Interview with Bryan Brushmiller – Owner of Burley Oak Brewery – Part 2 of 2

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 second half of the interview done at the brewery later in the day.  The first part of the interview I did while we were standing in the beer garden earlier in the day.  This is the interview with Brian the brew master.

Scott: Where did you get the inspiration for the design of the tree?
Bryan: I just drew it one night
Scott: You drew it yourself?
Bryan: Yeah, we just drew it up. My buddy’s got a killer Mac. We were on his Mac messing around, and like, found some stuff, and then like, kind of sketched it. And then our boy is like a super good artist. He was just made the gnarlyness of it he made it twist around he just added some stuff to it.
Scott: So on your website it says that the Burley brewery name was derived from what you feel is a historically accurate representation of the town Berlin, Maryland.
Bryan: Yeah that’s what Wikipedia said.
Scott: So were you looking for a name for the brewery and decided to query Wikipedia on what Berlin was or did you have that in your head ahead of time?
Bryan: No I was just had it like, Burley, Burley Oak. That’s a wicked name you know what I mean? I was like, alright. ‘Cause we wanted to do Burley, kinda keep it local cause we didn’t want to be like Ocean City you know? Burley is kinda abstract so its not really…then the whole oak part comes from the building…the building is like this 120 year old building. So.
Scott: This building is 120 years old?
Bryan: Yeah. It actually used to be a cooperage at the turn of the century so they made barrels, wooden barrels, and then they make them in the back and then they pack them with oysters or seafood and then take them down to the railroad tracks you guys walked down and sent them to Baltimore. So its was cool it was like a package house. You know we’re all into like, oak aged beers, and diggin’ like, sours, and chardonnay barrels or whatever. So it’s kinda cool.

Scott: I’m seeing a good brewery set up behind you. You’ve got a stainless steel tank, I see a copper tank back there. When you’re talking about the oak barrels…and more importantly, on your site you talk about taking old age technologies and blending them together with new technologies to make beers. So between the 2 of old technologies and new technologies where do you find yourself making the beers more?
Bryan: Right now it’s all straight up off the system you know what I mean? Like off the system Franken-system we put together. You know I mean, I definitely like, we’re working on like designs for like a cool ship and just stuff like that but fucking we can’t make beer enough to supply our festivals for 6 hours. So you know, like, our main goal is to just try and make beer.

Scott: OK so I am going to put you on the spot on this one because you do say it on your website. You do say something to the effect of “I’m blending the old with the new”. So give me the old and give me the new.
Bryan: So the new would be all this technology and you know, using heat exchangers and glycol systems, but I guess the old would be like we don’t filter any of our beers, we don’t use any finings no filk no isinglass, no irish malt, no preservatives so its…I mean the thing you’ve got has 4 ingredients: hops, water, barley and yeast that’s it.
Scott: So you’re standing to the German beer laws?
Bryan: Yeah, we try to, you know what i mean? We think that’s where the beer is going to be the best instead of adding a bunch of shit to it, you know? Like, I know ales are supposed to be fermented for 2 weeks but, you know what? If they’re in the cold tank for an extra week think it friggin’ tastes a lot better you know what I mean? We don’t filter so it just grows up, you know what I mean? We don’t taking the yeast out of it….
Scott: So as a processor your saying your starting with the German beer laws, but does that exclude any beers that you would include in your suite of products available because they wouldn’t be that type of beer?

Bryan: Yeah like rye…the local rye would be, you know what I mean?

Scott: What’s the beer that you haven’t made that you’re most excited to try making?
Bryan: Saissons.
Scott: And why haven’t you made that beer yet?
Bryan: I think because of the yeast. You know yeast is super expensive and its even more expensive because we can’t harvest it, so we only have like, one tank that we can really harvest yeast from, everything else is done in bottoms. So it like you go into this whole romantic idea that yeah, but then there’s some actual logistic problems…I can’t spend $200 on saissons yeast and not harvest it 9 times, right? We harvest our Kolsch yeast so we don’t have a lot tanks we can harvest yeast from. We’ve always said like bean counters don’t make brewers? It doesn’t make sense that we use like crazy grain, like 9 different grains in our Rude Boy. We use a lot of grain We spend a lot of money on beers ’cause we want it to be good beer. Its all about the beer, you know?

