Sara Hagerty is a seasoned professional with a variety of experience working in marketing, sales, and manufacturing. Originally from the west coast, Sara ventured out to the Midwest in 2014 and began her professional career as a supplier of raw materials and process aids for brewing and distilling. With 15-years of experience in craft beer, Sara always brings her passion for brewing and a love for educating others about the science behind it.
Chris Shields is the Director of Education at Rhinegeist Brewery. Chris makes sure that everyone is up to snuff on their beer knowledge, directing their internal Cicerone® training program and schooling distributors and consumers about Rhinegeist suds. He’s also Rhinegeist’s sage of cider and a marine invertebrate biology scholar!
EPISODE 6: SIP, SIP, HOORAY!
TOBY TUCKER – DIRECTOR OF SALES, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
SARA HAGERTY – SALES & MARKETING, ORIGIN MALT
CHRIS SHIELDS – DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION, RHINEGEIST BREWERY
SOME OF THE TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Sara talks about what drew her into the brewery scene and starting a Brewing Science club at the University of California, San Diego
- She also talks about the story of how Origin Malt started and the unique barley they use for their malt
- Chris talks about how using Origin Malt gives Rhinegeist’s witbier, Whiffle the distinctive character and flavor
Transcript - Sip, Sip, Hooray!
EPISODE S.1, E.6
[SIP, SIP, HOORAY!]
TT (00:16): All right. Thanks, everybody, for joining us for another episode of the brew deck. Happy to have Sara Hagarty on from Origin Malt this week. Super excited to have her spend some time with us today. Talk a little bit about Origin Malt and what’s going on here in North America. Pacer. How are you doing?
SH (00:30): I’m good. What’s up, Toby?
TT (00:32): Not a * a lot. It’s a Monday hanging in there.
SH (00:36): I’m barely hanging in there.
TT (00:39): Right? Yeah. Well, I was telling you before we started the recording, you might hear some kids screaming in the background; they’re mine. So don’t worry about it. It’s been a struggle with myself and the rest of the folks on our team, dealing with the COVID and not having them at school. So.
SH (00:54): Yeah, I can’t imagine how you parents do it. I’m a mom to three cats. So not, not much to worry about here.
TT (01:01): A lot of patients and a lot of booze. Alright, cool. Well, I’m looking at your bio here at Sara, and there’s some pretty interesting stuff on here, and I’ll just read through a little bit of it, but interesting. You established the hops and malt club at the University of California, San Diego, which is cool. And then what sparks an interest to me is you were managing the university on-campus craft beer bar?
SH (01:21): Yeah, that was a trip. So my friends and I started the first homebrewing club or beer science essentially, or brewing science club actually got the university to give us money to make beer, which was a long, long application. But yeah, I mean, I got into home brewing, got into the interest of specifically focusing on bringing craft beer into not only my world but the world of other people on campus. And we’d already had a craft beer bar for quite some time that we partnered with that was on campus there. And you know, it was 2008, the economy was not great, and they needed a manager. So I stepped up, and that was kind of my first professional first gig, really just immersed in craft beer, literally like always constantly sticky shoes, the whole nine yards.
TT (02:09): I bet you make a lot of friends managing the beer bar.
SH (02:12): Yeah, it was great. I did end up getting a full-time gig, luckily, but I kept doing it even part-time. I kept my like two nights a week and kept managing the fiscal stuff and cause I loved it. I loved being around beer. So still do.
TT (02:25): Awesome. Yeah, I do as well. So you got your master’s degree. The University of New Mexico then wanted to get into the kind of the sales side of the business and joined White Labs.
SH (02:35): That was my first professional gig. I had contemplated getting a degree in brewing, but ultimately what it came down to is I loved raw materials. I loved ingredients, but I’m also a person that’s great when it comes to speaking to people; I want to let the professionals do the brewing. I had been homebrewing, and to this day, I still love to brew, but I love to talk about what goes into the beer. And I got really fortunate and joined White Labs in 2014 when I was moving out to the Midwest from California, moved to Chicago, and I was their Midwest Territory Manager.
TT (03:09): Both of us doing this podcast, we’re better at talking to people then than other stuff. Right.
SH (03:13): I’ll leave t to the professionals. Brewing is hard work, man.
TT (03:17): Exactly. Yeah. It sure is. Yeah. And then you moved on to MaltEurop, right? Got into the barley side of things?
SH (03:22): Yeah, that was; I mean, it’s wild to think about it because it’s such a really serious other side of the coin, starting with White Labs, that’s still a family-owned run company, small business, but on a global scale. And then I joined a global company that is a corporation, so very different, but also a very interesting side of our industry, really being immersed in what it meant to be part of a global market, understanding that barley comes from all over the world and it affects the prices and the quality of the craft beer that we drink here in the states. That’s kind of what piqued my interest in agriculture and really the hot side. It got me away from yeast, which I still love so much, but it opened a whole other part of brewing science for me and my knowledge.
