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The Brewmasters: Jeremy Marshall - Lagunitas

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You are part of a family and legacy of brewing that extends past time immemorial. Since we learned we could take grains, water, and yeast, and turn them into beer we've been trading, training, and enjoying the company of other beer lovers and brewers since.
Whether you brew 1 gallon a year, or 500 gallons a day, you share in the rich legacy of our craft, and play a vital role in continuing and contributing to our tradition. In Brew & A we've gotten to know the homebrewers who make a difference in our craft and in our community. Coming from all backgrounds, all areas of the world, we come together on HomeBrewTalk to learn to brew, teach to brew, and further the great cultural tradition of beer.
In our newest series, "The Brewmasters", we sit down with Brewmasters from across the brewing world to find out more about their contributions. Known too many as "Craft" these brewers brew on a scale without compare. Sure, there are bigger breweries (BMC) producing...beer... I guess... but none are a testament to our heritage as the craft breweries we're seeing take rise. Producing the rich, full bodied, exciting beers we all seek to create, these brewers influence brewing in ways we are only starting to understand. Pre-Prohibition America saw many styles, many brewers which we lost due to the atrocity of the 18th amendment. As we move full force into the new era of brewing, we look to these brewmasters to recapture the craft, and give a new name to American Brewing as a whole.

We start our journey into the world of professional brewing with Jeremy Marshall of Lagunitas.
Lagunitas started in 1993 and has had a no-holds-barred approach to recapturing our brewing legacy. Brewing in a number of styles, and a number of traditions, Lagunitas has uniquely integrated homebrewers and craft beer lovers into its fold and produced superior and top quality beers as a result. Lagunitas takes a very simple approach it seems. Focusing on communication, both from them and to them, Lagunitas has produced some extraordinarily iconic beers with an attitude to back up their bold and complex flavors.
Enter Jeremy Marshall, a Brewmaster exemplifying the attitude and disposition that has made Lagunitas so successful in a market tired of traditional exposure, i.e. frogs that talk, trains that go nowhere, and horses clearly burdened by the bland commodity lagers they are hauling around all day. Jeremy is as intense and hard hitting as a Lagunitas IPA, but provides the sort of rich context typically found in their Imperial Stout. Truly an inspiration to the craft, and homebrew world, it was a pleasure to get to know Jeremy for our newest series, The Brewmasters.

Austin: How did you start brewing?
Jeremy: My college calculus instructor and I smoked some really good weed & he was like "....hey wanna brew some beer?" I wasn't 21 so I was like "**** yeah...." and I had no idea beer could be made at home let alone better beer than most of what was in stores back then....
Austin: How did you start brewing commercially?
Jeremy: I like brewing so much that I wanted to go to school for it. Hard to believe today, but back then people thought I was crazy to want to be a brewer and that I was making up that there existed education to become a brewer. At the time, the main two brewing education paths were offered by Siebel and UC Davis. Siebel seemed more German tradition while Davis seemed more English. I am a bigger fan of ales (though enjoy lagers too) & was already looking for any excuse to move to Northern California. So Davis it was and the proximity to Sonoma County (along with prodding from a classmate that said Lagunitas would be a good fit for me..) got me familiar with the strong beer scene emerging out of wine country, and I knew it would be a fertile ground for finding a job since the bust of the late 90's seemed to be repairing itself. I find it ironic that now Lagunitas is the largest craft brewer geographically near both Siebel and Davis!

