A combination of traditional brewing ingredients in a unique way. - 50%
A great example of a classic style - 34%
A batch that includes an ingredient you've never tasted in a beer before. - 15%
Modern Times, the physical entity, is really starting to materialize (fund raising is complete, some hop contracts have been signed, and Jacob is hoping to finalize a lease for a building over the next few days, which would leave a head brewer, and a brewing system high on his to-do list). In addition to brewing test batches, I’ve been spending time thinking about my brewing philosophy. What kind of beers am I truly passionate about making?
At this point there are so many American breweries putting out excellent straight-ahead versions of most classic styles that it would be tough to come into a big beer nerd market (like San Diego) and beat them at their own game. I’m not sure I would want to anyway. The recipes Jacob and I have been developing aren’t weird or wacky, but beers similar to them aren’t available in abundance. Beers like moderate gravity saison, hoppy American wheat, coffee/oatmeal stout, and red/rye IPA. Sure there are already solid versions of all of these beers on the market somewhere, but none of them are available from more than a couple breweries at the average craft-beer-centric retailer/bar.
I respect what breweries like Short’s and Cigar City do, finding unique and interesting ingredients to add to their beers. While these flavors sometimes work well, see Cigar City’s Cucumber Saison, even with perfect execution I rarely want to drink more than a taster. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go out of my way for the experience of trying their beers, but I won’t be buying a case of Short’s Carrot Cake anytime soon (even though the flavor captures the dessert perfectly, down to the cream cheese icing). One of my goals is to brew beers that I want to drink frequently and in quantity.
I want to brew beers that bring a level of sophistication to recipe and ingredient choice. I’d rather see beers designed in the same way chef’s create recipes, rather than someone playing a game (i.e., who can get the most IBUs/alcohol/malts into their beer?). I think breweries that have a vision, and brew to their own palates have the most success. Rather than adding an ingredient just to put it on the label (a brewer-friend once mentioned that they contract brewed a raspberry honey wheat that contained a single ladle of honey for a 30 bbl batch), we will focus on picking exactly the right quality and quantity of a fruit or sugar to achieve our desired flavor.
Fruit, honey, spices, herbs, hops, malt, microbes, and barrels are not all created equal. If we aren’t able to do something right or get a high-enough-quality version, I’d rather wait until we can. Working to procure locally sourced and seasonal ingredients is going to take time and practice, but I’m confident that it will pay off over buying bulk fruit puree or bland pasteurized honey. It also means taking the time to select the ideal strains of microbes for any given sour beer, rather than having a single all-purpose house culture.
As a homebrewer I’ve only have to worry about creating beers that suit my palate. I don’t mind spending a few extra dollars getting “the best” ingredients. Commercially that isn’t always an option in terms of both the profitability of a beer and the availability of certain ingredients in amounts large enough to flavor a 1,000 gallon batch. Luckily southern California has a much wider array of produce for a longer season than I’m used to in DC.
Jacob and I generally agree on what we want in the beers, but at times we’ve had differing opinions
on what direction to go. I’m confident that together we’ve been able to
dial in our recipes better than either of us could have on their own. I’m excited to get out there and start translating what I’ve had success with at home into the production environment; it should be a blast! For a bit more detail on Modern Times, as well as the book, and some more of my brewing philosophy, check out the interview that White Labs just posted with me over on their YeastBuddy blog.