TT (04:05): Yeah. That’s awesome. Now obviously, I’ve seen you out and about at MBAA meetings and district events, et cetera. I know you obviously spent a lot of time supporting our trade and especially in lectures and panels and educating and continuing, in your journey of, the barley, so to speak. And so, how did that turn into your current role with Origin Malt now?
SH (04:26): I’ve always been education-focused, and I think the better we are at informing ourselves and staying aware of the changes, whether that’s through MBAA or state guilds, I’ve always loved staying with an organization that was truly focused on the future. And the founders of Origin Malt came to me, and they had already started the project back in 2015. I came on board in 2018, and they had already done so much work, but the mission is what really spoke to me. So I was able to stay in the Midwest and stay on the malt side of things. A lot of people were like; you’re going to go into hubs. Like, let me just stick with one thing for a while. Please. Thank you. But yeah, it’s getting the chance to travel around the US and see the need for more education when it comes to malt. And then with Origins founders being really focused on barley and establishing the supply chain and also over the years, my understanding of process and supply chain management or brewers kind of all came together in a great way. Um, so I’m in charge of sales and marketing for Origin Malt now, but I’m still so focused on education for our customers that I get to do both.
TT (05:37): Well, tell us about the origin quote, unquote of starting up a new crop Malcolm.
SH (05:46): Um, so back in 2015, our founders were looking at why barley wasn’t being grown in central Ohio is where we’re based. What was interesting is it wasn’t that couldn’t be grown here? It’s just that no one had taken the time to do the work and the innovation to understanding why that big question. And ultimately, it comes down to, if you think about truly shortening a supply chain, you have to think about it on the impact that’s going to have. Globally we see the impact of climate change and how thin we’re really spread. And I think we’re feeling that even more now when it comes to the COVID life that we’re living, but being able to truly shorten that supply chain distance and what that would mean for the environmental impact and the economic footprint was a big thing for our founders. And they knew that in order to shorten that supply chain, it meant barley, you gotta bring the barley here.
SH (06:39): And more importantly brings the economic layer, which is reassuring American agriculture and preserving open spaces are specific barley that we grow as a winter crop. And so that’s a critical piece in the growers’ economic supply, enabling them to really survive and not have to sell off that open space and let it become a strip mall or a set of apartment buildings. So they focused on barley first, and they did the due diligence. They did the work, which I think was most impressive and most critical to really thinking about the future of barley and malt for craft brewers.
TT (07:13): Yeah. And it’s interesting when you mentioned, uh, winter varietals is, as we know, there’s not a heck of a lot of winter varietals, at least on the malting quality barley here in North America. You see a lot of it out in the UK and in other parts, but not a whole lot here.
SH (07:25): Yeah. That’s one of the big holes in our malt world, which is something that we’re supplying.
TT (07:31): Well, you and I know in, in both of our companies know, you look at the map over the last 30, 40, 50 years, and you see that move of barley farming kind of shift minimizing shift upwards, you know, the Idaho area and stuff like that. So just a little bit of background. You can give us a bit; why did things move away from kind of the Midwest and Ohio? And tell me a little bit about how Origin Malts overcome some of the obstacles that you had to kind of get the barley crop back there in Ohio and the surrounding regions and, and bring it back to life if you will.
SH (08:05): Yeah. And like I said, it wasn’t because it couldn’t grow here. So what’s pretty fascinating is that pre-prohibition, 350,000 acres were grown in Ohio alone. It’s wild, it’s so many acres of barley, but if you think about it, prohibition, the impact that had on alcohol production, and then you tack on two world wars, the need to actually feed armies and expand to crops that could feed massive amounts of people. You have the introduction of corn and soy, and then not to mention post-prohibition, the reboot of macro beer production. So two-row and six-row varieties that were being grown for macro beer, they’re big deliverers of enzymes. And two-row winter barley doesn’t fall into the huge enzyme delivery, but spring barley, which if you think about it, it’s continually to this day, has been bred for beers with a need to convert adjuncts.
SH (09:02): And it’s a spring crop. And when you think about spring in the Midwest, you think about corn, and that corn presence is what the need for, two-row for macro beer production that pushed it up in the north and to the west because with corn comes a whole other set of issues. I know you’re probably familiar with it, but fusarium or dawn, which can be an infection in barley and can actually, it’s been proven to cause gushing in the final beer, that was one of the big things that I guess, the evolution of American agriculture and a spring crop. If you have corn here, you can’t have a grain right next to it because it’ll just pass that disease along. So hence barley moves north and west, but no one has specifically looked at that other season being the winter, small grain for barley. And that’s where Origin approached the market because there’s no point in trying to compete with something also if it threatens your quality.
SH (09:57): So we looked at a 300-mile radius from central Ohio. We looked at the small grains, which had been a common crop. There’s a lot of winter wheat acreage across the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic, but we also started working with researchers and industry experts. So before I came on, this is back in 2015; our founders started working with experts to truly look at varieties. That would be great for the region, right from malting great for growers. And then it’s a matter of rebuilding that institutional knowledge because if you think about it, all those 350,000 acres, there was a lot of knowledge about how to grow barley here, and Origin and our founders really did the due diligence and reestablishing that.
