As a follow-up to the first half of our interview with Donavan Hall, partner in the Rocky Point Artisan Brewers (RPAB), this post presents the conclusion of our Q and A with Donavan. RPAB, which was founded in 2008, is planning to sell its first beer by the summer of 2011.
Lug Wrench (LW): Getting back to the 'Local' theme, are you able to source any of your brewing ingredients from local suppliers in the Long Island area?
Donavan Hall (DH): Another way we are looking to "keep it local" is by using locally produced ingredients. We have been talking with a couple of local farms about sowing a few acres of barley, but given that there are no malting facilities nearby we would have to malt the grains ourselves. We will probably experiment with malting our own for a special "harvest" release once a year. Our harvest beers already make use of hops grown right here on Long Island. Ultimately, we would like to make at least one "All Long Island" beer that will include only ingredients grown on Long Island -- and that includes the microflora we'll use to ferment it.
LW: In order to sell your beer local, have you looked at other programs/means to distribute your beer outside the traditional channels (bars and bottle shops)?
DH: Because nanobreweries only produce a single digit number of barrels per week, it's preferable to sell directly to the end user than to a wholesaler (like a pub or beer store who expect nanobrewed beer to be as inexpensive as industrially, mass-produced beer). Of course, breweries are not allowed to sell directly to the public unless they get an additional license to do so. Fortunately, small breweries can get such a license.
LW: Where did you get the inspiration for the beers you are planning to commercialize? How are you picking your offerings?
DH: When Mike Voigt and I started RPAB, we began experimenting with different strains of yeast. We discovered that a particular strain of lager yeast consistently produced fantastic beers. So we built a walk-in fermentation room and two large conical fermenters and concentrated on lager production. We now have a standard repertoire of a half dozen lager beers: two types of Pilsner, a Helles, a Vienna, a Munich, a Doppelbock, and a Schwartzbier.
Each summer we brew as much Hefeweizen as possible (mainly for consumption at the beach, only two blocks away from the brewery). We have brewed other ales, mainly English-style bitters and ESBs for cask conditioning, since the brewery has an English ale yeast that is very reliable. During the cooler months we brew a Bitter, a Pale Ale, and a Porter (all for cask conditioning). We also love Belgian-style beers, but have yet to develop any particular beer for eventual commercial production. Currently, the brewers are experimenting with five different strains of Belgian yeast to determine which works best in their brewery.
LW: Looking forward, what are the biggest hurdles you see your brewer facing
DH: The biggest hurdles that face RPAB at the moment are associated with production. Given the limited quantity that the brewers can produce, the number of regular "accounts" that can be supplied will have to be small. For small breweries, initially, demand out-paces the ability to supply. Brewers often scramble to meet the demand by expanding production. This can lead to mixed results. Staying small will probably be the biggest challenge.
LW: Would you be willing to provide a favorite recipe, whether it’s from your professional recipe book or homebrewing days?
DH: One of our more popular beers is our Black Lager which is modeled a little on what beer geeks call Schwarzbier. For that beer we mainly use Vienna malt and Munich malt with a smaller percentage of Melanoidin and Carafa Special I. We bitter with Magnum hops and add Hallertauer for flavor and aroma (but not too much). To make this beer a little more special, sometimes we bump up the grain bill and add oats to the mash.
If you want to find out more about Donavan or Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, check out their website, or better yet, if you are in the Long Island area, stop by the brewery.
“A little bit of beer is divine medicine.”