James Loughran

James  Loughran is a 6th generation Irish barley grower.
With a strong passion for sustainable farming and craft beer, James has worked to transition his family farm from commodity production into high quality, brewing spec barley.
Located along Ireland’s fertile east coast, the Loughran Farm produces some of Ireland’s best malting barley, carefully grown and diligently curated to meet the needs of craft brewers interested in bringing culture to craft.
Brian Roth

The Southern Brewing Company first opened its doors on May 14, 2015, by co-owners Brian Roth and Rick Goddard. Roth and Goddard met at the National Beer Wholesalers Convention in 2008, where the two set out on a quest to open a brewery. Seven years and 520 brewery visits later, Southern Brewing Company was established in Athens, Georgia. Southern Brewing Company is the first purpose-built brewery in Georgia and is nestled within 15-acres of land, just 2.5 miles outside of downtown Athens.






Key Points From This Episode:

  • James talks about the rewards and challenges of being a barley farmer.
  • Hear about the mixed history of James’ farm and its place in agriculture today.
  • How Ireland’s “unusual” climate benefits barley farmers.
  • James shares his philosophy on the kilning process.
  • How craft brewing in Ireland has exploded, and the influences they take from North America.
  • Why James’ barley is so good for IPA brewers.
  • James names some of Ireland’s newest and best craft brewers.
  • Hear some of James’ favorite brewing stories.
  • We introduce our surprise guest, Mr. Brain Roth from Southern Brewing.
  • Brian tells us about his background in brewing.
  • Hear about the styles of beer Brian likes to brew.
  • Why Brian uses Loughran Malt.
  • Find out what makes the Irish red such a popular beer.
  • How higher DP of the IPA malt impacts brewhouse efficiency and performance.
  • The beer or whiskey Brian has been enjoying lately.

Transcript - Sucking Diesel





[00:00:00] TT: Good morning. Good evening. Wherever you are, whatever time-frame it is. Welcome to another episode of The Brewdeck. I’m your host, Toby Tucker.


Really excited today, from across the pond. We have my good buddy, James Loughran, from Loughran Family Malts joining us this morning. I was really excited when I saw on the dock to have you join us, James. Appreciate you carving out sometime. I know it’s late on a Friday for you and you’re probably very excited to get to a crafty beverage. Appreciate you giving us the time. How’s it going?


[00:00:32] JL: It’s great. It’s great, Toby. Thank you, guys, so much for having me. I’ve been pretty excited about this since I was asked to hop on. I love having a chat with both you and the rest, any of the other guys at Country Malts. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much for having me.


[00:00:47] TT: Well, I definitely miss seeing you. I miss seeing a lot of people since we’re all pent up in this COVID stuff. A lot of good memories and times we spent together and missing cell phones. Yeah, a lot of good times. I’m sure you recall that and you go into a story about that.


[00:01:04] JL: I’d hope you forgotten about that one.


[00:01:06] TT: No. It was a lot of fun. Yeah, I think it’s great timing and we’ve got a St. Patrick’s Day around the corner. I think it’s great timing having you on. I live in the city. I enjoy going out to the countryside and enjoy being out on farms and it’s a nice relaxing departure away from the day-to-day and hustle and bustle of a city. Tell me about the challenges and rewards of being a barley farmer.


[00:01:35] JL: Yeah. Well, it’s something I grew up around. My family been on this farm since 1908, so I think it works out. I’m sixth-generation here. That in itself brings a huge sense of achievement, a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, because it’s wonderful to be able to take something to mind and cherish it and then pass it on to a future generation in a better condition than what you received. Ultimately, that’s my role here in the farm is to be a caretaker and make sure that the farm that my kids, hopefully, get at some stage in the future is in a better condition than I got it in. In terms of being a barley farmer, that’s one of the most rewarding things about it.


Then you’ve just got barley farming, or farming in any type of farming is challenging. You’ve got issues with commodity prices with weather, with disease, with pests, whatever it might be. There is downsides, as there is with any role and any job. It’s also really nice to get away from the use of the hustle and bustle of modern life and just take a walkout in the fields, see barley plants, see your crop grow from seed, all the way through to the plant develops through to harvest. That in itself is wonderful.


Then, taking that finished product and then adding further value to it and seeing it being enjoyed by brewers and then converted through into a beer, again, and being appreciated by consumers of beers, that just brings it to a whole other level of satisfaction. I’m very fortunate to be able to do that. I know, there aren’t a whole lot of other people really who are, but I find it incredibly rewarding and thrilled to be able to do it, and to be able to tell anyone about it as well is also really, really nice.


[00:03:23] TT: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Well, you mentioned 1908 you’ve been there. Is there some pressure that you feel in continuing that family heritage? Secondly, how long have you guys been growing barley? Have you ever had other crops in the past?


[00:03:38] JL: Yeah. In terms of pressure, I guess, we’re fortunate in that the way we have think — now that we have the craft from our side of our business, the pressure to some degree has been relieved. Prior to that, it was really, really difficult to be able to make enough out of the farm to allow us to invest back in it and to make it sustainable. Prior to that, it was a case of just we were really exploiting the farm, unfortunately, because the just, commodity prices were so low, was very difficult to extract enough income to allow us to reinvest into it.


That in itself created a lot of pressure to try and diversify, or add value to what we do, which is what led us down the route of putting barley into craft malt. That’s a huge relief that that’s not really the pressure side of things, so driven anymore. The second part of your question was forgive me, what was the second part of the question? I’ve forgotten.


[00:04:29] TT: Have you been growing barley since 1908, or has it been mixed in another crop, sir?


[00:04:34] JL: Yeah, so it would have originally been – I was speaking to my grand aunt, so my aunt and father is still alive. She’s 92. I was actually talking to her about this a couple of months back. When she grew up here on the farm, she remembers there being a lot of oats, some barley, although not a lot of barley, and some wheat and not a lot of wheat. The primary crop would have been oats. Then they also would have grown a lot of – not a lot. They also would have grown potatoes, what would be known as a traditional mixed farm at that stage. There would have been dairy cows. There would have been cows and those would have been – the males would have gone from beef production, the females would have gone for dairy production.


