Patrick Rue, founder of Orange County’s The Bruery, is not afraid to experiment with odd ingredients in beer. In fact, when it comes to using interesting ingredients in the kettle Patrick welcomes it. Take Tai Kao for example, the newest addition to The Bruery’s expanding tap-room-only pilot batches. This is a deconstructed, reconstructed Thai iced tea in beer form complete with ice and sweetened milk–actually, coconut milk. The result was very interesting–definitely worth trying. Individual tastes will determine whether you get a second glass, but anyone interested in creativity should at least order one. So why is this tea…err…beer…err…tea beer….important? It represents Patrick’s roots as a home brewer and his desire to push boundaries and experiment regardless of the outcome, which is something that I would argue makes the Bruery one of the influential and most honest breweries around.
Last September, Patrick acquired a complete 3 BBL pilot nano-brewery setup. He opted to get a mini version of all their equipment so they could easily scale up successful experiments. He also opted to get five 3 BBL fermentors that could be used for each pilot batch and/or to split up full sized 15 BLL batches. (yes, 5 x 3 does indeed = 15). If you’ve been to the tasting room recently, you may have noticed Portola Rossa, a red ale flight infused with coffee, or their latest Belgian Golden Strong (BGS) fermented with different strains of yeast. The fundamental idea with these beers is that the base stays the same. Portola Rossa utilized not only different coffees, but different coffee brewing methods for infusion. The BGS is similar to the White Labs model where the same base beer is fermented with varying yeast strains.
As a home brewer, I appreciate experiments like this, and as a frequent beer taster I feel that tasting flights such as these are incredibly valuable for educating a continuously developing palate. Tasting like beers side by side is one of the best ways to detect nuances, which is why BJCP judges are assigned to specific categories when they judge competitions. Seeing the versatility of a pilot system like this is inspiring. Not only are they able to make experimental 3BBL batches like Tai Kao, but they are able to make larger batches on their big system and spread them out over the 5 smaller fermentors.
- HorchatAle – Horchata spice infused beer
- German Pilsner – Traditional and clean
- Pilot 3 Floyds Collaboration – A pilot batch of the coffe infused Bruery / 3 Flloyds collaboration
- Smoked Beer – Tastes like bacon
- 100% Oat Berliner Weiss with Blueberries – didn’t get to try it, but it sounds delicious
We also asked Patrick about his brewing roots. As many already know, Patrick started home brewing in 2003 and went into commercial planning in 2006. In 2008 The Bruery opened its doors and Tyler King was hired to be the Sr. Director of Brewing Operations. Tyler’s background at BJ’s brought experience that helped The Bruery refine its recipes, allowing them to fast track their concept beers. The Bruery has blossomed and has been organically expanding ever since. Now, in 2013, The Bruery, with its new tasting room, pilot system, and reduxed facilities, also has acquired a massive warehouse next door to store its barrels and beer catalogue. Again, it’s inspiring to see positive growth like this where passion clearly translates to success.
According to Patrick, the Bruery’s growth went according to plan the first 2 years, but after that it took on a life of its own. Distribution expanded quicker than he would have liked and the brand opened up the Provisions store, which has since been closed in order to refocus. The Bruery wants to continue making unique beer in large format bottles and experimental offerings for their reserve society and hoarders clubs.
Sours beers have increased in popularity and for The Bruery, they continue to be a big draw. Beers like Sour in the Rye, Rueuze, Hottenroth Berlinerweiss, San Pagaie, etc push boundaries, while also simultaneously harkening back to old style Belgian beer. If you ever wondered why some of these bottles come with a larger price tag, it’s important to note that much of the beer gets dumped. The Bruery has a rigorous grading scale where they test each and every barrel before packaging. If a barrel gets a low score, the beer is dumped and the barrel is tossed. Possible reasons for a low score range from oxidation, acetobacter (vinegar flavor causing bacteria), and general unacceptable off flavors. This is a common practice with most breweries, such as Russian River and Lost Abbey, that have large barrel programs.
One last thing. As a home brewer who went pro, we asked if Patrick had any advice to give aspiring brewers. Here’s what he said:
“Follow your passion. Don’t do something mediocre. Be excited to wake up ever day and get to know your financials before you start. Get familiar with a profit and loss statements and be realistic.”
No matter how big the Bruery becomes I’m guessing they will always stick close to their home brewing roots focusing on the creativity that helped build their brand.
*Special Side Note: Victor Novak from Taps joined Patrick and I at the tail end of the tour to try the first Los Angeles Ale Works commercial beer, Gams-Bart. We all did a tasting and generated some constructive feedback for the next batch. Special thanks to Patrick and Victor for taking the time to taste the beers. You guys rock!