Flight of the Cricket – Six Beers from Rickety Cricket

There are two breweries in Kingman.  I spend most of my beertime at Black Bridge.  It was the first and it is still my favorite.  However, I do need to spend some effort on Rickety Cricket’s beer.  After all, this blog is about the Beer World of Kingman.  And so, for you, the community, I have made sacrifices.  I have dedicated myself to drinking beer at more than one location.  You are welcome.

Upon arriving at Rickety Cricket you will be met by the smiling face of Nicole; if not, find out why – she is the bartender you want.  She knows beer and can provide good guidance on tap choices and stories about the local brews.

Now, the title of this blog post indicates I had six beers.  This is true, but I also decided to add one more.  I’d found these brief notes made during a dinner at the Cricket.  They are in regard to the Coffee Porter.  Terry had told me when it was debuting and I wanted to make sure to try it right away.

So, seven, seven beers!  Once again, you people types are welcome.

Coffee Porter:

Dark. Medium body. Good tan head. Head dissipates quick. Cold brew coffee added. From Beale St. Nice subdued addition. A little bitterness added but not too much. Subtle touch. Comes up on back end to add a nice touch to the porter. Elegant. Balanced.

Slight coffee aroma no hops evident. Brown porter. Gone before I knew it.

Rickety Cricket has eleven beers on tap, to my surprise.  I only expected six.  I only tried six.  Look!  More opportunities for me to diligently apply myself to the consumption of barley based libations for the betterment of all Kingman.  I feel so altruistic.

The Flight of the Cricket:

Anaconda Squeeze. Rebranded an IPA.  That works.  Danky hops, dry body, good legs.  Smells like the APA below. Much better now than it was a few weeks ago.

Angry Ex Girlfriend (once called a blond, now an American Pale Ale). Splendid aroma. Citrusy. A little chalky maybe? That could be me. This is better as an APA than it was a blond. Not hoppy enough to warrant “angry.”  But good.

Bearded Bagpipe.  Meh on the name. More meh on the taste.  I think this is a miss. There is a sharp, dark flavor I can’t quite figure out. But it’s not quite right.  It’s off in some way I can’t pin down here at the bar.

Porter. Roasted grain. Dark toasted flavor. Yeah, lost track of notes while drinking. Fantastic.

Stay Puft. A stout. Let’s see … nice. Lactic character at the end. Sugary.  A sweet stout to be sure.  Good color.

Bird Cage Blonde.  Well done. A little more hops than I anticipated but not bad at all. Dry but decent body. Great color. Impressed.

Overall, the beers seem solid, stable.

Anaconda Squeeze started life as New England IPA, but it wasn’t right at all.  Making it a straight IPA was a better idea, although I would have just kept it as is and left it as my American Pale Ale.  Angry Ex Girlfriend could have then be re-designed into Bird Cage, which is just a fabulous light, easy beer. What?  That would leave them without an IPA?  Oh, heaven forbid that a brewery exist that has no IPA!  What blasphemy!  But, anyway, my real point behind all that chatter is that Anaconda Squeeze has turned into a pretty good beer.

The Irish Red, however, the Bearded Bagpipe, was not so delectable.  It suffered from some temperature issues, I was told, resulting in a woody character that didn’t fit.  This round of that beer was not good at all, but Nicole says they’ll have more ready in about two weeks so I’ll give it another go then.

The porter was my favorite of the flight.  I’ve got a growler of it at home so I’ll spend some more time with that beer later.  There’s also a black IPA, a collaboration beer with Black Bridge, that I’d like to further study.

Advertisements

On Imperial Stout – Most Notably, Angry Elf

In his book Brewing Porters & Stouts author Terry Foster enumerates several stouts that he had readily available at the time of his writing or that were in his locale.  Some of the names are renowned and acclaimed:  Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Yeti Imperial Stout, Narwhal.  Foster consecrates an entire page to sundry stouts and then declares:  “You should have no difficulty finding other versions of this style in your own area.”

