You traded construction for carrying huge bags of grain around?
Yeah! (laughs) I sort of took the bit between my teeth and said “If you guys are serious about this, I’ll look into it.” I went to Portland to the 1986 Craft Brewers Conference—I’m not sure what it was even called—there were eight people there. We went from there.
One of the things you and I talk about periodically is your interest in history. And here you are talking about renovating old houses, old beer styles, old breweries—that’s another thread for you, isn’t it?
Yes, I’m the president of our local historical society, in fact (laughs)
And that’s what led you to the Acme brand, as well—the history?
I have a great interest in history. The whole Acme thing has been a disappointment in some ways because I really haven’t had the time to pursue all the materials that’s out there. It was such a huge company. We have talked to some people over the last four to six years who had associations with the company. I’m afraid they’re all dying off without our getting their impressions of what it was like, which is sad in some ways.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this for me is being able to weave things like that in here.
What’s the most fun you’ve had developing a particular beer? Which one has been most challenging and satisfying?
We’ve had a lot of fun with beers that have taken a long time to come to market. Originally, we knew what our portfolio needed to look like, and I did formulations for those beers: Red Seal, Scrimshaw, Old No. 38. That was all pretty straightforward. Even when we added beers, I think everyone goes through the same process: “Our portfolio’s a little bit thin here and I’ve always loved this style of beer so let’s brew one of these.”
What we’ve really found with Old Rasputin and PranQster, I’ll do the design work on paper and in my head, then we brew the beer and its pretty much what we want it to be. There’s not an awful lot of fooling around.
But there have been some beers which have developed not so directly. The 10th anniversary beer we that aged in whisky barrels (back when a lot of people weren’t doing that) was a lot of fun, because we weren’t sure what the hell we were going to do with it. It was an extra 80 barrels of a Christmas ale that the distributors had, um, disappointed us on, so we thought well let’s do something with it. It turned out to be a fantastic beer with just a little fooling around.
There’s another beer, a sort of light Belgian we’d done for ourselves. You know, a drinker, relatively low alcohol, not the sort of thing we thought there’d be a great market for. it was after we’d brewed PranQster, so we called it Gangsta. That beer changed a little bit. Actually, my early recollections of it are different from Patrick and Chuck’s, my head brewers. But we’ve recently used it as the basis for our 16th anniversary beer, with the apple juice in it.