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Beerded Bastard Interviews Andy Tveekrem

Andy Tveekrem, brewer with Frederick Brewing Co.
Interviews February 6, 2003      
Written by beerdedbastard

Willoughby, OHIO -

Andrew Tveekrem has been Brewmaster at the Frederick Brewing Company since June 2000. Previously he was Brewmaster at Great Lakes Brewing Co. of Cleveland, OH, where he started his career in 1991.

BB: Hi Andy! Thanks for taking some time from your very busy schedule…And I do mean BUSY! How many Brands you are responsible for now?

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Andy and Vickie Tveekrem

AT: OK Larry, I’ve got my beer in hand and I’m ready. Let’s see, brand-wise we have: Wild Goose, Blue Ridge, Crooked River, Christian Moerlein, Little Kings, Hudepohl, and our contracts which include Stoudt’s, Penn Pilsner, Terrapin Ale (all draft), Williamsburg, and Thirsty Dog. I think that’s enough for now…

BB: WOW, that’s a lot of brewing. I lost count of how many styles are involved with each of those brands too! What were your production numbers for last year? And compare them with the previous year.

AT: In 2002 we brewed 35,500 barrels, up about 1,200 bbls from 2001. (A Barrel is equal to 31 US Gallons)

BB: Describe the Operation at Frederick…Brewhaus, production, cellar capacities and Tank sizes, etc…

AT: Well, we have a 50 bbl capacity brewhouse (it’s a JVNW 5 vessel design ) with 2 kettles and a separate whirlpool. Not 24-7 yet! 5 days a week covers it all for now. We typically brew 4 batches per day. It’s a two-shift operation in brewing and one shift for packaging. We have 6x50 bbl fermentation tanks, 4x100 bbl, and 16x200 bbl. Then we have a 400 bbl bright beer tank, a 200 bbl BT, and 2x100 bbl BTs. We can produce 55-60,000 bbls with current tankage and the tank farm is laid out for easy expansion. We have a centrifuge for primary clarification and a Handtmann sterile filter press that runs in line with the bottling and kegging.

The packaging line is nice layout centered around a 250 bottle per minute Krones filler. We can package 3000 cases per day on one shift. The line starts with a bulk glass depalletizer, runs through a twist rinser, bottle filling, labeling, drop packer, sealer and palletizer. We also run a case erector and six-pack popper. Our draft beer is filled on a Till keg cleaner/filler. And we have a really nice lab for QA work. When this place was built it was pretty well laid out. Oh, and we run three yeast strains year round: one lager and two ale.

The best thing about FBC is the people we have working here. We’ve got 18 really dedicated people in here every day doing whatever it takes to get things done. Given the magnitude of some of the obstacles we face, we achieve some impressive results. As I’m sure you are aware, shiny equipment doesn’t make great beer... people do.

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1<SUP>st</SUP> step…Mash the grains and then send them to the Lauter Tun.

BB: Good People are KEY. It sounds like you have lots of fun "toys" to play with there! I remember that "Tank Farm" being a Stainless Fetishist’s Dream!!! Since becoming brewmaster at Frederick, you have absorbed many brands under your control. How are these additional brands introduced into your brew rotation?

AT: New brands coming in are a challenge from a flavor-matching standpoint, but we just sit down and sample a few beers and then scale up or down depending on the previous recipe. Or else just start with the idea and fire off a batch… that approach works pretty well, too.

BB: What is your strongest brand seller, or what do you make the most of?

AT: Little Kings is our biggest volume brand, with about 18,000 bbls per year. Wild Goose sells very well too, with about 8,000 bbls overall.

BB: One of your biggest challenges (I assume…) was with the Little Kings line? Tell me about some of your experiences with that.

AT: Yeah, getting LK going was a hassle; but we just got creative. It has some special requirements that most craft brewers don’t have to deal with; namely being brewed with corn adjunct, light stable hopping, stabilization downstream with silica gel, and three different bottle sizes. The hopping was pretty easy since we just add hop extract to the kettle. We also have to run LK yeast by itself; otherwise the yeast strain might pick up a few ppm of isohumulone from a conventionally hopped beer, thereby compromising the light stability of the LK. But we brew it all the time so it’s not a problem keeping the yeast going. Corn syrup is what we use for adjunct and that is some sticky stuff to deal with. It’s thick, heavy and won’t flow under 100 degrees F. So we built a little heating hut for the totes and warm them up for a day or two. Then we pick up the tote with our forklift and raise it up about 25 feet and hook up the ‘syrup slide’ which is 4" pvc pipe and just let the stuff flow down into the boil kettle.

