John Egan is the territory manager for Country Malt Group covering SoCal, Arizona, and Hawaii.
Prior to joining Country Malt Group, John spent nine years at Stone Brewing as Lead Brewer and eight years at Mission Brewery as Head Brewer/Director of Operations. John enjoys the finest of the clear beers, with a deep love for IPA’s, Pilsners, and Mexican lagers.
His past times include surfing, eating tacos, exploring the backcountry via 4-wheel drive, and spending time with his family.
Teri Fahrendorf is an American brewer and founder of the Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women in the brewing industry. She is notable for being one of the first women in the craft brewing industry and her brews have been widely awarded from organizations such as the Great American Beer Festival and the Brewer’s Association. Teri currently manages the Malt Innovation Center at the Vancouver, WA location of Great Western Malting.
EPISODE 5: MALT INNOVATION
JARED RUNYON – MARKETING CONTENT SPECIALIST
TERI FAHRENDORF – MALT INNOVATION CENTER MANAGER, GREAT WESTERN MALTING
SOME OF THE TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Teri discusses her history with beer and fascination with fermentation at a young age, ranging from the science of bread baking to the development of new kinds of malt
- The journey of The Road Brewer, and how she found herself connecting with women brewers across the country, eventually leading to the founding of the Pink Boots Society
- Pushing for new innovation with different ways of malting in the Malt Innovation Center
- Toby Tucker gets Country Malt Group’s very own John Egan to talk about how past brewing experiments transformed into biofuel
Transcript - Malt Innovation
EPISODE S.1, E.5
Jared Runyon (00:06):
Welcome to another episode of The BrewDeck. For this round, I’ll be your host, Jared Runyon. After double-checking our instruments, it looks like we’re due for an innovation infusion. I can think of no one better suited to the task than Teri Fahrendorf. Teri is the Malt Innovation Center Manager at Great Western Malting and has a long history of infusing some needed energy into the craft beer world. She is most well known for founding the Pink Boots Society, a group that works to open up the brewing industry to women across the globe. Teri, being a master storyteller yourself, tell me and the listeners more about your journey in your own words.
Teri Fahrendorf (00:48):
Well, as beer is concerned, I grew up in a German-American family in Wisconsin, and we had a beer with meals on a regular basis, especially pizza night. When I was nine years old, my family attended our church’s rummage sale in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and I was so excited when I found a little blue booklet called “How Beer Is Made.” I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to find out how beer is made.” So I bought it with my allowance, brought it home, opened the booklet expecting to learn how to make beer, and such disappointment. There were mash presses, giant machines, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, you have to own a factory to make beer,” so I was kind of discouraged with that. I did go on to make homemade bread at ten years old. I just really, really dig yeast. I think I’m a yeast whisperer or something like that because yeast gets along really well with me, and I have never had a problem with yeast.
Teri Fahrendorf (01:39):
So I started there, and then it was pretty cool. My Girl Scout troop got a tour of two companies that I remember. One was McDonald’s, and I did work there in high school. My Girl Scout troop also went to Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee, and that was, of course, my favorite one. They only gave us root beer at the end, but I really think that the Girl Scouts should continue that tradition and bring girls to see breweries, wineries, and distilleries because why can’t these kinds of fermented beverage businesses be our career goals? I mean, I grew up thinking that … I never knew that beer could be a career, and we’re making some changes with that.
Jared Runyon (02:17):
Yeah, that’s really quite fascinating to think about, as really, you should be able to imagine yourself in any of these professions regardless of your gender.
Teri Fahrendorf (02:25):
Absolutely. And so, when I was in college, I wasn’t fermenting anything yet until I was in my speech class. You had to take a speech class in sophomore year, and I gave a speech on how to load a backpacking backpack for the right kind of weight distribution, and one of my classmates gave her a how-to speech on how to make jug wine. So that day, I ran out and picked up a frozen Welch’s grape juice and some baker’s yeast and sugar, and I went home, and I got a gallon jug and put a balloon on it. That was my first fermentation. It was kind of strong, but we’d mix it with 7-Up or Sprite or something. Then when I graduated from California, I moved from Wisconsin to California, and I looked into making homemade wine. Still, really good wine was pretty cheap compared to Wisconsin, so I started making beer. My then-boyfriend, when we broke up, he stopped making beer, and I kept going.
Jared Runyon (03:17):
That’s awesome. I mean, you’ve loved brewing and fermentation of all kinds for as long as it seems like you can remember. But how did that eventually bloom from a passion into your career?
Teri Fahrendorf (03:29):
Well, I was a computer programmer in California at that time, working in a cubicle, which I was not fond of. So I was looking around for some kind of a career change, and then I attended the American Homebrewers Association’s Annual Homebrew Con, and I met some pro brewers similar to myself who had jumped from high-tech careers into professional brewing, and I knew if they could do it, I could do it, too. Because sometimes, like you kind of alluded to earlier, you have to identify with someone already in a job before you can visualize yourself doing that job, and we all started as homebrewers.