TT (10:38): You mentioned your founders. I know who they are, but for the listeners, tell me about those key players and how they got together to make Origin Malt happen.
SH (10:47): So, Victor Thorn, he’s an entrepreneur and supply chain expert. He’s got an amazing history, and he’s one of those individuals that’s kind of a visionary that can see the forest through the trees. If you know what I mean, he partnered up with Ryan Lang, who is an engineer and distiller. And the two of them, you know, it started with Ryan looking at, he could source his rye, his wheat, his corn for his distillery, all within a hundred miles of Columbus, Ohio, but he was buying his barley and his malt from other people. And it had to travel either across the Atlantic, from Europe or the UK, or from Canada. So they looked at this issue together and then partnered with Dr. Eric Stockenger, he’s the barley breeding expert for the Midwest. And I think the only barley breeder in the Midwest, actually. He’s at Ohio State, and they kicked it off in 2015, working on starting with the barley, start with the seed, start with identifying varietals. And then I came on in February of 2018, along with Rebecca Jennings, who has 15 years of quality experience from her time at Rahr, and then Whitney Thompson, who got a really amazing background in his worked professionally in malting for a long time. But before that was a brewer and quality manager.
TT (12:00): Sounds like a definite full house squad over there at Origin. You guys are doing it right.
SH (12:05): We’ve got some years on our experience.
TT (12:08): Yeah, this is what you need. Awesome. You guys have this thing called seed to sip, and I guess it’s a methodology, so to speak, but it’s very easy to remember. And I think it also speaks to the growers and to the end-users. Can you tell us a little bit more about seed to sip and everything in between?
SH (12:24): Yeah, I mean, for me, it really comes down to, you know, I said this when we started talking. It comes down to why I was inspired to join Origin. They’d done the work and looking at specific barley varietals and looking at establishing a network of growers to be able to grow a substantial amount of acreage within a region that has thousands of brewers within 300 miles. So it started out with that foundation of quality malt starts with quality barley can’t have it unless you start with the barley. So they started on the right foot. And with that, they began reestablishing the institutional knowledge. Growers hadn’t been growing malting quality barley here for years. So they had to not only establish a list of best practices for every stage in the growing process, but they also had to look at things like agronomy, plant pathology, and also they started working with an established network.
SH (13:18): It’s kind of an internal network that we have to produce the seed. So that’s really one of the integral things about our companies that we don’t just purchase this on the open market. We really truly maintain the entire supply chain. And that goes with also innovating and focusing on new varietals. So we have that work internalized, where we’re already doing the R and D to release a new product. And it comes to the sip. The customer might be a craft brewer or craft distiller, but the consumer is also in there. And it really has to come from the mentality of like, what’s ours is yours. So the traceability, the transparency, regardless of size, whether it’s a large brewer or a small distillery or large distillery, you have to focus on really being able to put it out there for the community to understand your product. That’s the seed to sip. You know, it’s the connection to that supply chain.
TT (14:17): I like it. I like it. You mentioned barley research quite a bit already, but I know it’s a major part of Origin’s foundation. We have a lot of interesting names and hop varietals, barley, varietals, et cetera. But Puffin has to be one of the most interesting I’ve heard. First time I heard it when you guys presented it to us. I don’t know, year, year and a half back; I thought it was something like you should see in a bakery, kinda like a cross between a breed between a pastry and a muffin. It’s good stuff. Regardless of the name, it’s really good stuff. How did a Puffin come to be Origin’s poster child, if you will, for barley?
SH (14:49): Well, it came with its name. So it is a licensed variety. It was identified by Dr. Eric Stockenger; it’s part of the Lima cereal grain seed bank out in Colorado. And he identified it over the course of several growing seasons as an extremely hardy winter variety. That was, it also survived the polar vortex. Remember when we used to have those, and the world wasn’t so. So it was really hardy and, it stood out amongst all his trial plots. It had also been through multiple trial programs throughout the US, and it has a heritage to Maris Otter, which brewers know as a very well-beloved UK variety. The thing about Puffin, though, is we hold the license. So with that traceability piece that I mentioned, we take it really seriously because we know where every single kernel of puffing goes because we hold the license, and we internalize that operation through seed production and our seed producers. So that means that every generation is certified and that we maintain traceability all the way through, from seed generations to malting. So we started when Dr. Stockenger found that variety back in 2015; we started with a cup of seed to growing up enough seed and planting 10,000 acres this last fall. So it’s just a few acres of barley.
TT (16:14): Yeah. Just a few, um, might throw us off course a little bit, but we talked about getting that much barley in the ground so quickly. How do you convince growers to move away from kind of that staple crop? That’s not that difficult to grow, to go into, you know, growing barley that, you know, needs to be of malting quality.