That was no fallacious declaration.  Verily, in our small town we can find our own imperial stout.  Angry Elf is that stout; brewed initially by Kingman home brewer Mike Hinman and now often offered on tap at Black Bridge Brewery.   There should be no qualms about putting it amongst the other beers noted above.  It was last on tap late last year (2016) and a portion of this inky potation secreted away in forgotten vaults.  I am grateful I was allowed a sample of this well aged beer.  It was outstanding.

It pours an impenetrable black, a darkness that even the sun cannot pierce, with a dense brownish bay of foam for its head. Only at the edges of the glass can you discern some brown and red accentuations.  The bouquet is redolent of dark fruit and high alcohol like a brandy or cognac or some other liquor of which I am ignorant.  This smell portends its alcoholic potency.  (Yeah, don’t really remember the alcohol content; knowing Tim & Mike it’s probably like ten to twelve percent.)

The first sip:  surprisingly, it’s very soft; not as aggressive as one might think after gazing upon it and recalling its name (Angry Elf).  It’s more like Will Ferrel’s Elf.  There’s a slight nod to vanilla and hops are palpable at the edges of the tongue; a bitterness intended only to offset the hedonic, malty power of the body but not to be harsh or resinous.

Great, now I’m thinking of Will Ferrel … the relish of candied marshmallow is discernible, maybe, in the next draught?  Along with a little anise?  It is even minutely smoky – as in cigar, not peat.  It dries on the tongue expeditiously while not being astringent.  The warmth of the alcohol is subtle, an alluring fade out.  Roasted malt becomes more apparent as the body warms.  The beer’s body, not mine.

Kingman has some sublimely talented brewers both in the home brew community and at the professional level in Black Bridge.  Angry Elf is a child of both.  It hits all the right markers for the style but is far more than a derivative of those guidelines.  It’s a confident, not arrogant, beer.  Everyone said that aging this beer made it even better (6-8 months, I think?) and they were not unsound in their views.  At all.  It’s a complex beer wherein no one factor overpowers or outshines the other.  Really a superb accomplishment.

(Joe even let me in on a secret:  apparently, this stout has won gold medals at beer competitions!  My shock is not apparent.)*

So, two gold medal beers from Black Bridge:  Angry Elf and Katastrophic Humiliation.  And I’m sure they will be appearing in competition once again.  Beware, other beers.

See below for additional info on what to expect out of any imperial stout you like to drink.

BEER JUDGE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 2015 STYLE GUIDELINES
20C. Imperial Stout

  • An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale with a wide range of flavor balances and regional interpretations.
    • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish.
  • Despite the intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.
  • Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong. The malt aroma can be subtle to rich and barleywine-like.
  • Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character.
  • An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.
  • Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head. Generally has a well-formed head
  • Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness.
    • Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, and may optionally show some supporting caramel, bready or toasty flavors.
    • The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet
    • The balance and intensity of flavors can be affected by aging, with some flavors becoming more subdued over time and some aged, vinous or port-like qualities developing.
  • Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture. Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic;
  • The wide range of allowable characteristics allow for maximum brewer creativity.

Brewers Association 2017 Beer Style Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Stout

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • 
Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Extremely rich malty aroma is typical. Extremely rich malty flavor with full sweet malt character is typical. Roasted malt astringency and bitterness can be moderate but should not dominate the overall character.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Medium-high to high with floral, citrus and/or herbal character.
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-high to very high and balanced with rich malt character.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery aromas and flavors are high. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full

 

*FOOTNOTE:
Oh, I guess Joe indulged in what we would call “humor.”  Apparently EVERYONE knows it’s a gold medal beer!

Tasting Notes: Katastrophic Humiliation

These notes will be in media res, unedited, rough drafts.  They happened at the tapping party, with friends, in the crowd. 

For those who don’t know, Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, entered several beers earlier this year in the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. The gold medal went to Katastrophic Humiliation, a barley-wine style ale made by Black Bridge.  To celebrate and commemorate the win, the brewery had a tapping party for the newest iteration of Katastrophic tonight, May 12, 2017. This is not the recipe that won gold but a new version. 

Brewer Tim Schritter has always been inspired by the beers at Stone Brewing. This is evident in his hop-forward, high alcohol interpretations of every beer style.  For Katastrophic, he followed the Stone ideal of recipe tweaking and added some different hops to the 2017 version of Katastrophic. 