Jared Runyon (04:01):
Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure we know that representation is such a key, especially for children, to see what they can become. But that’s amazing that you kind of formed a path for yourself. Now, so many women and girls look up to you as a role model, which leads us into the next big thing I’d like to talk about, which is the Pink Boots Society. You founded that, and you were the genesis for that. How did that happen, and where did that start for you?
Teri Fahrendorf (04:27):
Pink Boots Society, in that same way, that women need to visualize themselves doing the job, and that’s why I’m the role model because they say, “She can do it. I can do it, too.” So when I began brewing professionally, I knew of only one other woman brewer, and I would say she was somebody that I visualized. “She can do that job. I can do it, too.” And that was Mellie Pullman, based here in Portland, Oregon, where I live. So, for the first 19 years of my career in beer, only a few more women joined the industry. But then I quit my 17-year brewmaster job in 2007, and I went on this epic 1,300-mile road trip across the United States and back. I called myself “the road brewer.” I had an identity crisis when I quit my brewmaster job, so I had to give myself a new title, so I was the road brewer.
Teri Fahrendorf (05:12):
Anyway, on that trip, I met several women brewers. They talked about feeling alone in the beer industry and that they had never met another woman brewer before I stopped and visited their brewery, so I thought, “Well gosh, if not me, who? And if not now, when?” And I thought, “Let me start a list to see how many female brewers are out there.” I called that list the Pink Boots Society, and I threw it up on my little website I had created, where I put all these articles that I had written. Now that little list has morphed into a global nonprofit charity supporting about 2,500 women members who are fermented beverage professionals. We support them with scholarships, educational information at chapters, and meetings all over the whole world.
Teri Fahrendorf (05:54):
Through the work of Pink Boots Society’s team of over 300 hardworking volunteers, we’ve drawn attention to the subject of women in beer and women in the fermented beverage trades. And so, the number of women choosing beer, cider, wine, or spirits as a career has grown substantially. Plus, you know what? There’s a lot of cross-fertilization between these different beverage industries, which is why it’s expanded beyond just beer. So for any women who are listening, to qualify for Pink Boots membership, if you earn 25% or more of your income from beer, cider, wine, or spirits, you are welcome to join, and it’s well worth it.
Jared Runyon (06:29):
Yeah. That’s amazing. Just to put it in terms of a timeline, to think that just 13 years ago, there was such isolation in the community of women brewers feeling like they had no connection to now and what you’ve created. Those numbers are astounding. Another thing that Pink Boots does is the annual hop blend that they partner with Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) for. How did that kind of come about, and what’s the process there that makes it so special?
Teri Fahrendorf (06:54):
That annual Pink Boots hop blend has just been a game-changer for the Pink Boots Society. This year, they raised … get this number … $117,807 with sales by Country Malt Group and Yakima Chief of those hops. Pink Boots used that money to bring in professional management because, let me tell you, those volunteers were quitting left and right because we were working them so hard. And although I’m the founder, I’m not the one who runs it. I’m not even on the board anymore. I fired myself after nine years because I knew my vision was only so large, and we needed people who were committed besides me to lead it into the next level. The board is so freaking amazing if I can use that word.
Jared Runyon (07:37):
That takes a certain amount of self-awareness, I think, for you to realize that this is something that you kind of had to let grow on its own beyond you.
Teri Fahrendorf (07:45):
Well, I’ve read tons of management and business books, and they all say that the founders often reach the edges of their wingtips and cannot really visualize beyond that. So I always had it in my head that I would need to fire myself someday and that if I ever let my ego get in the way that Pink Boots Society would die because it’s not about me. It’s about the 2,500 members and all the volunteers, and the hardworking board. It takes a team to grow and build and be Pink Boots Society, and that’s what it is. It’s not me. It’s everybody. It’s all of them.
Teri Fahrendorf (08:16):
So we are now also using that money to increase the number of annual scholarships, and we have international chapters all over the place, and they all are saying, “We want scholarships in our own countries so that we can have our scholarships taught in our own native languages.” So some of that money is helping them develop their nonprofit status so they can then raise money locally for their own native language scholarship programs, which is so cool.
Jared Runyon (08:42):
Yeah, that’s amazing.
Teri Fahrendorf (08:43):
But really, the best part of the Pink Boots hop blend is that comradery that is a part of it. It’s a super fun event normally that occurs during the Great American Beer Festival meeting, where our members get to test out different hop combinations. Yakima Chief Hops brings the hops there, and people are doing little individual teams. They form little teams, and they’re doing these hop rubs; they’re coming up with these hop combos that they’re like, “No, not this one. Oh, try this one I just made.” Then they put these little combos forward, and then everybody gets to vote, all these members. So the hop blend every year is selected by the Pink Boots members themselves, and then it’s palettized and put on sale mostly through preorders because we have a new blend each year, so we don’t want too much leftover. This year, we made extra because we had so many requests of people going, “Your hop blend is so amazing that I want to keep using it throughout the year in all sorts of different beers,” so people have had that opportunity this year.
