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People Behind the Pint: Justin Reik

This month, we sat down with Justin Reik, one of Land-Grant’s four brewers. We learned more about his love of teamwork, Goodfellas, homebrewing, and infusion beers.

Name: Justin Reik
Position: Brewer

How long have you been at Land-Grant?
My first shift was actually bar-backing the first and only Land-Grant New Years Eve Party on December 31, 2014. I was baptized by fire that night. After surviving some more crazy nights behind the bar, I began to pester the higher ups about the potential of helping out in the brewery. This persistent badgering continued for a few months before I was finally able to secure a spot as a Brewer’s Assistant in June of 2015.

What is it you do here?
I am trying very hard not to quote Office Space here.

First and foremost, I am one of the now four people at Land-Grant Brewing Company that brews the suds you are (hopefully) holding in your hand. Though that may seem like an illustrious thing to say, the amount of glorified janitorial work required to be a brewer makes sure to humble me a little bit each and everyday. It is said that being a brewer is 95% cleaning, which is not necessarily false.

Other than scrubbing various surfaces, I also create a majority of the infusions that get tapped in our taproom. When I began homebrewing in college, I decided I never wanted to brew anything that I could buy in stores because chances are, the guys at Sierra Nevada are brewing a better Pale Ale than I ever could. This decision has led me to where I am now; on a constant search for brand new (but most importantly, delicious) flavor combinations.

With all of the new collaborations coming out, could you touch upon the process of collaborative beers?
The craft beer community has grown a reputation all over the country for being very generous and collaborative through their willingness to share knowledge, processes, and even something as simple as ingredients with each other. To further strengthen the kinship of the craft brewing community it is not unusual for two or more breweries to collaborate on a batch of beer–much like how a homebrewer would with a friend on a homebrew recipe. These projects tend to be brewed for a specific purpose, whether that is to celebrate a special occasion, to experiment with new techniques and ingredients, to benefit a charity, and so on. For example, our Supporter Series beers are brewed in collaboration with Boulevard Brewing Company and Peticolas Brewing Company in celebration of the upcoming Crew SC matches against two of the original 10 MLS squads: Sporting KC and FC Dallas respectively.

Each and every collaboration we have done has come about in a different manner, so there is really no conventional process for the creation of these beers. Some collaborations require months of planning, others require a DVD of Goodfellas, a couple of pizzas, and a lazy weekday afternoon (see our Hoof Hearted collab, ‘Totes Liotes‘). Sometimes there is really no rhyme or reason for a collaborative beer other than a mere funny name idea shared between two friends from two different breweries evolving into a product on tap (see our collab with Seventh Son, ‘Sports and Jorts‘). 

These beers are wonderful for us on the brew team because they give insight into how other breweries operate on a day-to-day basis. It is easy to get caught up in the same cycle of procedures of your own brewery, so witnessing how another brew team functions is an incredibly helpful resource. At the end of each and every one of these collaborations there is always a fulfilling sense of accomplishment, as we are strengthening the brewing community, learning from each other’s techniques and procedures, and experimenting with new and outlandish ingredients–all while creating super tasty beers!

Justin “collaborating” with Seventh Son’s brewery cat, Assistant Manager

We’ve heard rumblings of a new Pilot Brewhouse–can you confirm the rumors?
The rumors are true–we ended up purchasing a new pilot brewhouse earlier this year that will allow us to brew smaller and more eclectic batches of beer to fill up the board in the taproom. Think of it as our own little in-house Research & Development brewery; a system that will give us the opportunity to brew a tiny test batch of a beer before we “go all in” on a recipe and brew 80 barrels (2,480 gallons) of it. Being a person of the more creative/outlandish persuasion, I am jumping at the bit to be able to start brewing some interesting recipes that we may not have had the confidence to brew on our larger system.

Though we are still in the planning stages, the initial idea for this new system would be for each brewer to have his own designated tap in the taproom that they would have to keep filled with a batch brewed on this brewhouse. This will allow patrons to gain more insight into the types of beers that each of us enjoy brewing/drinking, which is a really neat personal touch that you cannot find at the majority of craft breweries around the country.

People Behind the Pint: Vinny Valentino

This month, we sat down with Vinny Valentino, Land-Grant's official environmental enthusiast and Sustainability Manager. We learned more about the role he developed at Land-Grant, as well as his ambitions for zero waste and the initiatives he is cultivating to meet those goals.

Name: Vinny Valentino
Position: Sustainability Manager

How long have you been at Land-Grant?
I started as a part-time bartender in the middle of March 2016. I pitched the Sustainability Manager position that Fall and began in that position in the middle of November 2016.

What is it you do here?
I design, implement, and manage our various sustainability initiatives focused on reducing the environmental impact in our operations and our supply chain. To better measure and manage these efforts, the sustainability program is split into four pillars:

Within each of these pillars are various projects that I implement and manage (such as energy efficiency, water use management, etc.), although the Community Partnerships are handled by our Outreach Coordinator, Jackie Kemble. That being said, some projects, such as zero waste programming for large events or diversion of our brewing byproduct, require working and partnering with various farms and agricultural groups around Columbus and Ohio. I manage these partnerships.

