The outer East Bay area continues to be one of the fastest growing craft brew regions around with this weekend’s official launch of San Ramon’s Schubros Brewery. Bay Area on Tap recently sat down with President Ian Schuster and Brewmaster Mike Johannsen at ØL Beercafe inWalnut Creek to talk about beer, brewing, and starting a responsible business.
Exposed to a variety of beers while living abroad both with the Navy and during his studies overseas, Ian Schuster had long dreamt of opening a brewery. He reflected fondly on drinking English ales in London and aged Barleywine while in Tokyo. Beer’s food pairing properties in particular got Ian’s attention, something that plays a major role in the beers Schubros will be producing. Ian continued his homebrew hobby over the years while working in marketing. After hearing about his passion for beer and brewing, a mutual business contact introduced Ian to Mike Johannsen, a veteran of the food and beverage industry including time at the world renowned Firestone Walker Brewery in Paso Robles, CA. Mike took a more domestic route to better beer than Ian did, supplementing his homebrewing habit with early craft beers like Pete’s Wicked Ale, Red Hook ESB, and Henry Weinhardt’s. The “core four” beers Mike will be brewing at Schubros seem to be influenced by both men’s tastes, with a nod to the traditional and just a little modern California craft beer adventurousness.
The first beer to be released will be Mike’s take on an American Pale Wheat Ale called Nicos American Wheat. When we suggested this might be a good beer to convert drinkers of sub par big brewery produced wheat ales, Mike was quick to point out this beer was very different, combining the crisp refreshing nature of the style with a touch more complexity and body. Most notably, he mentioned the unusual and exciting choice of including rye as part of the grain bill to add a subtle spicy character to the beer. The second beer to be released will be their 680 IPA. Keeping in mind the food pairing focus of this brewery, this 6.2% ABV 50 IBU ale is designed to have plenty of hop character but be balanced enough to pair with a variety of foods without completely overpowering them. The final two beers that will make up the core four beers are still being decided but one of the candidates is a sweet stout called Diablo Dark. We had a chance to sample this beer during our interview. Brewed with English ale yeast, the stout has wonderful caramel notes with hints of chocolate and a mellow roasty finish. Mike tells us this beer was designed to pair with a specific dish a friend had developed: a quinoa and bacon cupcake with stout frosting. Despite being brewed for such a specific purpose, Mike and Ian found the beer to be very versatile, pairing well with a variety of foods and pretty damned good by itself. One thing both Ian and Mike seemed very excited about is their upcoming Passport Series, which will explore the more avant garde, internationally inspired, beers. Berliner Weiss, Barleywine, and Imperial Stouts were mentioned as possible styles they may venture into.
Schubros is governed by what was described as their three core values: Community, Responsibility, and Quality. The community aspect is reflected in the fact that 1% of 680 IPA sales will be donated to schools and parks, 1% of Nicos Wheat sales to environmental causes, and 1% each of the other two yet to be determined core 4 styles to rotating charitable causes. Responsibility was the main reason they’ll be canning their regular offerings. Much thought went into the decision, including a study done at St Mary’s College to look into the benefits of cans vs. bottles. The study found cans to be the better choice for the environment but identified a lingering perception problem; that despite the many world class breweries that now can their products, canned beer was seen by some as an inferior product to bottled beer. Despite this and the high investment costs associated with canning, they decided cans were the right thing to do. Responsibility also affects decisions made at their San Ramon location including the use of LED lights and other eco-friendly building materials.
The brewery will be keg only at first, with their Nicos Wheat launching at the Danville Fine Arts Faire June 16th and 17th and the 680 IPA hitting the market in July. They’ll start with distribution mainly in theSanRamonValley before expanding into parts of the 925 area code. Later this year canning will begin and growler fills should be offered at their San Ramon location.
More about Schubros at: http://www.schubrosbrewery.com/
ØL Beercafe a beer bar and bottle shop located in downtown Walnut Creek. They offer 18 taps and hundreds of bottles of finely crafted beer. http://beer-shop.org/