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Perrin Cigar City

Perrin Brewing Company has been under the West Michigan craft beer microscope since Oskar Blues Brewery acquired them in early 2015. Perrin then raised eyebrows with their playful, controlled disruption instigated by their literal No Rules bottle release. Most recently, Oskar Blues made headlines by purchasing Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida, earlier this year. The second acquisition in their “against the grain” expansion strategy could’ve easily created a potentially awkward extended family.

However, rather than step-brothers fighting for top bunk, both breweries are already playing nice with each other. Cigar City, please meet Perrin.

As soon as Cigar City’s acquisition was public, Keith Klopcic, President of Perrin, reached out to Cigar City to pitch the idea that the breweries should collaborate.

I sat down with John Stewart, Director of Brewing Operations at Perrin, alongside his guest, Wayne Wambles, Head Brewer at Cigar City, to talk about their collaboration—White Noise, an imperial white IPA.

MittenBrew: How did the conversation start between both breweries?

Wayne Wambles: I remember the first email from Keith, trying to gauge my interest. He gave me his number, so I called him while I was driving back home either from a trip back to where I’m from in southeast Alabama or after another beer event in Florida, and we talked for a while. I told him, “Yeah, this’ll be great.” Then, Keith put John and me in touch with each other right after.

John Stewart: As soon as we knew that the partnership with Oskar Blues was locked in, we were super eager to get Wayne out here. It was definitely pre-Craft Brewers Conference — late March, early April. [Aside to Wayne, chuckling] I think I shot you just a few emails out of excitement at the very beginning to see what we could do to help make the collaboration happen.

 

John, since this is the first time Perrin and Cigar City have worked together, what was it like opening your doors to a guest? And, Wayne, what was it like for you to brew on their system?

WW: For me, it’s really common. I know for a fact that I probably work on other people’s systems more than on our own. I do a lot of collaborations annually — I’m at home with it, and actually really enjoy it. I enjoy being able to look at different systems to see how they work, getting to walk away with new insight on technology, processes. I don’t mind walking into someone else’s house [Aside to John, laughing like new best friends] — as long as they don’t mind me being here.

JS: That’s the cool part. I’ve gotten to learn from Wayne, too — particularly with the formation of the recipe. The whole process is just very fresh, and a fun change of pace. And, with us partnering together, after I get to show Wayne our brewery, I get to take him around to have some beers and show off Beer City.

 

Let’s talk about the recipe. How’d you settle on an imperial White IPA, and how’d you each contribute to its ingredients?

JW: When we first started tossing ideas back-and-forth, it was clear that [Wayne is] usually asked to collaborate on a certain few styles, and we just wanted to not do that — and do something a little bit different.

WW: At first, we were considering doing a sour, but ended up changing our minds. I think your guys were talking, and thought it would be a good idea to do a white IPA. Since I’ve never done one before, I thought it would be a great idea — at least for the experience alone. We also wanted to put a unique spin on it as well.

 

How do you expect the Belgian yeast to play into it?

JS: Hopefully, with the spices and hops, it’s going to be all layered together nicely. Part of the creative process was using some of the spices that are a little different from a Wit or whiter beer — thinking about how the yeast, the spices, the hops will all layer together for a complex sensory combination.

 

What variety of hops are you using?

WW: In order to discuss the hops, I also want to discuss the spice because in the way we’re laying it all out we want to create layers between both. As John was saying, the nontraditional aspect of it is the fact that you don’t find juniper in a Belgian White. So, there’s juniper in there. Maybe you might find lemon peel and lemongrass, but I think that’s probably not as common. Traditionally, you’re going to see corriander and orange peel in those beers, but we’re playing to the hops.

One of the hops is Denali, a Hopsteiner hop. It has some mango elements, some tropical fruit elements. We’re also using a hop called Lemondrop, which comes across like Lemon Drops candy, literally. It’s super clean, super bright.

Then, Chinook ties the juniper berry to the beer because it has those piney notes.

So, then, with the lemon peel we’re using and the lemongrass, which both work well with the Denali, and, of course, the Lemondrop hops — we’re just trying to create complex layers. So, as you’re drinking it, you just get layers and layers and layers throughout every sip you take.

 

Wayne, did you bring any of the ingredients up with you from Florida?

WW: No… We did originally discuss a hop variety at first, but John had everything in house we needed.

 

I’ve got to ask about the beer’s name…

JS: Wayne told me he likes sleeping with a white noise machine.