Here are my notes and impressions. They are not final verdict on the beer, simply my thoughts and those of my drinking compatriots. Support your local, y’all, go find out for yourselves if it’s gold medal worthy. 


That Smell…

It smells tropical. Interesting. I didn’t catch that during the sneak drink earlier this week. There were no hops evident at all then. So, this soft tropical, maybe papaya smell, that’s gotta be the Mosaic hops, which is the new ingredient this year.  I am right.  Seriously, it smells fantastic. I love Mosaic. Brilliant hops. 

In Appearance…

Reddish copper body. Good head retention.  Red and purple appear. Hmm. Okay, well, my wife and a friend were wearing purple, so maybe I am biased. But the color was solid.  Just what a barley wine should be.  

But The Taste …

Tastes of plum.  Maybe Jamaican coconuts … hahaha, anyway.  No not really. No coconut.  That reference was for something else.  The tropical taste was there, the … melons, let’s say, are very apparent. There are a few readers who will dig that reference.   (Wink-wink,  nudge-nudge, say no more …).

Its got a medium body, but feels heavier.  High alcohol, I’m guessing.  It is incredibly sweet and a little tart.  Just like a good wife….

Almost like a Reisling?  Hmm.  Well, it is a barley wine, so that’s cool. 

A B3 patron was cognizant enough to have a sample of the 2016 gold medal winning beer on hand. There are not enough thanks we can give this craft beer enthusiast.  Here is the comparison:

The 2016 gold medal beer is vastly superior. Fine. Not vastly. Just mostly.  It has a splendiferous malty and bready body, clean and precise at the edges like a dense Dostoyevsky novel. Gorgeous and intimidating.  Age gives it a brilliant attenuation and a cleaner, crisper taste. There are no hops apparent in the nose or the body.  The Mosaic hops softens the character of the 2017 batch.  That is not in any way derogatory. After a year of aging, this new batch could easily outshine the 2016 version.

The Conclusion of the Matter …

Wow, what to say about this beer. According to BJCP guidelines for English Barley Wines, the aroma should be “very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel- like aroma in darker versions or a light toffee character in paler versions. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dark or dried fruit character, particularly in dark versions.”  This isn’t really a dark barley wine; however, those elements are present. Vinous and complex alcohol flavors definitely present themselves.  American barley wines should have hop flavor and bitterness. This one has just the flavor. It does possess a well integrated alcohol presence. It also has the alcohol warmth and chewy complexity of a British Strong Ale and the raisin/apple smell and taste of a Belgian dubbel. 

Schritter has again produced a beer that is just what it should be, yet something it shouldn’t be. If this beer were a book, it would be a Lovecraftian work, a libation of expectation and madness and something you know has completely altered your palate.

I’ve got to give him homebrew cred, too. He realized in the midst of brewing that he did not have the hops he wanted. But there was no going back; the beer had to be made, had to have hops.  He improvised.  The Mosaic hops were on hand and in the quantity he needed.  How many times does that happen to us as homebrewers?  You’ve just got to work with what you have. And how often does that brewing crisis lead to a beautiful beer?  Most of the time!  And that’s the case here.  The universe wants good beer, y’all!  Deny it not. 

If it were a book it would be, if not Lovecraft, Cloud Atlas

If it were a movie it would be Inception

I’m still not a fan of the beer’s name. It’s cadence just doesn’t work for me.  And I still hold to what I said four years ago. This beer has no “attitude” in the arrogant, supercilious sense.  It is dignified and sure of itself.  That is so much cooler. It is what it wants to be, which is not what you think it should be.  Very well done. 

Cheers, B3! 

Beer Love, Beer Hate, Beer Growth: Part Two of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

Here is part two of my interview with Tim Schritter, owner and brewer at Black Bridge Brewery here in Kingman.   The previous segment was the B3 Origin Story and we learned a little about Tim, too, and his goals.  This segment will focus on the beers, the favorites and the distribution.  Cheers.

***

What’s your favorite beer, outside of here?

Samuel Smiths Taddy Porter. It’s my number one favorite beer of all time. The late Michael Jackson – not the child molester –

The Beer Hunter.