It wasn’t the way it is now, where it’s split into dairy and beef. There would have been some pigs, which would have been just been running around the farm here, so to speak. Then there would have been in crops, there would have been some potatoes, some barley, wheat, and oats. That was through the 19 – she was more than 22, so 1922. That was through the 20s and 30s.


Then as farming changed over the last 100 years, it became more and more specialized. My grandfather in 1966 took on this part of the farm. He moved away from livestock. At that stage, it became really concentrated just in tillage, which would have been potatoes, barley, wheat, and oats. Then that would have become more and more concentrated down, whereby as my dad took it on in 1979 and then when I joined in the early 2000s, or mid-2000s, we became more and more specialist in barley. Although, we do run it as part of a wider rotation, so the barley is one in – barley makes up about 50 odd percent, but we also grow other crops in rotation to try and add back some organic matter into the soil. It helps a lot with pest control and disease control and makes just the general crop cycle a bit more efficient and nature friendly. Yeah, that’s where we’ve gotten to.


[00:06:30] TT: Yeah, that rotation is very common. I don’t think people really realize, but the rotation of crop is something that’s necessary, to keep that fertile soil continuing to be there.


[00:06:40] JL: It’s crucial. It really helps and – without getting too technical about it, it’s just a great way of breaking up disease cycles, or weed cycles, because if we grow barley and every year we will have the same weeds will germinate at the same time every year, causing problems. If we break that cycle up with maybe, something a crop which we saw in the wintertime, or germinate some months earlier, it causes a different flush of weeds to germinate. Then, that means that that weed pressure is relieved for a period of time. It’s just a great way of controlling weeds, or maybe controlling other pests because the life cycle gets interrupted because different things are grown at different times of the year.


[00:07:17] TT: Yep, for sure. I know you are a very passionate Irishman, to say the very least. I mean, in the times we’ve had you stateside here, in the times we’ve been together as a group with Country Malt Group. It’s almost infectious. Just that heritage and that passion you have for your heritage. We talked a little bit about 1908, but tell me about that heritage and how it goes in and is so deep in Loughran Malt as a company, and the products that end up in the bags and coming over here to the states.


[00:07:50] JL: It’s important. I think, it’s important to know where you’ve come from, where your roots are, and your background. I know from having spent a bit of time in the states with you guys, that it’s important to a lot of people as well. To say, it’s where their maybe background came, from where their immigrant background, whoever it might have been. I think we can all share an understanding of how that importance works.


How that then translates on a day-to-day basis for us, it’s really about that sustainable journey over a very long period of time, where I and the team that work with me are really just a placeholder, a link in a long chain that dates back and reaches forward. What we tend to find is that a lot of our decisions, a lot of our behaviors tend to be very, very, very long-term and quite slow. We’re able to take that long-term approach.


I think a lot of that comes from being involved in just in agriculture and in farming. We spoke a moment ago about rotation. We’re able to look at a field and imagine what’s going to be in it in three and four years. We’re able at the time. We’re able to look at in all these — what was in three or four years ago and see how those cycles interact with each other over many, many years.


It means that when we make a decision and we make an investment, it’s always about the longer, longer-term, that what impact does this have over 5, 10, 15, 20 years, as opposed to one, two, three, or four years. That ability of heritage allows you to slow stuff down and think longer term. It means that when we started growing barley for craft and we started speaking to craft brewers about using it and we started talking to Country Malt and spending time with you guys, it allowed us to take a very long-term approach.


We knew it wasn’t going to be a case, we’d be selling huge volumes in a short space of time. That was fine. We were able to take the slow approach, whereby over a large number of years, we build up slowly, bits of volume and bits of volume and grow our business sustainably over the longer-term. I think, that sense of heritage looking back over the long period of time, allows you to look – it gives you comfort and confidence to look forward over the longer period of time. I think that’s a large piece of how it fits in with stuff on a day-to-day basis.


[00:10:11] TT: A lot of our listeners are fairly familiar with the impact of the climate, specifically on barley. Tell me what’s unique about the soil and the climate in your neck of the woods, specifically on your property that affects the characteristics of the barley used in malt.


[00:10:28] JL: Ireland has a relatively unusual climate. In fairness, in Great Britain and England, there would be similarities. Ireland tends to take it to a little bit of an extreme. It would be similar to the climate of Washington State, Seattle area, specifically. What that is, it’s a climate which is relatively stable all year round in terms of temperature, relatively wet all year round in terms of rainfall. Also, it’s warmer than it should be. That’s because based on its latitude.


Although we’re at the same latitude, as I think it’s Edmonton, Alberta. We’re pretty high up. We don’t get much more than maybe 10 nights of frost, maybe 20 nights of frost in a year. That being said, summer temperatures seldom go above 80. Most of them are in the 70s. We have this relatively narrow band of temperature all year round. That’s the result of an ocean current called the gulf stream, which carries warm water from the Caribbean, all the way up across the Atlantic towards up past Scotland. That helps keep us and England and Scotland Wales, relatively warm, or warmer than they should be relative to their latitude.


The impact that that has then upon barley is that it gives us this long growing season. Our barley gets planted in the middle of March and gets harvested in the middle of September, so you’ve got a six-ish month growing season, which is pretty long, especially compared to North America, which I think is about four months. During that growing season, we will have pretty much no frost. We will also pretty much no, or at least with a barley, no heat stress because it just doesn’t get warm enough. We’ll have no water stress, because as most people know, it rains in Ireland all the time, even during the summer.


Quite that we get this annual, this year-round wet weather, mild wet climate. That allows the barley plant to grow at a pretty relaxed pace. Whereby, it grows a plant, it starts developing its own seed, which is what the barley grain is. It lays down the embryo of that seed and it does that after relatively quickly. After about three to four months. Then it spends the last two months just wrapping that embryo in starch. It just grows and grows at that starch out, so you get these big plump kernels full of starch, low in protein. Relatively low protein.