Teri Fahrendorf (09:38):
Oh, and you know what else? This year, Yakima Chief also put it into two-ounce bags so the home brewers could jump on the bandwagon. And a little bit of all these hops … $3 a pound … is going toward Pink Boots Society, and so it’s huge. Then what’s also cool is that all these breweries and home brewers that are getting this hop, they’re doing these collaboration brews, mostly in March because of International Women’s Day on March 8th, but they’re having so much fun. Tri-clamp races, barrel tosses. There’s time during a brew day when you have so many people there to keep people going. I mean, we do ours, and we have malt plant tours and stuff like that. But super fun, and if you guys are on social media, look up Pink Boots, #pinkbootsbrewday, or something, and see all the photos coming in for 24 hours around the world around March 8th. It’s really awesome.
Teri Fahrendorf (10:31):
And you know what? Every brewery can use this hop, not just breweries that employ women. So all breweries can support women in the fermentation beverage trades in this way. Yeah, now that Pink Boots has expanded beyond just beer makers, it’s going to be kind of interesting to see what ideas our newest members … the female distillers, winemakers, and cider makers … it’s kind of interesting to see what those members are going to want to do.
Jared Runyon (10:53):
It’s absolutely great to see it expanding and to bring in more members like that. You mentioned earlier how Pink Boots is expanding across the world, but you’ve traveled the world actually quite a bit, and you’ve seen breweries everywhere. What have you taken away from those experiences where you’ve been able to travel to other countries and meet people from different languages? What have you taken away from that?
Teri Fahrendorf (11:14):
Well, during that road brewer trip [you can read all about it if you want at roadbrewer.com] in 2007, I visited 71 breweries and brewed at 38 of them, and what I took away from that is that first of all, I was surprised at America’s regional beer diversity. It didn’t occur to me how regionally diverse it is. The West Coast are the pioneers. They are all about, “What can we invent?” They think they invented beer. The East Coast still looks to Europe. “Well, if we’re going to make this Euro-style beer, we have to use base malt from Europe,” whereas the West Coast is going, “We’re going to reinvent that Euro-style beer. It’s going to be reminiscent of, but in its own West Coast way.” So that was really surprising. And each brewer tackled the same kinds of technical issues in unique and different ways.
Teri Fahrendorf (12:05):
I would see hop guns, hop cannons, dry hopping this way, shooting hops into a fermentor that way. I mean, all these different technical issues with completely different solutions, which is super cool. I was humbled by the generosity, kindness, and even the invitation to be part of the family offered by different brewers. They’d say, “Hey, come with us. We’re going to go out to Cape Cod. We’re going to have a bonfire on the beach. All our friends are going to be there, and you’re coming, too. Sleep in our kid’s room. We told him to go to his friend’s house. Look at this cool guitar collection on the wall.” I mean, surprising but so humbling. And then just loved their friendship and comradery. Some would make me breakfast. I mean, what? Then I loved the creativity and the ingenuity embraced by all the brewers, which is something I see in our Malt Innovation Center every day.
Jared Runyon (12:53):
That’s great. That leads me to another thing I was hoping to talk about, which is the Malt Innovation Center. You’ve been there for a couple of years now, and you kind of spearheaded it and made it into what it is now at Great Western Malting. Currently in Vancouver, Washington, just across the bridge from Portland, Oregon. It’s in the same location as the Great Western Malting plant; it’s just in a separate building. What’s it like being so close to the malt house and being able to create your own malts and experiment?
Teri Fahrendorf (13:21):
Well, first of all, it’s super fun and creative, and I feel like I have the best job at Great Western. I’m just lucky like that, I guess. But we built our Malt Innovation Center in 2015, and our mission is malt quality and innovation. Starting in July, we test the new crop July into August with the winter barley, and we test the new crop as it comes in so that we can tell the malt plant what to expect. Because if a barley piece comes in off a farmer’s field and it’s a little dry or doesn’t want any water, or wants water, or who knows what … Barely can’t talk and say, “I’m hot. I’m cold. I’m thirsty,” so we have to get some information so that the malt plant knows what to expect.
Teri Fahrendorf (14:02):
We also are always testing new varieties of barley. They’re always coming up with new varieties, so we test those because these are not necessarily promoted by the American Malting Barley Association yet. We’re part of the teams that’s going to test that and say if they malt because if they don’t germinate evenly, you’re going to have a lot of unsprouted kernels in your batch of malt and that would be terrible for quality. So new specialty malt development, that’s probably my favorite part where we actually go, “Hmm. What crazy malt can we make that brewers might enjoy?” Because seriously, brewers, they’re artists, and their malt is like playing with a Crayola crayon box. If you got out the 64-color box and somebody comes to you and say, “Hey, I got three more colors,” people are like, “What? I got to try those.” So that’s fun; making new varieties of specialty malt.
