I have a storied history with The Bruery. In many ways I owe my inroads to the craft beer industry to their generosity, as well as their beer. It was Oude Tart that gave me my “a-ha!” moment while attending the first Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. As I’ve written before, it sent a mushroom cloud through my brain (I must have gotten in line at least three more times for that beer, trying to define what hit my taste buds). It was Tyler King, former head of brewing operations for The Bruery, that granted me my first interview for the California BrewMasters book. Lastly, it was thanks in part to a sizable donation by The Bruery to my Kickstarter campaign that California BrewMasters was published in the first place.
I tell you all this for a couple reasons. Might I have an inherent bias? Quite Possibly. But the point I’d also like to make is that as an Orange County native, The Bruery always stood out as a beacon of what was possible in craft beer. In those beginning years, a focus on sours and the use of 750ml wine bottles seemed niche and innovative. And it was. Today, just a mere three years since my first interview in Placentia, sour beers like Oude Tart are booming in popularity. Anaheim and the surrounding area has made itself a beer city well worth talking about. How quickly the tide of craft beer rushed through our lives, changing not only the way we drink but also shaping our thought process as educated consumers. While I don’t think The Bruery can take all the credit, I have no problem calling them pioneers. That’s why, when I heard they were starting Bruery Terreux, a new brand that will, in their own words, “focus solely on farmhouse-style ales fermented with wild yeasts as well as oak-aged sour ales,” I had to stop by and see what all the fuss was about.
The Bruery is not alone in their quest for an all sour facility. Phantom Carriage, the subject of my last blog post, will focus exclusively on these types of beer. Similar to The Bruery, Beachwood BBQ’s Blendery is another example of an existing brewery opening a new facility to house their sour and wild ale projects. Firestone Walker’s BarrelWorks in Buellton has been doing the same for years. If you ask me, this is just the beginning of a trend to establish separate facilities that will not only cater to the growing popularity of sours, but also ease the collective hearts and minds of brewers.
There’s a 10,000 pound gorilla in the room, and it’s too small to see with the naked eye. Sour programs, for the uninformed, are based on infecting beer with bacteria that can jump from barrel to barrel, and in some cases infect entire breweries. If you’re a sour beer fan you probably know the names of the culprits: Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus are the three most commonly used. Their infamy leads us to that terrible “C word” that no brewer, or winemaker for that matter, wants uttered in their cellar: contamination. The Bruery, which will be moving all of their sour beer production to the Terreux facility, has had issues with contaminated beers in the past, and subsequent brand issues as a result. I look at this move by them, Beachwood, and many others as a smart solution to quell a potentially terrible issue before it goes any further. We’ll all enjoy better beer as a result, while fostering facilities whose main job is the advancement of innovative beer.
At this point it’s time to introduce Jeremy Grinkey, Bruery Terreux’s Production Supervisor. This is Grinkey’s first job working with beer, he was a California wine man prior to joining The Bruery team in November. It’s Grinkey’s job to oversee this new facility, to manage staff as well as fermentation. He’s the head honcho. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, wort brewed at The Bruery’s main facility will make it’s way to Terreux, where it will be placed in barrels and introduced to souring bacteria and yeast strains. This ensures not only a bacteria-free main facility, but also a dedicated team of sour-experts to oversee each and every barrel.
Grinkey is a confident man with big goals, when talking to him you can almost see the filing cabinet labeled “Beer Ideas” in the back of his head. Right now that cabinet is locked tight, but not for long. He’s tall and thin with a beard that alone grants him access to craft beer’s inner circle. His background in wine makes him a unique candidate for a unique job; having specialized in fermentation and cellar management. Grinkey could take off running with Terreux if all goes according to plan. I’ll let Jeremy explain his role in his own words:
Jeremy: Primarily what we do here is receive wort from the brew house in Placentia, but everything post-brew happens here. I handle all fermentation, all treatments, barrel and tank additions, and fermentation management. We don’t do any filtering here, so I don’t handle that. I also manage all packaging and warehouse functions. I have a staff of three working for me, so my employee management isn’t huge right now, but I really believe we’re going to grow here pretty quickly.
