Below is a blog entry written by one of our awesome servers at Greenbush, Emily Klutts. Last month, Emily sat down with head brewer Pete Hasbrouck to talk beer. Take it away, Emily…
I started serving at Greenbush in May of this year, not knowing anything about beer. To be honest I don’t drink much beer, so a lot of people think it would be hard for me to explain what I’m serving. I’ve worked in coffee for the past 3 years and learned it’s a lot about knowing your product. I taste the beer we have on tap at Greenbush and learn the different flavor profiles of each type of beer. I constantly ask customers what style or beer is their favorite and what they usually drink. This has helped me immensely. Knowing what flavor palate someone has allows me to suggest something I think they would like. The Greenbush bartenders have answered many questions for me and helped me along the way but I thought it would be good to sit down with a brewer to really talk some stuff out and learn about beer.
When I said I needed to learn more, everyone said talk to “Papa Bear” or Pete. Pete Hasbrouck is the head brewer at Greenbush and a wealth of beer information. His nickname suits his personality; he is a wonderful patient teacher and easy to talk to. [Editor’s note: I suppose excellent beard = the bear part.]
I started by asking Pete frequently asked questions when I serve. Usually, I would either ask one of our bartenders if they know or kindly say, “We do not have that on tap at this time.” Now I know we don’t serve any lagers because they require a different brew setup than we currently have. It takes 4 times longer to brew a lager because it is a bottom-fermenting beer that requires cool temperatures. Greenbush only brews using ale yeast, which ferments at warmer temperatures and faster.
“We only have so much room to brew,” explained Pete. “There’s nothing wrong with lager-style beers, there are just so many beers we want to brew and we would like to get them out and ready to put on tap quickly.” It takes our beers 1-3 weeks to ferment depending on the beer.
The second question I’m frequently asked is how many beers does Greenbush make? Pete says this number is hard to pin down. There are so many beers we only brew once but just to give me an idea he said Greenbush took 49 different beers to this year’s Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival alone. He thinks in the past 2 years of being open Greenbush has made around 150 different beers, including tons of one-off beers. Scott Sullivan, founder and co-owner, contributed around 35 recipes to Greenbush at its beginnings but has turned over the role of Head Brewer now to Pete, with Pete and the brewers having a hand in new-recipe writing and small batch recipe creation. “Scott and I have the same vision for Greenbush and very high standards for all the beer we create. Scott leaves the brewing in my hands now; I organize what we brew and when. There are three brewers under me but really we work together. I just make sure we are on schedule and get everything brewed that needs to be brewed.”
So we have these A, B, and C beer lists in the taproom–what’s the reasoning behind that? The common thread is the alcohol content raises the higher you go up, right? Pete said that is true but they also sometimes categorize them as follows: Group A are mostly mainstay beers and lighter offerings; Group B are higher in ABV and often include one-off “playtime beers”; and Group C are the specialty beers, often with large amounts of special ingredients and much higher alcohol content.
I noticed beers change often on our boards but some were constants which we call our flagship or mainstay beers. Closure, which is Pete’s favorite, is one, along with Anger, Dunegras, Distorter, Red Bud, Traktor, 1825, Retribution and Brother Benjamin.
As I read up about our beers when I started at Greenbush, I learned that IPA stands for India Pale Ale. They got the name because they use a lot more hops, which help with preservation. [Editor’s note: the story goes that in the 1700s, troops and British citizens in India apparently did not have access to “good British ale,” thus, generous hops were the solution to keep ales from spoiling on the trip from Britain to India.] The beers I tend to like the most are ones with fruits. At the time, Pete was excited to tell me he was working on a raspberry ale and raspberry porter, which took 500 pounds of raspberries to make.
When we started talking about other “flavored” beers, Pete brought up Brother Benjamin, our Imperial IPA, mentioning that we practically have our own beekeeper in Southwest Michigan. “We buy honey almost 100% locally from places and people in Dowagiac, Baroda and Michigan City.” Pete said. “And we need a lot of honey to make Brother Ben. It takes 160 pounds of to make 30 barrels or 1,000 gallons.”
I spent an hour with Pete talking about beer–but it felt like 5 minutes. Everyone at Greenbush has a wonderful positive attitude and you can tell how much they enjoy working here, learning about and being a part of the world of craft beer. We have a wonderful staff that communicates and works as a team. I am very happy to be apart of such a caring work family.