Funky Adventures In The Forrest
This past January as we were finalizing the expansion of our brewery and planning beers, events and collaborations for Arizona Beer Week, we got to spend a lot of time with some of our good friends in the industry.
The brewery bond is a strong one. We are all part of a larger family united in our craft and our passion for what we do. That passion centers around fun, quality and innovation. I think that’s what really drives each of us to push boundaries, raise the bar not only for our own brands but for each other, and to work together in collaboration for the betterment of craft beer as a whole.
Over that long month of opening our expansion and the beginning of Arizona Beer Week, we invited several of our friends to join us in our new digs and brew some exciting new beers. Collaboration is invigorating! More minds, more ideas and two brands that have to work together to create a beverage that fits with the personality and culture of each brand. Sometimes that’s challenging and sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world! Sometimes the personalities involved just vibe right from the jump and magic happens. This is a story about that magic!
We developed and brewed 4 collaborations during that month. We worked with 8-Bit Aleworks, Grand Canyon Brewing, 12 West and Dark Sky Brewing. We made diverse styles. A Belgian Quad with local figs with our friends at 8-Bit. A Sac Bret IPA with our friends at Grand Canyon Brewing, a juicy Double New England style IPA with our friends at 12 West and an Imperial Chocolate Raspberry Donut Stout with our friends at Dark Sky. To further connect the dots, Collaborations were done between GCB and 12 West, 12 West and DSB, DSB and Helton Brewing and DSB and Goldwater Brewing. We covered a lot of ground and brewed styles that were representative of each brewery involved. Most importantly, we strengthened our collective bonds and had a shit ton of fun!
Through the process, Noel Garcia from 12 West started talking about a Cool Ship that he had made for 12 West. It was immediately suggested that we all get together to develop and Cool Ship Project and bring all of the collective breweries together to do something special, the likes and scale of which no one in Arizona had ever seen. A Cool Ship for those who don’t know, is an open fermentation vessel used to collect wild yeast and microflora. Brewers fill the Cool Ship with wort and allow the natural environment to do its thing and inoculate the sweet liquid with natural, wild yeast. This is similar to the way Lambics have been brewed in Belgium for hundreds of years.
This brings us to last weekend. And it was an amazing weekend! The Lambic recipe was brewed at Grand Canyon Brewing on Friday morning. By mid-afternoon, over 20 brewery owners and brewers had converged at a camp site at The End Of The World, just outside of Flagstaff. We ate great food. We drank some amazing beer. We transferred 10 Barrels of fresh wort into the Cool Ship overlooking a beautiful canyon with the Sedona Red Rocks in the background. And we further strengthened our bond!
The following morning, we woke up a little slow, a little dirty, but with a feeling that we had done something amazing the night before. If I can speak for all involved, I’d say the general feeling was immense pride and uncontained excitement. As we sipped coffee and ate breakfast, you could see it on everyone’s faces. People kept walking back and forth from the cool ship to the camp fire. It’s like the Cool Ship kept calling all of us back down there. And we went. How could you not?
The Lambic was transferred into oak barrels later that day and it will be in those barrels for the next year, evolving into the beer that we all have in our collective imagination. We’ll wait impatiently for it to do its thing and tell us when its ready.
This is not a one and done beer. This is a project. This is something that we will do together a couple times a year for the foreseeable future. It’s sparked a passion in each of us that we’re genuinely passionate about. This is a labor of love. It’s not something we have to do, it’s something we want to do. We can’t wait to bring this beer to market to share with you. Just be patient. You can’t rush a Lambic.
A huge thanks from the B.R.I. team to our homies at Grand Canyon, 12 West, Dark Sky, Helton and Goldwater. We had a great time and we can’t wait to drink this beer with you crazy bastards!
Matt and Greg
WHERE WE COME FROM, WHERE WE ARE AND WHERE WE'RE GOING
Not everyone knows our story. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, there’s a chance you’ve heard it. At least some of it…
Like so many great American success stories, ours began in a garage. Let’s jump in the time machine and go back to the winter of 2005. I received a gift card for Christmas and immediately took it down to the local homebrew shop to purchase everything I needed to brew my first batch of beer. It was horrible but I drank every drop and it sparked a passion that I knew I would pursue. After a couple of humbling batches of beer, Greg came over and jumped in on the brew days. We were both hooked. We sought out every book we could, followed every beer blog and pod cast that was available. We joined our local homebrew club and continued to make as much beer as our schedules allowed. Through the process, like every homebrewer, we kept refining our process and adding equipment to make our brew days more efficient. Then, little by little, we started making better beer. Ultimately, the hobby was challenging and fun. If you know anything about us, you know we like to have a good time. About the only thing we take seriously is our craftsmanship and our brand
Time passes and we continue to make better beer. Little by little. We develop the recipes for some of B.R.I.’s flagship beers: 480G, Lolli, War Paint and Street Cred. One day, it occurred to us that we wanted to open a brewery. It was a crazy idea. After all, we both had successful companies and we had an amazing hobby that we were passionate about. We had loving, supportive wives. We had everything we could ask for in life. Why would we risk it all to follow some crazy dream? When you have an entrepreneurial spirit, it drives you. You want to take risks. You want to do something crazy. You thrive on it. So the question really wasn’t why we would want to do this, it was more how could we possibly not do it!
