Southern Brew News August/September 2012 : Page 1

Back Forty Beer Company Corralling Brew in Alabama Jason Wilson, owner of Back Forty Beer Co., checks his brew house in Gladsen, AL. PHOTO BY: BILL PLOTT B rewing beer has come full circle for Jason Wilson. Four years ago he was trying to get into the beer business by having his recipe contract brewed. Today, he is contract brewing for two other fledgling breweries alongside the fermenters for four of his own beers. “We’re not out of the woods so to speak. We’re still a growing company with the challenges that a new business faces,” said Wilson, watching as employees packed fresh bottles of Naked Pig IPA . Back Forty Beer Company is now in a 26,000-square foot building in Gadsden, Alabama, about an hour north-east of Birmingham. There are 12 full-time employees at Back Forty. Operating in the building is a 30-barrel brew house with five 30-barrel fermenters. The week that Wilson was showing off his building in May, wiring had just been installed for six more fermenters. Three of the new 40-barrel fermenters will belong to Beer Engineers out of Birmingham and the other to Old Black Bear in Huntsville. Two 60-barrel fermenters will boost Back 40’s capacity. “We will triple our capacity with the new fermenters. We will go from about 3,000 barrels a year to 9,000 barrels a year,” In addition to Naked Pig Pale Ale , Back Forty is currently producing Truck See Back Forty p. 3 By Bill Plott By Win Bassett ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM INSIDE Letter From Editor ..............2 Calendar .............................2 Beer Kitchen .......................6 Homebrew News ................7 Tasting Notes .....................8 Style .................................10 Dr. Brewski .......................11 Maps & Directories ..... 12-15 State S by State News Georgia ..................... 16 Alabama/Mississippi 18 Tennessee ................ 19 The Carolinas ........... 20 Florida ...................... 22 Louisiana .................. 23 It's no secret that the majority of beer lovers have a wish list, tucked not so far back in their minds, of the beers that they want to try the most. The desirability of these beers often depends on several factors, including geographic distribution, limited win-dow of annual availability, general rar-ity, hype of the masses, reputation of the brewer, or most commonly, a combination of all of the above. And beer enthusiasts are particu-larly skilled in letting others know the contents of their lists. They publicly post them to online beer communities like BeerAdvocate and Untappd, and they make sure that their beer bud-dies know what particular brews would make their day just in case they should happen upon that special bottle or a recently tapped keg at a local bar. Sometimes Brewers Have No Brews While these brew seekers con-stantly update their lists, rearrange the order, and attempt to keep up with their friends' top beers to try in hopes that they will return the favor, many haven't stopped to consider that the brewers of some of these beers may have their own wish lists. It's easy to picture brewers as having access to the world's most sought-after beers, but they often don't have the time to rush to the nearest bottle shop after a delivery or to hit a bar as soon as it taps a rare beer. Instead, they remain focused on perfecting their craft in hopes of one day brewing a beer that garners such demand, or in the case of some, maintaining the demand that already exists. Joey Redner, founder of Cigar City Brewing Co., is one such brew-er that has won the lust of many with his Hunahpu's Imperial Stout, which brings such a large number of people to the brewery in Tampa Bay, FL, each year that it has a name for its release — Hunahpu's Day. Perhaps this is why he doesn't have any particular beers on his wish list, just the "five por-ters I haven't had yet." Redner says, "I can't think of any by name. I just See Brewers p. 4

Back Forty Beer Company

Bill Plott

Corralling Brew in Alabama

Brewing beer has come full circle for Jason Wilson.

Four years ago he was trying to get into the beer business by having his recipe contract brewed. Today, he is contract brewing for two other fledgling breweries alongside the fermenters for four of his own beers.

“We’re not out of the woods so to speak. We’re still a growing company with the challenges that a new business faces,” said Wilson, watching as employees packed fresh bottles of Naked Pig IPA.

Back Forty Beer Company is now in a 26,000-square foot building in Gadsden, Alabama, about an hour northeast of Birmingham. There are 12 full-time employees at Back Forty.

Operating in the building is a 30-barrel brew house with five 30-barrel fermenters. The week that Wilson was showing off his building in May, wiring had just been installed for six more fermenters. Three of the new 40-barrel fermenters will belong to Beer Engineers out of Birmingham and the other to Old Black Bear in Huntsville. Two 60-barrel fermenters will boost Back 40’s capacity.

“We will triple our capacity with the new fermenters. We will go from about 3,000 barrels a year to 9,000 barrels a year,”

In addition to Naked Pig Pale Ale, Back Forty is currently producing Truck stop Honey Brown Ale, Kudzu Porter and Freckle Belly IPA. They began brewing Milepost 652 ESB for Old Black Bear in January, then added Cave City Lager in April. They did three beers for Beer Engineers to debut at the Magic City Brewfest, including Velocity IPA, the first for distribution.

Brewer a Key

A key to Back Forty’s success has been the addition of award-winning brewer Jamie Ray to the staff.

