Interview with Ben Trumbo, 2016 January 9

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  • Introduction
    Partial Transcript: "We're recording, this is Greg Hargreaves sitting down with Ben Trumbo..." "I studied religious studies at UVA..." "I got my first home brewing kit.. got into home brewing" "Yeah, this is the group of people that I want to be working with.
    Synopsis: Trumbo discusses his personal background in beer. He says that after studying at the University of Virginia he followed his wife to Saint Louis, Missouri, there he learned how to home brew beer and got an internship at Sixth Rowing Brewing Company. He says that the friendship and cooperation that he found between the craft brewer in Saint Louis and even with some of Budweiser's workers, made him decide that the craft beer industry was the industry for him.
    Keywords: Budweiser; Charlottesville, Virginia; Miller Lite; Pale Fire Brewing Company; Saint Louis, Missouri; Siebel Institute; Six Row Brewing Company; University of Virginia; Washington University
  • Budweiser and the craft brewing scene in Saint Louis, Missouri
    Partial Transcript: "So, did any of the craft brewers in Saint Louis get their training at Budweiser?" "They were making good beer and got the people in the door..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about the craft beer brewing scene in Saint Louis Missouri. He says that very few craft brewers there got their start at Budweiser, despite it being located in Saint Louis. Instead many brewers had their starts at Schlafly and Sixth Row Brewing. Some brewers were former employees of Anheuser-Busch or started as home brewers and moved into the craft beer brewing industry from that.
    Keywords: 4 Hands Brewing Co.; Anheuser-Busch; Budweiser; Evan Hyatt; InBev; internship; Saint Louis, Missouri; Schlafly Beer; Six Row Brewing Company; Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
  • Learning how to brew beer from the Siebold Institute
    Partial Transcript: "Could you perhaps go into a little more detail into your brewing course with Siebold?" "Oh shit, I should have paid attention more... or I should have done organic chemistry." "It opened up more opportunities..." "There is a Buddhist idea of dependent arising... I feel like that really applies, specifically to brewing..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about learning how to brew beer online with a course from the Siebold Institute. He says that it was a valuable learning tool, but he wishes that he could have gone there to learn how to brew beer in person.
    Keywords: craft brewing; education; home brewing; Siebold Institute
  • The transition from home brewing to professional brewing
    Partial Transcript: "I got my first home brewing kit as a wedding gift." "I started off not knowing what I was doing at all." "I did a fair amount early on, of extract brewing.." "...I think I know what I'm doing now..." "A brew day is five to six hours..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about becoming a home brewer. He says that it started when he got a brewing kit as a wedding present. He learned from that and with a lot of trial and error became a proficient home brewer. He says having that type of background is a major help at his current job because it taught him about the many possible outcomes, accidental and intentional, of the brewing process.
    Keywords: home brewing; Saint Louis, Missouri; The Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian
  • Taking notes in the beer making process
    Partial Transcript: "I'd start a new page that had recipe information..." "...it was very informal...then as I progressed further, I guess those notes got more and more formal..." "IPAs have been the best selling style..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about his note taking process as he makes beer. He starts with recipe information and takes as much information as he can, including tasting notes and daily fermentation records. He laments that when he started home brewing, he did not take notes as in-depth notes as he does now.
    Keywords: data; fermentation; fly sparging; home brewing; India Pale Ale; IPA; mash; notes; recipe; records; taste
  • Trumbo joins the Pale Fire Brewing Company
    Partial Transcript: "When I said I wanted to do this professionally...this is the company I had in my head..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about joining the Pale Fire Brewing Company. He says that he was in Virginia for a friend's wedding and was introduced to her brother, who was trying to start a brewery. They began to talk to each other, and found that they liked each other. Trumbo then agreed to join Pale Fire. Discusses the early structure of the brewing operation.
    Keywords: craft brewing; Pale Fire Brewing Company; Saint Louis, Missouri; Shenandoah Valley; Virginia
  • The future state of the craft brewing industry
    Partial Transcript: "We're gonna see this time where breweries start closing." "Is there something we can do to make our kegs more accessible..." "Its interesting to see who's doing what... to keep everybody flowing and happy"
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about the risks of the craft brewing industry as well as the future that he predicts for it. He suggests that many would-be brewers do not recognize the time and financial costs of running a brewery. He also suggests that many breweries, especially very small breweries, will close because of under-capitalization. He also predicts that some of the more successful craft brewers might be purchased by larger breweries like Budweiser. Discusses the benefits of starting a brewery from the ground up.
    Keywords: brewing; Budweiser; business; capacity; competition; future; production; retail space; under-capitalization
  • Definition of craft brewing
    Partial Transcript: "What is craft brewing?" "It's kind of self- regulating at least at this point..." "To me, flexibility is huge..." "For me craft beer is that innovation...creativity..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about what craft brewing is. He explains the definition set by the Brewer's Association which states that craft brewers must be independently owned and produce less than five million barrels of beer annually. He then explains what craft brewing means to him personally. Trumbo states that craft brewing means brewing his beer with an eye toward high quality, innovative, tasty beer and having the flexibility to try new things ingredients and recipes for his beer.
