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
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.