Monday, July 21, 2014

Sam Scruby, New Head Brewer at Upslope Brewing Co in Boulder

Sam Scruby has just become the head brewer at Upslope Brewing, Alex Violette has resigned that position because he’s moving to Vietnam.  I stopped by a few weeks ago to interview Sam at the taproom.  He was very gracious to give me time while he was brewing.

Sam and some friends started home brewing after graduating high school.  They bought a standard home brew kit on the Internet. He brewed through college and got an internship at the Brewer’s Association then got a position on canning line as a technician at Upslope Brewing. He thought working at a brewery would be a good place to learn about the commercial aspect of the brewing industry. While working on the canning line, Sam would help set up filtration and do some cellar stuff so when a brewer quit he was a natural for the job.  
The first home brew was a Big Ben British pale ale where he and friends followed the recipe and thought it was pretty good. They thought they were good brewers. But as he was brewing in college he said the beers became progressively bad but he admits that it was probably being college guy and not being careful with cleanliness. On the commercial level, he brewed the first Christmas Ale at Upslope. It wasn’t his recipe but he got the opportunity to brew on a large scale.

I asked him what was a favorite beer he brewed and Sam said he likes the Milk Stout which started as a home brew recipe that he scaled up to brew on the 7 barrel system, it sort of his baby. The milk stout at Upslope was really good. I hope he gets to brew more of it for next winter. 

When asked what was the most unexpected beer he brewed and he said it was the 
Sour Mash Extra Pale Ale, a collaboration with Barrels and Bottles Brewpub in Golden. He said it was unnerving because of putting lactobacillus (which is part of a group of bacteria that changes lactose and other sugars into lactic acid) in the brew house. They had to drop temperature in the mash so the bacteria would grow. It turned out well but they had to use cleaning the whole brew house area with some kind of foam.  Sam said “it was scary because we were brewing a light American style lager next , a beer that Alex my boss was brewing. So if we didn’t clean correctly we’d find out about in the beer which would be unfortunate.” The Light American Style Lager is a session beer that is selling well in the taprooms.

When developing a recipe, Sam doesn’t have time to do 5 gallon batches anymore because it is a lot of work in small batch brewing.  He knows Upslope's brewing system and he can make a good beer with any of his recipes. He brews the beer then does little tweaks to later batches. It might sound a little egotistical but I have had his beer before and they taste great. 

With his new position as head brewer, Sam will be brewing at the Flatiron Circle facility and the other brewers will take turns brewing the specialty beers at Lee Hill.  Charlie who was Sam’s assistant will be  handling the barrel-aging and has knowledge of them plus tasting the beers.

Quality and consistency is a main issue at most breweries so asked how they handle this issue at Upslope, Sam said the they were getting into doing sensory panels and getting every ones opinion about the barrels but Sam and Charlie figures what they like in the barrels. modifying the process on how to correct bad flavors.

Sam believes the future of Upslope Brewing is expanding what Lee Hill is doing in source and barrel-aged beers with canning the beers. Just recently they had a release party at the Lee Hill taproom, on tap and in 19 ounce cans was the whiskey barrel-aged brown ale. It is part of the Lee Hill Series, a quarterly limited release series of small batch experimental beers. At the Lee Hill taproom they have 12 and 24 taps right now at the Flatirons Circle.

I asked him what would be his advice for those who want to get into the brewing business? Sam replied ,”A person would have to work hard. Some days aren’t fun when they can test your professional choice. Professional janitor with cleaning. They need to be a people person, getting along with others especially on those challenging days and can’t handle that it’s going to more difficult for you and the others. Get your foot in the door of breweries, show what kind of skills you have, there are many needs in the brewery.”

Sam’s philosophy on brewing beer is balance, that is premium in any style. It should be balanced whether it’s  sweetness, bitterness, hop profile, darker or lighter malt. The sweet spot for good beer when it finds a good balance maybe not between sugarness or bitterness.  He likes the creative aspect of trying new things. As a kid he was always building things with Lego's so this is the best job for that now it’s building booze and beer.

I asked if he thought the brewing industry in Colorado had reached the saturation point and he didn’t think so but the packaging market of the craft beer is becoming more difficult. Sam said, “You see in liquor stores there’s a finite amount of shelf space especially talking about cooler space where you want to house the beer. That will become more challenging for breweries but saturation point for smaller taproom setting not even close, think about how many there bars. many people go to bars to drink beer and in that sense assuming you can make money owning a taproom then there’s plenty of room for more breweries.   I don’t think were there yet.”

Right now there is a Hops shortage-Ingredient supply challenges for breweries with the Americans making IPA’s and super hoppy beers. I wanted to know if the hoppy craze would be affected by this and Sam didn’t think so, he thought there is always trends like session beers or the sour craze but within the hophead crowd, they might looking at other beers but they always go back to the hoppy IPA, it kind of  like the American style. It’s not a fad, it’s been around for the past 20 years, it’s hasn’t gone anywhere.
With that he ate his lunch while waiting for the next stage since I caught him on the brewing day. 