Teri Fahrendorf (14:50):
Then we also have a brewery in our Malt Innovation Center, and we brew with our own malts; including we do collaboration brews with local breweries and distilleries, and we have a sensory panel that we train, and we host sensory panel normally about twice a month. A little different now in the pandemic, but we still have it going on. About six times a year, we do a tap takeover at a local brewery with our own beers, and we host a bi-monthly employee appreciation party. We also organize brewery and distillery tours of the malt facility for our customers. Occasionally we answer technical questions from brewers and distillers. We also organize our employee free workday, which is coming up in two weeks, which is cool because any employee that would like to get some free work to bring home and do a little sample home brewing can do that, and our annual employee home brewing competition. So that’s kind of what we do in the Malt Innovation Center.
Jared Runyon (15:42):
Yeah, it’s amazing. Even just over the past couple years, it just seems like the Malt Innovation Center keeps growing and growing in its responsibilities and what it’s created. It’s really awesome to see, including I know that you’ve been adding in new equipment into that lab over the past couple years. What’s some of the newest stuff that’s come in that you can talk about?
Teri Fahrendorf (16:01):
Well, the main focus of the Malt Innovation Center is the Pilot Malting Unit known as the PMU. That’s why it’s not the Brewery Innovation Center. But the PMU, it’s a 100-kilo batch size three-vessel custom-made unit made in England and all the extra buzzers and bells that we could want. Temperature control, moisture control, everything. It includes a cylindroconical steam tank and reservoir. Steam-capable – that’s pretty unique – germination vessel, and a steam-capable kiln vessel in our pilot brewery, which you can’t forget about that one. It’s a custom one-barrel brewery made by Triple-A and Mark’s Tanks locally. We have a little Sosnowski seed cleaner that I found online that a Mennonite farmer in Ohio sold. I mean, just equipment that it takes to malt in any capacity on our small scale, roast teeny tiny bits. And with those steam-capable vessels, man, we can do a lot. And then also brew with it, so that’s kind of the equipment that we have lined up there.
Jared Runyon (16:56):
Yeah. Tell me a little bit about some of the malts that have come out recently that we’re currently getting into the market that have come directly from the Malt Innovation Center.
Teri Fahrendorf (17:04):
Well, Brūmalt is pretty cool. I will tell you about that one first. Brūmalt began as a thought experiment with my innovation team. “What beers are brewers exploring right now?” This was a couple years ago, and this malt has been out for a few years, and it takes a few years to get all the way into production and distributed in bags and all that. So the answer then was kettle sours. Yet some brewers didn’t make sours because they’re concerned about the live lactobacillus culture escaping and messing up their standard beers like IPA. So we thought, “What if we did the live big culture and created a finished malt with that live bacteria that had some sour and funky characters that brewers could add to any beer they wanted?”
Teri Fahrendorf (17:43):
Well, we tried a lot of different crazy ideas. Some worked better than others, but one of the parameters we have to be concerned about is that “Will we be able to scale this up to the size of the tanks in the plant?” So our PMU, Pilot Malting Unit, has so many buzzers and bells, and we can do just about anything when we make a malt, but not all of those techniques can scale simply and safely because safety is something we’re really keen on at Great Western Malting. So once we figured out the scale procedures on this malt and some of those crazy ideas and we meshed them all together, we started making it. So if you tasted our Brūmalt in a chew test, it would start sour, then go fruity like pineapple, and then finish biscuit-y. I really love this malt. It’s one of my favorites.
Jared Runyon (18:23):
I love that malt.
Teri Fahrendorf (18:24):
Yeah. It’s so fun. And I’ve seen people put it in so many different kinds of beers and not just Belgians or saisons or something. I mean, it’s amazing in IPA’s. Next one I’ll tell you about, Biscuit Rye. Now, this one’s cool. It just started. I mean, it’s just out there in all the warehouses. We’re just going gangbusters with it this week. So Biscuit Rye started its development life in our modified table top coffee roaster. We had a summer intern at the time from Oregon State University … and that’s a great university with a great fermentation program, by the way … and he’s now a maltster in our plant, so he actually went from summer intern into an awesome position with us. So our summer intern roasted barely wheat and rye at various temperatures and for different lengths of time in our little tabletop coffee roaster. Not too bland, not too burnt. In the middle, just right like Goldilocks.
Teri Fahrendorf (19:13):
So we liked the flavor of the Biscuit Rye best of the three because it was so interesting and unique. I love this malt too, and I’ve used it at 30% in a pale ale, and I’ve used it at 30% in a whiskey. Well, okay, I didn’t do that, but I collabbed on that. It’s a wonderful biscuit malt for any beer style. And you know what’s cool about it too when you look at it? It has a slightly blue color, just like rye. It doesn’t show up in your beer. It’s just … the grain. So that one’s pretty cool.