We had one bad day where a tote slid off the forks and smashed down on top of the cold water tank, destroying a bit of piping. Could have been a lot worse, but seeing 1000# of syrup covering everything was bad enough. Now the fellas secure the totes very well.

BB:That sounds downright scary…But no injuries though?

AT: Actually, there was some comic relief in that incident. One of our guys (a rookie at that time) is kind of hyper, so he was running all over trying to clean up the mess. He came zipping down the steps, hit a 3 inch thick patch of syrup and did a beautiful body-slide for a couple of yards. Covered himself head to boots in warm, sticky corn syrup. He had that same pissed-off/ humiliated look that a soaking wet cat gives you. We couldn’t stop laughing!

BB: Describe the modifications you added to the bottling line to include it’s different packaging and bottle sizes.

AT: Basically just got all the conveyor, filler and labeler change parts for the 7 oz. and 40 oz. bottles. And we had to add a screw capper for the 40s. Those are my favorite bottles to see running. They move slowly but they have lots of beer in them. Frankly, I think its time for IPA in 40s! Just the right serving size. Bag is optional.

BB: One brand in particular is of interest to me personally. As you know, I used to brew the Crooked River brands you inherited in late 2000. Congrats again on the "Gold" last year for the ESB btw! What has been your experience with this line? And how are they doing in the market place today ?

AT: Crooked River still does well for us. It has great beers in the lineup and sells pretty well in NE Ohio. We have a hard time keeping up with the ESB demand especially. We also sell a fair amount in N. Virginia and Maryland these days.

BB: Didn’t you recently add a light beer to the Crooked River lineup?

AT: It’s a great little beer, all malt Pilsner type with Saaz hops, good for cutting the grass. It blows away Sam Adams Light for sure, although that’s not really saying much. Sales-wise... not much is happening. We got it out too late to hit the prime summer season so that didn’t help. We’ll see what next summer brings. Personally, I found it to be another technical challenge so it was fun from that angle. Yet another opportunity to expand my brewing education and experience.

BB: How are those Century FV’s that came from CR in Cleveland? I try to keep up on "old Equipment"! Jeff Ogden (formerly Brewed for Western Reserve Brewing in Cleveland) is using the other 4 at SKA Brewing Co., in Durango, CO. And the Old 30 BBL Century Brewhaus I believe is making "REAL" Ales somewhere in England, at the Rooster Brewing Co. It was the Sister to your 30BBL system at GLBC, which ALSO left the country, and is now in Canada.

AT: Hey, if you know of any more 50 or 60 bbl Century tanks somewhere, let me know. I’d like to put in another row of them since they come in so handy. They’re great for small contract batches and for working up yeast starters. I really like Century tanks, it’s too bad they are gone as a fabricator. Chuck Kerns was a hell of a craftsman. JV could sure learn a thing or two from those tanks.

I miss those three 30 bbl horizontal Century tanks that were sold when Crooked River was shut down in Cleveland. Those were my "three little piggies" from Great Lakes, when we were toying with the idea of putting in a bunch of lager tanks in the basement of the old department store building. We sold them to CR when we put in the new bottler in ’95. It would have been nice to have brought them to Frederick, but they just weren’t a practical size for us to use.

BB: Another brand that was brewed at Frederick was the HEMPEN label; Hempen Ale and Golden. I always enjoyed the Ale on Draft, it was like a nice ESB with a "nuttiness". Very drinkable. Was production over when you arrived, or did you get to brew some of those final batches?

AT: Yes, Hempen ale was still clinging to the Cliffside when I got here in 2000, but we shut it down shortly thereafter. Frankly, I was happy to see it go. If hemp seeds were meant to be put in beer somebody would have been doing it hundreds or thousands of years prior. Fact is, they just don’t make beer taste good. The oils in the seeds go rancid quickly and the beer ends up tasting like suntan lotion.

Now I know all the stoners out there want to believe that there is a ‘kind’ element to their beer, but really folks, get a grip. Chug some bong water if you want a weird buzz, but drink beer because it tastes good. Fact is, those seeds came from China originally and they were probably harvested by slave labor. That doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Hops on the other hand, are picked by nubile Czech maidens wearing bikinis… ok, maybe a sweaty Mexican migrant making 20 bucks a day, but still….

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50 bbl JVNW Brewhaus

BB: Give some of the History of the HEMPEN brand and why it is no longer made…

AT: Hail Mary pass to the end zone….and……FUMBLE!!

BB: LOL! O.K…Another brand and style of interest is the Brimstone Stone Beer. I understand it was made in the traditional method, with hot stones being added to the boil. Is this brew still being made and in the same way?