Perrin Cigar CityJust as John says this, I stop hearing the noticeable shutter clicks from  Steph Harding, MittenBrew owner, and photographer for this interview. Laughing, she chimes in over my shoulder, “Oh, seriously?! That’s too funny — I do, too!” Then Wayne proceeds to show her the app on his phone he uses to help soothe him to sleep. His favorite is Tropical Storm. Steph has Ocean Waves on hers.

 

What’s your day been like so far, and how do you think you’ll wrap up?

JS: We came in at 6:00 a.m. to get the brew going. We’ll probably be done around 5 or so. Last night, we were able to sneak out and have a couple beers around town, so I think the game plan tonight is to do more of the same in GR.

WW: I actually wouldn’t mind seeing The American Horse [at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park].

Is this the first time you guys have met?

JS: We’ve been in the same room before, but yeah, this is the first time we’ve really gotten to know each other.

 

Has it been like Step Brothers [the movie]? Are you getting along? Is there room for activities in the brewery?

JS: For me, after having some beers and talking to Wayne — there are a lot of key brewing principles we click on — quality and consistency. When you have other guys in the industry who are like that… You know, after the first couple of beers you’re like, “Is this guy cool?” Yeah, it’s been awesome.

WW: There’s a lot of common ground, definitely.

 

You’re aiming for a July release for White Noise, with Perrin Pub and limited local distribution. Will any variation of it find its way down to Florida?

JS: Oh, yeah. Well… for Wayne to drink. [Laughing]

 

How much are you producing?

JS: For this brew, we’re doing a 150-barrel batch.

 

Can we expect a follow-up collaboration where John visits you in Florida?

WW: Absolutely.

JS: Yeah, hopefully during a cold month here. [Laughing]

 

After the formal interview wrapped, I asked both guys how much of this collaboration had to do with Oskar Blues acquiring both breweries. They both had creative freedom in the process, were not under any pressure to collaborate, and used their recent familial relationship to create a positive, independent dialogue between Perrin and Cigar City. They’ve used this opportunity to understand each other’s philosophies and stance on issues that now apply to both of them — all three when you include Oskar Blues. What it came down to was one brewery simply asking another if they wanted to make a beer together — the way it should be.

 

Photography: Steph Harding

Perrin Cigar City

Perrin Brewing Company has been under the West Michigan craft beer microscope since Oskar Blues Brewery acquired them in early 2015. Perrin then raised eyebrows with their playful, controlled disruption instigated by their literal No Rules bottle release. Most recently, Oskar Blues made headlines by purchasing Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida, earlier this year. The second acquisition in their “against the grain” expansion strategy could’ve easily created a potentially awkward extended family.
However, rather than step-brothers fighting for top bunk, both breweries are already playing nice with each other. Cigar City, please meet Perrin.
As soon as Cigar City’s acquisition was public, Keith Klopcic, President of Perrin, reached out to Cigar City to pitch the idea that the breweries should collaborate.
I sat down with John Stewart, Director of Brewing Operations at Perrin, alongside his guest, Wayne Wambles, Head Brewer at Cigar City, to talk about their collaboration—White Noise, an imperial white IPA.


MittenBrew: How did the conversation start between both breweries?
Wayne Wambles: I remember the first email from Keith, trying to gauge my interest. He gave me his number, so I called him while I was driving back home either from a trip back to where I’m from in southeast Alabama or after another beer event in Florida, and we talked for a while. I told him, “Yeah, this’ll be great.” Then, Keith put John and me in touch with each other right after.
John Stewart: As soon as we knew that the partnership with Oskar Blues was locked in, we were super eager to get Wayne out here. It was definitely pre-Craft Brewers Conference — late March, early April. [Aside to Wayne, chuckling] I think I shot you just a few emails out of excitement at the very beginning to see what we could do to help make the collaboration happen.
 
John, since this is the first time Perrin and Cigar City have worked together, what was it like opening your doors to a guest? And, Wayne, what was it like for you to brew on their system?
WW: For me, it’s really common. I know for a fact that I probably work on other people’s systems more than on our own. I do a lot of collaborations annually — I’m at home with it, and actually really enjoy it. I enjoy being able to look at different systems to see how they work, getting to walk away with new insight on technology, processes. I don’t mind walking into someone else’s house [Aside to John, laughing like new best friends] — as long as they don’t mind me being here.
JS: That’s the cool part. I’ve gotten to learn from Wayne, too — particularly with the formation of the recipe. The whole process is just very fresh, and a fun change of pace. And, with us partnering together, after I get to show Wayne our brewery, I get to take him around to have some beers and show off Beer City.
 
