Nestled in the industrial district of Edmonds, Washington is American Brewing Company, led by their new Head Brewer Adam Frantz. Adam has a flair for numbers and loves the science of making beer: “Brewers make the wort; yeast makes the beer,” Adam told me. Well, Adam took some time from his work to talk a bit about how a guy from Vermont ended up in Edmonds.
Adam, you grew up in Vermont, went to school in New Hampshire, have a degree in marine biology, you have worked at an aquarium, you traveled the world for over a year, and now you are head brewer in Edmond’s, Washington. I’m sorry…What?!
Yeah, it’s been quite a ride so far. My wife has actually been a huge motivating force for a lot of the great things in my life. She allowed me to tag along on her biggest dream of travelling the world, for which I am hugely grateful. We hit 24 countries, 5 continents, I’ve trekked to Everest base camp, met Lonesome George on the Galapogos before he died, and even brought back exotic spices from local markets to use in my experimental beers. It was pretty amazing for sure. After that experience, I was determined to make sure everything I did was driven by passion. We spend so much of our lives at work, you might as well do something that you love. For me, that’s brewing beer. It brings in a lot of my science background (so don’t worry mom, I am still using my degree), but also gives me a creative outlet. It’s the perfect blend of science and art.
You came from Mac & Jack’s – a staple here in Washington. What did you take away from working at Mac & Jack’s, and are there things you will implement (or WON’T) at American?
The first rule of Mac & Jack’s is: you don’t talk about Mac & Jack’s! Therefore, you won’t get any African Amber secrets from me. However, Mac & Jack’s is one of the quintessential breweries of the Northwest and spawned many of this region’s best breweries and brewers. They gave me my start in the industry for which I will be forever grateful, as it is a difficult industry to break into. They provided me a strong foundation for brewery operations and large scale production to build on. As we continue to grow here at American, the steps to optimize our brew house and fermentation space are already familiar to me.
When we met you told me a lot about how you like to try new things, and you like to allow your team to try new things. This is a great way to breed creativity and new ideas, but can also lead to some pretty epic mistakes. Have you had any that made you immediately say: “nope”.
You know, mistakes suck when they happen, especially in the brewery world, because it can often cost you thousands of dollars rather than just be an oops. However, they are also the best ways to learn and improve, so that your process overall becomes better in the long run. Recently I have been experimenting with kettle souring, a process where a brewer adds lactic acid producing bacteria to the boil kettle that will sour the beer and then boil the wort to kill the bacteria and finish the brew. While there are several sources of lactic acid producing bacteria, I read about yogurt being one of them. So, I brewed up a grissette (saison light) and added some Nancy’s Organic nonfat Greek Yogurt (plain, I didn’t want to get too carried away with flavors). It was the weirdest thing that I’ve done to date with beer. I let it sit at warm temperatures over the weekend to sour, and then began my boil on the following Monday. I filled the brewery with the wretched steam that smelled like a dead rat got drunk on sour milk and exploded in the sun. I was pretty sure that this was an epic fail but had to see it to completion in order to learn what I could from it. That beer is still bubbling away with our farmhouse yeast working hard to clean it up, but actually at last sampling is completely turning around. Currently, it has the aroma of my mother’s morning grapefruit and drinks tart with a nice cereal finish (part of this complete breakfast). I plan to split the batch and finish it off with two types of blackberries to see which one I like best. So, in the end, it seems like the beer will end up being pretty tasty, but I just had to see it through.
With the current sale of American to Pacific Brewing and Malting, what (if anything) should we expect to change? Can you tell us about how it may affect American?
Yeah, so Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. of Tacoma, Washington recently entered into an agreement to acquire American Brewing’s brewery and related business operations. The transaction is still awaiting approval by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, and we expect that to be completed sometime soon.
I think the sale to Pacific Brewing & Malting will affect American Brewing in a very positive way. Pacific plans to invest in our facility make necessary improvements that will allow us to grow both brands up side by side. Neither brand will change. The Edmonds facility will become the production and packaging facility for both brands, while the Tacoma plant will continue to produce beer for local accounts and their tasting room.
I am personally excited about it because it allows us to update our existing infrastructure and expand upon our current production capabilities. I am eager to build out a quality control and yeast lab, expand our barrel aging and souring program, and introduce some new lagering tanks. Plus, now I will have a 7 barrel brew house in Tacoma for experimental batches.
When we began discussing our collaboration, the first conversation was about the style. We decided on the Imperial Red Ale partly because of the time of year. Now that fall is here, what style of beer are you stocking your fridge with?
Well, I like to tell people that I drink seasonally. The color of the beer in my glass usually corresponds to the color of the leaves. This makes a lot more sense in Vermont rather than in the Evergreen State, but most people get it. Right now I am drinking Red Blooded American right off of the tank (samples, of course), I enjoyed a Rogue Brown Nectar the other day, and am stocking my fridge with marzens, rye and spiced ales, and CDA’s.
Big thanks to Adam for taking time from the craziness of running a brewery to chat with us. We are very excited to see where American goes with Adam at the helm.
Make sure you come by the Edmonds tap room on Tuesday October, 20th for the Red-Blooded American release party! Red-Blooded American Imperial Red Ale is a bold, hoppy brew that will leave you praising the good ‘ole U S of A. Pull up a chair, pop open a new 22-ounce bottle, and prepare your taste buds for this delicious new addition to American Brewing Company’s already robust line of beers.