Austin: Can you describe your brewery, equipment, how much beer is produced, any other information that would make your brewery unique?
Jeremy: We currently operate a 100hl (hectoliter, 100 liters) and a 300hl brewhouse in California and have one 300hl brewhouse running in Chicago with a second one being installed. These are fun, Bavarian systems made by Rolec and feature very high levels of automation and are very custom to the user. Twenty years ago no one could get a system like this for the price. Now Rolec and others offer very nice brewhouses at very competitive prices to both large and small craft brewers. We also have Rolec CCTs (cylindro-conical tanks), Alfa Laval centrifuges, KHS keg lines and Krones bottling lines. At present we don't put beer into cans. In 2014 we made about 600,000 BBLS (barrels), which is really effin' large compared to my first year when we labored out 18,000 BBLS, each one of them a battle and a story. Nothing really makes our brewery unique, in fact there really isn't anything unique about a brewery except its water and its people. In this regard, we have nice water that is somewhat similar in CA & IL, the supply is a lot more temperamental in CA (either no rain or way too much) and as far as people go, we have a genuine tribe comprised of truly brilliant and colorful characters. When the culture that makes the brewery what it is changes, the brewery can die pretty quickly. In the day of really ridiculous fast paced growth such as nowadays, this is a real concern for all the little guys becoming big, including us.

Austin: Do you still brew at home?
Jeremy: Not as much as I should. I've never really had the space, and still don't, so must do it vicariously. A bunch of our guys started an internal company homebrew club, so accountants and maintenance guys alike can brew. I've been meaning to engage, but haven't had the time. When I see the meetings I note how awesome it is to homebrew inside a brewery, with floor drains, all kinds of utilities such as CO2 and hot liquor and of course tons of grain, hops & super viable yeast! Folks may get a crash course when they try at home!
Austin: What are some of the differences between small batch and large commercially produced batches?
Jeremy: Besides the obvious differences in scale, it's always amazed me how much commercial brewing really is just big homebrew. This is one reason why every homebrewer with a dream is starting his or her own brewery right now; they already talk the language and know the process. One thing is how much more efficient good equipment is (and how ridiculously expensive everything is) and how important automation is once the process is layered. A homebrewer would be pretty stressed trying to do 9 or more batches a day, and when you do it commercially, every little mistake will show in the beer. Hard decisions must be made. Equipment will fail. You will become stressed. Batches will have to be destroyed. I think every brewer should try to brew 8 brews a day without any automation. It will create a lot of respect for it later. I remember when there was a batch for which I did everything; tasting it, I felt so much pride, I wanted to believe it was better, even though it wasn't and to think so really cheapened my fellow brewers; the point is those days are gone, now every batch represents the efforts of many wonderful ladies and gentlemen every time.

Austin: What's your favorite beer?
Jeremy: Man I hate that question, it really depends on the time of day and year, the weather, the mood I'm in. I like IPAs and I like sours. I also like to switch between them to amplify the hops. I really like to switch it up.
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Jeremy: That's a tough one without pointing fingers at certain vendors. I will say one time we tried rice hulls to assist with our lauter bed in the imperial stout, which had a formidable run off if it even decided it would run off! I remember being excited by the idea that these things would help us, and eager to try them out. The bags are huge and packed in like compressed cardboard. When I cut it open and tried to add the rice hulls in the man way to the mash tun, the bag exploded like one of those confetti things. Rice hulls went everywhere, I mean everywhere, it was a terrible mess, and if you chose to work in a brewery, well these types of messes are your business! We added the remaining rice hulls more carefully and the brew lautered like total dog ****, worse than the ones that didn't have any rice hulls. I concluded it was a conspiracy by larger brewers to get craft brewers to use rice. Never again rice hulls!

Austin: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc. This is sort of a zen question. What is the perfect beer to you? It doesn't have to be a beer you've made, or even a beer that's been made.
Jeremy: That question just makes me angry. The perfect beer to me doesn't exist and motivates me to always work harder, for every day I try to make the perfect beer, and every day I fail, so I get up and try it again. I hate the term brewmaster. No one masters this. If they think they did then something is wrong. I am still learning every day I brew, and that's one reason I love being a brewer.

Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences.
Jeremy: This is a good one. The guy who worked at the homebrew shop I went to was kind of a nut. I'd ask him questions and I'm not really sure if he knew. I saw oak chips and he said very good for oak flavor. That seemed to make sense, so I asked how to use them. Pretty sure he said just add them to the brew. That seemed to make perfect sense. So I go home, and chuck my oak chips into my IPA wort along with all my bittering hops. Everything about that batch seemed money; my friends gathered over 3 weeks after bottling to indulge in the now much fabled and anticipated Oaked IPA. I poured it into a glass, and noted the huge hop aroma (back then you were pretty gangsta if you dry hopped with Cascade, Centennial and Columbus), then I took a sip and it literally tasted like the lumber section of Home Depot. It was terrible; the plankiest, gnarly, woody and ligneous abomination to ever grace a glass. My friends went out for a 30 pack of Coors (they couldn't afford Pete's Wicked Ale) and urged me not to quit my day job. Never again have I boiled oak chips for 90 minutes or at all...
Austin: Do you use any publicly available tools, or websites in your brewing?
Jeremy: No we really pride ourselves on forcing brewers to perform the calculations. It's a lot more engaging and a lot more gratifying.

Austin: What is your favorite food and beer pairing?
Jeremy: I like to garnish a beer with something that doesn't touch it that acts retro nasally, such as a little wedge of fresh cut ginger on rich brown ale. I like Thai and Indian food with an IPA and I like a Bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry cobbler or cheesecake.
Austin: What was brewing like pre-Craft Beer Revolution?
Jeremy: Brewing was either performed commercially with fairly predictable inputs (Cluster hops for bittering and noble hops for aroma) and was basically just a job for a lot of folks. They made a commodity product and most of that was driven by price wars and marketing (let's not forget the wide mouth can & cold activated imagery). Brewing was basically industrial cooking, not much different from other food stuffs. There were plenty of very knowledgeable and passionate people around, but not like today. Today things are in a renaissance.
Austin: What do you think the future of craft beer holds? Will the next 10 years bring the same kind of change we've seen in the last ten.?
Jeremy: I think it will. I think we will go back to pre-Prohibition number of breweries or larger but for different reasons. Back then folks drank local because there wasn't refrigeration, so that was the way to drink fresh. Now folks will drink local again but it's not as simple as the locavore movement. They will drink local because the best hoppy beers, ones made from real hops, generally taste the best right at packaging. So unless you're a larger brewery with really good and conscientious distributors, you will be selling fast and local and this will be especially true for the hoppier offerings.
Austin: What style do you think will take off in the near future?
Jeremy: Blonde Stouts. They are tricky but very delicious.
Austin: Do you filter any beers? How do you clear before packaging?
Jeremy: We filter most of our beers loosely through cellulose. We have several beers that we do not filter and generally wouldn't filter a dark beer. It's important to not strip out the hops and keep a little meat behind. But at the same time i don't agree with commercially releasing beers that look like orange juice with hops floating about. I know it's natural but c'mon.
Austin: Do you make any beer that you would consider aging?
Jeremy: Yes, most of our bigger beers such as Brown Shugga, Hairy Eyeball and Gnarlywine age well and will peak at a certain point, then die off. The high polyphenol content of our Cappuccino Stout due to coffee additions helps it lay down gracefully as well (polyphenols are antioxidants). Most of our beers do not age well due to the hop loading, so recommend drinking those right away.

Austin: Sour beer plans? How about Brett beers?
Jeremy: Yes we plan to tinker with sour beers, but not on a large scale. We've been making Brett beers for awhile now in Bourbon barrels and those are only available at the Taproom. We know of a small brewery right up the road who is really good at these styles so we generally like to leave these beers up to them. Who knows? If they weren't so close maybe we'd be more motivated to clinch our own thirsts!
Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started brewing?
Jeremy: Use the 7.5 solid stopper to shake your carboy and aerate your wort, not the 6.5. The third time I accidentally pushed it into the carboy I cursed myself. Those things are a bitch to get out.
***
If you found Jeremy's word reverberating in you there's a reason. Through all our individual experiences, through all the world has given us and taken away,through all the struggles and the hardship of our day to day lives we seek solace in the arms of a beer. A lover without reservation, a friend without comparison, beer inspires us, and crafts us while we craft it.
Please join me in raising a glass to Jeremy Marshall of Lagunitas, the first in our series "The Brewmasters" and a brewmaster making a difference in our brewing world.
Salud!