SH (16:32): Yeah. Well, that’s a good question. Part of it is, you know, what Victor and Ryan really envisioned at the start, which was focusing on growing high-quality barley and working with really talented growers too. You know, it’s not for everybody. I think growers needed to know that their partner in Origin Malt was going to supply them with the education, a contract. We directly contract with all of our family farms. So that means that each acre that we put in the ground that’s tied to not only a price for the grower that they can depend upon but also a network of information. So we do multiple meetings, and that’s exactly why we have Whitney. Who’s outstanding. She has a background. She actually grew up on a farm in Virginia. So she has a background in agriculture, but she also has a background as a brewer and an expert in malt. So she’s there to guide our growers and support them throughout the entire process to make sure that they feel confident and they have access to everything from the latest results from the plant pathologist at Ohio State or the work that Michigan State’s doing on nitrogen trials that we support up there. It’s a pretty robust part of our business. And it’s the foundation Vic and Ryan really started early on.
TT (17:45): Yeah. And I know for growers, it’s a source of income to support their family. And they’ve probably been doin’ it for, for many, many years, but there is an absolute sense of pride. I mean, when I’ve been out walking some barley fields, the growers tend to know exactly where that barley’s going to, you know, and they know what the end product is in most cases. And it’s very cool, very cool that they have a lot of pride in what they do. Something else that I’ve noticed too, in looking at the Puffin barley and looking at some pictures online, it’s got a very unusual appearance compared to what I’ve seen. Yeah. It’s almost purple.
SH (18:14): Yeah. I mean, I’ve been in a lot of barley fields too, and I will say that now that I’ve been focused really on winter varieties, they do differ from two-row spring. But one of the coolest things about Puffin is this purple characteristic that it tends to have. It reveals itself at different stages. And because we had COVID going on this past spring, I was in a barley field every week. And that was how I got out of my house. I got to go look at this one field that wasn’t too far away. And I got to physically see at the top of the boot, right before head emergence, you see a little kind of highlight of this violet almost crimsony purple. And then, as the grain fill occurs, the barley kernels actually have a purple vein or like a violet vein to them. And it’s beautiful.
SH (18:59): It is something to see. And even the awns, depending on the climate, the awns can have a touch of purple hue to them. So it’s a pretty beautiful variety just to visually see, but it also has that quality piece that we were looking for. And it also has that great straw. So one of the things that I know you’re familiar with is two-row spring barley. It’s on the plains when a storm comes through like you just pray that your barley doesn’t lodge, which is when the barley, you know, is affected by too much wind and rain, and it lays down, and it can’t pop back up. Puffins got really hardy straw. So that’s another physical trait about it that both growers and brewers alike are grateful for.
TT (19:38): There’s a lot of people that talk sustainability, but you guys have a really heavy focus on that side of things and kind of put your money where your mouth is. That’s for sure. So tell me a little bit about sustainability and what you guys do.
SH (19:49): Yeah. It’s, you know, and part of it is due to the fact that it’s a winter variety. So you’re in our growing region. We’re really close to a lot of fresh waterways; whether it’s the Great Lakes or you’re looking at rivers that go down and eventually end up in the Gulf, a winter crop is essential for one of the biggest impacts on our freshwater, which is nitrogen and phosphorus. So barley like Puffin that we grow in the winter, it goes in the ground late September, early October, that root system establishes itself throughout the soil. Then we’re harvesting two-row winter barley is generally harvested here between June and July, that winter piece, the root system, retains and helps keep in nitrogen and phosphorus from leaching into the waterways. So that’s one thing when you think about environmental impact and sustainability, yes. It’s huge to have a non irrigated crop, unlike two-row, spring, barley, which really does need some irrigation depending upon where it’s, but for us, it’s a huge impact on those watersheds. And to me, I think in the future of craft beer, you can’t have craft beer without clean water. So we’re grateful that we’ve done some research, and we’re continuing to sponsor some research specifically around that. And also the diversification and economic impact. You can’t keep family farms established if they don’t have a profitable business. And so, a directly contracted winter crop will help with that. And so we’re, we’re grateful to be a part of that reshoring of American agriculture.
TT (21:19): Awesome. Obviously, we’ve talked about Puffin. So tell me about some of the specialty malts that you guys have or putting out right now. I know we have a handful of Country Malt Group, but tell me about some of the stuff you guys are working with.
SH (21:28): Yeah, yeah. So it has that UK heritage, which I think leads to a little bit of this toasty, dry roasted nuttiness. So in the Pilsen and the Low-Pro Brewers, the Pilsen is really light in color. It’s like around a 1.5, and it’s delicious and light and clean. But as you see that kiln temp go up, you get a little bit more of that dry roasted nuttiness that you might kind of harken back to its UK heritage, but the Light Munich and c60 are two of my favorites because they taste so good. We specifically engineered those to really, really turn up the kiln temps and get that Maillard reaction occurring. So, where the proteins and sugars are broken down, that caused that browning in the roasting process. And for me, it’s this, and I’ve tasted a lot of it. So forgive me, but it’s almost like unsweetened black tea. It has this tannic black tea flavor to it. And then, because of that Maillard reaction, you get a little touch of that sugar, and it’s like this lightly spun sugar. It’s so good.