-the beer connoisseur proclaimed it one of the five top beers in the world ever. I was drinking it before he said that. But I always thought, man this is great, I love this beer. It’s always been a go-to; I always have it at home. It stores well, it ages well, it tastes great and it embodies a lot of what I wanted to make when I made a porter. I’ve never come close. I’ve made some good porters. I don’t generally have them on tap. I feel like I, really, I need to go back to home brewing to really hone in and fine tune some of these recipes that I have that are just like, ‘something’s off a little bit’ because I want to achieve the greatness that Taddy Porter is. It’s gonna be difficult. I need to get their water profile. It’s very technical. It’s science. I feel like I need to do that. It’s on my bucket list, up there with bowling a 300. And I’ve bowled a 299 a few times. And I’ve brewed a few good porters a few times but I’ve not made it to the 300 mark yet.

What’s the best beer here, favorite one at B3?

My favorite one at B3? As far as a seasonal, or …?

Just in general.
(Insert pause.)

Probably Katastrophic Humiliation that I have a glass of right here. That’s a hard one. I desire this the most.

What are the characteristics of B3 beers that you like the most? Aside from the fact that you make them. What makes them special, why do you desire this one? What flavor profiles do you like in the malt, yeast, etc.?

As different as all my beers are, I think they all have a common theme – all the beers that I do are kinda different from the status quo or what the guidelinees say they should be, or what other breweries do. You go to every brewery and they’ve got a golden, a pale, an IPA, a stout and an amber. We have an amber, it’s Evil Red, but it’s not a malty amber, its’ a hop forward SOB. We have a stout, but it’s not just your typical stout. We use a ridiculously high amount of English roasted barley. That’s why it’s so black and it’s so bitter; it’s not from the hops, its from the roasted barley. And then our west coast citrus IPA, Rive Ale, that’s pretty much the closest beer, other than 80 Shilling, that I make to style. I guess what sets our beer apart or what’s unique about them, if this even answers your question – my beers are kind of an extension of myself.  They’re a little bit different, a little bit off. But they’re good. Hop forward, but they’re all dry. I don’t like malty sweetness, under attenuated.

So what’s the best seller here?

Evil Red.

Which one are you most proud of here?

(Insert another pause.)

That s like asking me, in front of my four kids, which one I like the most while they’re sitting there staring at me. But in secret I tell them all that they’re my favorite. Uh, which beer am I most proud of? (More pausing). So, this is gonna sound weird, but it’s the yellow fizzy Go To Helles. It’s the first yellow fizzy beer that I’ve ever made that I really enjoy and I’m proud to have people drink and taste. And I’m really super happy with it. It’s got a great profile. It’s got a malt forward-ness but there’s a little bit of hops in the background. But it’s not sweet; it’s a nice dry finish. I really, really love it. Obviously, the barley wine I love, too. And Evil Red I love. And Rive Ale. I mean, they’re all really good beers so it’s hard to … I have my top five favorites that are tied for first.

I can tell you easier which one I don’t like as much.

All right, tell me that.

Wicked Poison.

Seriously?

I (vehemently) hate it.

Really?

I can’t stand it.

That’s funny.

I sample it weekly, just like all of my beers, just to maintain quality and make sure everything’s fine, like I did today. There’s not a flaw in the beer. It’s perfect and it’s exactly what it should be and it sells. We have people that just love it and that’s all they drink. It pays its own set of bills. I will have maybe one glass a year where I actually order a glass. If I’m having a really bad day and I just wanna get … I’ll have a shot of wicked poison. But now I have Katastrophic, so I’ll just go to this because I actually enjoy this. It’s not just about the booze it’s about the flavor, too.

Interesting. Wicked Poison is one of the reasons I stay down here. It’s not, necessarily, that I like it – well, I do – but it’s one of the beers my wife likes. It was her first so she would always come down here to get that.

Yeah, we’ve converted a lot of wine drinkers because of that [beer]. We’ve converted people that say, “oh, I don’t like beer.” Well here, try this. “Oh my god I like that, what’s that?” Well, that’s beer. “Holy …  I do like beer. You’re right.”  What you don’t like is what you think beer is. And people say “I don’t like beer” and I say, “Really? You’ve experienced all 36 different categories and all the sub-catergories within those categories; you’ve tried every single beer? You can tell me that you don’t like beer?” They’re confused, they don’t understand what I just said. What I’m saying is, shut your mouth, open your mind, try something new. And then if you don’t like it, fine. But I’m pretty sure I can find something here that’ll please just about everybody.

