GRAND RAPIDS — Sometimes, siblings are so inseparable the only thing that comes between them is one particular beer.
Chat with Jacob and Sarah Derylo, brother and sister separated by three years, the friendship is obvious. There’s a natural bounce to their conversation, mostly supported by Sarah’s tendency to speak for Jacob. But when Brewery Vivant’s Tripel is brought up, a nerve is hit.
Jacob brews it, and it is often cited as one of the best American-made tripels. Sarah, however, is the first to criticize it as the style is one of her personal favorites.
“He knows what he wants to do and how to do it,” she said, explaining she doesn’t give him beer ideas. “Will I completely break down his tripel? It’s my favorite style of beer and every time he makes it I say he’s this close. It’s never good enough. I love his tripel; it’s constructive. It could be a little lighter. It’s too sweet.”
Sarah goes on to explain that tripels are awesome because the style is so simple, but also incredibly hard to make. The coolest part, she said, is all the beer needs is pilsen malt, beet sugar, a dusting of hops and Belgian yeast.
“That’s all it should take, but it’s very hard to do it right,” she said. “It should be dry. You don’t want to taste the booze and you don’t want to taste the sugar.”
The beer is the only thing that comes between the siblings, who insist a sibling rivalry has never existed and they’ve been close their entire lives. Their lives, too, have grown beside fermentation, but not beer.
“I remember, [when I was] 12 or 13 years old, helping my grandpa in his garage make wine with all his brothers,” Jacob said. “It was a family thing, a reason to get together: the old dudes are making wine today.”
The pair were constantly around wine — which is why Sarah declared wine her first love. A love she said all beer lovers should explore as it helps expand palates and open up new ways of tasting beer. She also conceded to Jacob’s thought that beer might be a more complex creature, since it’s more than just grape juice.
The pair were truly introduced to beer while working at their uncle’s shop: Siciliano’s Market. Through desperation, Steve Siciliano began selling home brew supplies at the shop and 21-year-old Jacob tried it out.
From batch No. 1, he was a natural, Sarah said.
At a point, near the turn of millennium, Sarah was managing the New Holland Brewing Co. taproom when owner Brett Vander Kamp said they needed a brewer. Sarah chirped up and Jacob was a professional brewer at 26.
“Once I started home brewing, there wasn’t much else I wanted to do,” Jacob said.
At New Holland, he worked with Jason Spaulding, a co-founder of the brewery who left in 2005. The pair stayed in contact and eventually Brewery Vivant’s idea came about. He was on board from day one, but kept the idea secret until Spaulding was ready to launch the new venture in 2010.
“Belgians are great, you can do all sorts of different things,” he said. “Belgians are fun to work with. But, lagers are fun to work with. Beers are fun to work with. You can put your own fingerprint on it and make your own kind of gig.
“I’m sure if I was making Budweiser, I’d be having fun it. Not nearly as much fun, of course.”
The Belgian topic brought up the initial mention of tripels, as Sarah said there are no rules for Belgians. The conversation quickly digressed into how they don’t argue, instead they said they likely hangout too much. They play Scrabble every Thursday.
The pair also go to a lot of concerts. So many they’ve lost count: at least 15 Allman Brothers shows, 15 Bob Dylan Shows, The Grateful Dead and many more. Sarah recounted her favorite Jacob concert story, which didn’t include the actual show.
“I’m falling asleep in the back seat, and I see a sign that says, ’12 Miles to Mackinac Bridge,'” she said. “The show was in Detroit. I think we got back at 5:30 in the morning. I was in high school. My mom wasn’t pleased.”
There’s a lot of things to love about the beer industry, but both Sarah and Jacob bring up people as the reason it’s so great.
Sarah, who works at Siciliano’s now, said she loves that customers will choose two IPAs now over a 12-pack of Natural Light. She enjoys that the market has regulars who come in and kill a lunch hour chatting with the staff and leave without buying a beer.
“It’s beyond a hobby, it’s more than a passion,” she said.
Jacob likes his fellow brewers. The idea he can go almost anywhere and be invited into a stranger’s literal and figurative home and be offered a beer is a great feeling.
Seeing Brewery Vivant packed on any given day is pretty neat too, he said.
“It’s very fulfilling at the end of the day to go home feeling good about what you did that day,” he said. “No matter what happened that day, it’s worth it in the end knowing you did something to hopefully make someone else’s day a little bit happier.”
Being around beer their entire adulthood has seen many memorable beers. Jacob’s was time he spent in a brewery in Bamburg, Germany. It’s where he first fell in love with rauchbiers.
“I didn’t speak the language, but I knew how to order a beer,” he said. Otherwise, he drinks what’s available and PBR around the campfire.
Sarah took a different route. She was in China, and wasn’t drinking, but her bus driver was.
“He’s driving us along the mountains and drinking a giant rice beer,” she said.
There was a story Sarah wouldn’t share, the one that gave her the nickname “Cheetah.” There is, however a beer named Cheetah at the Brewery Vivant pub which is named after her.
“[Jacob] texted me and said ‘tapping a new beer tonight,’” she said, adding she didn’t really want to go down and initially thought it was the tripel. “I walk in and look on the board and I see ‘The Cheetah.’ I thought it was the sweetest thing, because I think that’s how he said I love you.
“Then I saw 14.2 percent alcohol.”
For more of our interview with Jacob and Sarah, listen to our podcast below via Soundcloud. Look for it on iTunes soon!