You asked - he answered. Get to know our head brewer, Matt Redpath through a few questions posed by our online community.
1. Do you plan to make brown ales?
Funny that this question was asked. I have been thinking about making a brown ale at WGBCo. Not many breweries make a brown ale and I feel it is one of those "archaic" brews that are being left behind in the wake of the overly adjunct beers that are flooding the market. If you can make a good brown ale, the flavors that arise are beautifully rich and deep and add complexity with balance. As for the question of a hot dog being a sandwich I refer you to this https://minnesotalawreview.org/2019/02/22/constructing-the-sandwich/
2. What is your favorite wild ale and are there any opportunities for wild ales using local fruits and fermenting/aging in oak barrels ahead?
I question what is "wild" anymore. Most breweries that embrace this style started off with propagating wild yeast, however, they seemed to have domesticated that strain for the consistency of their brews. But if we are discussing using brettanomyces, lactobacillus, acetobacter, and other microorganisms, my first thought "gose" to De Garde. Most of everything they make is well executed and and beautifully crafted, plus, the brewery resides back home from where I hail from. So, every time I go back to visit my family, I usually stop and have a few while spending over $100 to bring some beer back with me. However, I have found a hidden gem in Alesong, A touch of brett. This beer caught me from the first sip. Like its name, it has a touch of brett that helps elevate and accentuate the beer without over bearing the base of it. I do question my logic at times with these two. Alesong comes from Eugene, where I have spent a good decade living and beginning to learn my craft as a brewer by diving into the ranks of homebrewdom. In response to the second part of your question, I do see getting into "wild" ales. Since we are in the middle of farm country and have access to fruits and oak barrels, I am pretty excited to begin a sour program in hopes to propagate local microflora to get a truly local and unique flavor profile. Even though we will not have a coolship initially, I do have some ideas in capturing what is available to us and see what happens. However, with that being said, we do need to be careful in instituting such a program as to not contaminate the rest of the brewery with wild microflora.
3. What was your favorite beer you ever had?
I would have to say this is probably the toughest question that is asked. What was my favorite beer I ever had? Hard to say. I have had so many great beers in my life to now that I would be hard pressed to really give just one. In my college days, I really liked Anderson Valley's IPA and was always my go to. Being from Oregon, there were so many great beers, especially seasonals that I really enjoyed. Twilight and Jubelale from Deshutes, but you can not leave out Black Butte Porter. Haymaker from BridgePort was a nice easy drinking beer. Sessions lager, which came in a stubby bottle, was always good. Moylans kilt lifter Scotch Ale was always a great treat. Pliny the Elder from Russian River, which got me into some trouble at my first paid brewing position. Some of the beers that I did with my head brewer at Gordon Biersch in San Jose were pretty amazing. Rauch Schwarzbier, Eisebock, and an Imperial oaked aged Pilsner. The Alesong, A touch of Brett. Many of De Garde's beers. Green State Lager from Zero Gravity. The list goes on and on, so to try and answer that question, I am stumped to give a single beer that I can point to as my favorite.
4. What style is your favorite to brew? And to drink?
This question is a little in line of the previous question. However, I have enjoyed many styles that I have brewed. Much of which I have to say has given me the experience to bring to WGBCo. In the end, there will always be a soft spot for me and lagers. They are truly one of the best styles and probably hardest to get right. Many probably stick their noses up to lagers because there is this sentiment of wanting to be smacked in the face with fruits or over abundance of hops or some off the wall flavoring that really hides the base beer. However, if you nail a lager just right, the nuances of that beer work in a harmonious melody that exudes balance. That is what I was taught when I worked for Gordon Biersch, full flavor beer that operates in a world of balance. The Germans knew how to create and sell beer. You want to take a drink and get a sensation of flavor, but it should drop off. As it drops off, and the need to experience that rush of flavor comes over you and you drink again to experience that first sip. It never overpowers your palate to the point of exhaustion. When it comes down to the beers that I tend to drink, being from the West Coast, or what I have been told, Left Coast, I am a hop head at heart and will always enjoy a good IPA, but I will always enjoy a well crafted lager. If you ever want to know how a brewery is doing, drink their lightest beer. Lightest in alcohol, and flavor. That is their base beer.