Ok, distribution. How far are you going with your distribution? How far are you right now?

Flagstaff. Well, Scottsdale.

Plans for the future?
After this weekend*, we’ll have about 30 half barrels freed up, because we’ve been buying new kegs and getting them filled and stored for the festival this weekend.  Once the festival is over, we’re going to have a surplus of new kegs and so we’re gonna double our accounts to over forty. That’s the idea.

Just inside Arizona? Are you trying to move outside Arizona yet?

We don’t have any states connected to us that I can self-distribute to. I have to sell to a distributor which I’m not going to do. I don’t have enough volume to make that even financially possible.

How many other outlets do you have in Kingman?
Thirteen Kingman accounts. Three in Flag, between two and three in Williams. One of them is constantly on tap, the other two are kinda whenever we get up there they’ll get another keg and throw it on until it’s gone and the next time we get up there they’ll take a keg. Then Scottsdale; we had an account in Tempe, World of Beers, but they went out of business. Nationwide. There’s still a couple of stores still open. The one in Gilbert is still open. And then Havasu, we’re occasionally on tap at College Street. We’re occasionally on tap at Outlaw. And we’re constantly on tap with at least three taps at the Place to Be restaurant but we’ve been up to five of their eight taps at times. they love our product and it moves fast.

***

End of segment two.  There’s only one more to come and we’ll talk brewing philosophy and expectations.  Maybe more.

_______

*The weekend referred to was October 7 & 8 when the Brats & Beer Oktoberfest was held.  You can read a little about it here.

Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman

img_3811This year was the ninth Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman. It started on a Friday afternoon, October 7 and I arrived around 3:30, about half an hour after official start time. Not much was going on yet as I entered the gate. There were about fifteen booths compactly arranged and forming a corridor leading to the large tents where the food was served. A slight clearing in front of the food tents made a small cornhole game possible.

 

I stopped at the Smiley and Bee Enterprises table first. We talked honey (since that is their ware), mead, blindness and guide dog. The guide dog is the titular Smiley. It was a nice chat, good way to start the festival. Other booths featured a local writer, some key holders in the shape of classic cars, exotic healing stuff, kettle corn and Italian food. I purchased some pasta and sauce from them. On Saturday, the wife and I bought some of the kettle corn and it was superb. My son went with me on Friday and as we approached the food tent the band Push was wrapping up their set. They had a great sound, very tight, worked well with the crowd. They should be kept for future use.

img_3813img_3810But I was there for a little food and some beer. Therefore I ordered a bratwurst. It was pleasant, tender, not too strong, slight fennel in the aftertaste. It was topped with sauerkraut and mustard, but they did not overpower the sausage. It was paired with a schwarzbier from Black Bridge Brewery.  B3 was the sole beer vendor which was a brilliant decision and certainly made me enjoy this Oktoberfest much more this year. It was a much better choice than just serving boring national beers. The scwharzbier was dressed in a beautiful brown hue that was complimented by the sunlight. It had a medium body and absolutely nothing offensive or controversial, either via hops or malt or yeast. It is my definition of a session beer, an easy drinker. I feared then that it might cost me more money than usual. There was also an altbier on tap. It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty. Also being served was B3’s Octoberfest. Just. Great. I really don’t know how else to expound upon that beer. It’s Evil Red without the bad temper. Rive Ale, their IPA, was sold out by Saturday night.

If you can scrounge up a handful of friends, the Brats & Beer festival is a tranquil diversion. It would consist mostly of eating, drinking, chatting and listening to the band. It was pleasant. Now, from a younger viewpoint, my son did think it was a little boring – not much variety in the vendors, not much to look at. Nothing to make you want to stay. Interestingly, he also noted that it might be better with more beer, like out of town craft beer.
But, really, no complaints – it seemed well organized and controlled, it was a good addition for down town activities. Keep it up.img_3898

A Conversion, A Party, A Business – Part One of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

Early in October, Tim Schritter consented to be interviewed. Many of you out there may already know much of the story and many of the facts he related to me regarding himself and Black Bridge Brewery. It was all new to me and I thank him for the time he spent answering my questions.