Those starch components and that slow-growing period is what helps allow amino acids, fatty acids, other micronutrients to develop within the seed. Those components which contribute then in the brew has some of the flavor characteristics that we’re known for, some of the mouth-fill characteristics that we’re known for. Some of those other intangibles that you get from beer made with great malt. That’s something that’s characteristic of malts growing in Ireland.


From our perspective, personally where we’re based, our farm’s situated on the east coast of Ireland and on the northeast corner. We’re basing England. What that means is that we actually benefit from a lot of the shelter. A lot of the storms will come in off the Atlantic and hit the west coast of Ireland first. By the time they reach us in the east, they’ve dissipated. That’s pretty good.


We’re also quite well-sheltered from a couple of nearby mountain ranges, which take the brunt of any storms, which come down from the north. It just means that where we are is pretty mild from weather perspective. Soil types are quite sandy and this would have been an old sea bay, not back in the day. We got quite a lot of sand in our soil type, so that allows for a lot of free drainage.


Barley doesn’t like having its feet wet. By having that, those free-draining soils, it means that the plant is able to grow pretty happily. Then, there is other certain bits of mythology, an Irish legend associated with the area, which we think have – there was a little bit of magic there that help add a little bit of something to what we grow and how we grow it.


[00:14:44] TT: I have heard some story about some of those magic out in your neck of the woods too. No, it sounds like a place where it’s just prime growing area for just beautiful barley and in turn, malt for the brewers. That being said, do you have a specific philosophy on kilning and what you’re looking for, as far as malting of your barley?


[00:15:06] JL: Yeah. Take a leaf out, the Texan BBQ approach, low and slow.


[00:15:14] TT: I like it.


[00:15:16] JL: Yeah. What we’re trying to do is have a malt, which when you brew with it, you’re getting something slightly different. That’s going to come in the form of flavor, or it’s going to come in the form of mouthfeel, or maybe a little bit of both. Really, that’s down to things which are in the grain, such as I said, amino acids, fatty acids, or some other of the micronutrients, or enzymes that are there. Killing them at high temperature will denature them. You will lose some of the benefit of having them there.


Our approach is to do something slightly different. Kilning at a lower temperature, kilning slower. We achieve the same outcome in terms of final moisture content. We do it in a way which preserves a lot of those characteristics, which are really important to craft brewers. A little bit more challenging to do it, but we think it’s worth it. It’s a little bit slower, but it’s worth it. A lot of brewers think so too.


[00:16:08] TT: I know they do. I know they do. When most Americans think of Irish beer, they think of stouts and the dry Irish stout beer style. Are there any beer styles, or Irish beer trends that you’d like to bring to the attention of the eyes of specifically, our listeners, those brewers in North America?


[00:16:27] JL: It’s been amazing to see craft brewing here in Ireland evolve and change over the last 10 years, but really the last five. There’s been this explosion and craft that has been really incredible. I think by 2010, craft made up 0.20% or 0.30% of total beer sales. It was almost nothing. Really, the large macro-brewers had done a very good job of creating a market in which they dominated.


Since then, craft brewing in Ireland just exploded in terms of the number of breweries and in terms of the quality of beer that those breweries are making. I think we’re up to 70-something functional brew houses. Then you got a lot of other breweries as well, who would be gypsy brewers or contract brewers.


Those guys are making – a lot of them are making absolutely banging beer. In terms of our own native beer styles, not so much. Craft brewing in Ireland is, it’s a reflection in some ways of craft brewing in the states and we have our guys, our brewers here have taken a lot of what you guys in the states have done and put their own spin on it and really, the style of craft beer that’s moving and popular here is the hazy boys. Those hazy IPAs are just the thing that everybody wants. They are the style of beer which are really on point.


A lot of the brewers here have, in my opinion, have done a great job of taking that style, putting their little twist on it, really by using maybe local adjuncts, or maybe a little bit more oats and maybe some rye, or whatever. Those cereals might be. Then, backfilling that with juicy hops, be it Azaka, Citra, Mosaic, Strata and just a little El Dorado, loading that into it and you just get these – you might be able to tell, I’m a fan of those hazy boys. I enjoy it. I love them. Not too many, because they tend to be strong.


[00:18:21] TT: Yeah. What’s also cool is you guys have a product that is designed if you will, and malted, I would say specifically because it’s pretty well-rounded, but it is a heavy contributor to IPAs.


[00:18:34] JL: Yeah. That IPA malt is just works so well in any style of IPA, but especially those hazy boys, it’s got really high diastatic power. It just chews through any adjunct that people choose to add to the brewhouse. It means that we’ve got a beer, a malt which is relatively mild on the flavor point of view because you don’t really want it taken away from those hops. It also creates a great stage for those hops to perform and shine.


We’re really, really pleased with how it works in those styles. I think a lot of the brewers are as well. That said, the diastatic power on them is something like 300, 400, depending on that particular batch or crop. It’ll chew through anything that you put in there in terms of adjunct.


[00:19:21] TT: Yeah, it’s good stuff for sure. We had a newsletter go out, I believe a couple days ago, talking about Loughran Family Malt and some of your products, especially in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. You mentioned a couple of breweries, Irish breweries that we should look out for, as far as who’s the mover and shakers out over there. Can you name a couple of those, a couple of those that are just really killing it over in Ireland?


[00:19:47] JL: Yeah. I think, there’s a couple of breweries come to mind. Whiplash out of Dublin make – Yeah, they’re killing it. They’re doing a fantastic job in terms of those styles of IPA that I spoke of. As well as that just, a pretty rounded portfolio of beers, be it Baltic Porters, Stags, lagers, some sours as well. In fairness, Whiplash make probably some of the best IPAs and double IPAs around. They can hold their own with some of the best in the business. They did a fantastic festival in 2019 and we had the – we got to see some of your guys, some American brewers out as well. I think, Jay Wakefield, other half, Finback, were all at it.