Let’s talk about the recipe. How’d you settle on an imperial White IPA, and how’d you each contribute to its ingredients?
JW: When we first started tossing ideas back-and-forth, it was clear that [Wayne is] usually asked to collaborate on a certain few styles, and we just wanted to not do that — and do something a little bit different.
WW: At first, we were considering doing a sour, but ended up changing our minds. I think your guys were talking, and thought it would be a good idea to do a white IPA. Since I’ve never done one before, I thought it would be a great idea — at least for the experience alone. We also wanted to put a unique spin on it as well.
 
How do you expect the Belgian yeast to play into it?
JS: Hopefully, with the spices and hops, it’s going to be all layered together nicely. Part of the creative process was using some of the spices that are a little different from a Wit or whiter beer — thinking about how the yeast, the spices, the hops will all layer together for a complex sensory combination.
 
What variety of hops are you using?
WW: In order to discuss the hops, I also want to discuss the spice because in the way we’re laying it all out we want to create layers between both. As John was saying, the nontraditional aspect of it is the fact that you don’t find juniper in a Belgian White. So, there’s juniper in there. Maybe you might find lemon peel and lemongrass, but I think that’s probably not as common. Traditionally, you’re going to see corriander and orange peel in those beers, but we’re playing to the hops.
One of the hops is Denali, a Hopsteiner hop. It has some mango elements, some tropical fruit elements. We’re also using a hop called Lemondrop, which comes across like Lemon Drops candy, literally. It’s super clean, super bright.
Then, Chinook ties the juniper berry to the beer because it has those piney notes.
So, then, with the lemon peel we’re using and the lemongrass, which both work well with the Denali, and, of course, the Lemondrop hops — we’re just trying to create complex layers. So, as you’re drinking it, you just get layers and layers and layers throughout every sip you take.
 
Wayne, did you bring any of the ingredients up with you from Florida?
WW: No… We did originally discuss a hop variety at first, but John had everything in house we needed.
 
I’ve got to ask about the beer’s name…
JS: Wayne told me he likes sleeping with a white noise machine.
Perrin Cigar CityJust as John says this, I stop hearing the noticeable shutter clicks from  Steph Harding, MittenBrew owner, and photographer for this interview. Laughing, she chimes in over my shoulder, “Oh, seriously?! That’s too funny — I do, too!” Then Wayne proceeds to show her the app on his phone he uses to help soothe him to sleep. His favorite is Tropical Storm. Steph has Ocean Waves on hers.
 
What’s your day been like so far, and how do you think you’ll wrap up?
JS: We came in at 6:00 a.m. to get the brew going. We’ll probably be done around 5 or so. Last night, we were able to sneak out and have a couple beers around town, so I think the game plan tonight is to do more of the same in GR.
WW: I actually wouldn’t mind seeing The American Horse [at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park].

Is this the first time you guys have met?
JS: We’ve been in the same room before, but yeah, this is the first time we’ve really gotten to know each other.
 
Has it been like Step Brothers [the movie]? Are you getting along? Is there room for activities in the brewery?
JS: For me, after having some beers and talking to Wayne — there are a lot of key brewing principles we click on — quality and consistency. When you have other guys in the industry who are like that… You know, after the first couple of beers you’re like, “Is this guy cool?” Yeah, it’s been awesome.
WW: There’s a lot of common ground, definitely.
 
You’re aiming for a July release for White Noise, with Perrin Pub and limited local distribution. Will any variation of it find its way down to Florida?
JS: Oh, yeah. Well… for Wayne to drink. [Laughing]
 
How much are you producing?
JS: For this brew, we’re doing a 150-barrel batch.
 
Can we expect a follow-up collaboration where John visits you in Florida?
WW: Absolutely.
JS: Yeah, hopefully during a cold month here. [Laughing]

 
After the formal interview wrapped, I asked both guys how much of this collaboration had to do with Oskar Blues acquiring both breweries. They both had creative freedom in the process, were not under any pressure to collaborate, and used their recent familial relationship to create a positive, independent dialogue between Perrin and Cigar City. They’ve used this opportunity to understand each other’s philosophies and stance on issues that now apply to both of them — all three when you include Oskar Blues. What it came down to was one brewery simply asking another if they wanted to make a beer together — the way it should be.
 