Teri Fahrendorf (19:38):
The next one … I did not develop this malt in the MIC. The first Caramel Steam, it’s a 40-color malt, is in our lineup. That was developed in the plant around the time that we were building the Malt Innovation Center. But we basically were making crystal malt but with damp heat instead of dry heat. And we don’t call it a crystal because only green malt that has reached scarification temperature in a commercial roasting drum can be called crystal malt. So we’re doing the same thing but not dry. We’re using damn heap. The flavor is interesting. It’s similar to a true crystal, but it seems to allow more of the hops to shine through. So a lot of brewers really love this malt. We’ve developed several colors, both light and dark, in the MIC, but none of the additional Caramel Steams have made it to the production side of things just yet. We’re still in trials.
Teri Fahrendorf (20:27):
I’ll do one more. Munich Malt. We had a Munich Malt for many, many years, just a standard Munich that was a 10-color Munich. And by the way, when I say color, that’s SRM. A lot of people call it Lovibond, but Lovibond actually isn’t accurate. SRM is the accurate word. So first was the regular Munich, then it was the Mela, which is a melanoidin malt, and that’s basically an alter dark Munich Malt that’s like a 30-color, and it’s so wonderful and your darkest Dunkel lagers. Then after that, we made a Dark Munich, which is 20 SRM color, and that came between the regular Munich and the Mela. Dark Munich is also wonderful in Dunkel lagers and contributes less dark fruit than the Mela but plenty of lovely malt complexity.
Teri Fahrendorf (21:09):
Then our newest Munich, which is the Light Munich and a six-SRM color, is delicious. I mean, you could munch on it by the handful. It’s just a lighter version of our standard Munich. You know what? With so many breweries adding lagers and lighter beers to their lineup, I think that Light Munich will be right on target for those new beers. Oh, and I’d love to see those Light Munich lagers this summer all the way into next year.
Jared Runyon (21:32):
Yeah, no, that’d be great. I guess we’ve talked about the MIC and the stuff that you’ve done in the past there. Is there anything that you can tell us about that you’re working on right now, or is it all still pretty secret?
Teri Fahrendorf (21:43):
We don’t really release the specific names of the specific malts we’re working on at the MIC while they’re still in prototype stage because brewers are so creative that when they hear or read about a new malt, their brain immediately designs a recipe about it just like that. So what I can tell you is that in my opinion, with so many hop-forward beers out there, I think a full lineup of Caramel Steam malt would be just fantastic.
Teri Fahrendorf (22:08):
And then, since I love Biscuit Malt so much, I’d love to see us expand beyond the Biscuit Rye, and I personally would love to see a lighter color brew malt because folks who are making these lighter lagers and other types of lighter ales and stuff for summer. They might be interested in a Brūmalt too and not have that little bit of extra color that that gives the beer.
Jared Runyon (22:28):
Yeah, I can’t wait to see what you guys create next, personally, and I look forward to hearing more about them. That leads me to … Do you have any advice that you’d want to give out to brewers that are either practicing their recipe development when it comes to malt or anything else in regards to the products that you talked about before.
Teri Fahrendorf (22:45):
Yes. My main recommendation for innovative brewers as they experiment with new recipes is twofold. First, I’d say, always ask what’s new when you’re talking to your malt supplier. We release up to four new malts annually, so there’s always something new to try. Learning more about the malt will get your gears turning like I mentioned, and I bet you design a new recipe in your head before you put down the catalog or data text sheet. Secondly, I would recommend that all brewers learn how to perform the ASB Hot Steep Method for malt sensory analysis. Nothing’s going to give you a better idea of malt flavor than the ASB Hot Steep Method or HSM. We use it with our sensory panel. It’s easy, and it works.
Teri Fahrendorf (23:24):
Here’s an example. Especially when you’re getting some new malts you’re not familiar with. Barley is a grass. Some malts taste grassy when you chew them, so don’t let a chew test be your final answer. Some of those grassy chewy malts are bitter tasting when you evaluate them with the ASB Hot Steep Method for flavor, and then you’ll know which recipes to match them to. You want the best tasting malt, so make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting in your new recipe.
Jared Runyon (23:48):
Absolutely. Great tips for any brewer out there. All in all, Teri, it sounds like a dream job that a lot of brewers should aspire to have, what you have at Great Western Malting. How would you sum up your path from being a brewer or even a homebrewer to what you have now at the Malt Innovation Center with the R&D?
Teri Fahrendorf (24:04):
If you can’t be a brewmaster, the next best thing is to be in malt innovation. I’ve always loved recipe design and new product development, and I get to do both now. I was lucky enough to capture Great Western Malt’s Innovation Center job because, well, I spent 19 years brewing as a Great American Beer Festival award-winning brewer, one year in beer retail, six years in malt and hops sales, and I was in the right place at the right time. And even though I already worked for the company, I wore a suit to the interview for this job. And really, my whole career was leading me to where I am right now. I’m hoping that I’m inspiring somebody out there to pursue their dreams and pursue their passions. I mean, I’ll never know, but if I did know, it would make my day.
Jared Runyon (24:45):
Yeah. That’s excellent. Well, with all of the awesome malt that you have access to at any given point, what’s your favorite beer to make from them? What’s your favorite beer style personally?
