Ohio Brew Masters part 2
Dogbrick Interviews Jay Wince of Weasel Boy Brewing
February 28, 2008
Written by Dogbrick
Dogbrick: Let’s start with your history in brewing. Can you tell us how you got started, and where you were prior to opening Weasel Boy?
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Jay Wince: I started into amateur brewing in 1995. A friend introduced me to the hobby and I thought it would be fun to brew my own beer. I must admit though, I was not the most enthusiastic brewer over my first five years in the hobby. I averaged about 2 or 3 batches a year until my wife and business partner, Lori, purchased me a basic all grain equipment kit for Christmas in 2000. Once I started into all-grain brewing I was seriously hooked. I loved the brewing process as much as I liked the final product. I enjoyed formulating recipes and tweaking them to my taste. All of the control and subtleties really hooked me. I averaged about 20 batches per year after that. Finally in 2005 Lori and I started to look into the possibility of starting a commercial brewery in Zanesville. The time seemed right and all of the circumstances started to fall into place.
DB: What went into your decision to use Zanesville as a base of operations?
JW: a. Born and raised here is probably the major contributor to the decision. I moved away for about four years but came back for a job opportunity afterwards. After Lori and I were married we settled in here and our jobs kept us here. We were seriously looking into the possibility of moving west shortly before we decided to start this venture. Our house was paid for and we had the itch to move to the mountains out west. But then this idea struck us. Zanesville seemed ripe for a craft brewery. Certain retail outlets in the city were stocking and moving large amounts of quality craft beer. We decided that a locally produced product would fit the bill and be in demand. Hopefully we made the right decision.
DB: According to your website, your Taproom officially opened on 1/26/08. Prior to that your beers were available in various establishments east of Columbus. What is your vision of the Weasel Boy Taproom when it’s all said and done?
JW: We would like to offer an alternative to the usual bar atmosphere. We are located on the Muskingum River and have a patio on the riverbank. The taproom is literally part of the brewhouse. There are no walls or glass to separate you from the equipment except a short partition. We also want it to be an extension of your living room where you can sit down on a sofa or an easy chair and read a book or converse with friends while enjoying a fresh craft brewed beer. We want to have music in the background and not be so loud that you can’t talk over it. We want to dispense with the loud Sports Bar atmosphere and offer a more serene and personal experience with interaction among the customers and staff being an important part of the overall experience. Sometimes you just want to sit down and enjoy a nice beer in a quiet and comfortable atmosphere. We hope to provide that.
DB: Most Brewpubs have a “flagship” beer. What would you consider to be Weasel Boy’s flagship beer, and what is your personal favorite in the lineup?
JW: At this point I can’t say for sure what our flagship beer will be. Our customers will have to determine that. I would say that to this point our flagship beer is the Plaid Ferret Scottish Ale. It has been our best seller to date and really does kind of sum up our approach. Plaid Ferret is a traditional eighty shilling Scottish-style ale that is light-medium in body, moderate in alcoholic strength and very accessible to the uninitiated to craft beer. When I say that it sums up our approach I mean that it is one of the accepted session beer styles. We have four beers in our line-up that are under 5% abv. We want our customers to be able to enjoy a few beers over the course of an evening with friends and not be concerned about being the worse for it. As to what is my favorite, it depends on what day it is. I like them all. They are all recipes that I have enjoyed brewing at home. I don’t think that I can pick one over the other.
DB: Speaking of lineups, your website also mentions that you currently have 7 beers available: White Weasel Wheat, Plaid Ferret Scottish Ale, Dancing Ferret IPA, River Mink Mild Brown Ale, Polecat Pilsner, Brown Stoat Stout, Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout, plus a seasonal Royscatt Winter Amber. How many year-round and seasonal beers do you consider to be ideal for your operation, and do you plan to expand your lineup at some point?
JW: Our regular rotation includes the first six beers that you mention. We will keep these six available year round. Our seasonal and specialty selections will vary and there could be as many as 3 or 4 available at the taproom at any one time. The plan will be to brew the Russian Imperial Stout once a year. The same is true for beers like the Royscatt Winter Amber, which will be coming out in February. We don’t have a definite plan for seasonal beers but we have some plans in the works for a couple of spring and summer beers and we have a few ideas for the fall. We plan to do the Barley Wine for next winter as well. We’ll have to see what else that we can come up with and see what our customers would like to see us do. We will definitely have an open ear to the people who enjoy our product.
DB: Any plans to bottle some of your beers in the future?
JW: At this point in time we have no plans to bottle at all.
DB: The name of your company and beers are homage to various furry carnivorous mammals. Anything to that?
JW: Lori and I have owned ferrets throughout our marriage. Ferrets are members of the Weasel family as are all of the other critters that our beers are named for. We will try and be creative in naming new beers to our line up so as to keep faithful to our namesake. Response to our company name, logo and beer names have been very positive. People seem to like that we don’t take ourselves too seriously and they like the playful lighthearted approach. Some exceptions will surface such as the Anastasia Imperial Stout. In those cases we will keep the names as a tribute to the success that these beers enjoyed in amateur brewing.
DB: What would you say is the biggest challenge in starting a business whose primary focus is creating craft beer?
JW: That’s a tough question. I think that one of the biggest challenges that new breweries and brewers are faced with is meeting the high expectations of the experienced palates of the craft beer customer. The selection and availability of quality craft beer is at an all-time high. We as brewers must maintain products of the highest quality, of a stable consistency that the customer will repeatedly want to consume. Choice of products is another challenge. Even though most craft brewers offer an IPA in their line-up, the customer is more than happy to try a new one. So we need to offer proven accepted styles and at the same time try to be innovative and come up with the next new idea. It can be a tough line to walk. One thing we cannot do is become complacent. We must continually try to offer our customers high quality, variety and new products. One of the fastest growing segments of the beer market that I have seen is the acceptance of the Belgian styles. We don’t currently do anything like that but we do appreciate those styles of beer and we do actually have a test product that we are developing. Hopefully that will be one of our introductions this year.
DB: Do you plan on entering your beers in any competitions? If so, what style or styles would you plan on entering?
JW: I think that competitions will definitely be in our future. Presently we are busy just trying to get our business on the right track and taking the time to do a competition is difficult. Competitions can offer a couple of benefits that definitely are worth considering. First there is the respect of your peers. Winning a medal in a major competition against the best in the business gets you some attention. While competitions are by their very nature subjective, the pool of judges these days usually ensures that winners are deservedly among the best beers out there. Also craft beer drinkers pay attention to competitions. They seek out and support winners. I think that entering and especially winning, helps to promote one’s products to the craft beer drinkers and homebrewers. Style wise it would just depend on how good I felt about a particular beer at the time that it is to be entered. I would have to think that the Russian Imperial Stout would have to be one for consideration.
DB: As far as styles go, what would you say is your favorite, and are there any particular brewers (aside from Weasel Boy) who you think exemplify that style?
JW: One of my personal favorite styles is Russian Imperial Stout. One that stands out in my mind is Expedition Stout from Bell’s. That would be my benchmark. There are others that I think very highly of as well but the Bell’s just seems to fit my interpretation of what the style should be. It has a depth of malt complexity that is not buried beneath the roasted and chocolate flavors. It definitely improves as it ages. Hopefully I’ll do the same!
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We have four beers in our line-up that are under 5% abv. We want our customers to be able to enjoy a few beers over the course of an evening with friends and not be concerned about being the worse for it.
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