TT (22:37): Might be on to something. That’s great. Well, for brewers out there that are interested in a trial and some of it, we do have some sample programs available, and we’ll talk about those here in a bit, but definitely put on your list to reach out to Origin Malt or Country Malt Group, and definitely get some of this in your hands. So it’s probably too early to drink, but tell me, uh, well maybe not, you know, what’s some of your personal favorite beer styles in general, obviously depending on the day or the time of year to go to you right now.
SH (23:01): About now, Oktoberfest comes earlier and earlier every year, I feel. So right about now, I’m already seeing some packaged Oktoberfest beers in our Kroger’s and grocery stores out here. And that’s kinda my favorite time of the year. It’s like that turn to fall, and you start getting Oktoberfest beers. And I particularly love Marzens. That’s one of my favorites, like real malty-forward beers, but I’d say if I had to go with like a go-to any time of the year beer, it’s probably a Bell’s Two Hearted or an Allagash White.
TT (23:35): Both great, both fantastic
SH (23:37): Or any beer in that style. I can’t play favorites,
TT (23:41): Specific beer or whiskey that you’ve been enjoying. Anything else specific on the beer side, whiskeys?
SH (23:46): Having lived now in Ohio, so close to Kentucky, we are definitely a bourbon household. And if we’re mixing something here, it’s probably Evan Williams, but we definitely hoard Very Old Barton. And I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to get your hands on some Very Old Barton before,
TT (24:02): But I have not. I’m writing it down as we speak.
SH (24:04): Yeah, you need to; I think they had one of their [inaudible]. They were in the news. I want to say it was last year. So you might be able to find some interesting stuff on the internet about that, but it has nothing to do with the quality. The bourbon is so good. We specifically love their hundred proof, and you can’t find it very easily. And I was in Kentucky, and I found it in a tiny liquor store, and I bought a case. So we have that, and that’s been treating us very well through quarantine, but if I’m not sipping some Very Old Barton, my probably go-to for a special occasion, I’m sipping on some Weller Reserve.
TT (24:37): Ooh, nice. My buddy, Tim Burke, who, you know, well, back when we were traveling, he came to Dallas, we had a meeting out here, and he brought me a giant bottle of the Weller Special Reserve. So.
SH (24:46): We’re lucky we can find it pretty easily out here. So yeah.
TT (24:52): Yeah. We have a hard time finding it. That’s for sure. I don’t know where he got it, but I was thankful, very thankful. What about beer, food pairings?
SH (24:58): Like most memorable or lately?
TT (25:01): I don’t know. Let’s say, let’s say lately.
SH (25:03): Lately. Okay. So lately, we had some steaks this past weekend, which took me back to being in like Montana, where the stakes are as big as your head. And I love, I love, love, love, like a crisp IPA with steaks. It’s just what, it’s just my go-to, it’s just my preference. And we had some North High-Five, which is their pale ale, but it’s pretty hoppy. And that just with a really nice clean grilled steak, you know, simple salt and pepper. I love that. I had some curry recently with a really hoppy beer, and that was delicious too.
TT (25:38): You know, it’s, it’s interesting, a lot of people think of just a giant steak with a glass of wine, but some beers can pair certainly very, very well with it. You know, people make fun of me because I drink wine with pizza, which is completely opposite, but, but yeah, it’s to each their own, but, but very good. You know, we have giant steaks down here in Texas, so yeah, take a while to eat a whole plate full of state, but fantastic. Are there any certain beers that you can specifically say that is brewed with Origin Malt?
SH (26:07): For sure. We have a lot here, obviously in Ohio and in the surrounding states, but some of the beers that are most memorable for me pre-COVID, we host quite a few events, and we partner with a lot of breweries. We’ve hosted our seed to sip malt school, which is for both brewers or consumers. I’ve taught it to both audiences, but we did it out in Pittsburgh with Hop Culture. And we partnered with Cinderlands Grist House and Four Points. And they all had access to the same malts. Cinderlands the warehouse there. The kitchen is amazing. They put together like a killer menu for this beer dinner. It was a malt-focused beer dinner. And these three beers that were produced by Cinderlands Grist House and Four Points were all so different. We had a Kolsch, a Keller beer, and then a hazy all so different, but using the same malts. And it just shows you the beauty of that creativity piece, what raw materials do when utilized by different people with different intentions, and different products that come out of that. And it was so good. Those are three of my favorites recently. Well, I’m yeah, I’m allowed to it’s 12:45. I have now started giving myself permission to crack beers. Um, Monday particularly starts the week’s a lot more fun with a lunch beer. Y
TT (27:30): I’m getting thirsty. I know it’s almost lunchtime. Yeah. And two kids are driving me to that too. Well, thanks for jumping on; obviously, um, we have a great relationship with you guys here at Country Malt Group. We are carrying the Pils, the LoPro Brewers, the Light Munich, and the c60 at five of our warehouse facilities. So Champlain, Chicago, Asheville, Tampa, and Dallas. And then, we talked a little bit about samples being available. So for those of you listening, want to grab some of those reach out to your Country Malt Group, territory managers, or I think Sara, you guys are fielding some of those requests as well.