Teri Fahrendorf (24:56):
Make or drink; I would say I really love a late-1990s style IPA with an IBU (or International Bitterness Units) at about 60, maybe 65, and clear as a bell. I think people are calling them retro IPAs, and you know what? Those things are awesome, and you can kick back several on any kind of day with any kind of weather.
Jared Runyon (25:14):
Well, I have to say, Teri, personally, I can’t imagine anybody else being in the position that you are now and doing it as well as you have. You are an inspiration to me, and I think probably a lot of other people out there. Again, Teri, thank you so much for talking with me and making yourself available for the podcast. Anybody else out there, please give us likes and subscribes. Listen to the podcast when you can. Teri, where can people reach out to you if they want to talk to you on social media or any other place?
Teri Fahrendorf (25:42):
Well, I’m on Facebook under my name. I guess you could private message me. I’m at [email protected] if somebody wanted to email me a question or something. And hey Jared, thanks so much for having me on.
Jared Runyon (25:55):
Of course. This was my pleasure.
Jared Runyon (25:57):
Before we head over to The Whirlpool with Toby Tucker, we’re going to take a quick break. After that, we’re going to hear about some innovative biofuel work courtesy of John Egan, so be sure to stick around.
Toby Tucker (26:24):
Speaking of innovation, today’s second guest is one who can tell us all about how he uses brewing skills to make biofuel. I’m Toby Tucker here with John Egan, Territory Manager for Country Malt Group out in Southern California, Arizona, and Hawaii for this segment of The Whirlpool. John Egan, there’s a couple of rules about jumping into my Whirlpool. Number one, clothing is not optional, sir. You got to wear clothing. And two, stay on your side and no handsiness, all right?
John Egan (26:51):
You got it.
Toby Tucker (26:53):
Man, I’m super excited to have John on. He’s one of my favorite dudes. I’m super happy to have him. He’s actually on my team with Country Malt Group, our Territory Manager covering Southern California, Arizona, and Hawaii. I mean, no better territory to have.
John Egan (27:10):
Toby Tucker (27:11):
Yeah. Albeit there’s no traveling right now, but yeah, man. Fantastic to have you on our team.
John Egan (27:15):
I’m happy to be on the team. Super stoked.
Toby Tucker (27:18):
One of the reasons I got you on today, John, is because number one, you’re like the most interesting guy in the world. I’m looking at your picture now on the video. You’re just fully bearded. You look like you should be drinking a Dos Equis in a suit. But no, every time I see you or every time we talk, it’s a news story about something unique you’re doing or something cool, and I learn something every day. But I wanted to bring you on and chat about something that you’ve done, and I’ve always thought it was just crazy, and I thought the listeners would want to hear about it. But particularly, the story about you making biofuel to power your vehicle at some point. Tell me about that.
Toby Tucker (27:55):
I mean, I guess I should just back up and tell the listening audience about you. But obviously, you’re a seasoned brewer, spent time not only at Stone but at Mission, and then dabbled in a little bit of the coffee industry as well. But yeah, tell me a little bit about you and then how you got into this craziness of fueling your vehicle with an old grease trap, I guess.
John Egan (28:15):
Yeah. Well, like a lot of us, we all started in home brewing. I started home brewing, I think, in ’99 or 2000. I started working at Stone in 2001. I learned everything I knew, well, pretty much everything, about brewing at that point from my good buddy Lee Chase. Along the way, when I was home brewing, I was living up in Oregon very briefly in Eugene, and I remember hearing about people running their cars on biofuels, specifically waste vegetable oil, and I thought that was so cool. I was like, “Man, this is stuff that people are throwing away, but there’s this value in it,” and you could run your car on it.
John Egan (28:51):
I’m also kind of a gear-head. I really like wrenching on my trucks and all that, so somewhere along the way … I think it was maybe 2003, around there … I remember seeing something about Willie Nelson and biodiesel. And my good friend, he’s a huge Willie Nelson fan. I think he’s seen Willie in concert like a half dozen times, and I was like, “Hey man, check this out,” and I forwarded him a link or something like, “Isn’t this cool?” I’m like, “Man, I kind of want to try this. I want to make some of this and see-”
Toby Tucker (29:23):
Yeah, Willie had a brick-and-mortar station of biofuel down here in Texas, right?
John Egan (29:26):
Yep, yep, exactly. And so that was really what kind of spawned the journey. Having gone through working in the brewery and starting to really get a good grasp on process flows and just using pumps and piping and all that stuff, just moving liquid around more or less… Once I had started to research biodiesel and see how there was so many similarities to brewing, it was really intriguing. I was like, “Man, I know I can do this.” I’m like, “I want to do this.” I was single at the time, and I had a lot of free time. So anyway, yeah, I started out and made a one-gallon batch, or maybe a half-gallon batch of biodiesel.
Toby Tucker (30:08):
I don’t mean to cut you off there. Where would you get this stuff? I mean, did you get it from the bistro at Stone? How did you approach the individual or owner of a restaurant and say, “Hey man, can I grab this old greasy nonsense from you?”
