Posts Tagged With: professional brewing

The Wookie and the Sasquatch

Homebrewing, 2002

When I first started homebrewing back in 2002, I used to bring my homebrew into Boundary Bay to get feed back from the then Head Brewer Skip Madsen.  Skip is a large hairy guy and is known by many as “The Wookie.”  Skip was very encouraging with his feedback and would send me home with some yeast for my next batch.  In 2005 I started working at Boundary Bay as a Cellarman and Assistant Brewer in 2006.  Sadly, Skip wasn’t there anymore as he’d left to start the Waterstreet Brewery in Port Townsend and now American Brewing Company in Edmonds.

I found two new teachers in Head Brewer Aaron Jacob Smith and Assistant Brewer Steve Ellison.  Working in the brewery at Boundary Bay is kind of like an apprenticeship where I have to do the same thing many many times before being taught the next thing.  I started washing kegs, but by the end of my first week I was doing transfers and filling kegs.  Next I was washing and sanitizing tanks, harvesting yeast, bottling beer samples…bit by bit learning all the aspects of brewing.  It took about a year and a half of dedicated effort for me to work my way onto the brewdeck, fulfilling my dream of becoming a professional brewer.

the past and present brewers of Boundary Bay Brewery (Anthony pictured at left, Skip pictured center, back)

As soon as I started working at Boundary Bay I’ve made many efforts over the years to increase my brewing knowledge.  I’ve attended seminars and classes, read many books, applied for scholarships, brewed a lot of beer and tasted a few along the way.  After 6 or 7 years of applying, I have recently been awarded the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship to the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering Course (link to ABG}.  This is a monumental achievement for me.  I know that in the future I will look back at this class as a pivotal point in my career.  I share this victory with my co-workers Aaron and Steve who have taught me so much already.

It can be frustrating applying year after year, I have a folder with all my applications and denial letters.  You don’t know if you were in the top five or bottom fifty, you just know that you weren’t selected.  Some years I took it kinda hard, doubting if I was on the right path.  Other years I made fresh determinations to be the best brewer I can and continue to apply.  I entered contests and drawings, everything I could think of to get a chance to attend classes on brewing.  I have a degree in Environmental Science from Huxley College at Western Washington University.  With the Brewing Science course I hope to be able to create a new niche for myself in the brewery, maintaining the consistent quality of our beer as we expand production in the future.  I am determined to share what I learn through this course with my co-workers, other local breweries and local homebrewers.

I teach beginner homebrewing classes and beer tasting classes at the Bellingham Technical College, the next class is a Winter Beer tastingon January 21st.  Matt Hansen, a BTC culinary alumni and Boundary Bay kitchen manager, will be preparing foods paired with the beers. I will also be teaching a beginner homebrewing class in April and British Beer tasting class in May, next quarter.  I started doing these classes because I meet so many people who say they want to start homebrewing but don’t know how to take that first step.  I tried doing a hands on class the first time but it was logistically very challenging.  The class is set up now as a demonstration/ lecture/ Q&A class.  I have a friend, Robbie Lowry help keep an eye on the stove while we brew a batch of extract beer in the class.  I bring hops and malts, discuss ingredients, the brewing process, I get people practicing bottling with some water…I just try to give them enough confidence that yes, they can do this themselves in their own kitchen.

The beer tasting classes have been fun, but they are much better now that I have Matt doing the food.  He prepares food right there in the class room while we are tasting and discussing the beers.  I started doing the tasting classes because I meet so many people who don’t know what distinguishes different beer styles and/or don’t know what they like or don’t like in a beer.  The great thing about tasting several beers side by side is that you can compare and contrast them to see what you like and why.  Do you like the hoppier beers like an IPA or the malty sweet Scotch ale?  Doing this kind of tasting helps people know what they want to buy or order in the future.  Otherwise if you have a beer one week and a different beer the next it’s hard to compare the two and know which you liked best.

Homebrewing, with son Sawyer, 2011

The Glen Hay Falconer Foundation has an annual event, The Sasquatch Brewfest which will be held Saturday May 12th, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.  So I went from learning from the Wookie, to the Sasquatch.  I will be going down with some beer and I hope that many people from Washington, especially Whatcom and Skagit Counties will attend as well.  There is a brewam golf tournament that pairs professional brewers with amateurs, if you’re a golfer please come down and participate. This is the 10th anniversary of the Glen Hay Falconer Scholarship and they’ll be inviting all the previous winners to attend the festival.  As this year’s winner, I will be representing Boundary Bay and Bellingham, Washington in a central position.   I hope that I can bring more people and beer from Washington to this event, so please put that date on your calender, check out the website, train your liver and come down to the Sasquatch Brewfest.