Having a brewery in Ireland, able to attract breweries of that caliber to a festival on this side of the pond really spoke volumes, not just to me, but to the rest of us in the community that we work. We have brewers here we can go out and play with the best. Lockhill is another brewery that comes to mind, who just do a really good representation of Irish player, be it to do a great stag, to do a fantastic red. They’ve also have some pretty good – some really good, actually IPAs and which travel. They get to go and they get to put those beers and shelves across Europe and I think in the states as well. Lockhill brewer is another brewing company, which we like to work with, and yeah, are putting it out there.


I think, we’ve got a couple of other smaller ones, which are up and coming over the next two or three years. You’ve got guys who are really learning the trade and trying to find that balance between having great beer, having great branding, having a good business background behind them because it really takes all three to make a brewery work at the moment. It’s great to see those guys coming on. It’s tough. They’re all struggling at the moment with COVID and the impact that it’s had. Beer sales are way down, especially in pubs, which in Ireland, pubs effectively have been closed for, I think, we’re coming up in 10 months now a lot of pubs have been closed. It’s been really, really hard. We’ve been amazed at how well those breweries have just kept going. It’s been fantastic.


[00:21:57] TT: They definitely shift in gears to do everything they can to stay afloat and it’s impressive. That’s why I love this industry. Just some real troopers. We got a special guest coming on, James, towards the end of our conversation. I was going to surprise you with, about another gentleman that’s making some fantastic beer here stateside, which I believe you know. More to come here in a bit, but looking forward to that.


What are some of your favorite stories? I know you’ve got a lot of stories. Any particular favorite stories that you can share with us inside the brewing industry? I mean, could be with a brewer, distiller, distributor, etc. Anything you can share with us?


[00:22:33] JL: I do enjoy getting stateside. I enjoy coming out and hanging out with you guys, mainly because I get to come across and drink beer for normally about a week. It’s nice because you end up at that two-beer deep feeling for most of the day, which is a lovely place to be. You’re not too far in and not too shallow. Just two or three beers in. Although, it does be funny when – if I go on ride-a-longs or sale calls, and we’ll call into a brewery. Any time invariably, we call it a brewery. A brewer is going to say, “Would you like a beer, and would you like to taste some or something?” That’s great.


It is funny when we land in it 9:00 in the morning and the brewers are asking us and looking for – “Would you like a beer, or should I give you a coffee?” That’s always a funny one. I suppose, one that stands out is the time that [inaudible 00:23:19] took on a road trip around Georgia. We stopped off at a brewery called Burnt Hickory. As we were getting out of the car, Ian said, “Oh, I’m going to introduce you to this guy. Head brewer here. His name is Willie Avery.” He’s after getting a job and in Ireland, he’s actually moving to Ireland soon.


I go, “Mate. Okay, what’s the story with that?” He said, “Oh, it’s Galloway Brewing.” I hadn’t heard of it. I got in and Ian introduced me to Will and we had a conversation. He told me he was going to work for Galway Brewing. I said, all right, that makes a bit more sense. I know those guys. That’s a great brewery to go and work for. Ian took me in. We had a chat with Will and Will spent the rest of the afternoon bouncing, fermented, and fermented with me, following them, sampling extraordinary range of barley wines.


I’ve never seen so many barley wines in one brewery. We started at 3:00 in the afternoon. I had a flight out of it after that even I had nine or something like that. I spent three, four hours bouncing around hickory, with Will sampling his selection of barley wines. That flight home from Atlanta was not nice. I was wrecked. I was not in a good place. I did get to meet Will and then, he came to work in Galway Bay. He worked in Galway Brewery’s. Head brewer for a few years.


Then, actually came to work here with us not that long after, because we struck up a great friendship and he’s now our commercial technical manager. A good friend of mine now. Yeah, that was a good day. I learned a lot that day and gained a lot. I enjoyed that one.


[00:24:52] TT: It was a good dude. Well, I’m glad you had fun. It seems like it worked out on the end. Oh, good.


[00:24:56] JL: Sure did.


[00:24:57] TT: You talked about some of the guys in the craft scene that are doing some really nice stuff out there. Is there a particular beer, whiskey that you’ve been enjoying lately, and what do you like about it?


[00:25:08] JL: Yeah. For Christmas, actually, I got a bottle of whiskey, which I’ve been looking for for a while. I got a bottle of Redbreast, which is a pot still whiskey. Pot still would have been – it’s the traditional iconic style of Irish whiskey. It’s made with a lot of unmalted barley. A pot still whiskey has to have at least 30% malted barley and at least 30% unmalted barley, and can also have up to 5% of any other grains, be it oats or wheat. I got a bottle of 12-year-old single pot still for Christmas. Cracked that open Christmas Day and myself my dad got stuck into it. We really enjoyed it. It was really, really nice and really, really smooth. Just quite, this mix of dried fruit and spice and toasted oak, just on the cherry undertones coming through. It was a really, really magic whiskey. I enjoyed that one a lot. That was a good Christmas present.


[00:26:11] TT: It’s putting a smile on my face now, James. It’s close to the end of the day, so hopefully, can go relax and enjoy another one this evening, if you and your dad haven’t polished it all off.


[00:26:19] JL: No, we polished it off. Gone. It’s gone. The bottle.


[00:26:22] TT: Yeah. When you say stuck in it, yeah, I guess so. Well, good. Well, James. Hey, thanks so much for joining us. For the audience, keep an eye out on some communication coming out from Country Malt Group. We’ve got a couple things we’re working on specifically with James, in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, and some products and some promotions we’re working on. Look out for that. It’s good timing.


If you haven’t tried James’s malt out at Loughran Family Farm, please reach out to your Country Malt Group rep and we’ll get some in your hands. All good. Hey, James. Hang on with us just for a second. I’m going to take a quick break here and we’ll fire up the whirlpool. I got a special guest, I think, you might uh enjoy chatting with. James, appreciate it. For the rest of listeners, hang on a sec. We’ll get to the whirlpool here in just a minute.




[00:27:11] TT: All right. Thanks for joining us on another episode of the whirlpool. It’s been a great day. I had a chance to catch up with my buddy, James Loughran, over at Loughran Family Farms. He’s still with us. James, I’ve got a special guest today. I believe you guys know each other. He is from Southern Brewing in Georgia, Mr. Brian Roth. Brian, how you doing buddy?