So congratulations to Sam as head brewer at Upslope Brewing. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Avery Brewing Naked Uncle Jacob

Naked Uncle Jacob is an Imperial Stout infused with Mexican vanilla bean tab is a whopping 18%ABV! This one isn't barrel-aged hence naked. It's very hot but a nice sipping beer.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp at Backcountry Pizza and Taphouse

A small sample of the Sierra Nevada Beerfest at Backcountry Pizza and Tap House in Boulder. First beer for me is Bell's Maillard's Odyssey, a 8.5% ABV Imperial Dark Ale. This a beer camp collaboration with Sierra Nevada. A nice malty nose but this dark ale has a hoppy sweet front end.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Upslope Brewing Release Party at Lee Hil

Thursday was Upslope Brewing Barrel-aged Brown Ale release party. There were some really good beers on tap at the Lee Hill location in Boulder CCO. One that was really tasty was the Blackberry Belgian Strong Ale, has a sweet tart front end from the blackberries. It's rich and high in ABV at 10% but doesn't taste like it.

Upslope Brewing release party

Today is the release party of the whiskey barrel- aged brown ale at Upslope Brewing. It's rich and smooth with that sweet whiskey flavor, sooo good. It's not as big as it taste at 7.6%ABV. This sweet brew will be available at the taproom, 19-ounce cans are $10 each and should be on tap.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Front Range Brewing, the day before July 4

Nice evening at Front Range Brewing the day before July 4th. Black Mtn Stout, a session ale at 4.8% ABV, smooth and chocolate flavor.

300 Suns Brewing in Longmont: Nuts, Cheese and Beer Pairing.

Thursday June 25, was a trip to Longmont for a beer, cheese, and nut pairing at 300 Suns Brewing.  300 Suns Brewing hosted this beer food pairing for Barley's Angels Colorado with The Cheese Importers, and Olomomo Nut Co.

The brewery is on a 7-barrel system and with their extensive beer lineup brews once a week. 

They have a cooler where they store kegs and they have 4 tanks that have a direct line to the taps in the taproom.  

The brewery had a section of the taproom partitioned off for us so the event felt more intimate. There were two tables with place settings already made up including the cheeses and nuts pairing and a half pour of the first beer,  Blue Corn Maiden.

The first pairing on the plate was with the Blue Corn Maiden, a cream ale that is quite sessionable at 4.8% ABV. This golden colored ale was pink for awhile after it was brewed, to the delight of Jean Ditslear who is one of the owners of the brewery. This light tasting golden beer was paired with Paladine Butterkase which is a semi-soft cheese with a golden natural rind. This Wisconsin cheese is made with cow’s milk. The creamy texture and buttery taste paired well with the Blue Corn Maiden cream ale.  The nuts also went well with the beer, Cherry Vanilla Bean and Chai Bliss almonds. As a rule, nuts and beer are a good pairing.

Second course was with the Hop & Sol IPA, a 7.8% ABV lightly hopped ale with a grapefruit aroma.  This IPA was paired with Prima Donna Maturo (red label) which had been aged for 18 months. It is also made with cow’s milk and paired well with the Hop & Sol IPA.  The pleasantly sharp taste of the cheese was cut by the hoppiness of the beer. The nuts also paired well, Vim Vinegar & Sea Salted and Righteous Cinnamon Cayenne Almonds.

The last pairing was with two dark beers, Sunglasses at Night American Black Ale, 6.2% ABV and a small taster of Old Burlington Stout, 5.3% ABV.  The Black Ale was hoppy with a very malty sweet flavor and the Old Burlington Stout was very malty with a coffee and chocolate flavors that was well balanced. These dark beers were paired with a Roth Buttermilk Blue cheese. The blue cheese is made with raw milk that creates a creamy taste and texture. I don’t like blue cheese so my opinion will be slightly biased, it did change the flavor of the stout.   The small piece of blue cheese that I could ate went well with the Sunglasses at Night American Black Ale. The nuts paired very well, Mango Chipotle Zinger Almonds and Cosmic Maple Masala Pecans. The almonds had a strong back heat while the heat of the pecans were more subtle.   

300 Suns Brewery has a solid beer lineup and they did a great job in selecting their beers for this event. The Cheese Importers in Longmont and Olomomo Nut Co from Boulder are also commended for the selection of their products that would pair well with the beers. Last but not least, Deborah Cameron founder of Barley’s Angels Colorado, organized another great event.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Front Range Brewing to drown our sorrows

After to USA lost in the World Cup, we're at Front Range to drown our sorrows! Trapper Lake Tripel barrel-aged at 8.8%ABV.

USA vs Belgium in World Cup at Odd 13

Watching the USA vs Belgium in World Cup at Odd 13. It's a nail biting game. I'm numbing my brain on Coal Miner's Cuzzin' an oatmeal stout at 5.63% ABV. Go USA!!!