Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Avery Brewing Co. Interview

Recently the Hop & Kettle was lucky enough to get in touch with Avery Brewing Co. Based in Boulder, CO. Both Andy Parker, Avery Brewer and Barrel Herder, and C.V. Howe, Marketing Director, at Avery Brewing Co. were gracious enough to take the time out of their busy schedules to answer a few of our questions.

Hop & Kettle: For readers that may be unfamiliar, give us a sense of who you guys are and what you’re about.

Andy Parker: Since 1993 our brewery has been committed to producing eccentric ales and lagers that defy styles or categories. Our products are thoroughly American at heart: blending Old World tradition and expertise with ingenuity, creativity and boldness.

We are dedicated to making beer from the inside out: we brew what we like to drink--with utter disregard for what the market demands-- and search out fans with equally eccentric palates (We learned long ago that expressing your true self is much more fulfilling than giving in to outside pressures. Don't you agree?) If you think your taste buds can keep up with our brews, we invite you to check out our entire lineup of more than twenty different beers.

Hop & Kettle: Who/what inspired you to be a brewer?

Andy Parker: Initially it was the idea of turning a hobby (I was homebrewing by the time I was 19) into a career... what could be better than that? But looking back, I think I really love it that I actually produce a physical thing. Especially one that's so much fun to share with friends. At the end of the day, there's nothing better than being able to pour a round of beers with the people you work with and know that you're all working towards the same goal of making the most awesomest beer you can together. Or many rounds of beer.

Hop & Kettle: Certain beer, to me, just knocks your socks off and changes your view of beer in general. What beer was “that” beer for you that really compelled you into the life of a beer brewer?

Andy Parker: Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine... I used to seek it out during college in upstate NY. A couple of like-minded friends and I would split a 7 ounce bottle every once in a while and marvel at the variety of beer in the world...

Hop & Kettle: We were lucky enough to stop by the Avery Tap Room during the Spring while the Hand of Buddha was on tap. (Which is an amazing beer.) How often do you see interesting ingredients, like the citrus fruit Buddha’s Hand, that catch your attention and what are some of the other unique ingredients you have used in Avery Beer recipes?

Andy Parker: This is where not having a pilot system at the brewery is a blessing and a curse. A pilot system would allow us to make beers from scratch very easily... without it we are usually using existing beers and modifying them somehow. For example, Karma is the base beer for Hand of Buddha. The lack of a pilot system has actually spurred creativity in other ways. In some of our Anniversary beers we've used (among other things) white pepper, figs, hibiscus, lavender, grains of paradise, chamomile, jasmine, and honey. And I have experimental kegs in process right now involving coconut, lilikoi (Hawaiian passion fruit), fennel, wormwood, mace, sumac, blackberry, blueberry, juniper, rosemary... I can't even remember them all. I take a lot of notes.

Hop & Kettle: How long does it take for you to settle on a recipe before you make it?

Andy Parker: We have a lot of people with a lot of brewing experience here, so it generally doesn't take too long to come up with an initial recipe. We'll have a couple of brief meetings where we talk about what flavors we want to see in the eventual beer and then build a recipe from scratch based on those flavors. Style parameters and things like that rarely come into the equation... we just want to make sure that we're making something that we want to drink.

Hop & Kettle: What does that process of developing a new recipe typically look like? How many iterations does it usually take?

Andy Parker: On our Anniversary beers we'll come up with an idea of what we want something to taste like in a meeting or two. Then we'll make a pilot batch and see if it needs tweaking... we're usually ready to roll on a larger scale within a few weeks. Some of our more regular beers were a little more complex. Joe's American Pilsner had at least 5 pilot batches and took six months. duganA IPA had at least 6 pilot batches and took well over a year to tweak into something that we loved.

Hop & Kettle: Do you have any processes that are unique to brewing at Avery? What are they?

Andy Parker: Does cleaning a fermenter outside in a snowstorm count as a unique process?

Hop & Kettle: What is your favorite beer that Avery Brewing Co. brews right now, and why?

Andy Parker: Picking a single beer is difficult. Cruel, even. But if I *had* to pick that one desert island beer, it has to be Hog Heaven Barleywine. It combines some caramelly malt sweetness with a heroic dose of Columbus hops, both in the aroma addition and in some serious dry hopping. Columbus hops are pretty distinctive... when Hog Heaven is coming right off of the bottling line we call it "Dimebag Ale." It's ridiculously drinkable for being 9% abv. It still tastes as incredible on the 5th pint as the 1st.

C.V. Howe: You know... I kinda like 'em all. I celebrate our entire collection. For my money, it doesn't get much better than us!

Hop & Kettle: Avery Brewing Co. recently withdrew from eight states and seven partial states. Could you shed some light on the logistics behind making that difficult choice?

C.V. Howe: We were very disappointed to have to withdraw from these markets as we had some really passionate, die-hard fans and retailers in them, but unfortunately no matter how we split the beer up, there just wasn't enough to go around to everyone. It was pretty simple math: demand from our distribution network was exceeding what we were able to produce at our brewery. As a result, we had to cut several markets where our beers weren't being embraced with the passion or fervor--as a whole--that they were in other places in order to continue to supply the rest of our markets with a steady supply of fresh Avery beer.

Hop & Kettle: Avery also announced that you are on pace for 65% growth. Will that allow you to get back into some of the markets you withdrew from?

C.V. Howe: We are in fact growing at a very feverish pace, and it's all organic growth, too. Despite cutting 17 different distributors, our remaining distribution--in very mature markets--is still up by huge amounts. Our Colorado sales, which is obviously our biggest market, are up somewhere around 80-85% ytd. We are trying our very best to expand production so that we can continue to grow. Unfortunately, we are pretty much at capacity at our current facility and the new brewery we are hoping to build to drastically expand that capacity is still a long ways off. So in the short term we will not be getting back into these markets, however we do hope to get back into them as soon as the new brewery is built and our capacity increases.

Hop & Kettle: Part of that growth suggested that Avery was considering moving out of Boulder, CO after being there for the last 18 years. Is there any insight you might be able to give us on what locations Avery Brewing Co. are considering?

C.V. Howe: We are trying our very best to stay within Boulder City limits with the new brewery.

Hop & Kettle: What are your future plans/next creations that we, your beer fans, can be looking forward to?

C.V. Howe: We are hoping to release Rumpkin, a Rum Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale, in bottles this fall. The next release in our Barrel-Aged Series will be Meretrix, a Barrel-Aged Sour Ale aged in Cabernet barrels on sour cherries. We'll release about 55 cases of that on Saturday, July 16th at 5PM. Brewery only release. We've also got Batch #14 of The Maharaja Imperial IPA going out on trucks this week, so look for fresh Maharaja on the shelf in the very near future! Lastly, The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest Lager, a 2009 GABF Gold Medal winner, will release on August 1st in 22oz bombers.

Hop & Kettle: We at the Hop & Kettle would like to thank both Andy Parker and C.V. Howe for taking the time to answer our questions. A special thanks to C.V. Howe for working with us to make this article possible. For additional information about Avery Brewing Co. and their wide range of amazing beer check out their web site: www.averybrewing.com and you also find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AveryBrewing .