SH (27:58): So we field some of those requests, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get a handwritten note from me, and there might be like a joke or, you know, something probably funny. I try to like, keep it interesting, and not like enjoy the malt. XO, XO.
TT (28:14): Yeah. Well, good. Well, I appreciate it. So we do some fun. Now we have the segment that we call the Whirlpool very much a pun intended the Whirlpool in the brewhouse, but, uh, we kind of look at it as a fun way to, to reach out to some folks in the industry, kind of a hot tub it up if you will, and, and, uh, have a good time. So we’re gonna step into the Whirlpool real quick. And Sara had the idea of bringing on Chris Shields, right? Rhinegeist?
SH (28:36): Yeah. Yeah. Chris, he’s the director of education at Rhinegeist, which is in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he’s fam he’s great. And I’ve known him for several years now, and I’m hoping he’s available. Let me see.
TT (28:48): Let’s give him a shout.
SH (28:49): Oh, I think he is; he’s free. Hello, Chris, can you hear me? I was like, well, that’s not Chris’s voice.
TT (29:02): Came in singing.
CS (29:03): Alright, think I’m here now.
TT (29:04): Hey.
SH (29:04): Oh.
CS (29:05): Here I am.
TT (29:06): Hey man.
CS (29:07): I did it. I pressed the right button.
SH (29:11): Uh, technology in the age of Coronavirus.
CS (29:15): I’ve learned so much and yet know o little.
SH (29:18): Yeah. Have you been “Zoom-bombed” yet? What’s up? Have you had that experience?
CS (29:23): Not been “Zoom-bombed.” Welcome it, though. I think.
TT (29:28): What’s so what’s zoom bombed. I don’t know what that is.
SH (29:29): You don’t want to know? Um, yeah. I mean, I’ll, I’ll just say really quickly that it’s when somebody takes over your Zoom meeting, they essentially hack into your Zoom meeting, and they can take control of your screen and put up whatever they want. I had a colleague that experienced this, and let’s just say it was R-rated content. Thanks for joining us, Chris, and the Whirlpool.
TT (30:00): Gosh.
TT (30:00): Yeah.
CS (30:01): Yeah.
TT (30:01): Water’s warm, man. Come on in.
CS (30:02): Anytime I can hot tub it. Let’s do it.
SH (30:04): Sorry.
TT (30:08): I’m just going to introduce this Toby Tucker Country Malt Group. I appreciate you jumping on.
CS (30:11): Yeah. Thanks for, uh, thanks for giving me a buzz.
SH (30:14): Yeah, I was going to say the last time we talked was on beer talk, and I had a 55 pound bag of malt on my knee, like a small child, but what’s up this week. Did I miss your yeast talk, Chris?
CS (30:26): Well, first of all, you don’t have a 55-pound bag on your lap right now.
SH (30:31): Hold on. I can go to the basement.
TT (30:34): That’s not a small child. That’s a giant child.
SH (30:36): I guess that would be like having what weighs 55 pounds middle school?
TT (30:40): Eight-year-old maybe.
SH (30:44): But yeah, what’s your talk this week,
CS (30:46): This week is actually a little bit different. We did a Black is Beautiful collab brew that a lot of folks have done. And I’m having a representative from Mortar, which is the organization that we are making our donation to. They’re going to join on the sort of Instagram live, and we’re going to drink the beer. And, I’m pretty much going to shut up and let her talk about Mortar.
SH (31:10): Well, that’s really cool. And did you guys do anything special to your Black is Beautiful collab?
CS (31:16): No, not really. It’s we put a bunch of oats in there, so we’re calling it Imperial oatmeal style, but no, uh, glitter or pecans or anything like that.
SH (31:25): I have no problem with glitter and beer. I’m just going to say it.
CS (31:28): I don’t, and in theory, I’ve never actually had a glitter beer. Maybe that needs to be rectified.
SH (31:34): The last beer I made a couple of years back with some girlfriends was an Imperial Russian stout reported at Goose Island Stout Fest in Chicago. And we definitely added glitter and were fan favorite.
CS (31:47): I’m just more of like a, and this was funny cause I was talking to Striker, who you also know, and we were talking about all these Black is Beautiful beers, and it’s awesome that like a bunch of people are putting just totally random spins on it, right. On the production side. That’s terrifying to me. I want to make it the simplest, most likely to succeed beer ever.
SH (32:08): Do you mean you don’t want to add marshmallows?