Ray is the former brewer at Titanic in Coral Gables, the Olde Auburn Ale House and The Brewpub in Montgomery. His beers took Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup honors at each stop.

“Jamie is such a rich resource for us, especially for R&D,” said Wilson. “I wanted Jamie from Day 1. We got to know each other before the concept even got started. I lived in Montgomery for a year on a special project when I was with Georgia Pacific. I started going to The Brewpub to get good quality craft beer. I became friends with Jamie the old fashioned way, sitting on a bar stool.”

When the physical facility in Gadsden became a reality, Wilson was on the phone to Ray.

“He was the first person I called. He’s been an award winner for a long time. He has seven medals from the GABF and two from the World Beer Cup. Very few people in the Southeast know as much about craft beer and the art of designing and executing recipes.

“He is an ambassador to craft beer through all of the brewers he’s trained. He’s been a part of just about every one in the state,” said Wilson.

Ray is particularly known for his knowledge of hops. When Beer Engineers co-owner D. B. Irwin III drew up seven recipes – three for seasonal and four for IPAs – to showcase his beer company’s debut, Ray not only did the brewing but was given a free hand to tweak the hops in the IPAs.

A Big Transition

For an experienced brewer like Ray, Back Forty has been an interesting transition. His last three jobs were at brewpubs. Brewing at a micro is a different world.

“You really have to take a look at the big picture on everything. It’s all about building markets and being able to maintain those markets. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t come out with a new product right now. With this type of system, there is such a huge network of people selling and purchasing the product that it requires a lot more consistency.

“You can’t be as impulsive as when you’re at a brewpub. You don’t have the luxury of a brewpub brewer doing one, two or three seasonals at a time or saying, ‘I think I’ll make a barleywine today,’” he said.

But it’s been a happy, rewarding transition for Ray.

“This has been such a big project, a chance to really put into practice everything I’ve learned the last 19 years doing this. To put something together from the ground up, it really encompasses everything I’ve done in the past,” he said.

There will be new beers coming, but right now he is just trying to help Back Forty ramp up product of the four regular beers.

Why Gadsden?

“This is home for me. I was born and raised in Gadsden. I was gone about 10 years counting Auburn (University) and four years in Atlanta. When I decided on Gadsden, I went to the Economic Development Board and got this building included in the historic district. I wanted to be part of that community,” Wilson said

The facility is a just a block from Broad Street, the main thoroughfare in the city’s old downtown.

The building was erected in 1942 as a Sears, Roebuck and Co. Appliance repair facility. Broken Sears appliances from around the Southeast were shipped to Gadsden for repairs.

But 60-something years later, the abandoned building was not only no longer suitable for its original use but also was even more unsuitable for a brewery.

“It was renovated from the ground up,” said Wilson. “We pulled out dropped ceilings, insulation and wiring. Concrete block walls were dry-walled. Basically, we just started from scratch.” The facility includes

- -A full test lab for monitoring everything they produce;

- -A six-head Moline bottling line that turn out 70 cases an hour;

- -A two-row grain mill that processes 2,200-pound batches and augers it into the grain silo;

- -A tap room that has become part of the city’s downtown entertainment scene.

“The local support has just been great. It’s just what you’d hope to have. The community has been great to us. The business community has embraced us,” said Wilson.

The tap room includes tables and chairs as well as a bar. The walls are decorated with local art work, which is available for sale.

“There is no commission on anything for us. It’s their space. We’re just providing them with a place to show their work,” he said.

The tap room hours are more restricted than some at other state breweries. They are Monday-Thursday, 5-7 p.m., Friday- Saturday, 3-8 p.m., with tours on Saturday.

That has been by deliberate choice.

There are a dozen or more bars and restaurants carrying Back Forty product within a few blocks of the brewery.

“We try to push them out to the retailers that serve our product. I believe that a rising tide floats all boats,” said Wilson.

The tap room has been used by local groups for parties and other events. One of the first activities, though, was sponsored by the brewery. It was a kickoff for The Front Porch Revival, a nonprofit celebrating Alabama food, drink and other products, “a collective of cultural voices committed to our crafts and unified in our purpose to spread the word that art and industry are alive and well in the cultural kitchen of Alabama.”

Bottles Over Cans

Although two Alabama micros – Good People and Straight to Ale – have installed canning lines, Back Forty opted for bottles.

They were more familiar with bottles and didn’t feel ready to get into something that is still relatively new for micro breweries.

“We’ve invested so much in new equipment. Start up operational efficiency is critical,” he said. “If we had a lot of money, we’d do both.”

Down the road, Wilson hopes cans can be considered. He likes the idea of cans going places such as parks, beaches and sports venues where glass is not allowed.

Read the full article at http://sbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Back+Forty+Beer+Company/1138689/121330/article.html.

Southern Brewers Have Beer Wish Lists, Too

Win Bassett

It's no secret that the majority of beer lovers have a wish list, tucked not so far back in their minds, of the beers that they want to try the most. The desirability of these beers often depends on several factors, including geographic distribution, limited window of annual availability, general rarity, hype of the masses, reputation of the brewer, or most commonly, a combination of all of the above.

