. Instead of the view into the brewhouse he used to have, Wagner’s office window now looks out on downtown Houston a scant half mile away. “When I was looking for a building, I really wanted to be near downtown,” Wagner notes.<br /> <br /> He had expected to end up well outside Houston’s center, but the impending demise of an old Houston Independent School District warehouse made his dream come true. “When we found this building, I couldn’t believe it and the building was going to get torn down,” he recalls.Even with the right building, getting into it wasn’t easy.<br /> <br /> <B>The Bumpy Trail</B><br /> <br /> “Modern building code doesn’t fit well with an old building,” Wagner comments.The city really likes it when you repurpose old buildings, but then they punish you for it.” Indeed, they had just cut the ribbon on the new building and received a mayoral Proclamation when they discovered that everything still wasn’t quite squared downtown, resulting in a delay of several months before they could resume their popular brewery tours. “We don’t have our permanent certificate of occupancy just Yet,” Wagner sighs. “We’re still doing a few nit-picky things.”<br /> <br /> Even as paperwork languishes, the bigger brewhouse is already straining their capacity, with new tanks on the way to keep the beer flowing. Like the building, their 120-barrel brewhouse has a history. It was removed from the historic Klosterbrauerei Raitenhaslach in Burghausen, Germany, reconditioned and updated, then shipped to the “newery.” Making the transition from the old 30-barrel system has presented its own challenges. “We’ve dumped more batches of beer in the last five months than in the previous 16 years,” Wagner says with a shake of his head.<br /> <br /> “Most of the time it was perfectly good beer, it just wasn’t… it was way off spec of what it was supposed to be.” These days the brewhouse yields far more precise results. “I think we are finally at the point where we have the brewhouse dialed in and are making the beers,” he smiles. “They’re back to where they are supposed to be, only I would say better.”<br /> <br /> <B>Blazing a New Trail</B><br /> <br /> The success of the transition is also evident in the arrival of new offerings from Saint Arnold. The “Movable Yeast” series of beers was introduced with Weedwacker in September, a limited release batch of their Fancy Lawnmower Beer wort that was fermented with a hefeweizen yeast instead of the usual kölsch strain. “I want to show people the effect yeast has on the flavor of beer, because I don’t think they understand it,” Wagner states. The whole point of the release is to hopefully have people tasting it side by side with Lawnmower. Other Saint Arnold standards will get the “Movable Yeast” treatment in the future and represent the newfound flexibility that their facility offers. Wagner observes. “We have a lot of Beers we’ve been dying to make for a while. This new brewhouse finally gives us the ability and the capacity to do that.”<br /> <br /> One of the other hallmarks of the Saint Arnold experience is their tour. In the “oldery,” a Saturday tour could easily draw over 500 thirsty visitors to the warehouse to stand in long, hot lines to sample the ice-cold beer. Wagner proudly noted that the biggest change for the public has been air conditioning during the tour.<br /> <br /> “We get a lot of comments on that,” he grins. Gone too is the one-size-fits-all brewery talk, replaced by more intimate walking tours for those who are interested.<br /> <br /> “Three o’clock weekday tours - they’re actually very much like the tours of old at the oldery.” He continues, “They come in, they get beer before listening to the talk but then I give the talk and walk them around.” Weekend tours still draw big crowds, now comfortably enjoying their beers in the air-conditioned beer hall that looks Directly into the brewhouse. Families arrive carrying a lunch of pizza, fried chicken or a spread of meats and cheeses to enjoy at the long trestle tables that line the space.<br /> <br /> The Saturday tour is listed as one of the top things to do in Houston on Yahoo! And remains extremely popular. “In the first six months of this year, we had over 25,000 people come through the brewery on tours.” Wagner recounts. And he expects that number to keep rising.<br /> <br /> <B>Happy with the Current Path</B><br /> <br /> Expansion usually means not only more beer locally, but also seeing a beer move into new markets. Such is not the case with Saint Arnold, however. “Texas is really the only state I ever plan to be in,” Wagner states. “The one asterisk I have been putting on it is Louisiana, because frankly Louisiana is closer to us than the rest of Texas is.” This is actually consistent with the founding principles of the brewery. “When I opened the brewery [I had] two goals” he recounts, “Brew and sell the best beer in Texas, which I defined as make a world-class beer, and get it to people fresh, because that’s always the best beer you can have. And then create an institution that Texas will be proud of. And those are still very much our motivators and I believe that breweries should be part of the community and we’re not going to be part of New York City, but we are a part of Houston.”<br /> <br /> Now that they’re settled in, Saint Arnold will remain a Houston tradition that can now be found in the heart of the city itself. And Houston can be proud that it has Saint Arnold continually producing awardwinning, handcrafted beer.
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