The Existential Brewery – Brewing Philosophy and Brewing Business: Part Three of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

This is the final segment of the actual interview with Tim.  The conversation continued after the official questions stopped and some of that conversation may be posted here as an appendix to this interview for it contained some interesting insights and stories.  But for now, peruse this and ask yourself how you can support your local brewery.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

If you need to catch up:

Interview, part 1

Interview, part 2

***

Let’s talk about your brewing philosophy. What is it you want to accomplish with your beers?

Uh, money.

No, every business is money driven. What do I want to accomplish? I want people who come in and travel and they go to breweries – and we do get a lot – it’s nice to hear, like, when they buy a flight and they tell me that every single beer is great. That’s what I want to accomplish, you know, that people that are seasoned beer drinkers, that understand craft beer and that have a developed palate and they can separate out different flavors and tastes and they can pick up flaws, when they tell me that all six that they had are great, you know, that’s what it’s about for me.

My regulars are great, I like my regulars. Like you have your one or two that you always drink. The travelers coming through, they try everything, they’ll get two flights. When I can hear from them that everything was great, that’s pretty awesome.  There’s always a [contemptible person] who gives me a half a star on Untappd on one of my highest rated beers and I just know he’s being a [jerk] or he doesn’t know [Stone] from [Corona].

Other than money, what is it you hope to accomplish with your brewery?

I wanted to bring something to Kingman with the brewery. I wanted to improve the daily life of the community. I wanted to bring something unique. I love this town, it’s my home town, so that’s what it came down to. And I needed a job.

So, when you’re making – lets say you want to make a new beer, what goes into formulating your recipes?

Years of understanding percentages. When I talk about beers to home brewers and they tell me, ‘eight pounds of this and two pounds’ – I’m like, no, no – percentages. What percentage of your base malt or what percentage of this. So when you understand what percentages are and how they apply to all the different beers it makes it really easy to design new beers.

Like, for a typical dry stout it’s a 70-20-10, which, all added together it equals 100 percent. Seventy percent two row, twenty percent flaked barley and ten percent roast [barley]. That’s a perfect stout recipe. Thirty IBUs of one bittering hops at sixty minutes, you’ve got a phenomenal beer that’s a ten out of ten. And that’s just one example. Pale ale same way, IPA, you know, depending if you’re doing English, East Coast, Denver style or West Coast. Understanding percentages of different styles of beers, and then tweak those up or down on each one a little bit and then make it your own and make it unique. Designing a recipe is [ridiculously] simple once you have an understanding of percentages.

So where did you get all this experience and understanding? What are you drawing on?

I brewed a lot of bad beers as a home brewer. You have to fail to succeed. That and I had a mentor, Jason Fuller. He had been brewing for fifteen years before I met him. So, he’s brewed a lot of bad beers in his day and so he took his knowledge on how to make a good beer and he helped me to understand. He didn’t just give me recipes and say, “oh just do this and you’ll be fine.” He taught me percentages, how to understand this style means that percentage of, you know, medium crystal, but no higher than eight percent, no less than six.  In that range. Or whatever beer it was, percentages, and how to formulate recipes. It’s simple after that.

You going to go into any kind of brewing program?

I don’t do well in school.

So, you wanted to bring this to Kingman because Kingman needed something like this. And I agree with you. Something where people can relax –

Something homegrown.

Yeah, exactly, somewhere they can hang out. So what do you need from the community to make this place successful?

I need them to come in the door … and enjoy, you know, the artwork, the free wi-if to do their homework, the sports games that we have. There’s a lot of music that we try to bring down. Things like that. And it seems like, at times, they don’t, they just don’t care. And it’s disheartening. There’s days we have more tourist that come through than locals. And no bar can survive on that. Locals pay the bills and that’s the way the models have always worked. There’s no getting around that.

What do you think it’ll take to get that done?