Scott: Considering the fact that there is not an empty stool at this bar currently, would you consider the town of Berlin to have a positive response for your beer?
Bryan: For sure, yeah man, they’re awesome.
Scott: How long did it take after opening this establishment to find that positive response?
Bryan: We ran out of beer in about 2 weeks [Laughter]. Literally we had 1 keg left until we were kegging off our Belgian and that was going to be like, a special beer. We made it, we let it sit and we were like, fuck, we gotta keg this shit off, dude. So it was a Friday night at 8 o’clock we had 1 keg left out of 3, me made 3 batches, and 1 keg in the walk-in, a half keg up front here and we finally kegged off the Belgian and it was BOOM alright we got 2 beers on for tonight, you know?

Scott: What’s the turn around time for you to produce a beer? If you say right now, today, I need a beer, how quickly is that beer on tap?
Bryan: Probably like 16 days.
Scott: 16 days.
Bryan: Yeah, definitely, but I mean, then we’re like, ahhh we can keep it in the cold for 1 more week and then it will just be dank as fuck, you know what I mean? So we’re like, that’s what gets us in trouble, you know? That’s why we’re always like, its all about the beer.

Scott: What’s beer have you found so far out of the beers that you’ve produced has responded most favorably to being left alone longer?
Bryan: The bigger beers. Like our Rudeboy it’s 9 different malts, this big red ale. It just loves the cold, getting funky, you know what I mean?

Scott: What’s the beer that you feel has most quintessentially defined your brewing company so far out of those that you’ve presented to the public?
Bryan: Either Rude boy with that big malt bill 9 different grains and just all those notes and complexity. Or, I’d like to say Pale Rider because we got local grains, you know what I mean? Like that’s fucking awesome. Like we’re using a farmer whose growing grains and we put in our beer and then we take all that grain and we give it to a cattle farmer and he feeds his cows with it and he brings us back beef, you know what I mean and we eat it for lunch. So, that’s what’s cool.
Scott: Along those lines, outside of the water that you put into your beer, what percentage of the product that you’re putting into the beer is local?
Bryan: It’s still a small percentage. I mean like, next year you tell me, I’d have to say like, a large percentage. I mean like, we’re working with farmers right now. I have some brilliant farmer his name is Brooks Claybell with Penn State, he’s like an older farmer, he teaches other farmers how to farm. He’s fucking money. He’s actually growing a seed, a 2 row barley seed, for other farmers to take that seed and use as a cover crop. So, instead of using like, winter wheat and tilling it under, not getting any money at all, dude, if we can make a 2 row barley, its called Charles, and we can have these farmers use that as their cover crop for the winter, they’re making like $1400 an acre…you know this is what we’re guessing….this is a guestimate.

Scott: Where do you want to go as a brewery? I mean obviously you’ve already got a nice suite of products but is there a particular part of the market that you’re trying to be accompanied with or is there something that you’re saying I want to be a bigger producer and whatever beer comes to mind, whatever beer we brew….
Bryan: I dunno. I want to be a community brewery you know what I mean, where we can…so we can use the farmers and grow grain for us and give it back to the other farmers that grow cattle and just like the whole local system, you know what I mean.
Scott: Like a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture.
Bryan: Yeah. How cool is that. Yeah. So we’re helping out the community. You know what I mean. That’s what its about, you know. That’s responsible business. But as for beers. I love Belgians you know. We made a wicked one, we just kicked it last night. I just like drinkable good beers. We have 3 beers coming out that are like 8-9%. I dunno, like its cliche to say like pushing the limits of beer but I dunno. (pointing at the beer I have in my hand) What style would that be? Think about it.
Scott: I’ve got the Pale Ryeder. I personally don’t think that’s a pale. Its not even close to a pale. But that’s not to say its not a good beer, its a very good beer.
Chris: A Pale what? A pale ale or a pale rye?
Scott: No this is…you can take a look at the color. Oh okay, so Chris…go ahead Chris.
Chris: Its a Pale Rye. Its a different type of beer, man.
Bryan: That’s what I mean, to define us as…
Chris: And that’s where the “independent” comes in.
Bryan: …To be like, fuck styles, you know what I mean, that’s what we want to make.
Chris: Totally twisting it up a little bit.