John Egan (30:20):
“Can I pump out your grease for you?” I started getting it from restaurants way before I started getting it from the bistro at Stone. My buddy and I, he lived out in Fallbrook, kind of a rural community in North County, San Diego, where we both grew up. We would go out on the weekends, usually Saturday morning, we’d go out at 6:00 AM when just no one was around, and we’d just drive around town and pump out the grease traps. So we got it there. That was where we started making it, and the quality of that oil wasn’t that great. It had a lot of food particulate and water in it, so it was difficult to work with, but we made it happen.
Toby Tucker (31:00):
Yeah. So you get it, I’m assuming, in your garage or something, and you brew your … I say “brew.” Is that the right term?
John Egan (31:07):
Toby Tucker (31:07):
I mean, you’re literally brewing it, so … What was your thought process? All right, so you made fuel out of it. Were you just like, “Hey, I’m just going to throw this in my truck and see what happens,” or do you have to make certain modifications to make sure it’s all legit?
John Egan (31:19):
Well, that’s a really good question. Older vehicles are much more tolerable of biodiesel than newer ones. All newer vehicles … probably maybe around early 2000s and newer … they have such fine tolerances in the fuel. So when I started, my buddy had an old Chevy diesel truck, and I actually had a diesel Mercedes that I had traded. My parents had a gas Mercedes that had some problems with it, and they gave it to me. I drove it around, and I had another friend who had just inherited this old 1980 Mercedes diesel, and I was like, “Man, I really want to get a diesel and start doing this biodiesel thing.” And he’s like, “You want to trade?” So we literally traded keys and pink slips, which is pretty cool.
John Egan (32:06):
So I had this diesel. I don’t really do anything to it. I mean, in that car particularly, you could dump straight vegetable oil in the tank-mixed with biodiesel or diesel fuel, and it would run. So yeah, that was the gist of it. But yeah, we started making it out of my friend’s house. We built a processor outside and the processor basically … the system is a gutted electric hot water heater, a couple 55-gallon drums, pump, and then just black iron pipe and some tubing just kind of hodge-podge together and that’s how it started, progressing over the years. I ended up building, I think, four or five processors when the final one that I had was so dialed in with the way that I liked it, and it worked and I was making at least 30 gallons of fuel a week for quite some time and not even be able to use it all.
Toby Tucker (32:57):
Wow. That’s crazy. So over the kind of lifespan of your Mercedes, how many miles do you think you drove using the biofuel or whatever that you crafted?
John Egan (33:09):
Once I had that car … I’ve always been a truck guy. I’ve always had four-wheel-drive trucks, so when I got that car, I also had a ’92 Toyota pickup that had the notorious 3.0-liter engine that blew head gaskets. It was on its last leg. I’d put a new motor in it. It was just worn out. I blew head gaskets again, and I was like, “Okay, well, I don’t need to drive it every day. I’ve got this Mercedes that can get me to work, whatever, but I need another truck.” The Mercedes was always kind of a secondary vehicle. I sold the Toyota, and I ended up buying a ’99 Dodge 4×4 with a Cummins turbo diesel, and that truck was more biodiesel, biofuel friendly than the newer ones, obviously, but still very finicky. But the Mercedes, I probably put a couple thousand miles on it, but the Dodge, I had that truck for five or six years, and I’d say it had biodiesel in it 80%. 80% of the fuel that was burned in that truck during that period of time was fuel that I made or that another guy that I met through biodiesel, that I bought from him when I had some supply issues.
Toby Tucker (34:13):
John Egan (34:14):
So yeah … thousands of miles … probably 12,000 miles a year, I don’t know, something like that.
Toby Tucker (34:19):
And the cost for you to make it, just time and energy, or …
John Egan (34:23):
Time and energy, but there are some costs, the biggest one being methanol. The price of methanol fluctuates based on fuel prices, all kinds of different factors. But you had methanol that you had to buy and then also caustic soda or lye, which is powdered sodium hydroxide, the same chemical we use in the brewery to clean tanks. It’ll melt your skin given enough time. It’s nasty. So building the processor was one cost. But ongoing, it was anywhere between 85 cents to a dollar per gallon to make it, and that varied based on the price of methanol. I was buying methanol by the 55-gallon drum.
Toby Tucker (35:06):
That’s crazy. Was there anybody else other than your buddy? I know you mentioned you built several processors, but it was a group of y’all that hung out, and all did it, or …
John Egan (35:15):
No, it was mainly just my friend and me. We built the processor at his dad’s house, and then I was living in Oceanside at the time and had got in a relationship, or I don’t even remember, but I wasn’t available as much on the weekends to go out and do the grease stuff with him. Around that same time, I started getting access to the oil from the Stone bistro, which was plenty, so I built another one at my house in Oceanside in the backyard. But yeah, it was mainly just him and me. Then I joined a SoCal biodiesel Yahoo group, and I met a couple guys locally in the area. One guy, we called him “Big,” had a 275-gallon tote that was full of biodiesel in his garage.