Cheers!   -Anthony Stone, Assistant Brewer at Boundary Bay Brewery
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How Cool is Your Beer?

I’ve had a number of people asking me about beer temperature lately.  I know that people want a simple answer like, “40 degrees,” but different beer styles are best served at different temperatures.  We’ve been told by commercials for years that beer is best when it’s ice cold.   Unfortunately when beer is too cold it sorta numbs our taste buds so we won’t be able to taste as much.  This isn’t a problem if the beer doesn’t have much to taste to begin with, but for more flavorful beers you’d be missing out.  So here at Boundary Bay Brewery, our beer might seem a little warmer than at some other bars, but we think the flavor is the most important part. We don’t want you to miss a thing!

excerpt from "Tasting Beer" by Randy Mosher

There is a great book by Randy Mosher called “Tasting Beer” that has some great information on beer serving temperatures.  He says that in general lager beers should be about 40F and ales should be served between 50 – 55F.  Another general rule he suggests is stronger and darker beers should be served warmer than weaker and/or lighter colored beers.  I stole a graphic from his book to help illustrate this point.

Speaking of beer and temperature, I just got back from a trip to the frozen mid-west to visit my in-laws.  It is a very small town but there is a small group of about 6 to 9 dedicated homebrewers there.  The day I arrived they had brewed 60 gallons of beer together and had bought a bourbon barrel to age it in.  It’s hard to find beer there beyond the usual Nascar beers, so the homebrew I tried was so good it reminded me why it is such a popular hobby.  It also made me realize how much I take for granted the awesome beer selection we have in the stores here compared to much of the country.  Not to mention that we have two award winning breweries in town, which makes life in Bellingham so much sweeter.  When we went to Iowa City to visit my brother in-law I got to have some of Goose Islands great IPA and some other mid-west beers.  Whenever I travel I love to try the local beers especially ones that I can’t get over here.
If all this talk of cold beer and cold weather is making you thirsty, you might want to sign up for my winter beer tasting class at the Bellingham Technical College on Sat. Feb. 19th.  We’ll be tasting some barley wines, strong ales and other winter warmers from local and abroad.  We had a great time at the last beer tasting class in January.  I’ll have one more beer tasting class in April which will focus on beer styles from Ireland, Scotland and England.  We’ll try iconic examples from their country of origin and then compare them to American examples, which I think will be every informative and fun to do.  I will also have one more beginner’s homebrewing class in April as well which has been well attended the last two times I’ve done it.  I know I’ve had a few people ask about a class on all-grain brewing but there are some logistical issues like class time that have kept it from happening so far.
Wherever you are, and whatever temperature you’re at, I hope you stay warm this winter sharing good beer with great company.  Cheers!
Categories: Beer, Brewing, Homebrewing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Still Play With Toys

I’m going to expose what a geek I am with this one.

I was a science major in college, I was a band nerd in high school, and as an adult I still play with trains.

Last year I found a box at my parent’s house with me and my father’s old train cars.  I had some space in my basement so I thought I’d try to set up a train layout.  I had no idea what I was doing so I attended some meetings of the local model train club at the Bellingham Railway Museum.  Some of the guys were going to Boundary Bay Brewery after the meeting so I joined them for a pint and some serious train talk.

Atlas Golden Spike Club Car 2010

They got pretty excited of the pictures of the old train station and round house that are hanging in the men’s bathroom here at the brewery.  I learned from the group that Atlas has a Golden Spike Club that makes a special car each year that is only available to the club members and this year it was going to be a Bellingham Bay Brewery 3-B boxcar.

I had to get one of these for Boundary Bay Brewery.  With some help from our social media guru Amy and the generosity of Atlas we got some of these train cars which are based on an actual historical photo of this car in front of the Bellingham Bay Brewery.  We traded one with the railroad museum for some track, an engine, and a caboose.  Now you’ll find our mini-train above the bar in our tap room.

the Bellingham Bay Brewery with the 3B traincar in front of it

Dale the museum historian brought us some photos of the old 3-B brewery, located around current Ohio street, and some pictures of Railroad ave. where Boundary Bay is now.  I’ve been fascinated with our local history ever since my Bellingham history class in third grade at Silver Beach Elementary.  It’s really fun for me to see pictures of Railroad avenue with trains on it, now the location of Boundary Bay Brewery, with our train on the bar with a historic replica of the 3-B train car.  It will be even more exciting next time we brew 3-B and have it on tap at the bar.