5. How long have you been brewing?
Depends on when you want to start. If you are asking about when I started brewing, like my homebrewing days, I have been brewing for about 18 years. If you are looking at my professional experience only, I have been brewing for 12 years.
6. How often do you taste test?
As much as this seems to be a funny question, it is also a professional question. My answer is everyday with beers in the tank and on tap at the brewery. It is not to really enjoy the beer, but to actually see where in the process the beer resides and making sure it is tasting good coming out of the beer taps. If at any point you sense an off flavor, then you must begin the process of what you are tasting and what could be the cause. Because in the end, a responsible brewer will have to make the determination of dumping the beer. We do not take it lightly and understand the possible wasted sales, but it comes down to the brewery and the brewer's reputation.
7. Do you like to add unusual flavors to your beer or stick to more traditional flavors?
I don't mind adding "unusual" flavors to beers. There are many ingredients outside the main four that adds to the experience and flavor of beer. I encourage using any extra ingredients to give your beer an added dimension to its flavor profile. I do condemn using "unusual" ingredients in excess in which it overpowers the base of the beer. As for "traditional," there are many traditional beers that have used ingredients outside of the main four. I am hoping to try some traditional farmhouse beers that use some unusual ingredients, like juniper. Outside of those types of "traditional," I do enjoy just brewing beers as well. In the end, I believe that the base beer or "traditional" beer should not be overshadowed by the "unusual" ingredient.
8. What inspired you to go into beer making?
There were many factors that inspired me to get into brewing. Being from Oregon, I was surrounded by craft beer. While at college, my roommate came home with some homebrew equipment that he acquired from his girlfriend's parents at the time. So we did our first brew, which was a Newcastle clone. We did everything wrong to that batch, but what really came out of it was the new found love for brewing. At the time, I was not really looking to brew professionally. Until, I was offered a job at a homebrew shop in Santa Cruz, CA. So, I moved from Eugene to Santa Cruz and really delved into my craft on the homebrew level. I was steeped in a wonderful community of brewing and was volunteering my time at local breweries. I sought out to get into a paid position and begin my career. I started at a brewpub group called BJ's Restaurants and Brewhouse. After six months, they closed the brewery down and I was offered an assistant brewer's position at Gordon Biersch in San Jose with a head brewer who I highly respected in the industry. I believe my interest really piqued because I got to work with an amazing brewer.
9. Do you plan on making any gluten reduced beers (e.g. Brewers Clarex)?
We probably will not start off with a gluten reduced beer, but it is definitely on my radar to include.
10. Will you have staple beers and special releases? If you'll have staples, what do you think is a good lineup?
Yes we will definitely have staples, but will want to continue to adapt with the times. I also have many ideas for speciality releases. As for staples, the blueprint has always been a light beer, hoppy, and something dark and then seasonal.
11. What's your personal/professional take on adjuncts?
My personal and professional take on adjuncts tends to blur a little. I will start with my professional take on adjuncts. Professionally, I have no problem with them. They can add to the nuances of beer. Many breweries use them. I know that macrobreweries rely on them to get a very light lager. Craft breweries use them to accentuate certain beer styles. The key word is to accentuate, not over power. It seems that we are seeing a surge of adjuncts dominating the beer scene today. I find it has come to a point that it is more adjuncts than beer. I am not sure if we can call these beers anymore as breweries are relying on heavy adjunct additions. It tends to hide the base beer and as a professional brewer, I have a tough time even finding the base beer and have experienced palate exhaustion. When I do find the base beer, sometimes, the base beer has off flavors or flaws. Personally, I feel it takes away from the craft and gives permission to anyone to brew and then add a bunch of adjuncts, because who cares what the base tastes like, the adjuncts will hide the flaws anyway. All in all, adjuncts are fine in my opinion, but as long as it is to accentuate the base beer and not take over as the beer.