A good friend of mine owns a jewelry store and when the economy went down his business suffered because he’d been accustomed to selling just the best of the best. He quickly realized to maintain business and pay his own bills and his employees and be relevant in the marketplace he would have to have a portion of his business selling less than ideal stuff – silver, sterling silver, lower quality gold, turquoise, things like that. So he ended up doing one case selling lower quality stuff and it started selling and his revenues went up. So now he has four cases in his whole jewelry store, that sells what he calls [crap].

We were having dinner at Mattina’s about a year ago and he said, “What I realized, Tim, is: if [crap] sells, sell [crap].” I’m not saying that I want to sell [crap] but as that translates into my business- like what you’re drinking, Go to Helles. It’s a yellow fizzy beer, it’s really good. We put it on tap and we’ve been flying through this, more than Evil Red, more than our other beers. So maybe I need to switch some of my focus onto … [crap]. Which is a yellow fizzy. And I think, you know our local demographic – we’re not Portland, we’re not San Diego, we’re not Fort Collins. They’re not open to drinking large amounts of craft beer, but if I had more Go to Helles on tap maybe they would come in more and more just to drink that.

So let me ask you about that. So you talk yellow fizzy beer and just – anyone who likes craft beer just doesn’t like it, they have almost this instant hatred for it. Is it really a bad beer, or is it the corporate ethics behind the beer?

Which beer?

Budweiser, Coors, any of these big industrial-

There’s nothing wrong with that. They don’t taste bad. They don’t taste good. They just don’t taste. But the corporate – you know, I hate when people say “oh, corporations.” I’m an S-corp, the same classification. So corporations aren’t a bad thing.

No. There’s a different mindset when you get into large industrial corporations. And that was my thought – I spent so long just dismissing the beers out of hand because, well, they’ve got adjuncts in them –

They do.

I know, so I just dismissed them because of that. If you just drink the beer by itself it’s not necessarily … bad.

When I go to sporty’s I drink Coors Banquet, and I love it.

It seems to be the ethics behind Big Beer that turn people off to that.

Yeah, Big Beer and InBev specifically, the way they’re doing their buyouts, they’re very strategic the way they drive down the costs. The cost for a retailer of a half barrel of IPA – like Goose Island IPA you can get from the local Budweiser rep for $85 and you can get a half barrel of my IPA for $205. Well, of course you’re going to buy the Goose Island IPA because dollar for dollar it’s a lot less money and you’re going to sell it for the same $5 a pint. Why would I spend $205 when I can spend $85? That’s how they’re hurting guys like me. But, luckily I’ve developed a personal relationship with my accounts to where they’re okay spending that and giving me a tab because they believe in the product and it does sell faster than any of their [beers].

Yeah, and I guess that’s where I was going. You were talking about making more Go to Helles because it’s a “crappy” beer. It it’s not really a bad beer, just like theirs aren’t bad, it’s just the intention behind the beer, I think.

It’s the American mindset of what beer is. I can down it. I can consume it. “Oh I drank a thirty pack today. I can drink a lot of beer, I’m tough.” It’s that kind of beer even though it is almost six percent.

Yeah, I guess I’m just trying to say it’s not necessarily a “crappy beer.” If it sells and you’re making it with the right intention –

It’s not a crappy beer. Go to Helles is very good. I really like it.

So if that’s where you need to go to keep everything successful …

If it’s selling. The second it’s not selling, it’s gone. That’s not true for all the beers. Like Locomotive, I’m brewing on Thursday and that will have been two months since I brewed it.

Yeah you really should not ever get rid of Locomotive. I might not ever come down here again.

It’s a fantastic beer. Stouts just – with every brewery they’re the slowest selling beer. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a phenomenal beer. Stouts just sell slowly. That’s all it is. I’ll never take it off tap. It’s a great beer.

So what’s the future for B3? What do you wanna do? Anything we haven t talked about yet?

That is yet to be seen. There’s one of two ways it’s going to go in the next few months. One’s good and one’s not so good.

 

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