John Egan (35:57):
And like I said, when I had some supply issues, I went over to him, and he would charge me, I want to say two bucks a gallon or something. Mind you; there’s a real gray area with it. It’s not a taxed fuel, and so there’s that whole kind of, “Is it okay? Does the government want a piece of the pie? I don’t know.” So we kept it pretty down low. But pretty much it was just my buddy and me, and then this one other guy that I hung out with a little bit, but it was really small. But in the area, there were people that you could see driving around that had a biodiesel sticker on their truck. It was around. It was kind of popular during that time.
Toby Tucker (36:34):
Man, you just think about the creativity that we had on the single side and no kids. It’s tough to find that time, right …
John Egan (36:42):
Yeah. Yeah, no-
Toby Tucker (36:43):
… these days? You mentioned taxes. In preparation for this, I quickly did a search on the googs, as I call it. I’m not lying. I’m going to read this story to you.
Toby Tucker (36:54):
“Illinois tax man hassles biofuel motorists. The Illinois Department of Revenue insists that (beep), 79, and his wife, (beep), pay $2,500 for the right to drive a 1986 Volkswagen Golf using biofuel. Bureau of Criminal Investigations Unit (beep) and John Egan show up at the (beep) home on January 4th to threaten the couple with felony charges that carry up to five years imprisonment. ‘I was afraid,’ Ms. (beep) told The Herald and Review newspaper. ‘I came out of the bathroom. I thought, ‘Good God, we paid our taxes. The check didn’t bounce.” The couple had committed the crime of picking up waste vegetable oil from a restaurant and using it to power their four-door hatchback. The Revenue officials claim that the couple would have to apply for a fuel supplier license designed for large businesses and post a $2,500 bond to avoid prison. They had failed to pay any gasoline tax on the restaurant byproduct. Over five years, the couple had used 1,135 gallons of vegetable oil worth $244 in taxes.”
Toby Tucker (37:59):
What I found interesting is literally, this Bureau of Criminal Investigations Unit agent was named John Egan.
John Egan (38:05):
Toby Tucker (38:06):
What are the odds of that?
John Egan (38:07):
You said it was Indiana?
Toby Tucker (38:09):
Illinois. It looks like it was back in 2008.
John Egan (38:12):
Oh wow. What’s also interesting about that is my grandpa was from that area of the country, so that could be a relative.
Toby Tucker (38:19):
There could be a connection there. Uh oh. Maybe they shouldn’t publish this Whirlpool. The tax guy might be coming after you. No, but it looks like in reading the article further, Illinois did make amendments to the article pretty much saying that blending … just changing the definition of blending, which allowed people to use byproducts in their noncommercial use, so I think they were off the hook. But I just was like, “Man, John Egan. That’s crazy.” He’s all over the biofuel world.
John Egan (38:44):
I am on both sides. I’m making it in my garage, and I’m also enforcing tax laws.
Toby Tucker (38:51):
Oh man, that’s just a crazy story. So tell me, is there anything else you’re working on? I know some of your crazy hobbies, but anything else that you enjoy doing that might be a little bit wild, if you will?
John Egan (39:02):
These days, not too much. With two little kids, my wife and I are pretty busy. But just gardening and kind of just stuff like that, surfing, [crosstalk 00:39:12]
Toby Tucker (39:11):
I know you like to hunt, right?
John Egan (39:13):
Toby Tucker (39:13):
Yeah. You shoot a recurve bow, which that’s cool.
John Egan (39:17):
Yup, I shoot a recurve. But I haven’t hunted with the bow yet. I’m only a firearms hunter at this point, but someday for sure.
Toby Tucker (39:24):
Yeah. Well, we’ll make it happen, man. You and I enjoy a lot of the same stuff, so I appreciate it. Man, John. That’s a kick (beep) story, and I always enjoy hearing it. Appreciate your time. It’s always interesting, man.
John Egan (39:37):
Toby Tucker (39:37):
Absolutely. And I don’t want to blow up your inbox by any means, but we’ll probably have some questions. I’m going to send them your way. It’s [email protected], right?
John Egan (39:49):
Toby Tucker (39:50):
John Egan (39:52):
No, it’s a subject that I have always loved to talk about because it was just so interesting, and the benefits to the planet and to my wallet were huge, and it was just a lot of fun. So yeah, happy to chat any time.
Toby Tucker (40:06):
And I certainly can’t leave without saying anybody in SoCal, Hawaii, Arizona that want to chat brewing, distilling, or want to look at some of the products that we carry, John’s your man. He’ll take care of you.
John Egan (40:18):
Toby Tucker (40:19):
All right, buddy. John, I appreciate your time, man.
John Egan (40:21):
Right on. Thanks, Toby.
Toby Tucker (40:22):
All right, buddy. We’ll talk soon.
John Egan (40:23):
Toby Tucker (40:24):
I appreciate it. And that’s another episode of The Whirlpool in the books. I look forward to everybody checking in next time on The BrewDeck and episodes of The Whirlpool. I’m your host, Toby Tucker. Talk to you later. Cheers.