The interview with Josh over at Hops and Grain represented the second phase of shooting for the Beer Diaries. Between our initial Summer 2012 shoots we had a weekend to contemplate our prior work and to consider how we were going to push to doing two sets of interviews per day. Mike and the team had been honing their set up and tear down methods and we’d started turning around the entire on-site requirement to under three hours, so it was certainly feasible. Additionally we also got a better grasp on the structure of an actual episode and were not shooting some regular scenes that would solidify our format. The actual duration for the complete brewery discussion and interview with the brewmasters was shaping up to be about 30 minutes which suited our purposes pretty well.
Hops and Grain is located in East Austin, a part of town undergoing fairly serious gentrification and transforming into one of the cooler parts of Austin. The brewery is located in a warehouse space was completely transformed into bunch of art and design studios as well as a great brewery! Every time we go to a new location we really have no idea what to expect in terms of physical layout and size; we’ve seen a ton of different sizes and shapes of breweries in our brief travels, from idyllic farm-style locations to nano-breweries in 900 square foot storage lockers! Hops and Grain fit somewhat in the middle of this range, and looked more or less you would expect from a smaller to mid-size operation. One particularly amazing thing they do right now is hand-can all of their beer; both of the operations we’ve seen that can their beer so far have a defining feature of giant pallets of cans stacked around the operation, and Hops and Grain was no different. [Since filming they've since installed and are using an automated canning line.]
The interview with Josh, the Brewer and Owner of Hops and Grain was solid; like basically all of the other people I’ve spoken to he had an interesting background (former science teacher) and had a passion for brewing that he was now fulfilling. One of the really impressive things about what he’s accomplished in a very short time was winning the Altbier category at the 2012 World Beer Cup. That’s a really nice way to break into the scene! Another thing he was doing that was pretty cool was converting his “used” grain to dog biscuits; I didn’t try one (regrettable, in retrospect), but by all accounts, and testing from his own dog, they’re pretty good!
As I mentioned in the prior blog on Jester King, I had started taking more meticulous tasting notes after realizing that I wanted to pass along some written thoughts on the beers I’d tried, and that do to so after having a bunch of beers it was pretty important to actually write it down! This was particularly important when I discovered that Hops and Grain has a number of interesting and creative beers on tap in their tasting room that haven’t yet made it out of the brewery to the rest of the world. Josh runs a program he calls the Greenhouse, where he tries out creative recipes on a smaller batch brewing system set up along side his main brewhouse; its always a nice surprise showing up at the tasting room to discover a number of new and creative beers to check out.
The current two year-round beers from Hops and Grain are Pale Dog Pale Ale and Alt-eration. The Pale Dog is a very nicely balanced Pale Ale with a floral hops nose and overall light body. It’s got some nice citrus tones, light enduring bitterness throughout the taste experience and finishes nice and clean. It’s a very solid warm weather bear. I’d say it’s a little more hoppy than your average Pale, but still less so than an IPA. I’d already mentioned that the Alt-eration is an award-winning beer, and when you get a chance to try it you’ll see why. It strikes an amazing balance between nice malty, roastiness and balanced bitterness. Unlike a lot of brown ales it’s got a solid hop profile, but it never dominates the malty, roasty quality at its core, and turn in the finish the hops keep any residual sweetness in check. In short, it’s really tasty and probably quite different from any brown ale you’ve had before. I even got a bit of smoke and chocolate in my initial whiff of this beer, which is pretty amazing considering it’s still got a fairly light body.
From the Greenhouse program Josh had a couple interesting selections. One very special one I got a chance to try was a barrel-aged Pale Dog he had been experimenting with; while it’s general characteristics were similar to the regular Pale Dog it had a slight funkiness and tartness to it that added a huge dimension to the beer. Definitely watch for this one if it gets released. They had two IPAs on tap: a Double IPA is called Hop Dog and one called IPA 3, denoting the 3rd batch he’s worked on. Comparing between the two the IPA 3 was pretty consistent with a West Coast-style IPA with lots of fruit and resinous hops, but with also a hint of vegetal/grassy quality. The Hop Dog was a big lemony IPA but also with a nice malt backbone and lots of malt follow through. If I was going to pick a favorite between these two I’d go with the Hop Dog as it was really nicely balanced. The last Greenhouse beer being worked on was a Hefeweizen. It was hard to pull a comparison on this one since all of the other stuff I was drinking was quite different, but overall this seemed like a solid Hef with more banana on the nose than clove, a fluffy body and nice light finish. Probably a perfect warm weather beer.
So that was the trip to Hops and Grain. I really liked the location and the folks there were really nice and accommodating. As you might imagine I think this brewery has some really great things ahead of it given the great start and I can’t wait to try their future beers!
[All photos by Mike Patitucci of Lassen Photo]