[00:27:32] BR: I’m doing great. Thanks.


[00:27:33] TT: I got James Loughran on the phone.


[00:27:34] JL: Hey, Brian. How you doing?


[00:27:34] BR: I’m good. Fantastic. How are you down there?


[00:27:37] JL: I’m fantastic. Great to hear from you. It’s been a long time since we spoke. I hope you’re well. You’re doing okay.


[00:27:41] BR: It’s definitely been – now and Will Avery. Will’s been a good friend for a long time. I was happy when he was headed over to Ireland. Then when I found out he was going to come work for you, that was amazing.


[00:27:52] JL: Yeah. We’re lucky to have him and always [inaudible 00:27:54] boys done pretty good. It’s been a good ride over the last three or four years.


[00:27:59] BR: Well, hopefully, he still has a funny accent.


[00:28:02] JL: Yeah, he does. Funny accent, funny face, funny lots of things.


[00:28:05] TT: Oh, my gosh. He’s like a chameleon. It depends on he who talks to with that accent is like. Right. Well, Brian. Thanks for jumping on. The reason we got yon, obviously, is you’re a user of Loughran and Family Malts. I want to start out by chatting a little bit about your background and then the beer styles you like to brew over there at Southern Brewing.


[00:28:29] BR: Okay, sure. I started in the beer business back in 1992. I’ve been in the business ever since. I was on the distribution side forever. Then around 2011, after touring the world and bringing a lot of craft beer in the state of Georgia for distribution and meeting some incredible people, it seemed like, it made more sense to maybe try to get a brewery open. I met a fellow who was one of the head lobbyists in Washington DC, named Rick Goddard, while I was lobbying for the distribution side. As it turned out, both of our dads were Air Force guys, who had been stationed in Warner Robins in Georgia, which is where I graduated high school and found my wife there and stayed in Georgia, because of her. I never looked back.


Being in Athens, it’s a great town. Working in the beer industry in Athens was always great on the distribution side. On the brewing side, it’s so much better. It’s a whole different environment. The way you get to interact with people is a lot more fulfilling, I guess. It’s great when you get to meet people that are as fantastic as James. I probably would not have ever gotten to have that experience being on the distribution side. It’s neat to have a different network that’s not as sales-oriented. It’s a little more manufacturing-oriented.


[00:29:40] TT: Sure. What beer styles do you typically like to brew? Or are you just like a lot of folks in the brewing industry, just innovative and trying whatever suits you for the day?


[00:29:49] BR: Sure. We do a lot of innovative stuff. We were the first brew in the state of Georgia to have a footer. I was super, super big into wild yeast harvesting and brewing. We caught 87 wild yeasts from around Athens. We use those to brew it a lot. We had our footer up and running, almost as one of our first priorities. Then our barrel-aging program has always been super strong. Probably 80% of our barrel aging, currently is wild sours and then the rest using stouts and stuff in liquor barrels, or maybe a tequila barrel or something interesting.


We tend to try and keep about 35-ish beers on tap at our main brewery. Then we open a sister brewery in Monroe, Georgia, where we try to keep on as many beers on tap as we can, but it’s a smaller space. A lot of America and the south, so IPA is fairly dominant obviously. We brew a porter year-round. That’s still one of my favorite beers. James will have to help me with the pronunciation, but I’m going to butcher it. We do [inaudible 00:30:50] for St. Patrick’s Day. Specifically, just through meeting James.


We have a very crazy, eclectic selection. I grew up in Europe a lot, so we do a lot of European styles, a lot of old-world European styles. Those tend to be true to recipe. Then, we take some of those and do some Americanized crazy things or variations on those.


[00:31:15] TT: Very nice.


[00:31:16] JL: You hit that pronunciation just perfectly, Brian. Yeah, you can relax. You did awesome.


[00:31:21] BR: I was going to say, that’s going to take all the anxiety out of [inaudible 00:31:23].


[00:31:27] TT: Brian, where did you get the choice for using an Irish malt and specifically, Loughran malt?


[00:31:34] BR: I had a long-standing relationship with some folks out of Country Malt Group. Patrick La Zelle and I had gone on a beer trip over to Europe, to Germany.


[00:31:44] TT: Wait a minute, Brian. You’re one of those guys that hung out with Patrick La Zelle on beer trips?


[00:31:48] BR: That’s true.


[00:31:50] TT: Gosh. I’ve heard about those for years.


[00:31:53] BR: They’re fantastic. You definitely should do it. Yeah, the misfortune of being my roommate, and I snore. His memories are probably not as fond as mine were. Did a lot with Country Malt, getting up and going. Then Ian McCarthy, who had been friends with for a long time, took – we had our account, basically. Had come out and we were going over grains and some other stuff. They were bringing the Loughran Malts. He knew that we do a lot of true-to-style beers. I tend to use grain from the regions that we’re going to do a beer for.


He just called me one day and said, “Hey, I’ve got this fantastic malt company that we’re working with. You’re the guy that popped in my head as someone that could probably do something with this. Can be interested in this.” We’re like, “Yeah, that’s fantastic.” We ended up starting with a stout malt and got a couple of bags. It was completely my fault in not asking questions.


In my head, when I think of a stout malt, when it comes to face malt versus specialty malt, I had imagined that the stout mall, possibly was going to be a dark malt. Then when we got it, we got the spec sheet on, I was like, “Oh, this is fantastic. This is a great base malt. We can use this for so much.” It’s not just a one-off specialty. Played around with that on a small scale. Then, had the surprising fortune that James had come stateside and happened to maneuver his schedule around, so that he could come and visit us in Athens, Georgia, which was blew us away and it was completely fantastic. Then sat down and started debating and discussing beer styles. We were much smaller back then. I can’t even imagine what we even had on tap when James showed up.


[00:33:26] TT: I know he’s a fan. I think he has a shirt that he’s wearing currently in Southern Brewing. Is that correct, James?