Nick: Tell me a little bit about yourself, and your background in wine. How did you end up working with The Bruery?
Jeremy: I started getting into craft beer during what I call the first craft beer explosion in the early 90’s, at a time when I thought something like Pyramid was good. And it was, early on. Pete’s Wicked Ale was out there, Sierra Nevada was just a small little thing and you could barely find it. At that time I worked for Trader Joe’s, and it helped me become more worldly in my taste. I was drinking European beers and American craft beers, eating different foods other than those hamburger helper casseroles that my mother used to make. That led me into drinking wine, too.
As my palate defined itself and became broader I was really attracted to cutting edge wines. It just so happens that one of my best friends, Curt Schalchlin, has a wine label in Santa Maria called Sans Lieges. I was excited about what he was doing with his wines and I had always wanted to be a winemaker, or make beer. I made home brews and was trying to get myself in UC Davis to go to wine school. I ended up getting married and having some kids, which put me out of going back to school, so I jumped into the industry and just started clawing my way.
I’m going to tie this back into Terreux, but I started working for Curt. He does incredible things with his wines, they are not “supermarket wines,” they are sought after and highly regarded. He does a lot of whole cluster fermentations, he’s always willing to experiment. Not only did I love his wines, but I loved the freedom and attitude that you could have making wine with him. He started me off and was really my mentor in the wine industry, and it was through him that I started making my own wine, on more than a garage level. I still have my own wine label.
I was really in love with that, but couldn’t earn a living based on anything that Curt could offer me (and by the way he never offered me a job). I took a job running a mobile bottling line. That’s when I saw the other side of the wine industry, they were doing 100,000 cases, and there wasn’t a ton of passion. The passion was in making a lot, and not really dialing in and doing something really cool. I transitioned to an assistant winemaker position down the street at a place called Jason Stephens, and that place is very cool in the fact that everything is estate, so I had my hands on fruit. But once again – quality and passion for what you’re doing on the daily wasn’t number one. Last year I just had one of those days at work, I came home and said, “I’m working on my resume tonight.” I didn’t know when, but the winds of change were in the air and I knew I wanted to do something different.
I looked online at Wine Business Monthly and The Bruery had a position on there for Terreux. I read this whole listing, and thought that I was perfect for the job, with the exception of this one line that said, “previous history in commercial beer production.” It sounds odd, that’s kind of a big thing, but everything else they were looking for made me think they’d at least look at my resume.
I was a fan of their beer and a fan of what I knew about them, about the culture of the company and how experimental everyone is. I ended up speaking to Tyler King over the phone for over an hour and a half. They invited me to come down for an interview in the beginning of September, and I thought for the longest time that I blew the interview. But, in late November I got a job offer.
I had a couple other jobs offers on the table when I accepted this job, but it was that experimental and passionate driven focus that is what I came here for. It leads back to the way I felt when I started making wine, I wanted to be somewhere where a new idea wasn’t always about the bottom line, it was an attitude of “let’s try that.” I have a ton of ideas and a ton of things I want to do, all in good time though.
Nick: Will you be in charge of recipe formulation as well then?
Jeremy: Not at this point, but down the line. Most recipe formulation is wort based, but we’re working on different technical ideas to try in regards to fermentation. I think that’s one of my strong points of what I’m bringing to this team, fermentation management and new quirky ideas. A lot of sour programs are based on barrel character, what’s been in that barrel previously, and what that barrel would do if left to spontaneity. Which I think is cool, but it’s a huge gamble.
Nick: It lacks consistency?
Jeremy: Right. Spontaneity is great but I want to put a finger on it and control it. One of the things I’m trying to do here is to keep cultures and keep reintroducing those cultures, instead of just putting wort in a barrel and waiting to see what happens. Basically it’s just trying to get more scientific with this bacteria, and I’m really going to be leaning heavily on Jessica Davis, our quality manager who’s an awesome person and completely talented in the lab. When I get to a point where I don’t understand something, which can be fairly often, she can be my go-to person.
