Monday, April 6, 2009
Zach Henry is a Beer Brewin' Man
Every man has a dream. Lots of those dreams involve alcohol in general and beer in particular. It's a rare few of us who get to transform those dreams into reality AND get paid to do it. Zach Henry is one of that rare breed.
Zach is the owner/brewer of St Elias Brewing Company, our local brewpub here in Soldotna. Since its opening last May, St. Elias has gone from strength to strength. Those of us locals who care bout good craft beer are ecstatic to finally have a brewpub to compliment our two excellent microbreweries, while even the teetotalers hereabouts are impressed with the outstanding gourmet pizzas emerging from St. Elias' oven. Business has been so sustained, even through the dark days of winter, that while other restaurants were closing for the season or even going out of business, St. Elias has continued to do a brisk business and has stayed open seven days a week.
So now that he's over the hurdle of building his own brewpub and getting it up and running, what's Zach going to do for an encore? I spent some time with him this weekend, so I've got a fair amount of news hot off the presses to report.
First, he's got some new conical fermenters coming in. He's replacing four of his cylindrical fermenters with three larger conical ones (two of the used tanks are heading to Midnight Sun's new facility in Anchorage, while two are heading to Idaho). Zach says this design (which he's familiar with from his days working at Yazoo Brewing in Tennessee), will give him added flexibility and the ability to fully ferment a brew in the same tank. Currently he's racking his brews from a primary to a secondary, which will no longer be required. Not to mention he thinks he'll have better control of the quality of the yeast he'll be pulling off, allowing him to use it for more generations.
Second, the space he'll be freeing up will allow him to bring in several wooden casks, which he plans to use to age some of his beers. He's already got one Jack Daniels cask, which he brought with him from Tennessee and which is currently filled with Baltic Porter, a slightly modified version of the extremely popular Vanilla Porter he made last year. Zach was generous enough to share a small sample with me that we pulled from the cask; I was already impressed with how much additional flavor it had picked up from the wood, even though it has only been in the cask for a couple of weeks. Given that Zach is talking about aging this beer in the wood for months not weeks, it should be truly amazing when he finally decides its ready to turn loose on the world. Watch this space for a head's up when that will be.
Third, Zach tells me that he plans to brew a Mild Ale as one of his summer brews this year. Since Mild is one of my favorite styles and I've been trying to convince our local brewers to give it a whirl for over a year, I'm obviously happy to hear this. I look forward to testing my theory that folks will like to drink a relatively low alcohol beer that's dark and full of malt flavor. We'll see...
Finally, Zach tells me that St. Elias will be opening for lunch! Yep, after a year of serving only dinner seven days a week, they're going to bite the bullet and take a shot at the lunch crowd, starting Friday, May 1st, 2009. Given how busy they were in the evenings last summer, I'm sure they will now be packed from noon until closing time. And it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks.
So that's the news from my little corner of the Great Land this week. More news about new brews next week.
Until next time, Cheers.