[00:33:34] JL: That is correct.


[00:33:35] BR: Do we actually do a shirt? I need to send them all a backlog. We do a shirt with the Loughran Malt’s logo for St. Patrick’s Day every year. St. Patrick’s Day, ironically – well, probably not ironically. It’s our biggest day at the brewery. 1,200 to 1,500 people usually show up to celebrate with us. We had the horrible misfortune. We released the colon on that day, which makes everybody super angsty to come and get it. With this COVID virus happening, Athens Clark County shut the city down on March 16th, so the day before our big day of the year.


Nobody told us that we couldn’t do anything. We didn’t really know what to do, but we had already gone through all the process, had all of our [inaudible 00:34:15] ready to go and in cans, and the flood of people that continued to come out and drive through our parking lot just to grab their case of [inaudible 00:34:24] was fantastic. We probably ran out of that beer sooner than we normally would, because usually, it’s such a draft-focused event. Then people take a six-pack home.


I think, people all of a sudden thought, “What if I never get to come to this brewery again for the rest of the year?” They stocked up. That was fantastic for us. Still gave us a great week. That’s probably the one beer that we get the most people talking to us about. When we run out, we brew that beer in the beginning of February, so we can hit that March release. Then when we run out, we run out, which keeps everybody going completely crazy for it. We have a lot of regulars. The second we run out of that beer, that’s all they talk about until the next March.


[00:35:07] TT: Wow. Sounds very tasty. Brian, I’d be careful of sending any shirts over to James, because I know he cuts the sleeves off. What’s the old term, when the sun’s out, the gun’s out? That’s James over there. Strings like a bodybuilder.


[00:35:24] JL: Yeah, we got the gun show going on here.


[00:35:29] BR: James’ credit. That’s James’s recipe. We used –


[00:35:32] TT: Wow. Really?


[00:35:32] BR: We talked about doing a collaboration. Just to give a little telling info on me, because of some macro-Irish reds in America and having lived in Europe, I never liked most of the American versions on an Irish red. I’d bought into that some of those macro really watered down, thinner Irish reds were truer to style than what I thought. When we talked about doing a collaboration and he suggested that we go down that path and he had this fantastic old groom recipe, which really got me excited.


When I looked at the Granville and had done a little research, it befuddled me a little bit and I was like, “This beer seems like it’s going to come out super, super dark.” Maybe the flavor profile is going to be weird, I thought. We were excited, so we went ahead and brewed up that batch. Lo and behold on the back side, it completely shattered all of the reality that I had dreamed up in my head as to what to expect. It’s definitely my wife’s favorite beer. I think it’s my favorite beer that we brew at the brewery. I can’t take any credit for having anything to do with that recipe, which I’m proud to say. When people come in and say, “Oh, my God. This beer is fantastic.”


I do get that a little bit. People come in and they’re like, “I don’t know. Irish red. They always throw kilnings or other something out.” I’m like, “Yeah, I would give this a shot.” It’s pretty much everyone’s go-to beer once you let them have it that first time.


[00:36:51] JL: Yeah, the Irish red is a style, I think, which is just – it’s slightly overlooked. Over the years, there’s been a lot of poor representations of this style, but that’s really changed over the last three, four years. I know what you guys are doing with [inaudible 00:37:03], a few other styles as well where the multi-sweetness has been allowed to come through. The flavor of a lot of the reds now are a lot rounder than they used to be.


It wasn’t that long ago, a red was very insipid and very – there just wasn’t a whole pile going on. A lot of people started having a lot more fun with them. I think, brewers enjoy making them as well because so many brewers have spent so much of the year making big IPAs. Doing a style that’s different is really interesting for them. They get to play around with that, with those recipes in those styles, and have a lot of fun with them.


[00:37:40] BR: Well, to me, I mean, and hops obviously have become the star of stateside. For us, yeast is a huge piece, especially when we’re using really wild strains that nobody’s ever experienced before because they provide a lot of the character of a beer. The malt is always the overlooked star. It’s nice to have a beer that really showcases just some fantastic malts, that’s really geared towards giving the consumer this experience. You’re just bathing like you’re saying, this beautiful malt sweetness. Wonderful rounding. Just a fantastic beer.


The balance on it is great. What I like about a beer that’s so malt-forward, because we love to age all of our beers just to see what they would taste like. I think we still have some cone from the original batch. It really still drinks fantastic. It’s got a nice oxidative quality to it. For me, when really malty darker beers oxidize, they tend to get – in America, we have this licorice called Twizzlers. They’ve got a red one that has a distinct taste. You can taste this twizzlery sweetness that presents itself. Maybe a lot of stone fruits, like cherry and some other stuff.


With that being said, a fantastic set of malts to throw into a barrel, especially a whiskey barrel, or something to age something, just really helps showcase the malt quality, mouthfeel, tends to stick around so much more. We get so used to these pilsnery, grain bills, and leaf for the wild yeast beers and they’re so thin on the backside. When you’re left something in a barrel for two years to precipitate out, if it’s just pilsner malt, the character is not there.


You got to pump it up with wheat and some other stuff as you go on. It’s nice to have something, the color would be a great example of something that we put into a whiskey barrel and let it age out. It’ll lower alcohol for that beer. You tend to think of putting really high-gravity beers into whiskey barrels, but that lower alcohol content aided, I think, a little bit in the oxidation process and just gorgeous on the backside. Just a stunning beer.


[00:39:37] TT: Hey, Brian. We talked about flavor characteristic, mouthfeel of some beers you’re producing with Loughran Malt. How does it perform in the brewhouse? I mean, James talked a little bit earlier about the higher DP of the IPA malt. Was there a noticeable impact in brewhouse efficiency and any differences in fermentation performance?


[00:39:56] BR: Yeah. I would definitely say so. We pay a lot of attention on fermentation performance side, just because we have so many crazy yeast. Some of the wild yeast we use don’t like to chew up long-chain sugar so much. If you have a malt that leaves a lot of maltose, a really – like it’s not been chopped into a simpler sugar. Let’s say that beer might finish at a mid-range gravity, wild yeast doesn’t like that. It’s just too complicated for them.


