Originally Posted on Jun 01, 2016
Are you curious to know about the people behind the beers you buy? Or perhaps you want to know what inspires brewers to brew and beer bloggers to blog? Our “Q&A” posts are a light hearted way of getting to know people working in, and connected to, the beer and alcohol industry.
Today’s post features Brooklyn Brewery.
Who are you/what do you do? I’m Rachael Weseloh, Brooklyn Brewery UK Brand Ambassador.
The biggest area of focus within my job is on education. I work with everyone along the customer chain : the importer, the wholesalers, the retail and restaurant side, as well as the end consumer to make sure that people know not only about Brooklyn Brewery and our beers, but about beer in general. And then we drink beer. Not too shabby!
What was the inspiration for starting the brewery? Co-founders Steve Hindy and Tom Potter were neighbors in Brooklyn in the 1980s. Steve had returned to New York after a five and a half-year tour as the Middle East Correspondent for the Associated Press where he learned to home brew. He continued brewing in New York and shared his beer with Tom. At the time, there were less than 100 craft breweries in the United States, but a growing interest in high quality, flavourful beer. So Steve and Tom went for it and Brooklyn Brewery was born in 1988.
Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years’ time? Speaking for the UK side of things, in five years’ time, I would love to see a better balance of our beer sales. Let me explain… right now over 90% of the Brooklyn Brewery beer sold in the UK is Lager. People either don’t know that Brooklyn Brewery makes beers other than Lager or they know that we do, but think that these beers aren’t available in the UK. Both of these mindsets are incorrect. We bring over nearly 30 different beers into the UK every year. I’m hoping that in five years, through the work that I’m doing now, people will be aware of and drinking these other delicious beers that we brew.
Are there any other breweries which have influenced Brooklyn? The home-brewing foreign diplomats that Steve met when working in the Middle East were obviously a big influence on Brooklyn Brewery. Without having learned how to home brew, it’s unlikely that the beer industry would have been enough of a draw for Steve to have opened a brewery. Our Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, who has been brewing for us for over 20 years, was inspired to brew after he experienced the British beer scene in the 1980s. He was used to the bland, flavourless, macro-brewed beer that were available in the US and was floored to discover that beer had taste in the UK!
The craft beer movement seems to be going from strength to strength. Why do you think brewing been such a great success in recent years? We can see a growth in interest in the craft brewing industry across the world. This growth isn’t isolated to craft breweries. What it comes down to is us, as consumers, taking an interest in our food and drink, how it’s made, where it comes from and who makes it.
The early to mid-20th century (during WWI and WWII) saw an industrialisation and standardisation of the food-making process in both the US and abroad. We’re only just now coming out of this era of how our food and drink is produced. And it’s not a change or revolution that we’re experiencing, but a reversion to what was ‘normal’ before this era. We’re experiencing an exciting (and delicious) time!
What do you see as the latest beer styles to look out for in 2016? Rather than ‘the latest’ or newest styles, I think that more brewers will bring back older ‘lost’ traditional styles in the next couple years.
Many breweries are experimenting with adding unusual flavours to their beers. Are there any you think work well together and are there any you would like to try? When I first started working in the beer industry seven years ago, fruit beers were offered to women as a ‘girly’ beer option. Because of this, I steered clear of fruit beers for years, for no other good reason. I’ve definitely come around since then. I think that fruit can be a wonderful addition to many different styles of beer. Not a new concept, but I have a new appreciation for it!
For us at the brewery, we’re constantly experimenting with new ingredients, flavours, and processes. Our Brooklyn Quarterly Experiment program epitomises this with the release of one specialty one-off beer every quarter. These beers are barrel-aged and often use unique ingredients. For example, our most recent release from Q1 2016 is Improved Old Fashioned. We brewed a 13% rye beer, added loads of botanicals to mimic Angostura bitters (cinnamon, cloves, gentian, orange peel, mace, etc), and aged it in WhistlePig rye barrels to produce a beer that is very similar in taste to the Old Fashioned cocktail.
Looking ahead, what new stuff can we expect from Brooklyn? We’ve just announced that we’ll be taking up residence in the newly renovated Building 77 in the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. We’ll be opening a brewery on the ground floor, right next to our good friends at Russ & Daughters and close to our Barrel Aging Facility in Building 269, and opening a truly massive beer garden on the roof, all by early 2018. We’re not leaving Williamsburg. Our brewery at North 11th Street will still be a brewing center for us and our Tasting Room will continue to host tours, events, and raucous public hours.
What is the best part of your job? Getting to talk about beer. I love beer and the passion, creativity, and friendliness of the industry. Being able to be around other people who appreciate this is a wonderful thing!
What was your first drink and where were you when you had it? At midnight when I turned 21 I walked down the street to my favorite bar back home called The Alibi (a sort of 1950s rockabilly diner bar) and ordered a gin and tonic.
If you have to pick, which would be your top three beers in the whole world? If I HAD to pick one, I’d say Cantillion Gueuze. It’s good anytime and anywhere. But in all honesty, I never have a favourite beer. Usually the beer that I drink next is my favourite because I chose this beer for the time and place and hopefully it will fit perfectly.
You are stuck on a desert island, what three things are you taking with you? A knife, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a towel.
Thank you to Rachael and Brooklyn Brewery for chatting to us.
You can view and buy beers from Brooklyn Brewery here.