Last night at Star Bar, two local homebrewers, Brian Pramov and Bryan Keas, got a taste of what it could be like to have their own microbrewery.
The two say they only brew together once a year, a tradition started after being paired for a competition within their homebrew club the Rock Hoppers several years ago, but in February their collaboration Cascadian Dark Rye Ale was selected by The Bruery to be their 1000th batch of beer.
“Neither Bryan nor I have ever won a ‘Best of Show’ competition so we were a bit stunned when we found out we won, to say the least,” says Pramov. “I was inside Home Depot at the time and just started racing down the aisle screaming with excitement. Then I called Bryan to tell him the great news.”
In June, Brian and Bryan headed out to Placentia, CA to brew Bryeian on The Bruery’s 15-bbl system with the one and only Patrick Rue, a major upgrade from the homebrewers’ 10-gallon system. When they got there, they thought they would just be brewing one full batch, but they brewed four that day. That’s not even half of it, however. The Bruery had already brewed four batches the week prior and had plans to do eight more batches after Pramov and Keas returned to Denver.
“It kind of threw us a little to know that much was being produced of our recipe,” says Pramov, whose Cinnamon Toast Crunch Imperial Brown Ale was loved so much by Patrick Rue that they brewed a batch on the 3-bbl pilot system while brewing Bryeian. “It’s really cool to see a major production facility brew a beer, especially when it’s your recipe!”
Bryeian will be distributed exclusively throughout Colorado and California and will also be The Bruery’s ProAm entry into the Great American Beer Festival in October.
The Bruery contest was free to enter for all AHA members, but only accepted certain styles of beer: Russian Imperial Stout, Belgian & French Ale, Belgian Strong Ale, Strong Ale, Fruit Beer, Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer, Smoke-Flavored & Wood-Aged Beer, or Specialty Beer.
Bryeian, which Pramov and Keas entered into the Specialty Beer category, started out as an Imperial Black IPA on the first brew, but after learning several lessons and gaining more confidence to experiment, the two homebrewers tweaked the recipe for the second batch, adding rye and changing the hops to complement the spiciness of the rye.
The result was Bryeian, an intense dark beer (from the dark grains added at the end of the mash) with a citrusy grapefruit aroma and hints of pine. Just like “A hike through the Rocky Mountains,” says The Bruery in a press release.
During the release at Star Bar last night, Bryeian was released alongside six rarely tapped beers from The Bruery: Mischeif, Hottenroth, Autumn Maple, Bottleworks XII, White Chocolate, and Oude Tart.
We chatted with homebrewers Bryan Keas and Brian Pramov to find out a bit more about their big brewing experience.
How long have you been homebrewing? How long together?
Bryan Keas: I have been homebrewing since about 1999. A military friend of mine shared some of his homebrew with me and from then on I was hooked. I took a hiatus from brewing when the military moved me places where ingredients were tough to find, which is why I focused more on beer sampling when I lived in places like Germany. I got back into homebrewing heavily around 2007 when I moved into my current house and got my brother-in-law’s all-grain equipment. Brian and I have been brewing a batch a year together for a couple of years now and are looking to continue the tradition going forward.
Brian Pramov: I’ve been brewing for about 4 years now, I think. I’ve been a part of our homebrew club for 3 years and Bryan and I brew a beer together roughly once a year after we were paired together for an internal club competition.
How was it brewing at The Bruery? What was the biggest challenge working on a big system?
BK: Brewing at the Bruery was awesome. I really can’t think of a better brewery to brew a ProAm beer with. The best part for us homebrewers brewing at the Bruery is the simplicity of their system and its similarities to our homebrew setups. The Bruery makes amazing handcrafted beer and working on their system really allowed us to better understand brewing on a professional system. The brewers that we worked with really work hard, as there is very little automation involved with their system. It was great though because we got to get in there with the brewers, get our hands dirty (or should I say hoppy) and really felt like we were contributing to the production of the beer. The brewers also went out of their way to explain every little detail about what they were doing, why they were doing it, where every pipe was going, etc it was a great experience. The biggest challenges with working on a big system is scaling the recipes and maintaining enough upper body strength to stir and shovel tons of grains!
BP: It was amazing! I’ve had the opportunity to brew on a few systems here in Colorado like Strange, Upslope, Oskar Blues, and Crazy Mountain and it’s been really cool to see a major production facility brew a beer. Especially when it’s your recipe! It was much different than homebrewing in a sense that you are dealing with thousands of pounds of grain. Definitely a bit different than our 10-gallon system.
Why did you decide to do this kind of beer?
BP: Originally when Bryan and I first brewed together it was for an internal competition within our homebrew club, the Rock Hoppers. The competition itself was to pair up an experienced homebrewer (Bryan) with a newbie (myself). There weren’t any particular style requirements, it was more of a “learn to brew with someone that has been doing this for a while” type competition. Both Bryan and I love hoppy beers so we decided on a black IPA. That was 3 years ago and last year we decided to brew it again but up the ante a bit by adding rye.
What are your favorite styles to brew?
BK: Anything with excessive amount of hops. I am a complete hophead so I really enjoy dialing in good IPAs, Pale Ales, and turning non-hoppy beers such as American Wheats, Wits, and Lagers into hop bombs. I like to brew all styles of beer, but these beers always put a smile on my face when brewing and when drinking them.
BP: Something I haven’t brewed before so I learn more about the style or the history behind the beer. That or perfecting a style I’ve had problems producing. I also like to try new brewing techniques like the one we did for this beer with the late dark malt additions to see if it makes a difference. I did a Roggenbier once with a decoction mash and while it does very well in competitions, decoction mashes are really not fun at all. Just so time consuming.
Overall, how was this experience?
BK: This is a tough question to answer because it is really difficult to put into words exactly how amazing this experience has been. I really cannot thank everyone at the Bruery enough for everything they have done from opening up their Batch series of competitions to us homebrewers, to picking our beer and being so generous while we there. This is my first ProAm opportunity, and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better experience.
BP: Unreal. Best beer related experience in my life. The people at The Bruery are so passionate about their beers and they really treated us well when we went out there. We got to meet a lot of their staff and just chat it up with them. We didn’t feel like a nuisance and they would talk to us about anything we wanted to hear about brewing, the commercial side of it, and their barrel aging process. Then we got to drink some spectacular beers after the brew day and just relax. I mean, if every day could be a day like that, I could get pretty used to it!
Any advice for homebrewers looking to make a name for themselves?
BK: Learn the basics, sanitize everything, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Finally, brew what you like, and brew a lot of it. This will allow you to really focus on making the beer exactly how you like it and will allow you to really dial in the ingredients and procedures that produce better beer. Join a homebrew club and enter lots of competitions to get feedback/experience/exposure.
BP: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe something you try doesn’t turn out great but it’s still your beer and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the hell out of it. I was terrified to enter competitions at the beginning of homebrewing because I didn’t think my beers were worthy enough but the best part about homebrew competitions is the feedback you get from experienced judges about improving your beers. A lot of the information you get back you wouldn’t have thought of before like water profiles, mash temperatures, fermentation temperatures.