Those malts tend to add body to the style too. Using some [inaudible 00:40:25] tricks with setting a lower temperature, so that you can cut those sugars up more, or setting it higher, so you can keep some of those sugars around, really helps to affect the attenuation. Having a malt that delivers such a great yield and whose efficiency is allowing you to not to stuff 10 more bags of grain into something, just cause you’re trying to push it up because you’re struggling with the grain, it’s a great tool to have in the brewery. I would say, just the presence of the body of those styles is fantastic. The mouth feels just amazing.


[00:40:58] TT: How does that Loughran malt specific? I’m sure you’ve had some experience brewing with all kinds of different malts. There’s obviously a lot out there from a lot of different origins if you will. Just putting it up against other European, or even British malts, is there a distinction between the barley and then the malt coming from Ireland, specifically Loughran that makes a quality, or distinctive flavor over the others?


[00:41:22] BR: Yeah, I would say so. Especially in the styles that we put them into. That being said, we would use malts that are good in IPAs. For IPAs, we’d use malts that are good for lagers and lagers. Any German style, we would tend to go with more mainly in European pilsenry malt. I feel, what I about lager malts, specifically, just adding on to everything that we have, looking at the way the soil is up in that region and looking at where our region is, we’re not a great grain-growing region. You’ve got to be at a higher point in America. You got to be up around North Dakota and Minnesota. We’re a little too hot down here. We don’t have enough light hours, so we wouldn’t be able to produce as richer quality.


When you look at the soil that’s in Ireland, I like to think of it as being pretty similar to maybe something that we can get here in Georgia. From that standpoint, it’s nice being able to source malt from a region that feels like home, as you’re pulling that stuff out. I think terroir, that’s a lot to do with any agricultural product. We see that in hops all the time. One side of the hop field is going to produce something completely different.


I mean, it might even be adjacent here. It could just be a rain pattern, or sunlight or something. Could be anything. Or the proximity to the road. I feel grain, specifically even more. A lot of brewers, I think don’t pay enough attention to it. I learned a long time ago, talking to some really fantastic brewers and when your grain comes in, you have to eat it. You have to steep it. You have to do all kinds of things to make sure that it’s the quality that you want.


I think a lot of people just shoulder bags into a hopper. Maybe we’re not one of the few breweries, but we do tend to call people from time to time and say, “I don’t like these three bags. We sourced out of these and we’re not really happy with it.” We usually keep extra grain on hand. I’ve never had to do that with anything I’ve gotten from Loughran, which is fantastic.


[00:43:13] TT: Yeah, that’s great. Good to hear.


[00:43:15] BR: Yeah. Just the consistency. There are a lot of big malters around there. Yeah, and they might be making a consistent product, but it may not be of the same quality if that makes any sense. I liken, it’s when a brewery is really small, the quality of their beer versus when they become big and they just start doing these big batches and they’re cutting all their costs. They’re getting rid of boutique malts. They’re finding every way that they can to try and mimic where they came from by cutting all of the cost of goods out of anything basically.


I think that sometimes, those breweries tend to suffer when they get on the big scale, because people go back and buy those beers and they think that this tastes nothing like I had imagined it. I could only imagine, if we went in and we gutted the calling recipe and cheapened it up and used adjunct sugars and stuff to try and drive stuff, that would just make no sense. Make a lot of people really mad.


[00:44:10] JL: Yeah. It’s great to see that the passion you obviously have for a grain. The value you get from it, we really only get by spending time in the brewhouse and chewing down on grains and sampling stuff as it comes out of the whirlpool and fermenter and getting to know the beers. Terrific.


[00:44:28] BR: Yeah. It’s odd how many people – We get a handful of people talking to us about malts. There are some people that are starting to grow malt in the southeast. It’s always an odd conversation when people come in and they don’t have stuff you chew on or go over with ahead of time. Or, maybe they don’t even have the properties of that grain broken out. We’re a little choosy at who we dance with, but when you’ve got someone as fantastic as James who’s got a grain that is just phenomenal, you drop what you’re doing at that point in time and dance with that partner and see what you can do.


It’s amazing. It pushes you in all kinds of different new ways. When you have people that you can rely on and the amount of material and information we got has been spectacular. It’s nice to work with someone who knows as much about their product as anybody else on the planet and the process itself. We’re about to start distilling and that’s where I’ve always been the most curious and excited is to start messing around with distilled spirits and using Loughran malts on all of that, especially when it comes to doing whiskeys and stuff.

[00:45:31] TT: James, that’s good. I can only imagine, you like flexing in the mirror right now after all those good words. Yeah, you’re like, “Ooh.” They do that, they flick the old thigh and tighten it up real quick. That’s what James is doing right now in his string bikini.


[00:45:48] JL: This is unfair. Most of the audience haven’t met me. They don’t realize I’m barely – I weigh about a 100 pounds and I’m whack. I’m a little guy. I don’t really have much to flex.


[00:45:59] TT: Well, he’s trying. You do good stuff over there, man. Brian’s appreciative. I’m appreciative. Today is your day, buddy.


[00:46:07] JL: It’s terrific. Brian, it was a pleasure to spend some time praying a few years back. I think you’ve just gotten the footers, or some of the footers installed at that stage, as well as these clay fermentation pots.


[00:46:19] BR: Yeah. They’re doing that before us. Yeah, we’ve got a –


[00:46:22] TT: Yeah. That was what it was, man. I hadn’t seen them before. After we got home, we exchanged some notes and the recipe, and Brian was good enough to ask us for some of our artwork and logo. Then, you see my family name to see our artwork and logo on some of Brian’s merchandise, on his t-shirts, on his cans, it was probably one of the most rewarding things that I got to do in the industry. I’m very proud about this, even that’s terrific. Partnering with great brewers like Brian is always a lot of fun. It goes back to that thing I said earlier about how as a farmer, you get a huge amount of satisfaction in terms of taking a plant from seed, all the way through the harvest.