This is just one segment of the interview, there will be more to come. Part one is a brief origin story of Tim as a brewer and Black Bridge Brewery as a business. Further segments will go over his beers and brewing philosophy, some distribution, and most importantly what each of us in Kingman can do to make it a success. As if you don’t know that bit already …

***

When did you start brewing and why?

I’ve told this story a million times, it should be easy … so, I was dating a girl and it became pretty serious and the way things happened it ended up we were going to have a kid. And her dad – who didn’t really know me or probably like me since I was dating his daughter; he only had two daughters, this is his oldest daughter, so this is his baby girl – called me up and invited me over to meet him and brew a beer and I thought, “well I like beer, I drink Keystone Light like it’s going outta style.”

Keystone? (slightly incredulous and appalled)

I was ‘Keystoned’, that’s what they nicknamed me. –

So I go down there – it’s just downtown here – and he’s got a little seven gallon aluminum kettle pot, like a turkey fryer, on a burner and he’s got extract syrup and probably an ounce of hops and some dry yeast and a bucket. So we’re boiling water, adding the syrup and we’re just talking about beer, and my lack of knowledge about beer, and he’s like “hey do you wanna beer?” and I was like, yeah I want a beer. I’m thinking it’s going to be like a Coors or a Budweiser or something. He breaks open a bottle of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard. I never had that before in my life. That was the worst [stuff] I’ve ever tasted. Ever. Period. Ever. Ever. It’s now in my top five, I love Arrogant Bastard and it has become a huge inspiration for something like Evil Red, for instance, that big malt, hop forward type of style.

So, we brew this beer, I drink the nastiest [stuff] I’d ever had. I went home later that night and I’m drinking a Keystone Light, sitting on the couch, and I’m like, I’m not tasting anything. And I’m really starting to not enjoy this and not know why. I don’t know if it’s a bad batch, the cans are bad, what? So I crack open another 12 pack and I open one and I just don’t like it anymore. Like, that immediately something switched. So two weeks later I go back to his house and bottle this off and I take half the bottles home and I let ‘em sit in my closet then I put them in my fridge – it was just an American wheat – and I cracked that first one open and, oh, it was so good. I was hooked. I can do this. I can brew. There is nothing to this. And there is a lot to this, but overnight I developed a knack and a severe passion for wanting to have great beer. I didn’t know what great beer was but I knew the [sub-par liquid] I was drinking was not it. All it was doing was making me pee a lot, there was no satisfaction out if it, it was wasting money, it sucked.

I took my skills of fabricating and I built me a little stand and I got me a little stainless kettle and a bucket and a fridge and some temp control and just a little bit at a time. I brewed two batches, extract, and I bottled both batches – and I immediately became tired of the hobby because I didn’t want to bottle anymore. I said, if I’m gonna do this I’m gonna keg and that’s when I met Jason Fuller. He gave me a Williams Brewing magazine and a Northern Brewer magazine and I started buying a couple of kegs and a draft system I built and I had two or three beers on tap and built me a bigger brew system, gravity fed, three tier. I went all grain after my second batch, well third batch technically, but the second I had done on my own, I went all grain. And I’m on system number five now. After ten years of brewing.

img_3323
What made you want to start a brewery, do it professionally?

It was a combination of things.

I had people come to my house, because in my garage I eventually set up this bar; I had my draft system, I had my ferment fridges, I had three TVs in my garage, it was insulated, it was climate controlled, it was like a bar.

My garage was a bar.

I never once parked my vehicle in the garage. I had people over all the time and they would just drink a beer and we’d watch sports; I had a grill and I’d cook food for people. It just became this thing, like, why don’t you do this, why don’t you start a brewery? I was always told, like, there’s no way you can do it. You’re never gonna make money. Turns out, they were actually very accurate. So, it was just a culmination of that.