And beer enthusiasts are particularly skilled in letting others know the contents of their lists. They publicly post them to online beer communities like BeerAdvocate and Untappd, and they make sure that their beer buddies know what particular brews would make their day just in case they should happen upon that special bottle or a recently tapped keg at a local bar.

Sometimes Brewers Have No Brews

While these brew seekers constantly update their lists, rearrange the order, and attempt to keep up with their friends' top beers to try in hopes that they will return the favor, many haven't stopped to consider that the brewers of some of these beers may have their own wish lists. It's easy to picture brewers as having access to the world's most soughtafter beers, but they often don't have the time to rush to the nearest bottle shop after a delivery or to hit a bar as soon as it taps a rare beer. Instead, they remain focused on perfecting their craft in hopes of one day brewing a beer that garners such demand, or in the case of some, maintaining the demand that already exists.

Joey Redner, founder of Cigar City Brewing Co., is one such brewer that has won the lust of many with his Hunahpu's Imperial Stout, which brings such a large number of people to the brewery in Tampa Bay, FL, each year that it has a name for its release — Hunahpu's Day. Perhaps this is why he doesn't have any particular beers on his wish list, just the "five porters I haven't had yet." Redner says, "I can't think of any by name. I just love porters. The balance of relative sessionability with dark malt flavors and fuller mouthfeel than most other styles in the same ABV range is right up my alley."

East Coast Craves West Coast

The Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery owner Ryan Sentz, however, knows exactly what beers are on his list and gives one of Redner's beers the top spot. It also happens to be one of Sentz's own brews. Located in Boca Raton, FL, he says that it may be "a little self-promotion, but I'm most excited about trying" the Cigar City/Funky Buddha collaboration. "We just finished [it] early this week using ingredients and combinations that I have never played around with. Both should be coming out in June." Sentz also names Three Floyds Brewing Co.'s Zombie Dust. "A single-hopped beer with one of my favorite hops from one of my favorite breweries. How can that be bad?" He asks.

Dennis Grune, head brewer at Mile Marker Brewing Co. In St. Augustine, FL, also doesn't have much of a problem naming his top five beers to try. Like many others in the beer community, Russian River's Pliny the Elder tops his list. "It is a double IPA that is made in a limited quantity, and according to the Russian River website, it is best enjoyed when 'fresh,'" states Grune.

flat Earth Brewing Co.'s Cygnus X-1 also makes his list. "I am fan of beer and a fan of the band 'Rush,' says Grune. "The Cygnus X-1 is an English porter made with mostly English hops and grains. I always like to try a good porter, and this one caught my eye quickly."

Will Brown, brewer for Mississippi's Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co., gives Russian River two spots in his wish list. He lists its Beatification because he "would like to see how their open fermentation sour came out" and Pliny the Younger, the "bigger, bolder version of Pliny the Elder." Brown comments, "Yes, please," just as Bailey Spaulding, co-owner of Jackalope Brewing Co. In Nashville, TN, did when she mentioned BrewDog's End of History, a 55% ABV freeze-distilled beer. "The highest gravity beer in the world, served in a taxidermied squirrel?" She questions rhetorically.

Like members of the family Pliny, another frequently cited "must-have" brew among those that enjoy beer is Trappist Westvleteren 12. A partner in the Charleston, SC, Holy City Brewing Co., Chris Brown "would love to try this beer just because of the where it comes from and how limited it is." He says that "you have to have respect for the tradition and the time that these monks put into making this beer." Brown also evokes hype as a determining factor for his top beers to try. He would love to sample Three Floyds' Dark Lord "just to see what the hype is all about" and New Glarus Brewing Co.'s Raspberry Tart because "this beer gets rated really high."

Chris Brown's Charleston neighbor, Jaime Tenney of Coast Brewing Co., gives a few Vermont breweries the top spots on her list. She names Hill Farmstead Brewery's Everett, a robust porter, in part, because both her "cousin and assistant brewer's son is named Everett." Not far from Hill Farmstead, Lawson's Finest Liquids commands an equally intense following among beer enthusiasts for its small batches. Tenney would love to try its Double Sunshine IPA because "its big hoppiness is rumored to be balanced, and we love balance."

Sometimes, There’s No Place Like Home

But despite the fact that most brewers maintain wish lists like the majority of their fans, some beer makers have remained immune to the hype or are simply content with the beer in front of them. When it hits five o'clock on a Friday, most beer lovers aren't afraid to admit the same. Don and Dave Sergio, founders of Calfkiller Brewing Co. In Sparta, TN, "have always been fascinated with small British breweries and companies like Odell Brewing Co. "because they have that neat little owl on their labels." But "that's about it for us. We've tried a lot of beers and always look for new beers to try."

Read the full article at http://sbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Southern+Brewers+Have+Beer+Wish+Lists%2C+Too/1138705/121330/article.html.

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