It is no secret that I have fallen in love with Black Raven Brewing (don’t worry, Jeanne…). Their entire lineup of beers is top-notch, and they have been breaking out some exciting special releases on a regular basis. In a market already flooded with IPAs, their regular IPA and their Imperial IPA have seriously impressed. For a brewery that hasn’t even been open for a full year, I’d say Beaux Bowman (Head brewer and co-owner) & company are doing just fine. Beaux was kind enough to take the time to answer five questions from me recently.
1) You guys installed a new 30 BBL fermenter and 15 BBL bright tank a few months back. How much easier has this made your life, and has it changed the way you guys brew? I’m guessing this is helping to keep the kegs of IPA flowing to Beveridge Place…
It is a welcome addition for sure. It really doesn’t change the way we brew other than making sure that one of us is doing the follow up batch the next day to fill the tank. The Beveridge Place Pub takes a good bit of the volume for sure but this has also allowed us to meet some more outside account demand that we were not able to. We have another 30 BBL fermenter and 30 BBL Bright beer tank currently on order to arrive in the next few weeks. We are still almost running out of IPA before the next batch is ready so these new tanks will really help out.
2) The Black Raven taproom pours a cask (or two) every Wednesday night, and the offerings are often pretty creative. With the Washington Cask Beer Festival at Seattle Center coming up this Saturday, March 27, can you tell us about the beers you’ve chosen to pour there?
We have been putting a cask firkin on the bar each Wednesday for many months now. It has been a very successful program and many nights we sell out of the cask in a few hours. For the cask festival we are sending some tried and true previous experienced casks. There will be a cask of our double IPA “Wisdom Seeker” with even more hops stuffed into the cask. Our assistant brewer Keil has been experimenting with a jerk spiced beer and will present a jerk spiced scotch ale. The third cask will be Andy’s very popular citrus and spice version of the Trickster IPA.
3) You’ve had some great success so far in experimenting with barrel-aging beers. In particular, the Barrel Aged La Petite Mort that won first place at the Winter Beer Festival was outstanding. Is barrel-aging something you have past experience with, or are you figuring it out for the first time? Have you figured out what works for you and what doesn’t? Any special treats in store for the future that we should look forward to?
I have worked with some barrels at the Ram, but only a few. At the Black Raven we walked in with a little experience and took the route of “hey, let’s figure this out and see where it goes”. We currently have 12 bourbon barrels, 2 rye whiskey barrels and 4 white wine barrels. We also have about 6 more barrels on the way. The “La Petite Mort” barrel aged beer we made was an experiment that Andy came up with to see if the base beer would age well in the bourbon barrel. Turns out it went to a really good place and we are now going to fill two barrels from the 2010 batch to be released in December. We have sent that beer to the 2010 World Beer Cup and are crossing our fingers. I have been aging out our strong scotch ale in bourbon barrels and will be blending and releasing that beer as “Splinters” very soon. I hope to keep that beer on a very strong rotation and keep the barrels filled.
4) Black Raven hasn’t even been open for a year, but you guys seem to have already made quite a name for yourselves. What’s been one of the most rewarding things since you opened, and what has been one of the toughest things to overcome as a new business?
We have been very fortunate to be so well received for a new brewery. I think the fact that it took so long to get open combined with the momentum of brewing in Washington for years with previous breweries help build a grass roots base. Luckily I have been brewing professionally for about 9 years and Andy has been for about 5 years so we felt confident with our opening lineup. The most rewarding part of this is realizing that people actually are excited about what we are doing and our vision of a true neighborhood brewery has come to life. To be honest, the hardest part has been staying healthy and staying energized working 7 days per week. The challenge of quick growth is tough, many breweries and businesses have made fatal mistakes growing too fast. This is my biggest fear and we work hard to make good decisions. Time will tell if we succeed in that endeavor.
5) Tell us something we don’t know about you (nothing we don’t want to know, though).
I was an extra in a movie that has now been deemed unsuitable for sale or re-broadcast out of fear of being non-politically correct.
A big thanks goes out to Beaux for taking the time. We’ll all be looking forward to see what the future brings from Black Raven!