If you’re getting into the professional brewing game these days, there are probably two things to know, and Drew Perez is fully aware of both of them:
- “Everyone and their mother is creating a craft brewery right now.”
- “Lots of people are into IPAs, especially imperial IPAs because they want bang for their buck.”
But there’s a third aspect that brewers with professional aspirations
hopefully certainly realize. It’s what sets Drew and his friends with Sharp End Brewing apart.
“Even if everyone is getting into [brewing], not everyone is creating great beer,” he said. “I want us to be well situated in what we can do when we’re ready to do it.”
Last week, I introduced you to Drew and Anthony Apollo, two of the guys behind Sharp End Brewing, an enthusiastic group of homebrewers from New York working their way to commercial beer production. I heard about the pair through a friend, who told me about their “Brewing Bad” exploits and my interest was piqued. But what really got my curiosity was when I found out they wanted to eventually take their homebrewing operation pro.
Of course they do, you may think. In this age of Pax Beervana, it’s easy to get in the game when you’ve got a five-gallon system at home, a dream and a Kickstarter account.
But these guys are not naive, even if they are relatively new to the beer industry.
In talking to Anthony and Drew, I was obviously impressed with their real-world take on their brewery plan. They want to start a nanobrewery, but are focusing on three to five years out at a time when a new American craft brewery is opening almost every day. As they experiment with recipes and make connections, they’re filling their time by doing lots of homework.
Anthony said they’ve become regulars at a nearby Half Time bottle shop, which boasts a tremendous stock of beers. For him, that’s been a learning experience.
“I’ve always been into thick, syrupy stouts, but I’ve recently gotten into IPAs and find myself becoming a real, big hop head,” Anthony said. “Now I’m trying to learn how to discern all the different types of hops.”
For Drew, his palate is also shifting. He loves a good Belgian blond and is usually up for a darker beer featuring chocolate malt, but he’ll rarely turn down a quality pale ale. It’s a far way from his craft beer epiphany, when he visited Colorado and made a trip to Avery Brewery, where he tried the 15 percent ABV behemoth known as The Beast.
“It blew me off my feet,” Drew said. “That sparked my interest in beer.”
For all the work these guys and their friends have done so far, it’s funny how serendipitous this move toward a pro career was. When Drew decided to get serious about homebrewing, he happened to have a friend was moving out of town and needed to sell-off his homebrewing supplies.
Drew wound up with an estimated $2,000 worth of equipment for a quarter of the price.
“Someone else was trying to bargain for it, but never showed up first to buy it,” he said.
… and that’s led us to where we are. The guys are actively brewing and even just bought a chest fridge to turn into a kegerator for six beers, including one on nitro. Anthony said it’ll make serving their beers easier at “brewBQs.”
In addition, they’ll be joining thousands of other brewers across the country for the American Homebrewer’s Association “Big Brew” day on May 3 where they’ll not only brew, but serve three beers: a pale ale, cream ale with orange blossom honey and a pitch-black mild inspired by Brooklyn Brewery’s “Sun Don’t Shine.” It’s appropriately called (for music fans) “Black Hole Sun.”
All this is to say, it’s an exciting time for Anthony, Drew and fellow Sharp Enders Steve and Frank. Remember that eisbock they entered into the National Homebrew Competition? It placed third in its category and is moving to the final round.
“I don’t think any of us will quit our day jobs any time soon,” Anthony joked, “but we’ve got a good network of people for feedback and we’ll keep expanding, keep talking to people and get good recipes under our belt.”
For updates on what the Sharp End guys are up to, visit their Facebook page.
Related: Birth of a Brewery? From ‘Breaking Bad’ to Breaking Pro: An Introduction
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac
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