I now live about a 40 minute drive away from The Bruery.  Nate told us a while back to keep an eye on these guys, and I heeded that admonition.  Getting into my car, I drove through the Southern California mountains reflecting on all the highs and lows that beer has experienced during this past century, knowing that the mountain top is in sight.  If one brewery is at the peak of the mountains, it is The Bruery.

When I arrived, I spoke to Jonas, who deals with distribution and sales, petted the dog who hangs out in the office, and said hello to Tyler (in charge of Brewing Operations/Brew House).  I’d spoken to Tyler and Rachel (the latter is the wife of Patrick Rue, the CEO of the company) on a previous occasion, so I’d already been ingratiated to them through my dashing personality. Tyler told me that he was headed to pick up lunch for everybody.  Almost every aspect of The Bruery feels like the beholder is watching a family experience at work.  Since Tyler was leaving to get lunch and Patrick had run somewhere for a minute, I went a few doors down.  Where did I go?

Would you believe that The Bruery has a home brew shop set up just a couple doors down from their office and brewing operations?  The prices are very good and the selection is excellent.  I encourage you to check out the Bruery Provisions if you get a chance.  I was able to get ingredients for a brew that I planned on doing later in the week.  Kevin, who is in charge of the provisions side, is always helpful and is quick to help you get what you need.  At any rate, Tyler came through with the burritos that he was picking up, dropped off Kevin’s, and we meandered a few doors down to the office.  I wanted to give everyone time to eat, so I spoke to Jonas and asked him a few questions about what states The Bruery has reached and where it is heading. He sent me an e-mail with the following list:

Current: CA, OR, WA, AZ, NV, CO, MA, NJ, NY, PA, VA, MD, DC, WA
Planned in near future (some as soon as October): IN, OH, WI, NC, SC, IL, FL, KY

Go out of your way if you have to.  Their Saison Rue is a must try.  But the real treats happen at the Bruery itself.  Their exclusive in-house beers and releases are spectacular…more on this later in the article.  Beer lovers need to visit The Bruery itself.
As I was finishing up with Jonas, Tyler walked in with some collared shirts in hand, which he discussed with Rachel, who was going to embroider them with the Bruery’s logo for the GABF this year.  Instead of spending money on shirts that they would have to order with limited choices, they decided to go ahead and bring in some of their shirts that they thought were cool and Rachel had agreed to hook the guys up (this is what they’re wearing to represent their brewery).  How cool is that?  Very, if you ask me.  Tyler said that he essentially got this to happen by bitching…also like family in my experience.
“Are you ready?”, I asked Tyler.  He was, so we headed from the office to the brewery.  Amidst the red floor, shining stainless tanks, and small nest egg of oak barrels buzzed the two brewers who I’d met once before. Working at a brewery myself, I know how lucky these devils are and how hard they have to work.  In the middle of all these sights and sounds stood the tasting room, sitting like an island oasis in the middle of hub of activity. As if brewing wasn’t cool enough, the guys were listening to Muse, Beck, and even Cory Hart’s “I wear my sunglasses at night.”  I couldn’t help but thinking that the song, which references cocaine, was fitting since drinking some of The Bruery’s stuff is like drinking liquid cocaine: delicious and addictive. What’s more, it seemed like the music functioned as a symphonic background for artistic beer creation.
I sat down to try a few beers before we officially got started.  In fact, I brought a bottle of Dark Lord and my home brewed Imperial Oatmeal Stout as part of the festivities.
Here is what I tasted:

  • Tradewinds Tripel
  • Autumn Maple: a seasonal with a lot of yams, maple syrup, and spices; a very nice beer with restrained spices
  • Mischef 2: Mischef 1 without being dry hopped and with a couple other changes
  • White Oak: one of their beers mixed with wheat wine blend (aged in bourbon)–I loved this beer,
  • Imperial Pale Lager: Which has more hops than Pliny dry-hopped twice.  Why an Imperial Pale Lager? Tyler said that they promised themselves not to ever make an IPA.  This is good since these are currently ubiquitous.
  • Sour Rye: (Really nice sours)  This was a beautiful beer with plenty of sours, and it was simply terrific.
  • Zin beer:  This was a Zinfandel blended beer.  Very nice.
  • Hottenroth Beliner Weisse:  A nice, refreshing, and lactic beer.
  • Black Tuesday:  This beer is the reason I brought Dark Lord.  We did a side-by-side tasting of the two.  By this time, Patrick had come in.  As you can see, we had a few beers to try (and they weren’t exactly sips). By the time that I got to Black Tuesday, my palate wasn’t at its cleanest.  Let me tell you this: it is an exceptional beer.  I really want to score a bottle of it when it comes out at the Bruery.  It will be difficult because a lot of it has already been reserved, and I don’t know whether or not I can get up there the day of the release to purchase a bottle.  I’d like to do a formal review but don’t know if and when I’ll taste it again. Fortunately, next year’s batch (one of them) is in the barrel already and may be even stronger than this years version.  Who knows.  There are no promises.

As we sat and sipped our beers, it was time to start the formal interview (of course, it was anything but formal–I love the relaxed atmosphere of the beer world).  Patrick and Tyler were the participants in the interview.

The first question was admittedly one of ego-stroking. I had Patrick read an April article that Nate had written about the Bruery and asked, What do you think of this?” He thank us for the kind words, and I asked him if he agreed with Nate’s assessment, which essentially claimed that the Bruery’s beers stood out for a unique and nice spin on traditional versions.  Patrick addressed the article by responding that the Bruery was explicitly trying to be different but at the same time approachable; unapproachability simply doesn’t get one’s beer out there.  The goal appears to be to push boundaries, but not too far.  Patrick and Tyler, it seemed to me, learned to strike a really nice balance between pragmatism and idealism.

Question 2:  How did you get started and how big was the Bruery originally?

Both Patrick and Tyler were home brewers starting out.  Patrick has brewed about 6 years total and Tyler for 7-8.  I followed up by asking them if they still home brewed.  Tyler said yes and that he had quite a few batches going right now. He is brewing 4 lambics, an organic barley wine, coffee choc imperial stout and a Flemish sour. Patrick said that his outlet for home brewing was sort of going to work.  As for the second part of the question, I got my answer from Patrick.  The Bruery started out on a 15 barrel system and expanded to their current volume in April, adding a new bottling line in June.  Not too shabby for being barely over a year old.

Question 3:   Why did you chose to focus on Belgian Styles specifically?

First, Patrick was careful to note that they did not want to be rigidly locked into Belgian beer, which is was part of the logic behind brewing Black Tuesday, their massive Imperial Stout.  However, he did concede that they had a lot of Belgian-styled beers for the simple reason that they are versatile beers that can really be played with quite a bit; the beers are inherently theme-oriented being since they are within the Belgian category.  Also, it is simply a matter of enjoyment.  They love Belgian beers.  (Me, too!)

Question 4:   I noticed you had no 6 packs of beer…why not?

Presentation was Patrick’s first response to the question.  His second was one of practical consideration. He was able to purchase a wine filler for $1,500 dollars, which was a steal, so things sort of panned out for single bottle sales.  His third statement was also of a practical nature.  Simply put, volume considerations played a role.  If there was quite a bit more volume, then six packs could then be considered.  The fourth statement he made was one that I expected all along; namely, consideration was being made for the beer connoisseur. The look of the bottle and what’s inside are more appealing to the discriminating beer drinker.

Question 5:  What advice do you have to aspiring brewers?

This question was driven by the fact that Nate and I want to open our own brewery, so I asked it because it was of special interest to me.  Patrick responded by telling me to save a lot of money, prepare to be poor, and also prepare to pursue your dreams.  Isn’t this a revealing statement?  I think I could support The Bruery simply on the basis of that.  It’s not about the money…it’s about the beer.  When you see these guys in your state, buy some of their beer and help them keep pursuing those dreams.  In  a world of bottom dollar blues, this is a most refreshing thought.

Question 6:  What is on the horizon for the Bruery?