Bellingham Bay Brewery

In the meantime I’ll be working on my Beer/ Zombie apocalypse themed train layout six feet from my keggerator.  I’m looking for ideas of how to build HO scale (1:87)  hop and barley farms..

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From Homebrewer to Professional

When Boundary Bay Brewery opened in 1995 I was a junior at Sehome High School. It wasn’t till years later when I was in College that I started going to Boundary for beer. Craft beer was still establishing itself and I was just getting into beers other than Pabst. I would say that my first beer sampler here probably taught me more about beer than anything else before becoming a brewer. The great thing about beer samplers is that they allow you to try different beers side by side so that you can see how different malts and hops create totally different flavors.  It also helped me identify what I like and/or don’t like about certain beer styles.

When I first started homebrewing Skip Madsen was the head brewer here and he was a great mentor to me in my brewing career. Before becoming one of Boundary’s brewers, I used to bring Skip my homebrew and he’d give me feedback and some more yeast to go home and brew with. By the time I started working at Boundary Bay Brewery in 2005, he had already moved on to Water Street in Port Townsend.  This last week Boundary Bay celebrated 15 years of “saving the ales” and I realized that I’ve been here for the last third of that.

I have been witness to many changes at Boundary Bay over the last five years. Since I started working in the Brewery we’ve grown to the second largest and then the largest brew pub in the country for a few years running…which has required some changes in the brewing process here.  The first thing I would mention is the Munzinger Bung Extractor built in 1934, but only brought here a few years ago. This replaced the previous system of sitting on the keg and popping the bungs out one at a time with a chisel and hammer while wearing one of Skip’s old hockey goalie gloves. I used to fill kegs one at a time as well, but now have the “Octo-filler” that Adam Lent built. Now I can now fill eight kegs at a time. This is good because our production level here has grown steadily over the years. I’ve heard tales about back in the day when they used to only brew a few times a week. We now brew pretty much every day. Some days we do two batches, so we’re averaging 7-10 brews a week.

In the summer, in particular, it is always a juggling act to make sure that we never run out of anything. Locally, we sell lots of Scotch ale, but overall IPA is by far our biggest selling beer. Of the 7-10 batches brewed a week IPA is going to account for at least four of those. There has definitely been a shift in which beers we sell more of now than 10 years ago. We have also developed some new beers over the years. Some like the Triple, we brewed last year, remain (sadly) a one time brew. Others, like the Imperial Red and the Single Hop Series, have become annual seasonals. There have been changes in equipment like our new mash tun, which is way more efficient than our old one. Despite the changes with equipment over time, the focus remains to keep the beer consistent and delicious.

Looking back, I have also seen tremendous growth in the Bellingham and national beer culture as well as the evolution of craft beer in our country. There are some great interviews I’ve read from the pioneers of craft brewing that I find really inspiring. These guys were inventive, original, & often rebellious, fighting against archaic beer laws and big breweries with deep pockets. Also, we as a culture didn’t know as much about different beer styles or what a good beer is. It was revolutionary to get anything besides an ice-light, dry-draft, all-tasting-the-same lager. Now I think that the craft beer industry as well as the public’s palate have developed to the point where it’s not enough to just make something different, it’s got to be good. Especially when you look at all the choices we have now compared to ten years ago. I’ve really enjoyed working in the craft beer industry. The people who drink the beer and the people I make it with are awesome.

At our 15th anniversary party, I had a chance to meet up with Boundary’s brewers new and old.  It was really cool to hang out and have a beer with all the brewers that have climbed in and out of that kettle over the years. Cheers to Howard, Dave, Skip, Aaron, Steve, and I guess me. I’m proud to be part of the brewing tradition here; following in these guys boot prints.

Boundary Bay Brewers new and old: Anthony Stone, Steve Ellison, Aaron Jacob Smith, Skip Madsen, Dave Morales, Howard Koon and Nick Crandall

It’s very rewarding to me to be able to see our tap room full of people from all walks of society relaxing and enjoying a beer and a meal together. Pub is really short for “public house” and that’s how I think of Boundary Bay. The owner and manager do a lot to support local charities and give back to the community and when I see people hanging out here I can’t help but feel that Boundary Bay is part of the glue that holds this town so close together. Congratulations to Ed and everyone at Boundary for 15 great years and a huge thank you to everyone supports us and keep me making beer.

Cheers!


Categories: Beer, Brewing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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