Monday, October 11, 2010

Nanobrewery Interviews: Wild Wolf Brewing Company

While most of us have toyed with the thought of starting up a nanbrewery, others have taken the plunge.  To find out more about who these people are and what makes them do what they do, Jeff and I embarked on a series of interviews with regional nanobreweries to get their stories.

Wild Wolf Brewing Company
Nellysford, VA

For the fifth brewery in our Nanobrewery Interviews, we had the opportunity to speak with Mary Wolf, co-founder of the Wild Wolf Brewing Company, located in Nelson County, Virginia.  Wild Wolf is currently in the process of opening its doors.  They are proceeding with a two-phase development plan.  Mary, along with her son, Danny, will begin with a 10-gallon nanobrewery and homebrew supply shop as Phase 1 of development.  The nanobrewery will then upgrade to a 15 bbl. brew house in a 5,000 square foot building in Phase 2.  The larger building will also house a pub and expanded homebrewing store.

Below is our interview with Mary.

* * *

Lug Wrench (LW): What inspired you to start-up a brewery?

Mary Wolf (MW):  Danny, who is the Wild Wolf Brewing Company head brewer, was been an avid homebrewer for 6 years.  This led him to attending the Siebel Institute of Technology, World Brewing Academy, where he took classes to hone his skills.  The Academy culminated in an apprenticeship in Munich, Germany.  Danny's brewing sparked a similar interest in Mary, who is a retired business executive.  They decided to take a class called Starting Your Own Brewery at Siebel together.  The plan was that Mary could help Danny start a VERY small brewery in order to gain working experience. After taking a class at Siebel, Mary was so taken with the industry, the people in it, and the collaborative nature of craft beer, that they hatched a new plan to open a full-sized brewery themselves.  Wild Wolf is the fruit of that vision.

LW: How are you planning to differentiate your beer from all the other offerings in your area?

MW: Wild Wolf will be focusing on producing quality craft beer that appeals to the local customer base.  By testing the market with batches from the 10-gallon smaller system, Wild Wolf can home in on specific beer recipes that meet the demands of their local customers.  Additionally, there is evidence that the local resident crave craft beer, as there are two other small breweries operating successfully in the area.

LW: Speaking of other breweries in the area, do you view them as competitors, collaborators, or a little of both?

MW: Wild Wolf views the other breweries as both collaborators and partners in the industry, as well as competitors.  The collaborative nature of the brewing industry is one of the things that interested Mary in craft beer in general.  However, Wild Wolf believes that they can differentiate themselves in the market, with the homebewing shop being the just the first of such factors.

LW: A craft brewery with a homebrewing shop is not a common pairing.  Do you anticipate the shop providing much in the way of revenue, or are there other less-tangible benefits to operating it?

MW: The homebrewing shop will generate some revenue for Wild Wolf, on its own.  But, Mary believes it is also an effective marketing tool.  By bringing homebrewers into the brewery, they can help generate interest in Wild Wolf and its beers to the wider community.  Additionally, most homebrewers like beer, so they can become customers in their own right.

LW: What made you choose a two-phase approach to building the brewery?

MW: Creating a brewery is a very complex and long process.  The two phase approach allows Wild Wolf time to get their financing for the larger brewery in order, while honing recipes and building their brand and audience on the smaller system.  Phase 1 of the project, the 10-gallon nanobrewery and homebrewing supply shop, is currently open and will begin growler sales on November 1, 2010.  Wild Wolf hopes to break ground on Phase 2, the larger 15 bbl brewery and pub, by the end of 2010.  Mary recommends that others working on building a brewery consider the phase approach, as well.

LW: How do you plan to involve the community in your brewery?  Have they been supportive of your efforts so far?

MW: Wild Wolf has a number of plans for involving the community. In Phase 1, they plan on offering weekly homebrewing demonstrations, as well as working with local homebrewing clubs through the shop and periodic events and tastings.  In Phase 2, Wild Wolf plans to do regular events to generate funding for local charities.  They will also offer regular brewery tours to the public.  Mary feels that community support of the brewery has been great so far, with people showing a lot of interest in the project.

LW: Many of our readers are homebrewers and love to hear about new recipes.  Could you provide us with a recipe you think may be of interest?

MW: Here is a version of Danny's barleywine.

Wild Wolf's Barleywine

  • 12 lbs Maris Otter malt or 4 lbs dried or liquid malt extract
  • 1 lb crystal 40L-60L malt
  • 1/2 lb crystal 80L malt
  • 1 lb flaked oats
  • 1 lb wheat malt
  • 3 oz northern brewer hops - 60 min
  • 1 oz fuggles hops - 20 min
  • 1 oz fuggles hops - 5 min
  • Use your favorite American or English ale yeast
  • Mash at 148 F for 60 min
  • Ferment between 65 F and 68 F
  • Age on 1 to 3 oz of French oak cubes for up to 6 months

* * *

We want to thank Mary for taking the opportunity to share this information with us and our readers.  If you want to find out more about Mary or Wild Wolf Brewing Company, check out their website or better yet, if you are in central Virginia, stop by the brewery.



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