Then, taking that product of that harvest out forward into a beer and onto the shelf and into a consumer’s hand just amplifies that to the Nth degree. It really is an incredible thing and I’m very proud and very lucky to be part of such a wonderful industry.


[00:47:10] BR: Yeah. We feel very lucky too. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with that. We get a lot of people who come in and talk to us and they’re never that close to the source sometimes. They’re like, “Hey, we’ve got this, or we know someone’s doing this.” To have somebody who – how amazing to have someone that starts from scratch, grows everything and knows the entire process, knows how the season went, knows the malting side, to be able to come in and pick someone’s brain like that is fantastic.


Because usually, what you get are people going, “That’s a really good question. Let me get back.” Whereas I felt like, you’re just geeking out, talking to somebody that has just an exponential knowledge of what you’re talking about, compared to what you have. We probably would have kept them here for two weeks, just talking about grain and getting them to go through the stuff.


[00:47:58] JL: I just did. I just did.


[00:48:00] BR: Yeah. We need to get you back, just because we look so different nowadays. I’m still trying to get over to Ireland at some point in time, especially once Will got over there I was like, “Oh, this would be fantastic.” Once this virus goes, I got to make a plan.


[00:48:13] TT: Yeah. Yeah, me too. Me too. Brian, I mean, obviously, you’re making fantastic beer and you have access to that at any point in any time. Is there a particular beer, whiskey that you’ve been enjoying lately, and what are you enjoying about it?


[00:48:26] BR: That’s a really good question. I’m a little excited, although we’ll see how it goes. I’ve always been a big fan of a brewery called Deschutes if you’ve been to Oregon. It’s really one of my favorite breweries in America. They’ve gotten pretty big. They finally have come this side of Mississippi and I think this is the year they’re going to roll in the state of Georgia. We based the quarter that we do pretty much off of that beer, just off of taste. We never looked at the recipe or anything or looked at it for most people.


That was one of my favorite beers that I’d ever experienced. It really was just because it reminded me of being a beer that I had enjoyed when I was overseas living in England. To have something from a sensory side that was so well done. I think, as close to perfection as you could get, their black beam quarter. I love drinking it next to our midnight train, is what we call our porter.


I think the best compliment I ever had was when we went – I took my wife out there, finally, to drink that beer. When she finished drinking it, she said, “Oh, my God. I think they copied midnight train.” I laughed and I was like, “Oh, no.” I completely ripped off everything else here and made the beer that we’ve got. I love it. I’m excited about those guys coming in. On the whiskey side, I got to say I’m probably I’m too rednecky. I’m not as well versed on the whiskey side of things. I toured a bunch of really good scotch places on one of the beer trips that we took with Owen a while back. I enjoy a good whiskey.


What I’m excited about now is sitting down and actually going through the nuances with someone that’s trained, as we try to get our head around of how do you put together a mesh that really complements this. Then, how do you pick the char in the barrel? It’s all uncharted territory for me. I’m almost a little glad that I’m so naive about what’s currently in the market because it’s going to be nice to get my head around what are we going to look like and how would we even fit into that.


What I really like about that idea is to take a whiskey using lager and malts and make something fantastic and then take that barrel and then throw a beer, like a [inaudible 00:50:25] on the backside, so you’re getting the benefit of all that malt on both sides of the process. Then, giving the consumers a chance to really get their head around it, which – as a beer geek, there’s just something sexy about how pure that experience is. To carry all that through and then you could do a whiskey, a tumbler whiskey while you’re drinking a [inaudible 00:50:46] and have the blended barrel age at the same time, that’s super exciting.


[00:50:52] JL: Well, the guys over at American Spirit Works in Atlanta, actually use our malt as a base malt in a whiskey called Druid Hill. Yeah. I’m sure they’ve got barrels that are left that yeah, you could actually go and do that exact thing with. You could go and you could age some [inaudible 00:51:08] in it, because it’s the same base malt that you use that goes into that whiskey. It’s a pot still whiskey, so it’s got 30% on malted barley and 7% malted and it’s a great whiskey.


[00:51:18] BR: That is fantastic. I’m going to write that down. The great thing is that would be a great jumping point. Now, I’m super stoked that we’ll be able to try something that’s using those grains and get it to fruition quicker. That’s awesome.


[00:51:31] TT: The good news is Brian, and you know that about the brewing industry, there’s always people willing to lend a helping hand and that’s what’s great about it. From brewing to distilling, we’re all in the same boat we’re all innovative and willing to share helpful hints and secrets. Same with the vendors like James. As you creep through the process on the distilling side, feel free to reach out to us at Country Malt Group, and/or James. Certainly, willing to help you out. Good.


[00:51:57] BR: Do that. We are about finished up with the licensing, which stateside takes forever and is such a pain in the ass, but we are looking forward to probably May being able to start moving forward on all that. That’s going to be fantastic.


[00:52:09] TT: Yup. Well, guys. I really appreciate you guys being on. Brian Roth at Southern Brewing and James Loughran Family Malt. Guys, it’s been a fantastic day. I really appreciate y’all jumping on and sharing some stories about Loughran and Family Malt. I the listeners out there want a little bit more information about Loughran Malts, reach out to us at Country Malt Group. Keep an eye out as I said earlier, for some promotions and some stuff. We’ll be doing the next couple weeks in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day and thereafter. Brian, James, appreciate y’all’s time and jumping in the whirlpool with me. Yeah, y’all making a fantastic day.


[00:52:42] BR: Yeah, it’s good to catch up.


[00:52:44] JL: You too, Brian. It’s been too long. I hope to see you again soon. [Inaudible 00:52:48]. That would be excellent. Toby, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a great afternoon. It’s quarter to 5, so it’s just about knocking off time, so I’ll be able to retire for the afternoon. Confident that I’ve done a good day’s work and enjoy a beer, which I’ll be thinking about you guys with pretty soon.


[00:53:05] TT: There you go. For the listeners, y’all go out and do the same and hang tight and listen for the next episode of The BrewDeck Podcast. Again, I’m your host, Toby Tucker.