Cosmic Ales – Interview

One of the best brown ales in california is made by a brewery called Cosmic Ales

cosmoMeet Chris Briles, proprietor and brewer of Cosmic Ales, a contract brewer based out of the LA area.  He currently creates his product up at Hermitage brewery gypsy style and is looking to expand his project into a full scale nano brewery with tasting room.  Chris’s flagship beer is a brown ale called Hell Hound Brown and, if you’ve been to a beer festival in So Cal in the last 3-4 years, chances are you’ve more than likely had it.  It’s one of those dark conversion beers.  A beer that most non-craft beer drinkers shun because of the color, but come back for a second helping after they taste it.  Chris recently launched his second beer Cosmonaut, a blonde ale, along with a robot photo project, which accompanied him on his trip across the states as he distributed his beer.
Bierkast recently had the pleasure of sitting down for a QA with Chris “Cosmo” Briles and it went a little something like this.

Bierkast: When did you first start cosmic ales?

Cosmic Ales: I became a legal company in 2008 but I didn’t move forward with brewing the first commercial batch until Summer of 2010.  I wanted to make sure I had all my ducks in a row first and that all the legal stuff was perfect, which can take quite a bit of time.

Bierkast: Why the name cosmic ales?

Cosmic Ales: My nickname has been Cosmo since I was a youngster and had at the time a music studio that I called Cosmic Studios.  Since I was also homebrewing there I just called it the Cosmic Brewery.  Since I plan to only brew Ales at our brewery I made Cosmic Ales the official name of our brand.

Hell-Hound-Brown_bottleBierkast: What’s the difference between cosmic ales and cosmic brewery?

Cosmic Ales: The primary reason for calling the brand Cosmic Ales was really that the TTB, or the division of the Federal government we deal with, told me that in order to call yourself a brewery you had to officially be licensed as one and since the first step was to contract brew at other facility’s I had to alter the name, and since we only plan on brewing Ales that seemed very fitting.

Bierkast: Would you consider yourself a contract brewer or gypsy brewer? Can you talk a little about your current process – what goes in to making your beer?

Cosmic Ales: I would consider myself more of a contract brewer.  A gypsy moves around a lot and that can add a lot of expense since every label has to show the location you brew at.  If you happen to brew at 5 locations in Los Angeles then you don’t need to print a label for each.  I brew primarily at one spot in San Jose because I don’t want to change the consistency. We have the recipe just right.  A lot of prep work goes into each new batch making sure that it is just right.  Especially with a new product like Cosmonaut.  I was worried that my translation of my 10 gallon batch to a 25bbl batch would be right and we lucked out with making another great product.  Making 25bbls is just like making 10 gallons just on a larger scale.  It was surprising the first time I saw that the grain bill was about 900 lbs as compared to me normal 18 lbs.>

Bierkast: You brewed at Bayhawk ales previously – how is it brewing up at hermitage on a bigger system?

Cosmic Ales: Bayhawk was convenient being that it was close to home but brewing up north at Hermitage I found that the larger brewing system made it easier to brew more at once rather then three times in a day.  Plus the costs go down when brewing in bulk so that I can pass those savings on to the consumer.>

Bierkast: What is the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with on your road to opening?

Cosmic Ales: Distribution.  To find a distributor that is going to keep your product up front and not get lost with many other brands is tough.  Plus I am a one person operation right now so I am dealing with brewing, selling to distributors, selling to retail, accounting, all the press and PR and so many other things.  Finding the right distributor that can get the product on the shelves and in front of people is tough.  Most don’t want to deal with you unless you have the sales but to get the sales you have to have a distributor.>

Bierkast: Tell us about your beer.  What styles are you starting out with and what does the future hold?

Cosmic Ales: A great brown ale has always been my favorite so that was the flagship beer that I made with Hell Hound Brown  I made a beer that I felt should be a true American Brown with good color and roast to it.  Our second beer is Cosmonaut a California Blonde Ale which has a wheaty flavor and keeps a good crisp taste to the end.  I wanted Cosmonaut to be a California representation of a Kolsch but a little different.  The future has many possibilities for us.  On deck we have our Saison called Tulips On My Organ and a Scottish Wee Heavy called Bagpipe.  Once we open our nano brewery and tasting room we will open it up to brew so many great experiments as well as our 1776 porter and Grizzly, our 15% Barleywine.>

Bierkast: Can you tell us about the robot campaign?

