We haven’t brewed a drop of beer yet, but we’ve already run out of the hops we need to brew the beers we are planning to brew.
When I moved to the Austin area in 1999, it was a beer oasis in the middle of Texas. There were plenty of brewpubs — including Waterloo, The Copper Tank and The Bitter End. There were two homebrew shops. And, there was a world-class brewery — Celis.
The Celis Brewery was the namesake of Pierre Celis, the Belgian brewer who revived the witbier style with his Hoegaarden witbier. After his Belgian brewery burned down, Celis was unable to reopen because he was underinsured. However, he was able to secure funding to open a brewery in the US and he came to Texas.
His Austin brewery produced Celis White, which was a world class beer — and earned the medals at various commercial beer competitions to prove it. To top it off, the brewery also made a second world-class beer — Celis Grand Cru. (To be fair, they also made Celis Raspberry and Pale Rider, a beer advertised as having been brewed to the specifications of Clint Eastwood. But, with two home runs in Celis' portfolio, it's silly to spend much time on the bunts.)
Celis was thinking big when he set up shop in Austin, a kind of big that few US craft brewers were back in the 1990s. He came to Austin primarily because of the water, but he also knew that Austin put him between two of the biggest cities in the US (Dallas, to the north and Houston, to the east), near a major seaport (Houston) and near a major US highway (the brewery was located right off I-35). Celis wanted his brewery to be huge. And for awhile, it looked like that was going to happen....
Many of the beers I enjoy are brewed only from malt, hops, water and yeast, for example IPA and Octoberfests. But, I don't shy away from beers that contain other ingredients. I generally like coffee stouts or coffee porters and also recently wrote an article about brewing with coffee (May/June 2010 issue). If you were ever to stop by my house, you'd also know that I like cats. So, imagine how happy I was when — a year or so ago — I heard of a beverage that combined beer, coffee and cats.
Well, not cats exactly. The beer — Mikkeller's Beer Geek Breakfast Brunch (Weasel) — is an imperial oatmeal stout made with coffee. But not just any coffee. This coffee comes from coffee cherries that have been eaten, and the coffee bean excreted, by the Asian palm civit. Civits are small mammals that look a bit like cats, but aren't. (They are most closely related to genets, other small mammals that look sort of like cats, but aren't.) The beans are cleaned and then processed into a very expensive type of coffee called kopi luwak (in Malaysia), ca phe chon (in Vietnam) or other names, depending on where it is produced. The Mikkeller beer uses Vietnamese civit coffee and is brewed at the Nøgne Ø brewery in Grimsatd, Norway.
Here's a picture of the bottle (and Austin ZEALOT Joe White proclaiming that the Austin ZEALOTS are #1!)
Even before I began the process of opening Heretic Brewing Company, homebrewers would ask me what it took to open a brewery.
When you think about starting a brewery, you know you will need kegs to package some portion of your beer, but that is about as far as the thinking goes.