CS (32:10): I don’t know, to me, it’s like, it’s a beer that we, you know, the point is to sell it all and donate that money. So I want to make sure it’s really good and sells.
SH (32:17): Yeah, that’s right. You got to do that job for the charity or for the organization.
CS (32:22): Right? Like we do something dumb, and nobody buys it. It’s like, well, that was, that’ sucked.
TT (32:27): Yeah.
SH (32:28): Missed the point.
TT (32:31): So they give you a, just a base recipe for that, right, Chris?
CS (32:34): Yeah. I think it’s over a thousand breweries, and been great to see Country Malt and Origin to have promoted the effort and done some donations. And some other suppliers are doing similar things for other ingredients. They did a label design and a kind of a base recipe. And really, it was make something that you want to make, but to donate all the money. And instead of picking like one organization, they kind of encourage people to spread it out to something that fits the theme of the collaboration. But for example, Mortar is based here in Cincinnati. So it’s kind of a business incubator entrepreneurial program. They do business training and sort of resource management, and they focus on underrepresented people in business ownership, and they’re two blocks from us. So it makes perfect sense. So it was nice to be able to reach out to our friends and say, hey, we want to do this project. We’d love for y’all to be involved and make an impact locally. And I think that was a really smart thing for Weathered Souls to do is say, like, hey, do something in your community.
TT (33:41): Yeah, absolutely. Sara was mentioned to me in our conversation about this beer called Wiffle that you guys have, and I’ve never had that opportunity. Unfortunately, I’m way down here in Texas, and I haven’t had the opportunity to come to visit you guys. So she, she was speaking very highly of it. So I just wanted to pick your brain a little bit about that beer and kind of, you know, along with the Origin Malt, you know, how that came to fruition.
CS (34:05): Yeah. You know, as, as Sara briefly said, you know, we’ve known each other for a few years now, and we’ve kind of been following the development and launch of, of Origin, and we’re a pretty, pretty large brewery. So for us to make any kind of big wholesale type shift in ingredients is, you know, we don’t turn on a dime, let’s just say, but we’ve been really looking for new pieces of the portfolio, but also looking at the way that we can start to bring in some Origin Malt on a consistent basis. And we landed on a Whit beer, which is what Wiffle is really despite what I’m going to say about all those sorts of random things that we did, but that’s sort of the flavor profile we were hitting. We don’t, we didn’t have anything with kind of that classic Belgian character in our year-round portfolio, we have an American lager, but we wanted something else that was sort of a step up in complexity, but still very approachable, very drinkable Wiffle has been a big part of my spring and quarantine that’s for sure.
CS (35:01): So it’s, you know, 5% the basis is all Origin Pilsner. I think the Origin Pilsner gives us a really great balance of it. It’s Pilsner malt, right? It’s not going to hit you over the head with like crazy, you know, characteristics, but it’s not dull either. There’s some really nice kind of subtle nuttiness and just that classic biscuity, bready character without any harsh graininess or overwhelming kind of characteristic. And we paired that with just a bunch of wheat, a little bit of oats, and that’s pretty much it that’s Wiffle. So if you drink Wiffle, you’re getting that Origin Malt, Pilsner character coming through. And that’s been a big part of differentiating that brand for us a little bit. And it’s been just really fun to play around with a classic style like that. Um, you know, our other year-round offerings are, you know, we have, our flagship is a West Coast IPA, and we have a double IPA, and we’ve got some fruited beers and things like that, an American lager and a Whit beer. So that’s, uh, it’s been a nice balance to the, to the portfolio, and we love being able to showcase malt in, in a beer.
SH (36:10): Yeah. It’s pretty I’m I cracked mine while you were talking because it’s officially lunchtime here and it is, it’s a tasty beer, and it goes, you know, it’s my; personally, it’s replaced the other Belgian ale that I mentioned earlier because Wiffle’s local, it’s here, it’s in Ohio. I have access to it, and it’s fricking delicious. So I can have one at lunch on a Monday and not feel too guilty.
TT (36:38): We’ll just string this thing along for another two to three hours and just have a six-pack.
SH (36:42): Then it’s happy hour.
TT (36:44): Got it. Yeah.
CS (36:45): Yeah. We can do that to ya, I’m told.
TT (36:50): So, Chris, I’m curious cause I, obviously, this is the first time we’ve chatted here, but I’ve heard a lot about you. Tell me how you got involved with Rhinegeist to kind of go on further beyond that, how you got started in the beer.
CS (37:03): Yeah. So I like to say that I got into beer the old way, which things change so fast who even knows anymore, but I got into beer by drinking beer and home brewing, and it was about, about ten years ago I was living in North Carolina at the time, and a friend of mine was starting up a small little seven-barrel brewery. I always joked that it was long enough ago that when we opened, we didn’t have a taproom because that was the thing that you did back then. And you would never think to do that now, but worked, worked in just sort of in production in a small little brewery for four or five years. And then my wife got a job up here in Cincinnati, and it was one of those. I mean, as both of you know, that the beer industry, you know, we get together, we have fun.
