As most of you have likely heard by now, our long-time Head Brewer (Nathan Venner) has accepted a position as the new Head Brewer at Lander Brewing Company. It is with mixed emotion that I accept this news. Nathan’s contributions to Altitude are substantial and I look forward to seeing the changes that Nathan will bring to Lander Brewing Company.
The obvious upside for me is that I will be taking over Nathan’s position as the Head Brewer at Altitude; this is an opportunity I’ve been working toward for quite some time. I view my role, largely, as continuing our tradition of making excellent craft beer that appeals to a wide range of palates. Having said that, I also believe that the beer being poured at any brewery should be a reflection of the Head Brewer. To that end, I thought I would outline some of my guiding philosophies/likes that will be showing up at Altitude in the months ahead.
1. I believe that – regardless of style – beer should be full of flavor. While I have preferences for certain styles over others, any beer that I make is guided by this principle. As a brewer, I achieve this by obsessing over details and dissecting my recipes. There are so many ways to create flavor in beer, but at minimum, it requires excellent procedure, knowledge of the brewing process and ingredients and use of the best ingredients possible.
2. Styles are a useful reference point, but they are open to interpretation. I think it’s really important to have an understanding and appreciation for beer styles. By affixing a particular style to a beer, you are referencing long-standing brewing traditions and creating certain expectations for the consumer. For example, a German Pilsner should use lager yeast, be light in color, with a firm bitterness and showcase the bready qualities of high quality pilsner malt. But can a German Pilsner be dry-hopped? Well, traditionally it would not be, but I believe that in so doing you further the conversation into what that style can be.
3. If you don’t enjoy a particular beer, that does not deem it “bad”. Like most people who enjoy beer, I have an affinity for certain styles and am less enthusiastic about others. I also acknowledge that there is an enormously wide range of tastes out there and that part of my job as a brewer is to please a diverse range of beer drinkers. I do so by emphasizing different qualities in different beers. Some of my beers are driven by particular yeast flavors; in others, I want as neutral yeast quality as possible. Other beers I make are highly bitter while others have just enough bitterness to complement the sweetness of malt. When I pour a beer for someone, I encourage them to describe flavors and refrain from deeming it “good” or “bad”. It’s inevitable that you will have an affinity for certain flavor profiles, but there are so many flavors out there that you owe it to yourself as a beer drinker to revel in the diverse beers that brewers are creating in their products.
At the risk of becoming pedantic, I’ll close for now. I really do enjoy educating people about beer and getting feedback, so please: feel free to tell me what you think. I might not agree with you, but that’s part of the fun.
Head Brewer, Altitude Chophouse and Brewery