I met up with Bryan and his brew master, Brian Carl, from Burley Oak Brewery at the Oktoberfest in Berlin, MD for a couple of interviews. This is the interview with Brian Carl the brew master. This is the first part of the interview I did with owner Bryan Brushmiller, and this is the second part.
Scott: Are you Brian?
Scott: Hey man, I’m Scott.
Brian: Scott, ‘sup dude.
Scott: So you’re the brewer for Burley Oaks Brewing?
Scott: Cool. So do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Brian: Who are you…whats the….
Brian: Oh nice. That’s kinda scary actually.
Scott: Whats that? Whats scary?
Scott: Oh, you being interviewed.
Brian: Yeah (laughter)
Scott: Yeah. So how long have you been brewing beer?
Brian: 10 years
Scott: Was it home brewed stuff for 10 years or were you actually working for other companies?
Brian: No, I home brewed for a few years and then started doing some commercial stuff.
Scott: And who did you work for prior to coming to Burley Oak?
Brian: A couple of places. San Diego, and then New York, Outerbanks and now I’m in Maryland.
Scott: What kind of beers do you typically find yourself brewing? Is there a favorite or do you just…is there a swath of beers that you like to brew?
Brian: I don’t know, I’d have to say my beers are kind of like a fingerprint. They’re never the same. I take a style and I tweak it to make it my style.
Scott: And do you apply that to every beer that you brew?
Scott: This is obviously the most recent beer that you’ve brewed. (holding up my glass)
Brian: Yeah it’s Octoberfest.
Scott: Whats the most consistent beer you’re brewing over there? This is obviously a seasonal–
Brian: I’ve brewed 12 batches since I’ve been there and no beers been the same and I’ve tried to find what people are looking for, what people are liking and tried to veer it towards that maybe in 1 or 2 batches, but I don’t see myself having 5 main beers on tap all the time.
Scott: It could just change all the time.
Scott: How did you and Bryan initially meet each other?
Brian: He posted an ad on ProBrewer and I got up with him. And we took it from there.
Scott: Are you guys in the same area? Obviously you lived out here as well?
Brian: No, I’ve been all over the country since high school, and now I’m in Maryland.
Scott: Did you come to Maryland to expressly brew for him?
Scott: What was it about him that brought you to Maryland to brew beer?
Scott: You wanted to come to Maryland.
Brian: No. Location was, it was close to the ocean (laughter)..I could surf…
Outside voice: I mean, he’s wearing a Quicksilver shirt man. He’s a surfer dude! From San Diego!
Brian: And Brian and I just kinda clicked. He surfs, he’s super cool, and I’d worked for a bunch of dicks previous to this and…
Scott: What do you think of the surfing scene here?
Brian: East coast surfing is awesome when you can get it.
Scott: So have you caught any of the hurricane action?
Brian: Oh yeah. But surfing on the east coast sucks. You know, you get 2 days of good surf and then you wait for 3 months. (laughter) So, its you know… it is what it is. But I’m stoked, you know? Openin’ up a brewery makin’ some kick ass beers and everyone’s loving it.
Scott: So what has been, so far, working for Burley Oaks, your most favorite moment in the whole process of being an employee and brewing the beers? Whats been the “this is awesome!” moment?
Brian: (Pause). Its all kinda cool. Its all very challenging.
Brian: There’s been no like, one instance where like wow, we’re kickin’ ass. But…because there’s daily challenges that put you back on your heels and go “ok, what do I do now? How do I improve this, What do i gotta do…” You know, its intense. So, every day, if I get a beer on tap, that’s a great improvement. For the system I’m working with, you know?
Scott: Whats been the most positive experience in terms of feedback you’ve received from somebody drinking one of your beers so far?
Brian: I wouldn’t say 1 person but I would say that I am running out of beer because people are drinking it. I shut off growler sales because I can’t make that much beer. We are running out of beer serving pints.
Brian: Its stupid. So that’s not a bad thing.
Scott: Have there been any negative experiences along the way?
Brian: On the beer side, no. No, there’s no negative its just good hard work and I’m loving it ’cause I get to just figure it out. And its…dude working a brewery is intense anyway. It’s just a lot of problem solving daily in this place.
Scott: Just for the record I think Todd had just announced in the background that they’ve tapped the keg on the Burley Oak.
Outside voice: Its gone. Awwww.
Scott: Its all gone. You gotta go to the brewery. (laughter).
Brian: And I gotta go to the brewery and fill kegs now (laughter).
After a quick break from checking on the keg situation, we started talking again…
Scott: Are you working with a distributor?
Brian: Do not sign up with a distributor. Do not, do not, no. Wait ’til next year. Wait ’til next year. We’re not established yet. We’re not big enough yet. And he’s all getting these great offers…
Scott: So do you think signing up for the distributorship has aided in making it difficult to produce enough beer, because your selling that much beer?