Jump back in the time machine and fast forward to November 2014. We open The Beer Research Institute on financial fumes and none of our own beer! Ok, we had one. It was a collaboration that we made with our good friends over at O.H.S.O. Perhaps you’ve heard of Mjango Unchained?
The first few months were tough. It was long days, long nights and trying to find our new normal. Within a week of opening, we had 3 of our own beers on tap. Just in time for our Grand Opening. We opened with Batch #1 which was originally supposed to be Lolli but we just missed the mark on our gravities. We had War Paint Red IPA and Vanilla Porter as well. We were proud of the beer we produced, the space we created, our Scratch menu and our employees. Everything came together just as we had envisioned. We spent the next month ironing out the kinks and making as much beer as we possibly could to fill our tap handles.
At a certain point, we realized that we had created something special. Our intent was always to create a place that WE would like to hang out at, to create beer that WE would like to drink and to create food that WE would like to eat. We were just hoping that everyone else would like it as well. Fortunately, for B.R.I., its worked out amazingly. So much so, that we were forced to make a decision a little over a year and a half ago. The decision was quite frankly, a tough one. Continue doing exactly what we were doing and enjoy exactly where we were or….GROW. That entrepreneurial spirit that drove us to open B.R.I. in the first place kicked in and we decided the only right thing to do for ourselves, our brand, our employees and our customers was to grow. That brings us to where we are now.
As I write this on February 5th 2018, just 3 days away from the 2018 Arizona Beer Week, I reflect on our humble beginnings and what we’ve done to be sitting right here, right now. We just completed our expansion project that took over a year. It was a year of excitement, anxiety, sleepless nights, arguments, passion, stress and more excitement. It challenged our creativity, our sanity, our relationships and our survival instincts. Was it worth it? Hell yes it was!
We grew from a 5-barrel brew house with 25 barrels of fermentation space to a 7-barrel brew house with 110 barrels of fermentation space. The decision to grow was not ego driven. We don’t want to make more beer just for the sake of making more beer. We’re not doing this to become millionaires. We do it because we’re proud of what we create and we want to make sure that every time you walk into our brewery, we have a pint of your favorite beer. We want to make sure that the dozens of craft beer bars and restaurants throughout the greater Phoenix area can serve our product when they want to. We’ve had to tell them all no for the last two years. In the very near future, we’ll be able to tell them yes and you’ll see more B.R.I. beers around town. We now have the capacity to keep all 15 of our handles at our pub full of B.R.I. beers all the time. We have the space and ability to do small can runs. We’ll be able to do seasonal bottle releases. And yes, we’ll be able to fill your growlers and crowlers daily. Soon.
The last couple of weeks has been challenging for us as the owners of this brand. We’ve had to say no to people more than we’re comfortable with. We’ve had to say no to keg sales. We’ve had to say no to growler and crowler fills. We’re at the lowest point we’ve been with beer inventory since the beginning of this brand so we’ve had to say no when you come in and want a certain beer that we just don’t have.
Through the transition of moving our equipment, we’ve had a bit of down time on the brewing cycle. All while having record traffic at the brewery. You guys LOVE our beer and we appreciate it. That’s why we had to make the decision to cut off keg sales temporarily to local accounts. That’s why we haven’t been able to fill your growler when you come in. We want to make sure that there is enough beer here at B.R.I. when you come in for a pint and in order to maintain that, we’ve had to restrict to go sales. We know its frustrating. Believe me. We know. But, we’re almost there. We see the light at the end of the tunnel and wanted to give you all a little sneak peek and what our future looks like.
We’ve been brewing! We’ve been collaborating with our friends in this amazing industry for specialty releases for AZ Beer Week. Look for collaborations with Grand Canyon Brewing, Dark Sky Brewing, 12 West Brewing and 8-Bit Aleworks over the next week! We’ve been making our core beers as well and we’ve even made a new beer since the expansion has been complete. It’s on tap now. Maybe a pint of Lazy Rye IPA will hold you over while we get the rest of the tap lines filled with more of our beers.
We have a new, refreshed menu. We took a close look at what you’re ordering when you come in. We kept all the best sellers and got rid of the clutter. We’ve added a few new items that we’ve test batched over the last few years on our daily special menu. All while keeping our focus rooted in Scratch Made food that we can be proud of every day. We’ve added 50 new seats in our expansion area and patios with more to come in the next few months.
This year, you’ll see and benefit from a barrel aging program. We’re in the process of procuring 20 Bourbon and Wine barrels to age select beers in. These beers will hopefully find their way into bottles later this year and into next.
We’ve made a commitment to begin small batch canning for a handful of our core beers and for specialty releases. Think 16 oz. tallboys of 480G IPA and new, exciting limited releases in the next few months.
To our partners in the market that purchase or want to purchase kegs of B.R.I. beer for your bar or restaurant, it’s coming. We got you. We’ll be hiring a full time sales rep to support your accounts. We’ve hired a full time brewery assistant to help keep up with production and deliver the goods to your account. We’ve kept you on hold for a long time and the wait is almost over.
To all of our customers, crew, friends and family: we appreciate your support. We are extremely flattered and humbled every day that you love what we’ve created. We appreciate your patience and continued support as we work through these growing pains. So, that’s the past, present and future. Still Local. Still Punk Rock. Still Fiercely Independent. Still Doing What We Love. Just A Little MORE Of IT! We’re glad you fine people jumped on board. Now hang tight. It’s gonna be one hell of a ride!
Matt & Greg