What exactly does “Mitigation of Life Cycle Impact” entail?
It’s a bit of a catch all. The “life cycle” of craft beer starts at the farms where we source the hops and grains that go into our beer, as well as the facilities we pull our malts from. Malting is a very energy intensive process, so we want to know how our suppliers source their energy. Then these ingredients are shipped here, so what kind of vehicles do our suppliers use? Large amounts of water, energy, and labor are required to turn those ingredients into our beer, which in turn is canned or kegged and sent to bars, restaurants, carry-outs, grocery stores, and stadiums throughout Central Ohio. That is our beer’s life cycle.

So, mitigating this means finding and creating initiatives that reduce our environmental impact throughout that entire cycle. In it’s infancy, our program is focusing on immediate steps we can take in our operations, but I’ve begun researching what we can do upstream and downstream from our brewery.

What’s next for sustainability at Land-Grant?
I’ve started talking to various farms around the Columbus area about how they might be able to use our brewing byproduct (spent grain, spent yeast, and trub) for their crops and animals. Right now we’re working with St. Stephen’s Community Center in Linden and Hoffman Farms in Hilliard, though I’d like to get a handful more involved so we can get most, if not all, of our byproduct out of our wastewater stream. That’d be a great step forward if we can do so by the end of the year.

I also just went through an energy audit of the whole building and there’s a lot of impactful first steps we can take to reduce the amount of energy we’re using throughout a brew day. And we just had our first zero waste event for the Homage x Land-Grant All-American BBQ where we had a 72.7% diversion rate. While it wasn’t quite zero waste, we did divert over 400 pounds from the landfill and learned a lot about how to be better next time (stay tuned for our Three-Year Anniversary party!).

What is your favorite day of the week at the brewery?
I’m a fan of Thursday’s. Ajumama makes some delicious Korean street food and Nik is usually behind the bar, which means his fantastic playlist is probably on. For fans of kimchi and alt-folk rock, I definitely recommend Thursday.

People Behind the Pint: Lauren Benner

A new blog feature is a little section we’ve dubbed, “People Behind the Pint,” where we take the opportunity to highlight the incredible folks here at Land-Grant. For the debut, we sat down with our very talented Taproom Manager, Lauren Benner, to learn more about her role at Land-Grant as well as how you can secure private events with us this spring and summer season.

Name: Lauren Benner
Position: Strategic Operations Manager

How long have you been at Land-Grant?
Since 2007 when the very first batch of Land-Grant beer was brewed in a small coach house on the west side of Chicago. — Full disclosure, we should mention she’s married to Founder & President, Adam Benner —

What is it you do here?
I wear a lot of hats on a daily basis, but spend most of my time coordinating the happenings within the Taproom. It’s often working with our bar staff on the latest beer launch, corresponding with event requests as well as setting up the taproom space for our private gatherings.

The experience in our taproom is the reflection of our entire business and brand. We want customers who have never tried craft beer to those looking to try our unique batches to all feel comfortable and welcomed in our taproom. It’s a place of community. Our bar staff are all Cicerone Certified Beer Servers, so they can walk customers through our menu, similar to an experience at a winery, and recommend a beer for their specific tastes.

Watching the game is also a huge attraction at the Taproom, isn’t it?
Absolutely! Both of our owners are Ohio natives, and graduated from Ohio State, so Ohio sports are in our DNA. Customers can view Buckeyes, Crew SC, Cavs, CBJ, Indians and Browns’ games regularly with audio. We noticed this winter there were a couple of seats that didn’t have the best tv viewing, so we added an additional three tvs and upgraded our audio a few weeks ago, which means there isn’t a seat inside that doesn’t allow for a great viewing experience.

The food truck schedule this spring is also not to miss, including weekly rotating trucks that have won awards such as Aromaku, one of the “Top 100 places to eat in Columbus” and Ajumama, a Columbus Business First Top 10 Food Truck. We’ll also be adding some exciting guest appearances from Columbus favorites like the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream cart throughout the season this year.

You mentioned events at the Taproom, can you elaborate?
Our taproom can accommodate groups of all sizes looking to celebrate, educate, or raise funds for many purposes. The space is great for large groups. Our open atmosphere and community tables are great for mingling and hanging out. Spring and summer are great seasons for events, given our space extends to the outdoor patio in warmer months. This year we are again huge supporters of Pelotonia, and host rider happy hours on Mondays, Tuesday, and Wednesdays. We’re also again launching our Pelotonia supporter beer, One Goal, One Rye’d, later this summer. The 24 ft. communal tables can be reserved in advance as well as our more private Kickstarter Room that can accommodate groups of up to 25.

What is your favorite day of the week at the brewery?
Mondays and Tuesdays are seriously. The. Best. To me, you get the best of a taproom experience on those days. We have some of the greatest staff in the city, and guests get a chance to get to really get to know them. Belly up at the bar and you’ll get a true 1:1 experience to meet and chat with our staff as well as sample any/all beers on the menu.

LOCAL DELIVERY ONLY AVAILABLE FOR ORDERS OVER $40 (1 case). Please allow 20-30 minutes for us to pull pick-up orders. Pick-up is from Noon-7p Thursday-Saturday and Noon-4p Sunday Dismiss