And then, with the economy turning south my other business, that I still operate, it’s a demolition landfill, with a lack of construction comes a lack of demolition – which translates into a lack of funds for myself. I lost my house, both vehicles, I ended up living with my kids in my dad’s house, which is very humbling when you’re 28 years old. The only thing I really kept was my brew system and my stuff. And he’s got a big detached garage and so I started brewing there because I couldn’t find a job, I needed to do something. My other business was still operating enough to give me money. So I started brewing again and I put an open sign up out on the highway, it was on Hualapai Mountain Road, and people would just (say), “what’s this?” and they would pull in and it’s, oh, yeah, I make beer, try it out, it’s free, and they would leave tips. And it became this big following and every weekend it was this huge party at the Garage Days, which is what we called it, and I began to see a huge desire for craft beer in Kingman and there was no place to get it other than the few gas stations. There was no place for people to go sit down and have a variety of craft beer. So that’s when I said, you know, if the bank will give me a few dollars, I’m gonna do this. So I went and talked to the bank and I got a few dollars and I did it.

Who else is involved down here, is it just you?

I am the sole owner. Of course, my dad is around and he helps, and I’ve got Karry, and I’ve got a great crew. We all operate as one; no one here is above anyone else. There’s no boss. I mean, we joke; I call Lee “Mr Boss Man” and do the same thing to Karry. But as far as anything goes, we’re all the same. I guess, ultimately, the responsibility comes down on me.


So tell me this story: the Black Bridge name. I know it’s for a local landmark, but why is it signifies for you?

It’s a railroad bridge. If you go down 4th street,here, the second one (bridge) – there’s three – is THE Black Bridge.

In high school we had a few party spots; Black Bridge was the best because it was completely hidden, it was off the beaten path and yet you could get to it in a Honda Civic. You didn’t have to have a truck, like the other three places. So it was the most accessible for everyone to go party and have a good time at and it was completely hidden from the highway to where the the cops couldn’t see the bonfires and all the vehicles and everything. I didn’t know this at the time, but, for generations high school students have been going to Black Bridge. That bridge has been there since, I think, the ’10s or the ‘20s. It was there, you know, when the railroad came through and that’s what created Kingman. That bridge was there.

And then, coming up with a name for this place … “oh, that’s a great name,” I’d Google it – taken! I’d come up with another name, Google it, taken! I went months, looking for a name that wasn’t taken. Then something came up, “hey remember back in the days when we used to go down to Black Bridge.” So I Googled Black Bridge Brewery. There was Draw Bridge Brewery, but no Black Bridge Brewery, so I said that’s it and we got that name. And it made sense because it’s a local party spot, so now I feel like, in essence, I’m bringing a party to downtown in a legitimate business that generations of Kingmanites will recognize the name by and say, “okay, that’s what this is.”

I’ve thought about looking into that, about names and breweries, because I think some of the best ones are tied to something specific in a community.

There’s two trains of thought about that. If you want to start a brewery and someday have a goal of distributing nationally, well, you don’t want a local reference because no one across the state is going to understand that or know what it is. Think of Stone [Brewing]. Well, a stone is a rock and everywhere you go there’s a rock or a stone. So that doesn’t have a significance to one area, which is Escondido. If it was Escondido Brewing it wouldn’t make sense to sell it in Quahog, you know, Maryland. So Black Bridge is – and I’m not saying that my goals aren’t someday to be huge and be everywhere – but it’s very much a local landmark type thing. But I could always just rebrand to something else.

Black Bridge would work; even if went beyond local. It’s got a good cadence to it. Think about Russian River, that’s somewhat localized but people know it.

Russian River is also very, um, well known river as well.

Yeah, but it’s tied to a locale.

That also goes to show if you have lots and lots of money to develop a lot of products and have amazing labeling and marketing you can do anything, anywhere. I mean, there is literally a company that sells (poop) and you buy it and they’ll send it to someone you don’t like and they don’t know who it came from. It’s called poopsenders.com. I kid you not.

***

End of Part One

Next we’ll talk favorite beers and the singular quality of B3 beers.

The Role of Beer Books In Contributing to Beer Culture

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami

I don’t really know who that author is; I found that quote on Goodreads. It seems a good fit for The Session this month. The beer blogging Friday host Joan Birraire posited this for a subject:

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. … I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.”