AT: Another brand we croaked in 2000. SIBG still has rights to the brand so it could be revived at some point, but it’s dead for now. The volume just wasn’t there for us, so the beer sat around. But yes, we did put hot rocks into the kettle to scorch some sugar. It’s a neat idea, but you really need to be set up to do that without getting somebody killed or maimed.

My favorite beer in the Brimstone lineup was the Irish Wake Stout. We took that recipe and use it as our Blue Ridge Steeple Stout, which we will be brewing next week. It’s a great seasonal beer, very rich and delicious.

BB: We met while you were the brewmaster at Great Lakes Brewing Co., in Cleveland, Ohio; And I was just a loyal Consumer! You probably can’t CIP the memory of me showing up for a Halloween Party as a "Barrel of Bad Brew" out of your mind!!! Can you share some of your memories from "the Lakes"?

AT: Wow, it would take a while to scribble out 9 years worth of memories. I met my wife Vickie there and we had the wedding reception in the basement. That was a night!

I miss a lot of the people I worked with and socialized with there. The 90s were a special time, both for me and for the craft brewing industry. It was a coming of age experience that can’t be replaced.

BB: I agree…I would have to many memories of my own to list. What were some of the changes you have dealt with (positive/negative) in your move from GLBC to FBC and the SIBG corporation? And is Frederick the only currently operating brewery in the SIBG "family"?

AT: Yes, Frederick is the only brewery, although we contract some of the cheaper brands (Hudy, Burger) out of LaCrosse. We can’t run cans here.

It has definitely been a change coming here. I went from a company that was prosperous and secure (but nevertheless full of frustrations) to one in which it is easier to be an active manager, but is financially strained. That has its share of frustrations, believe me.

But as this company has changed over the past three years, opportunities keep opening up. I have learned and grown tremendously as a result. So I’m glad I made the move when I did, it has really expanded my horizons.

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100 Barrels is equal to 3100 US gallons

BB: Do you still get much of a chance to put your boots on and Brew these days?

AT: Sure. Mostly I brew to fill in for somebody who is out or when I’m training someone. But I get a few hours in the brewhouse every week. The rest of the time is spent wandering around and seeing how people are doing, answering questions, etc. Or else I’m sitting in the office, feet on the desk, staring at the ceiling. I’ve always had a talent for that.

BB: LOL! Not YOU!! I have always been a fan of you and your beers. Please tell me more about yourself…Hobbies, Growing up, beer style preferences and education, etc…

AT: I’m just a skinny white boy from Akron, Ohio…(Although, now) It is pretty good to live only 15 minutes from Antietam battlefield and 30 minutes from Gettysburg. The landscape of western Maryland is just fantastic. The only draw back is that folks out here tend to be Steelers fans. What’s a fella to do?!!!

Hobbies: home remodeling, Airstreams, disc golf.

Education: BA in history, College of Wooster, 2 years graduate school in history at Kent State Univ., currently working toward my MBA at Mount St. Mary’s. 3 weeks of Siebel Institute courses for the brewing education.

Beer preferences: pale ales, IPAs, porters and stouts, hefeweizen, and dry Pilsners. And anything else that is well made, seasonally appropriate and within reach.

BB: How did your interest in beer and brewing develop? And list some of your accomplishments.

AT: College is what got me into beer in a big way. In ’83 I studied in Germany for a semester and cut class one day with some friends and we toured the Ganter Brauerei in Freiburg. That was a great experience. I didn’t know anything about beer really but that sort of set the hook in me. Then I started homebrewing in grad school because I needed beer I could afford. Kent State only paid $525/month for me to grade history exams so life was LEAN. Shortly thereafter, I met my buddy Eric Olson and started up an all-grain system in his basement. Then it was up to Cleveland for SNOB-Society of Northern Ohio Brewers (homebrew club) meetings in 1990, by which time I was seriously thinking about real job opportunities in brewing.

My greatest accomplishment is making a decent living by doing what I love and hearing from others that my beer makes them happy.

BB: What do you see for the future at Frederick Brewing Co.? For Andy Tveekrem??

AT: Hard to say what the future holds for FBC. Much is up the air right now. As for me, well, I’m studying business, so that may help in the long run. Only time will tell.

BB: Well Andy, It’s been really good talking with you, and I really appreciate your taking this time to answer my Questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

AT: Yes, oh Beerded Bastard… will you be dying your hair bright <FONT SIZE=2 COLOR="#008000">green</FONT> for Saint Paddy’s day?

BB: LOL! Well I’m not sure just yet! I WILL go <FONT SIZE=2 COLOR="#0000ff">Blue</FONT> for "Fe-<FONT SIZE=2 COLOR="#0000ff">BLUE</FONT>-Larry" (February!) though!!!

Thanks Andy,

Happy Brewing.




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