Photography: Steph Harding

international women's collaboration brew dayREGIONAL—The days until the International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD) are being counted down all over the world. March 8, 2016 will be a day when breweries globally come together in the name of beer and women in the industry. Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the day will embrace the cultural, social, economic, and political achievements of women everywhere.

As interest and passion for the brewing culture grows globally, progress and opportunity are also flourishing. Beer encompasses so many different contexts and backgrounds—all it takes is a curiosity and passion for learning. Brewing is a social event as much as it’s a science. It’s quietly beautiful and intricate and creative. It celebrates innovation, community, and camaraderie. Beer is the bridge across many different practices, and on this day, it connects the world together.

The inaugural IWCBD took place in 2014. The recipe was a Pale Ale and the first participant to brew hailed from Australia. Last year breweries put their own twist on a Red Ale recipe born out of England. Michigan breweries celebrated by not only brewing, but also with a friendly competition and tasting at different locations around the state.

This year there is no recipe. No guidelines. No rules. The craft beer world will unite under the theme of “Expression.” To best represent the craft industry, brewers will simply create their own unique recipe to brew, share, and enjoy.

international women's collaboration brew dayIf interested in participating—and please, everyone is invited (21 years and older please)—you can find IWCBD events on Facebook through Fermenta: Michigan Women’s Craft Collective. This year, quite a few regions are hosting open, interactive events. Griffin Claw Brewing Company (Birmingham) will be kicking off the the international celebrations early, hosting a brew day March 5 starting at 9 A.M.. The recipe will be a Gose and the brewery staff will also be offering short seminars on tank cleaning, yeast harvesting, and other various lab procedures. For northern Michigan residents, consider attending Beards Brewery’s (Petoskey) brew day on March 6 starting at noon, the recipe to be announced. On March 7th, EagleMonk Pub and Brewery (Lansing) will be brewing their own recipe beginning at 8 o’clock in the morning. Batch Brewing Company (Corktown) has decided to open their doors on the actual day of international celebration, March 8, starting at 7:30 A.M.. To learn further details, check the Fermenta events page.

Alongside these breweries, Grand Armory Brewing (Grand Haven) will also be brewing a IWCBD recipe to honor the celebrations, but will be keeping their brew day closed to staff only.

These Michigan breweries will be joining other breweries across the nation and across the world to support this day of awareness. Even if one cannot attend a brew day, the IWCBD encourages interested parties to homebrew their own recipe or simply raise a glass to toast the occasion. Either way, you will be toasting women in the craft industry with the entire world.

GRAND RAPIDS — A chance visit has set in motion a collaboration between Brewery Vivant and the nation’s third largest craft brewery.

Vivant confirmed rumors today of two collaboration beers with New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo. One beer will be brewed in Grand Rapids this month, while a second will be brewed in Fort Collins with an anticipated November release.

“Our common sustainability goals, open book management and focus on Belgian-inspired beer gave us a lot to talk about,” Vivant owner Jason Spaulding said. “Our companies are drastically different sizes, but that is what makes our industry so unique. This collaboration reflects the common respect that each of us have for craft beer and the people who make it.”

The launch coincides with New Belgium’s availability for the first time in Michigan beginning Aug. 27.

Spaulding considers the collaboration unique in that Vivant is a much smaller, locally-focused brewery compared to the nationally-known and distributed New Belgium. Last year, New Belgium brewed more than 700,000 barrels compared to Vivant’s 1,800 barrels.

“At one point while visiting their brewery, I realized that one of their fermenters contained more beer than we made in the entire fiscal year,” Spaulding said.

Brewers from each organization have worked together on formulating recipes — exchanging ingredients and ideas —  and then travel to the respective locations to brew the beer together. The Vivant/New Belgium project consists of two different beers.

The first was brewed in Grand Rapids and will be distributed through Brewery Vivant’s network. Called “Escoffier” — after the French master chef of the same name — it is crafted to go hand in hand with the food-beer experience that is part of Vivant’s focus.

The beer will be deep amber in color and utilize one of Brewery Vivant’s house Belgian yeast strains as well as wild yeast from New Belgium called Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, blending the flavor of both breweries.

A release party is scheduled at Brewery Vivant on Aug. 27, followed by a Michigan release of draft and in pint-sized cans. The beer will also be available in Chicago when Vivant starts distribution there in October.

A second beer will be brewed in Fort Collins and released through New Belgium Brewing’s national network. It will be part of their “Lips of Faith” series, available in 22-ounce bombers and on draft in November. The style and final recipe is still being developed as the breweries continue to work together.