I am certain that the “culture” referenced above is not of the sort found in the pages of this book: Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.   It would refer more to this kind of culture: “the ideas, customs, and intellectual and artistic conditions of a society or group.” – This definition contributed by Vocabulary.com. The following are the books that have influenced me and that I feel added to the ideas, customs and intellectual conditions of beer and brewing.

Do you remember the Star Trek episode, “A Piece of the Action?”  Yes, the one where Kirk and Spock get to act like caricatures of gangsters from the 1920s (it also introduced the geniotic card game, fizbin, but that doesnt play into this story, so never mind that part). The entire species on the planet the Enterprise crew was visiting had been influenced by a single book that a previous starship had left, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties.  So, Joy of Homebrewing is that book for home brewers. It has influenced, maybe not the planet, but a huge percentage of the home brewing population. Just a few days ago I was commanded to follow the Papazian Mantra – relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew – and that’s, what, about thirty years post-publication! Good show, Mr Papazian. The book is full of great advice and technique, to be sure, and it has a little history, and certainly it contains the home brew philosophy that many of us live by, especially on Brew Day. As far as importance to culture, I put it at numero uno.  

  • A side note: the Trek episode reminded me of this treasure from Retroactive*.  (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Black Bridge – Def Leppard Friday’s should be a Thing!)

As far as quick reference goes, Miller’s book, Brewing the World’s Great Beers is fantastic, in my opinion. It is categorized in sections for extract, partial mash and all grain, quickly lays out the basic grist bill and instructions for all the basic beer styles. It’s often where I start in recipe formulating. I like the sparse nature of the book, too. No fluff, just beer stuff; knowledge at your fingertips. Like the JoH above, this book has served me well for years of successful home brewing and has survived two children, several dogs, and lots of Brew Days. 

I am enthralled by Belgian beers so it was a lot of fun to read Brew Like A Monk. There are recipe breakdowns throughout, but also brief histories of breweries and the philosophy of the brewers. I am more beholden to beer styles than I realized, though I like to consider myself more creative than to be restricted by rules since they are, like time and reality, just societal constructs and from what I got out of this book the monk brewers are not interested in styles. They make a beer over and over and know it and treat it like a living thing that must be cared for. As far as culture of beer goes, it seems to me that these monks possessed a proto-Papazian RDWHAH thinking.

Randy Mosher enjoys uncovering the arcane secrets and tastes of beer, firing the desires of other brewers. I’ve only read Tasting Beer, but it was enlightening. It again provided some history and discussed the derivations of various beer types. I’ve also been able to hear some of his talks from the home brewers convention. He seems to be always searching for beer knowledge and wants to correct inaccuracies in technique or folk knowledge or wherever so that all can enjoy true beer. 

History flavors culture. At least, it gives us context which is vital for insight into character, decisions, goals. It is the first step to subtext. You can navigate life without being aware of context, but it just makes you appear egotistical, foolish or a bully. No finesse. So books like Ogle’s help provide context to the beer world. Ambitious Brew was a fun read about brewing history in the United States. It provides a glimpse of the goals of those we refer to now as Big Brewers. What stood out to me was their need to expand. Expand. Expand. Take over. Etc. Now, a century later they still expand, by buying independently owned breweries. Stop helping them do that! I think books like this can serve as caution tape for craft brewers who are huge. While it’s nice to have good beers available nationally when do you draw the line between beer passion and building empire? I remember a time when it was the thing to mock Bud for being the SAME product from one end of the country to another. No character, as it were. Now I can pick up a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale anywhere and it’s gonna taste the same – granted its still a better taste than Bud. Before all the proverbial hackles are raised, this is not any kind of indictment, I am not qualified to make a judgement like that about brewery business and goals. What I’m really saying is history books can add to beer culture because it can make us discuss beer ethics. Ethics are the reason I choose to avoid big beer whenever possible. It’s not the taste, it’s the … context. It’s also why I prefer to drink at a local brewery whenever that’s an option. Speaking of local:  this will be out soon, Brewing Local.

To all the beer book authors out there: Thank You. Your work is being appreciated. You are affecting people’s thinking about beer. Cheers. 
—–———–

*A cover, I know. Sweet.