Scott: So what is your favorite beer to drink that is not something you brew?
Bryan: Hmmmm, {long pause] Rodenbach or Leffe from New Belgium.
Scott: And what types of beers are those?
Bryan: They’re both sours.
Scott: Sours
Bryan: Yeah, Rodenbach, I can fuckin’ drink Rodenbach every night.

Scott: Do you find those in town?
Bryan: No. Like, Max’s on Broadway.
Scott: Where in town do you find a beer store that sells good craft beers?
Bryan: Cheers. Cheers is fucking money.
Scott: They looked like they were good. Now lets talk closer to Ocean City. Where in Ocean City do you find good craft beers sold by the 6 pack?
Bryan: Dude its crazy. If you asked me that a year ago I’d be like, I don’t know. Now its like the Green Room, The Citgo right next to Crabs to Go.
Scott: Oh out there 589.
Bryan: Yeah, yeah right on 589 and 15.
Scott: Well Bob.
Bryan: Yeah Bob! [laughter] He’s got the dank shit, dude! Oh man.
Scott: But specifically within the town limits of Ocean City? Where would you find a good place? I was told–
Outside voice: Anthony’s is money.
Scott: Anthony’s, I’m not going to argue Anthony’s is money. So the funny thing about this question I keep trying to ask, is that every time I ask it I find that I’m having to refine it. So here we go, in Ocean City, during the off-season, where can I find a place to buy good craft beers?
Bryan: 65th street liquor and kegs right next to the Galaxy.
Scott: Right next to Galaxy? But do they have good craft? They have a large selection.
Bryan: Yeah they got like a lot of 750s now.
Scott: Okay.
Bryan: Lets see, where else. See that’s all I really would know. Like, if I was in town I would be like, alright, like right now I would go there.
Scott: We really had a difficult time finding good craft beers and it kinda put us back a little bit.
Bryan: But you know they weren’t cold.
Scott: It doesn’t matter to me.
Bryan: But they have a shelf of 750s.
Scott: You know what, I assure you I’m looking and I’m not seeing so, yeah finding a good craft beer…there was a place out here on…you know where Steer Inn…
Bryan: Hops of Barley?
Scott: Yeah Steer Inn, across the street from them.
Bryan: Was that good? I’ve never been there.
Scott: They had a very good collection. Now I will describe their collection as this: it was a great craft beer selection. However, its very clear that they’re using the same distributor as some of the other craft beer distributors that find themselves promoting business in Maryland because you see your Evolution, you see your Flying Dog, you see your Sierra Nevadas out there, you see your Magic Hat. Honestly it was the ones that were at the Good Beer Festival last week. So its difficult to say what you’re seeing but you’re absolutely seeing the independent breweries brewing the independent beer.
Bryan: Yeah. For sure.
Scott: I’m sorry that was totally a plug. [Laughter]

Bryan: I would say Cheers has a lot of them, too. Definitely. (pointing at the other people around me) So what kind of style would you say that was?
Bryan: Ask these guys, they’re all drinking. Here’s the thing…I wanna know. I mean that’s my question I ask everybody.
Peter W: Sure. I’m really enjoying this.
Scott: What are you guys drinking over here? Peter?
Peter E: Uh, the September Fest.
Scott: Joe?
Joe: September.
Scott: September? and Chris? September.
Chris: September
Scott: And what is your initial impression of the September?
Joe: It doesn’t suck.
Peter: Rich.
Scott: I would almost say nutty.
Bryan: Yeah Pale Rider and that nuttiness.
Scott: Yeah, I’m getting nutty in the Pale rider. And its not like a nutty like a peanutty its more like a pine-nutty.
Bryan: Yeah yeah yeah definitely. Definitely. That’s that rye. Rye does crazy stuff man we’re like whoa, what’s this going to do? next time. Now we’re going to add, like, double. We’re going to add 100 next time.
Scott: Yeah this is absolutely pine-nutty. That’s what I’ve come up with. [Laughter}

Only 1 comment left

  1. Peter Worstell /

    OK, so I was sitting next to Scott for the second part of this interview with Bryan, and let me tell you he is a cool person. There is no mistaking the fact that he is passionate about his beers, but at the same time, looking to work within and better the community of which he is a part. Burley Oak Brewery is definitely a place that I would go back to, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good pint while in the OC area.

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