Brian: No, because we’re not selling it to the distributor but, to sign up for all these festivals, yes. I’ve had to put the brakes on. If we sign up with a distributor and they said, “ok, we got you in 8 festivals, and we’re gonna need this much beer”, and i said “No, I cannot…no.” Where do you wanna be? Do you wanna be in house or do you wanna be–
Scott: Well if you’re not selling your beer through a distributor, where is your beer being sold that you’re running out of it?
Brian: In house. Like, right at our own bar.
Scott: At your own bar?
Brian: Yeah (laughter). Thats insane.
Brian: Selling pints, you know? Like I can’t keep beer on tap ’cause we’re selling stupid pints. Not even growlers.
Scott: Not even growlers.
Brian: Pints. No growlers. We’re out of beer. I’m having to rush my beers.
Scott: So what are you going to have to do to increase production? Is it a matter of equipment? Is it a matter of man hours? Is it a matter of both?
Brian: Its mostly storage. And equipment. I don’t want to say equipment, but storage. Which means serving tanks, and/or kegs. I like serving tanks better myself ’cause you put a whole batch in there and serve right to the bar.
Scott: How many square feet is the current location?
Scott: 6000. And how much of that is used for brewing?
Brian: (Thinks). 5000. Or 4500.
Scott: If you were to take a guess as to how many barrels of beer you could produce on an annual basis what do you think you could do with that in the current location.
Brian: No se.
Scott: No se?
Brian: No se.
Scott: No se. What are you currently producing?
Brian: (Goes back to question from before). Because my beers….I don’t like to rush my beers. I’m doing an ale and I like to lager an ale so that it comes out how it should be. I don’t like to push my ales for 7 days to get it out there. I like to give my beers an extra week, an extra 2 weeks, so that they’re that much better.
Scott: How would you describe your own Octoberfest, if you were gonna talk about the taste. How would you describe the taste of your Octoberfest? The aroma? The mouth feel?
Brian: Fall time.
Scott: Fall time.
Brian: Very earthy. It starts smooth but it finishes very…after you take a sip it finishes very earthy, very true.
Scott: We were actually discussing earlier saying that we felt it had an earthy tone to it.
Brian: Yeah. Thats what I was going for. So, I’m glad you guys picked that up. (laughter). Shit yeah.
Chris: I’m glad I got what you were aming for.
Scott: You did. He was the one that said earthy.
Brian: Yeah. Its real light, it goes down smooth, then you’re like wow, let me get another taste of that. Thats the bomb.
Brian: Thats what I’m trying to do for my beers you know? You give them that extra little bit of time. Give it that extra week or 2 in cold and it just comes out like, bam. You can’t deny it.
Scott: If there was one beer so far that you’ve brewed for Burley Oak that has made you most proud as a brewer, what beer would that be? The one that when you tapped it you were like, “ooh thats money.”?
Brian: Nope. None.
Scott: None. You’re equally as proud of all the beers.
Brian: Yeah. Absolutely. However they’re all equally still in the works. (laughter). They’ll always be evolving you know?
Brian: They’ll all still gonna be evolving. You know, I can put out a beer and not be stoked about it but everyone else is. But to me I just kinda, I’m gonna throw in my 2 cents here and tweak it a little bit. So, its a fun ride, you know?
Chris: There’s always room for improvement?
Brian: Always. You know, you don’t get a recipe and say “Thats it”. You get a recipe and say how can I improve this? How can I tweak it? How can I make this different? Maybe I’ll try hopping, maybe i’ll a little of this in, a little of that in. A handful of…you know? Thats what brewing is, at a pub level. You go to Evo…they make great beer. They do. They make kick ass beer. Cask conditioned. Barrel aging. They are putting out some insane beers. But, I’d say 90% of that brewing is factory stuff. You know, they have to produce to supply the man. Which is tough. And on my end, I can brew a batch today, and not like it and brew that batch to begin next week and tweak it.
Scott: When you lived in San Diego what was your favorite craft beer to drink that you weren’t involved in the process to drink of the brewing?
Brian: I’d say Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.
Scott: (laughter). Thats a great beer.
Brian: They do a Double Arrogant Bastard, they do a…..but Arrogant Bastard wasn’t…I hate it, i drank it to get drunk to begin with. And then I started brewing and learned what went into beers and figured out…and I couldn’t figure out how they produced such a, such a huge beer, so nicely. And thats what I’m trying to do here, is make big beers. Just like, big heavy beers so good, you know? My next 3 beers are over 8% and they’re gonna be the bomb. (laughter). So sick. I don’t know if everyone else is gonna like it but I’m gonna be stoked on them.