CS (37:48): We, we all really get along, and I didn’t really know anybody in Ohio. So I just started emailing everybody I knew asking who knows somebody who knows somebody that’s in Cincinnati and actually had a couple of friends connect me to, uh, you know, a couple of people in, in the Cincinnati area and ended up falling into Rhinegeist, right as Rhinegeist was growing super fast and I’m getting ready to put the new 60 barrel brewhouse online. And I joined as a, as a brewer and I actually, to this day, we call everybody kind of brewers, hot side and cold side. Uh, everybody’s cross-trained; everybody does seller work. Um, we have a separate lab and packaging teams, but you know, in ingredients through packaging or, or prep or through bright is all the brewers, so to speak and kind of jumped in on that team.
CS (38:36): And we kept growing for a while. And as we grew, sort of moved into one of the things I missed about being at a really small place was kind of all the other stuff, interacting with the public, doing education, running tastings and trainings and things like that. And so that’s sort of where my position as the director of education got kind of morphed into, as we brought more people in, you know, we normally hire 15 people to come work in the taproom every summer when we opened the roof. So it’s, it’s getting those folks up to speed and kind of doing some basic beer education because that’s one of the things that Sara and I have talked about a lot is letting people know what’s going on and explaining how beer is made and where the ingredients come from is such a huge part of understanding the craft industry.
CS (39:21): And I think the more people understand that, the better position they are to maybe try something new or ask a question and learn something. So I’ve been doing kind of everything from training our team to working with our distribution partners, retail partners. I do stuff with the public. Sara mentioned I have an every, every week Thursdays at four o’clock I’m on Rhinegeist Instagram making a fool of myself talking about something or other doing beer talks. So really just anything we can do to, to kind of get people to think about what they’re consuming. And I think that’s been a trend, and that’s something that I’m passionate about. It’s been really great working with Origin, you know, getting to go out and, uh, last year, got to visit some of the sites and meet some of the farmers and really make that connection to everything that’s going on.
SH (40:06): Yeah. Bring it to the people, whether it’s a beer knowledge.
TT (40:11): Yep. Absolutely. Well, Chris, I really appreciate your time. Tell us again. So the beer talk is, do you say Thursdays at Four?
CS (40:17): Yep. Thursdays at four o’clock Eastern, it’s on Instagram live. So if you just tune into the Rhinegeist Instagram account, which is just at Rhinegeist, and it’s been R H I N E G E I S T since we’ve decided to take German words and smush them together to, to name our brewery, but yeah, and I just, it’s usually about half an hour, and sometimes I have a guest, like, you know, when Sara joined. Um, and then other times it’s just me kind of talking about some topics we’ve done. Kind of ask Chris anything sessions we’ve done. I had a wine expert on to talk about kind of the overlaps between beer and wine. And we talked about wild and sour beer and just kind of whatever people want to hear about. We try to come up with something, and usually, we just drink a beer and kind of talk about it.
TT (41:01): Definitely encourage some listeners to jump on and check it out. I appreciate it. All right. Chris, well, thanks for jumping on with us, and I appreciate your time, and hopefully, I can make it out when this COVID stuff goes away, come out and see you guys and, uh, have a couple of beers of that Wiffle.
CS (41:15): Yeah, let’s do it. Toby. Thanks for letting me drop in. Sara, thanks for the call.
TT (41:19): Too hot in here. Got some extra bubbles. We gotta get out. All right.
SH (41:31): Good talking to you, man.
CS (41:33): See ya. Thanks, guys,
SH (41:33): See ya.
TT (41:33): Have a good day.
TT (41:35): Sara. That was cool. Appreciate you setting that up.
SH (41:37): Yeah, he’s awesome. And definitely recommend popping into one of his Instagram lives, and it also gives you another reason to start happy hour. So.
TT (41:47): Yeah. Awesome. Well, before we head out, Sara, do you want to, uh, give people your contact info for any other questions?
SH (41:52): Any and all questions. Happy to answer. It’s just Sara S A R [email protected]
TT (42:00): You see the Country Malt Group. We’ve got a bunch of territory managers, district managers, people in the know that’d be more than happy to help out with the Origin Malt as well. So reach out to your TM or just our general inbox. And we’ll be sure to get you any information you need. Sara, I appreciate you jumping on with The BrewDeck today and look forward to seeing you soon after all of this. The Rona.
SH (42:22): Yeah. Hopefully soon, or see you virtually on the internet.
TT (42:27): Yeah, let’s try to do it again. I appreciate your time and, uh, enjoy the rest of your day. Talk soon, Sara. Okay.
SH (42:31): Talk to you later. Thanks.
TT (42:34): Bye-bye. Appreciate everybody for listening and hang with us for the next one. I believe we’ll be out in a couple of weeks for a new one. So please join us. Again, I’m your host. Toby Tucker. Have a good one. Cheers.