12. What do you do as a brewer that sets you apart?
What do I do as a brewer that sets me apart? This is a good question. Being true to myself and my experience is probably what sets me apart. I have been trained in German traditions and have learned under a tutelage of brewers that have many years of experience in a professional setting. Understanding your equipment and being able to use that equipment in whatever setting to manipulate the ingredients to get the best possible beer out of it. Even though there are many things that my head brewers have taught me, there is one that sticks out the most from my time at Gordon Biersch. I once asked why do we have such a regimented and tedious cleaning cycle? His answer was simple, "we provide the best possible environment for that beer to become the best possible beer, every time!" I have taken this to heart. Cleaning and sanitizing is probably the most important part of brewing. You could make the best recipe in the world, but it means nothing when it is contaminated with wild yeast or bacteria. Tradition is also very important. Learning the German tradition of brewing has allowed me to make great beer with only four ingredients. This has set up a foundation that allows me to expand out and experiment with different ingredients while feeling confident about the base of the beer. The base of the beer also inspires me to look at different ingredients that may accentuate or pair well with the beer.
13. How does being a brewer affect your perspective from the other side of the bar?
How do I answer this question diplomatically? I guess I get a unique perspective of both the good and the bad. My job is to provide a product that people will enjoy. Then I have to make sure that the product is delivered to the satisfaction of the customer. So that means training the staff to be able to deliver my vision of that product that will appeal to the customer. So, I have to be understanding of the customer's "needs," while being true to my vision of the beer that I have produced.
I love providing a product that people enjoy and allows them to gather and have human interactions. I love having an actual conversation with patrons about beer and life in general. Sure it gives me gratification and a little ego boost when someone enthusiastically consumes the beer I made and raves about it, but the simple consumption of that product is all the satisfaction I need. For instance, when I was transitioning from assistant brewer to head brewer, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and stressed. My head brewer could see what was happening and pulled me aside. He told me to breathe and relax and take a look around the restaurant.
He said, "these people you see are enjoying "your" beer." That moment gave me a unique perception that I have kept with me all this time. Every once and awhile, I will stand back with a beer in hand and look over the tap room or restaurant and enjoy the scene of everyone consuming the beer that I have produced. Sometimes, there is a hiccup in that line of transference and I am responsible, along with my supporting managers, to make it right. I want to make sure that the beer produced is provided in the best light from grain to glass to hand to mouth. On the other side, I get to witness the reviewing and critiquing of the product that I produce. Us brewers are humans trying to make a living doing what we love in a profession that is littered with people's opinions critiquing our livelihoods. Sometimes our beers are faulted on the simple click of an Untappd star rating by some self-professed "beer geek," who may not like the style that s/he has reviewed. All the while, they do not provide any context to their star/bottle cap rating. To be honest, Untappd, in my opinion, is one of the worst apps that was ever developed. I understand the premise of the app and see what the developers were trying to do when they came up with it. I imagine they wanted to provide a forum that allows beer lovers to have an interaction with the beer they are drinking. However, it has given license to people who feel entitled to critique beer on the preference of their palate. I believe if you are going to rate a beer, you need to be educated on the style that you are consuming. If you are an IPA lover and all you drink are IPAs and then dip into drinking a Helles style lager, do not give a one to three star rating because it does not hit the preference points that you like. Also, be mindful and actually give a thoughtful comment on the rating. If the beer does not hit the stylistic guidelines or presents an off flavor or flaw, then by all means critique accordingly and comment on why.
14. Have you ever brewed any beer with flowers or herbs?
I have brewed with herbs and flowers before. I once did a cask infusion with hibiscus. It was at the cask festival at Lockhouse Distillery a few years ago. I added it to the amber ale from Woodcock Brothers. I thought it turned out nice and not overpowering. Hibiscus can get pretty bitter and present some tannins. At this brewery, I volunteered at in Santa Cruz, they used lemongrass in one of their beers. That was fun. We had to crush the whole bunch of lemongrass and then dry hop it in the fermenter. It was pretty potent stuff. In my homebrewing days, I did a very traditional Scottish ale by using heather tips. Very earthy and herbal flavors. I once helped a friend out doing a mead using yarrow. The mead came out like a margarita. But not as potent as an actual margarita.