    Keywords: Brewer's Association; craft brewing; ingredients; innovation; quality; recipes; Samuel Adams; science; Yuengling
  • * Favorite beers to brew and drink
    Partial Transcript: "What kind of beer do you like to brew?" "I like the way you put that... brew instead of drink..." "Our Saving Grace Beer is fun to brew..." "Some of our other beers.... are easy (to brew)..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about his favorite beers to brew and drink. He says that Saving Grace, a beer with a light flavor profile is one of his favorites to make, because the ingredients are simple to put together. It requires exact timing and temperature to turn out properly. He also talks about brewing a specific type of Belgian beer which required troubleshooting through every step of the brewing process and turned a six hour brewing time into a twelve hour brewing time.
    Keywords: beer; Belgian beer; brewing; drinking; Saving Grace beer; wort; yeast
  • Beer is a living thing made in an industrial process
    Partial Transcript: "Beer is a living thing..." "Technically we are manufacturing..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about beer as an industrial practice. He discusses the need for strict logistics management while brewing beer. He talks about how brewing beer is an art, but also a manufacturing process. He also says that breweries need industrial zoning because they are factories, something that he says is easy to lose sight of. He also says that Pale Fire Brewing Company has a good location in area that is zoned for mixed commercial and industrial uses.
    Keywords: industry; location; yeast; zoning
  • The types of beer that a professional brewer enjoys drinking
    Partial Transcript: "What beer do you like to drink?" "I am all over the map." "I know I really like... Port City Porter..." "I already knew I wanted to do an Irish red... " "We get a shift beer... I like to have one to check in..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about his favorite kinds of beers to drink. He says that he enjoys porters and Irish reds. He also says that when he drinks beer he always thinking about how it tastes as a way to gauge his performance as a brewer. He also says that he has developed recipes for his favorite types of beers for use at Pale Fire Brewing Company.
    Keywords: Alexandria Virginia; beer; drinking; Irish red ale; Port City Brewing Company; porter; tasting
  • The brew room and safety features in the Pale Fire Brewing Company's brew house
    Partial Transcript: "Could you tell me a little bit about the brew room back here?" "Starting in the brew house we have a separate mash tun and water tun..." "We have these floor to ceiling windows in the tasting room... sometimes I wave to people..." "If I have to climb into the mash tun, I need to make sure no one turns it on." "We've got a lot of fall prevention set ups... we've got double or sometimes even triple redundancies...""If I have to climb into the mash tun we have to make sure no one can turn it on..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about the brew room and safety features at Pale Fire Brewing Company. The brewery was designed with safety and future expansion in mind. Some of the safety features even have triple redundancies which as Trumbo elaborates, help to ensure that no accidents do not happen, even if there is a breakdown in communication between workers at the brewery.
    Keywords: brew house; brewing; cellar; facility; fermentation; mash; mill room; redundancy; safety; storage
  • Training new staff at Pale Fire Brewing Company
    Partial Transcript: "He has a lot of packaging experience..." "We're trying to train him brewing wise" "A lot of it is troubleshooting..." "With just three of us back there, we're kind of doing a little bit of everything."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about training a new staff member at Pale Fire Brewing Company. He says that the new staff member already knows the job for the most part, and given that there are only three people who work in the brew house everyone does a bit of everything. Trumbo expresses his hope that he will one day take on the responsibilities of head brewer.
    Keywords: bottling; casing; Devil's Backbone Brewing Company; Dogfish Head Brewery; packaging; Pale Fire Brewing Company; Six Row Brewing Company; Starr Hill Brewery; Three Notch'd Brewing Company
  • The future of Pale Fire Brewing Company
    Partial Transcript: "Ideally I would see us as a regional brewery..." "If you see who wins something you can get your hands on it and see what's in that..." Now our name is out there." "If you don't win, it's not necessarily like, oh you're bad."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about his hopes fro the future of Pale Fire Brewing Company. He would like for them to become a regional brewery with distribution in several states. He says that he appreciates beer contests as a way to gauge his own beer against contest winners, and for what winning a contest can do to boost beer sales. He says that he would eventually like to judge a beer contest, but that he lacks the time or means to become a judge right now.
    Keywords: beer World Cup; contest judging; Devil's Backbone Brewing Company; Great American Beer Festival; Pale Fire Brewing Company; Russian River Brewing Company
  • Discussion of different types of hops and more thoughts on the future of Pale Fire Brewing Company
    Partial Transcript: "I am a big fan of... citra (hops) I love the fruity flavors there." "A bottling line is a couple hundred thousand dollars..."
    Synopsis: Trumbo talks about his favorite types of hops to brew with. He also talks about how his brewery buys hops and how they get delivered to the brewery. He also talks a little bit more about future plans for the brewery, and how one of his priority goals for the future is finding an affordable bottling line.
    Keywords: bottling line; Citra (hops); Galaxy (hops); hops; ingredients; Major Tom (hops); packaging