The Bruery is in 13 states and should be in 22 by October/November, according to Patrick. He also added that they have several brewery-only releases that they keep planning to do.  The brewery-only releases are both practical and rewarding.  The reason they don’t release everything in stores is simply a matter of the associated financial constraints.  The rewarding side of the brewery only-releases is that they are a nod to those tried and true locals, both the people and market.  In addition, the brewery is able to make the money back by selling a limited amount at the location itself.  But the prospect of their expansion is still very exciting.

Question 7:  Where do you personally see thee craft brewing market heading?

I asked Patrick (as a sub question) if he thought there was an over-saturation in the market.  Tyler chimed in by saying that small breweries were finally back over the pre-prohibition levels.  Patrick’s outlook is that the market is not saturated (I’m not implying that Tyler believes it is), and there is a lot of room for movement.  In addition, he recognizes an ever expanding customer base as more and more people grow in appreciation for craft beer.  In sort, his outlook seems fairly optimistic.

Question 8:  What are your goals as a brewers? How big do you want to become?

Patrick and Tyler both hold to the same goal as brewers: unique beers and quality.  It’s that simple…quality is key.  This thought ties into the second part of the question.  How big do they want to get?  They want to get a big as they can without changing their brewing philosophy.  Does that sound easy?  Consider that they might make cheaper, less flavorful, and less unique beer in order to make a ton of money (this is certainly possible).  However, they have philosophical convictions as brewers that they refuse to compromise.  I personally admire that.  On a numbers level, Patrick indicated that 15,000 to 20,000 barrels a year would be a comfortable level for them, although not in their current location.  I bet we’ll see an expansion of this brewery within a couple years.  ***This is my prediction…nobody said this except me***

Question 9:  Many Americans hate going to work, how do you feel about the daily grind?

Tyler responded with no waffling or equivocation.  ”I love it.”  Patrick has the same attitude.  In fact, he looks forward to Mondays.  Who among us can say that?  He stated that he gets bored on the weekends and looks forward to coming in.  He further indicated that he is lucky that there haven’t been too many weekends he hasn’t been at work lately.  Is he insane to say that?  No!  He’s just insane about The Bruery.

Question 10:  What’s your favorite brew that you make? What other brewers do you like?

Tyler spoke on a personal home brew level when he said lambic is the favorite thing that he makes.  Both agreed that the newest and most exciting thing they are making is their favorite beer.  What they are doing now is their favorite.  This is also very cool.  I suppose this means that they are always looking to make something new and are genuinely excited about their products.  This attitude, I think, is more likely to keep producing new, good, and exciting beers.  Other breweries that Patrick likes include Russian River, Allagash, and Cigar City out of Tampa, FL.  Tyler enjoys Sierra Nevada (partly because he can find it so many places) and Lost Abbey.

Question 11:  Is their anything special, like a top secret brew that I can tell our readers about?

The answer that I got to this question was surprising.  Tyler and Patrick gave each other a knowing look and proceeded to “spill the beans” on a new brew.  They are planning to do collaboration brew with with Cigar City.  Nothing is definite right now, but they are leaning toward a big Flemish Brown.  We’ll keep you posted. There are some other interesting things on the horizon, but I’ve agreed that I will keep silent until the proper time, so I’ll have more to tell you later on…I hope a lot more.

Let me tell our readers that it was a real pleasure to visit The Bruery.  I will be frequenting this wonderful brewery.  I fully intend to keep going to their Provisions for my home brewing needs.  I will certainly make it a point to stop in, say hello, and try the new stuff that they will undoubtedly keep making.  If you come within a few hours of this craft brewer and don’t stop by it would be an absolute shame.  Look for them and look for me to be there, too.  Show your support by purchasing some beer, stopping by, or planning a trip and stopping by.  You won’t be disappointed.  Cheers!  Below are some other pics for your enjoyment.

Mike’s Review:

Overall Satisfaction with product line-up and brewery: ★★★★★ 

I only gave a 5 because that’s our highest rating.  6 out of 5 is more like it.  By the way, sorry I forgot to take a picture of Patrick for the article…I thought I had one.