 
We're Lagunitas fans. I've read about 5-O trying to bust people in their tap room for selling weed when in actuality all they were doing was giving it away, so I busted out laughing right at the first question! I'm sure my engineering student son would love to shadow him for a week!
 
I've been a Lagunitas fan since back in the day and have tried all of their beers at least twice (many, more than I care to admit). One of my regular go-tos is their Hop Stoopid. I just love the bitter! However, my absolute favorite is their Born Yesterday Fresh Hop Pale Ale.
A few months back, I was lucky enough to try a pint, from a freshly tapped keg, at one of our local tap rooms.
As the beer was poured into the pint glass, the first thing I noticed was the aroma...it was incredible! It was a fruity, floral, piney bouquet. There were notes of orange, grapefruit, passion fruit, and a fantastic dominant herbal hop presence.
It poured a slightly hazy pale golden yellow and had a thick white head with excellent retention and a nice delicate lacing.
Then, the taste...
The use of fresh hops in this beer is simply amazing. Excellent mouth feel, moderate bitterness, fruity, piney...the perfect combination of aroma and flavor. The best way to describe this beer is a glass of hoppy, resinous goodness.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I was only able to manage 3 pints prior to the keg blowing within 2 hours of the tap.
If it had not been labeled as a pale ale, I would've assumed it was an IPA. In my humble opinion, this is the finest beer that Lagunitas has ever brewed. I sincerely hope this beer becomes a regular for them. Hats off to the brew crew at Lagunitas for this superior beer!
 
I have such an affection for Lagunitas - it's due to a lot of factors, but the biggest is that the three times I've visited the Petaluma brewery they were so welcoming and friendly. It must've been clear to them how excited I was to be on this pilgrimage, so they were crazy generous and gave me glassware and shirts and stickers. Pretty much solidified them as my favorite brewery.
 
Jeremy's humility is impressive. "Commercial brewing is just big homebrew."
Yes, just like the pyramids are big lego towers.
The picture of their MT and Kettle is amazing. My car would fit in that!
Great interview, I really look forward to this series.
 
I have only seen Guinness blonde stout in my area...haven't tried it, but have only heard negatives. I'd love to try one from Lagunitas... haven't had a bad beer from them yet!
 
I can see why he commented that it's just big homebrew. It is basically the same. I have yet to try that Equinox hopped ale. Have to try & find it around here, besides the usual couple offerings I see from them. Good ales that make me think of improved versions of some of my recipes. That's why I think he says that...bigger versions of HB recipes? Anyway, I think that since big,hoppy beers are leveling off & more sessionable ones are coming around, I have a question. Do you think that rare or extinct styles will re-appear? I've got a dampfbier recipe pretty close to the original & a few of us are working on the extinct East-German Kottbusser atm. Do you see these sort of beers making a comeback as sessionable craft beers?
 
Recently I went to buy a 6-pack of Lagunitas IPA but somehow ended up with Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter. I don't understand it! I guess in my haste I mistook one for the other, go figure.
 
"We know of a small brewery right up the road who is really good at [sour beers, brett beers] so we generally like to leave these beers up to them. Who knows? If they weren't so close maybe we'd be more motivated to clinch our own thirsts!"
Hah! Nice tip of the hat to Russian River!
 
Great interview, thanks! I imagined this would focus on the drama about the recent lawsuits. I'm glad it wasn't a tabloid post. Blonde Stout?! I know what I'll be looking into brewing next.
 
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