Cosmic Ales: STEVE! Yes Steve has a real history with Cosmic Ales.  I have asked him to write a blog about how he came to find us here on Earth.  We’ll have a link on our website once he stops drinking all our beer and starts putting the pen to the page!  He’s been with us since the beginning with his awesome slogan “Take Me To Your Liter”.  We recently shipped our first couple of pallets of Hell Hound Brown and Cosmonaut to Chicago, our first out of state market, and we thought that it would be a great idea for Steve to take a road trip to document the journey.  As you may have seen in his blog, he got a little sidetracked and took the beer on a wild adventure across the US, getting into trouble along the way, none as much as when he illegally parked his flying saucer on the streets of Chicago as he decided to rampage the city.  He told me just the other day that he may have spotted his brother wandering around.  I’m not sure what that all means but stay tuned, I’m sure he’ll blog about it soon.>

Mash hermitageBierkast: What local brewery do you especially admire? Why? What non-local brewery do you especially admire? Why?

Cosmic Ales: The closest local brewery I admire most is Strand Brewing in Torrance. The owner, Rich, is such a great guy and has really built his brewery up from the ground like I am doing.  He pounded the pavement making every sale himself and delivering the beer on a daily basis.  He has been a great help to me answering loads of questions and always has been a joy to work festivals with.  A great non-local brewery I admire would be Dogfish Head Brewing.  Sam seems to me to be someone that really started the ball rolling again for us craft brewers.  He’s great in the spotlight and really cares about beer and what he does.  His books have been ever so helpful in the start up phase I went through.  I’ve met Sam on numerous occasions and he is always willing to talk and enjoy a sample of something you’ve made with great remarks and pointers on how to move to the next level.

Bierkast: You are starting/started a Kickstarter on Monday.  What is your main goal, how much are your raising, and do you have any unique rewards?

Cosmic Ales: Yes we started our very own Kickstarter campaign a few days ago and we are doing quite well.  The response has been wonderful.  I am so happy with everyone that is helping us to reach our goal of $35 thousand dollars.  We plan to take this money and open the doors on our nano brewery on LA’s Westside.  We’ve been planning this for a long time and think that we’ve come up with some great rewards.  I know many folks that have run a campaign offer t-shirts and keychains but I wanted to give rewards that people could have some real fun with like a custom tap handle or a barstool that is theirs and only theirs whenever they come to the tasting room. We’ve also created a couple of membership packages like the Cellar Club where much like a cigar club you have a climate controlled area to store your precious beers and can come and drink in a great atmosphere. Another is the Collaborators in which we will sit with you and design a beer together and then brew it to be put on tap in the tasting room.  If all goes well we will make a commercial batch and put your name on it as one of the brewmasters, talk about ultimate braggin rights!>

Bierkast: Finally, you’ve been working in the industry for a while now, do you have any advice for aspiring brewers that are looking to get in to this line of work?

Cosmic Ales: This is a great business!  There are a lot of stumbling blocks but you’ll get there.  Be true to your craft and keep brewing!  LA needs more craft beers as well as the rest of the world.  Our small part of this business is growing every year showing us that the public wants great craft beers.  But do your homework first.  There are many things that you need to know before starting off.  Make sure the Federal and State governments know who you are, make sure to get distribution lined up and don’t just go with the first guy that says he’ll distribute for you.  Research is key.  Since this is such a quickly growing business there are a lot of folks jumping in to try to make a buck and don’t know what they’re doing and that could damage your reputation and the sales of your products.  The people in the world of craft are all very helpful, if you have a question don’t be shy, they will be happy to talk to you and help if they can.>

kip john cosmo eventBierkast: Anything else you want to say/Mention?

Cosmic Ales: Like any business this can be tough but if you stick with it you will find that you have a lot of support.  Don’t be deterred if someone doesn’t like your beer at first, there are plenty of drinkers out there and they all love something different.

There you have it.  Cosmic Ales products are available in many local retailers so you should be able to find them around town.  Also, if you are interested in getting involved, cosmic ales has a kickstarter campiagn running currently.  Get on over there and help him launch the spaceship (launch a brewery with tap-room).


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