Roots Abroad, But America Calls
Cross-cultural beer pioneers
Kuplent, who earned a master’s degree in malting and brewing science from the University of Munich-Weihenstephan, has worked at breweries in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, starting with an apprenticeship at Brauerei Erharting, a small brewery near where he grew up. At Anheuser-Busch, he created craft-style beers for the Michelob brand and worked in the yeast lab. Now he has his own yeast propagation lab at Urban Chestnut—something you don’t see at every craft brewery.
“We do try to do things doing things right and focus more on installing equipment,” Kuplent says. That’s reflected in the use of a centrifuge, which separates out the solids like yeast and hops like a filter would, without diminishing the flavor of unfiltered beer.
“It was a huge investment, but we’ve seen a big difference in quality and overall flavor profile,” he says.
St. Louis has responded too: The brewery has grown 200 percent year over year, and a little more than two years after opening, Kuplent and Wolfe announced this April that they are opening a second brewery in St. Louis. The new 60-barrel “green” brewhouse will have an annual capacity of 15,000 barrels to start, with the space to increase to 100,000 barrels. It is projected to open in 2014. They plan on brewing, packaging and testing smaller batch beers at the original 20-barrel brewhouse as well.
The same thread—of scientific refinement infused with creative takes on beer styles—can be found at Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery and in its German-born, Weihenstephan-trained brewmaster, Jan Matysiak.
“We are trying to combine this German tradition of a really scientific approach and trying to make really good beer with the raw, creative artisanal energy of American craft,” says Matysiak, who was born in north Germany, but grew up in a town outside Frankfurt.
“I saw the whole idea of going to foreign country and being exposed to a different culture and language as a really exciting adventure,” Matysiak says. “So far, it turned out to be a really good decision. I haven’t regretted it ever since.”
Matysiak came to the U.S. in 2008 to work for Live Oak Brewing Co. in Austin, TX. He recalls having his first American IPA at an Austin pub and brewery, The Draught House. His initial thoughts were “not good” and “way too bitter.” Then: “Fast-forward one year and it became my favorite beer.”
His American beer career moved east when Matysiak saw that Sixpoint was looking for a new brewer, and he reached out to Shane Welch, Sixpoint’s co-founder.
He joined in late 2011 after he and Welch connected, through a shared love for animals and a shared perspective on brewing—including a respect for styles and history.
“Since we at Sixpoint are constantly coming up with new beers or re-creating old styles, it’s a constant part of my daily work life to embrace all those beer styles.”
That drive has resulted in beers like their summer seasonal Apollo, a kristallweizen (filtered wheat) style beer, and 3Beans, a complex 10 percent ABV Baltic porter brewed with Romano beans and cacao husks from Mast Brothers Chocolate in the mash and infused with cold-brew coffee from Stumptown Roasters post-fermentation. The brainstorming for 3Beans alone took seven months, Matysiak says, and involved reading old texts about Baltic brewers and their use of beans in the mash. It’s a far cry from brewing straightforward German pilsners and hefeweizens, but Matysiak is more than happy to imbed himself in the American beer scene.
“I drive to immerse myself even more in the American brewing culture and continue to help produce great beers that the American craft consumer can enjoy.”
Heather Vandenengel is a nomadic beer writer and the News Editor for All About Beer Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @heathervandy.