There’s barrel character that comes from what’s been in the barrel, whether that’s beer or wine. But really what I’m talking about are the bugs, the Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, Lactobacillus and the yeast. I’m trying to control that. The more generations that that goes on the more it augments and becomes a completely different animal. We like to control and dose things at a rate where they’ll actually work faster.
There’s an amount that, once you have bacteria in a barrel, it’s there and you’re not going to get rid of it. There might be a trillion cells and you might be able to cut it down to 5,000 cells, but within two days those 5,000 will be 50 billion and right back to where they were.
Nick: Tell me about the goals of Terreux? What are you trying to accomplish here that hasn’t been accomplished at The Bruery’s main facility?
Jeremy: We’re trying to create a consistent sour program, and farmhouse ales as well, at higher numbers than they were able to do over there. They were very successful with the beers they made over there, but they were always afraid of what could happen with the rest of the program. And the rest of The Bruery’s program is extremely strong.
Nick: You’re referring to contamination?
Jeremy: There is always that elephant in the room that this could be a problem. Sometimes those problems are really expensive, and sometimes those problems are more than expensive. They start impacting your image, and that’s a really important thing to protect. This company has done a great job of becoming a really big name, a trusted name. Its integrity is a big thing to hold onto. We’re trying to solidify both types of beers, that’s why there’s a different brand. But I also think we’re trying to push the envelope, and we have a little more freedom here than we would have had if we were trying to do it on the main campus.
Sour beer is incredibly popular right now, and I personally plan on building this program to be the envy. Everybody in beer always talks about the wine industry being so dirty. Beer can be really dirty too. I’ve seen other beer cellars, and I want guys from other wood cellars to be blown away by how tight and neat everything is. All of that is going to make its way into the bottle and we’re going to be one of the leaders when it comes to sour programs for sure.
Nick: Can you give fans any timeline for when these beers will make their way to consumers?
Jeremy: I really can’t, I wish I could. We’re trying really hard to finish all the construction, but what I can tell you is that we’re really close to doing it. I have a lot of production goals I have to meet, but I can’t tell you a definitive time line. I can tell you that it’s soon.
Nick: Are there plans for a tasting room here? Can the public expect to be invited to this space?
Jeremy: What I know right now is that there will be a tasting room, but that won’t be as soon as producing beers. We’re going to try and get beers out of here in the very near future, and after that we’ll have a tasting room. In the meantime, the Terreux beers will be available at The Bruery’s main tasting room.
Nick: What’s the oldest beers you have aging right now?
Jeremy: Right around 2 years right now, there might be some slightly older but not by much. I don’t want to be in a position where we’re holding onto beer that long. I want to turn it and sell it. I want to not be able to afford to keep beer that long. I want the demand to be good and I think we’ll get there.
That’s my way of saying that I want to be able to pitch and actually get things going, I don’t want to be waiting for things to just happen and a beer not be ready when we expect it to be.
Nick: How available will these beers be? Are we looking at a Terreux Society?
Jeremy: It will be the same quantity that we’ve had in the past, and we have the ability to do more beer here than we’ve ever done previously. When that quantity grows I have no idea. But I can say that we plan on being aggressive, and by aggressive I mean we plan on making some beer, and getting it out there.
As for a Terreux Society, not that I’ve heard. Most of the Terreux beers will be allocated in the same way that they are now, a lot of these beers will go into Hoarders and Preservation Societies, and we’ll be doing some special beers for the Societies as well. As far as I know, there are no plans for a separate club.
Nick: Is there anything else you want to say if this is an opportunity to talk about what you’re doing or Terreux is doing as a whole?
Jeremy: I’m a fairly confident person and leader of my crew here, and I difinitively believe that we are going to produce some great, great beers. Whenever we do get up and running I would love to meet the people that love these beers. I feel like The Bruery is passing the baton to me and my crew right now, it’s our turn to take the lap. I really think we’re going to do some great things.
I have some awesome ideas that we’re going to try to implement, it might be a year or two before those beers come out but i think they will be great. What I can tell you that if you look at who I am coming from the wine world, that’s a big hint as to what I have planned. Those are highly guarded secrets, Patrick is the only one I share those ideas with. Top Secret.
For more information visit www.brueryterreux.com/