For this week’s nightcap we were lucky enough to spend quality time around some high ABV beers with Patrick Rue, the Founder, CEO, and Head Brewer at The Bruery. The Bruery is a boutique craft brewery in Orange County, CA, that produced over 90 different beers last year. Hop heads should get their snifters out as we pour into their story.
NightOwl: How did you get into brewing?
Patrick: During my first year of law school, my wife, Rachel, told me to get a hobby, so I chose homebrewing. A friend in college was a great homebrewer, and I always admired that skill. By the time I graduated, I was a much better homebrewer than legal expert, so I chose to start a brewery rather than become a lawyer.
NightOwl: So, you finished law school but then went straight into brewing. Tell us about that decision and do you have any regrets?
Patrick: Given the looming payments for student loans, I had a bit of pressure to identify what my career would be. I applied to breweries in various positions and quickly found out craft breweries generally don’t have full-time attorneys (though quite a few brewery owners were once attorneys). I would have had to start at the bottom and work my way up at a brewery, which unfortunately wasn’t an option for me with the $600 monthly payments for school. I took a huge risk and opened a brewery without any professional experience brewing or running a business. This was the best education one could receive. I have zero regrets.
NightOwl: How has your legal training helped you in the brewing business?
Patrick: Law school requires discipline and a sense of delayed gratification – you’re doing this because you want the future to be better than the present. Running a business is the same way, particularly a growing business. Sacrifice today is necessary for success years down the road.
NightOwl: What was your first experience with craft beer?
Patrick: Deschutes Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter were my first two craft beer experiences. Prior to that, beer wasn’t too interesting to me.
NightOwl: What’s unique about your beer?
Patrick: We think about flavors rather than styles, which frees us from the constraints of styles and allows us to use unique ingredients and processes to achieve a particular flavor. We use a lot of interesting ingredients, yeast strains, and barrels to achieve the flavors we want. While cost of producing a particular beer is important in determining the marketability of a beer, we have multiple avenues for bringing a beer to market, so cost is rarely a factor in whether a beer is made or not.
NightOwl: If there were a beer that you could brew with no regards to cost or production or sales, what would it be and why?
Patrick: I think we’ve done it, and it’s this year’s version of Vindictive. We co-fermented Black Tuesday with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Perata Vineyards in Napa Valley, a great vineyard in the Yountville AVA. As you can imagine, grapes of this quality are very expensive, as is the new French oak puncheon barrels it’s aging in. This beer / wine hybrid is tasting amazing right now, I can’t wait for it!
NightOwl: How is your beer connected to the local area?
Patrick: We’ve used ingredients grown in Southern California, and several of our beers are inspired by California and Mexican cuisine. For example, we’ve made a beer to taste like horchata, and another to taste like mole.
NightOwl: What’s the style most fun to brew?
Patrick: I love seeing the progression of sour beers with time. Many of ours will sit in barrels for over a year, and it’s very mysterious and amazing to me how the flavor changes through a slow and continuous fermentation.
NightOwl: Tell us about the decision to barrel age the beer and how that came about.
Patrick: As I became more of a “beer geek” in law school, barrel-aged beers were among my favorites, both on the strong, clean side and on the sour side. Barrels can do amazing things to beer. The complexity and richness that’s achieved with bourbon barrels is practically impossible to replicate without putting a beer into barrels. The light toast of a red wine barrel on a Flemish-style red ale can be an amazing thing.
NightOwl: Is working at a brewery different than what you thought it would be?
Patrick: Yes. The first several years were about what I expected – I’d have to wear a lot of hats, it would be incredibly busy, but I’d love it. Running a slightly larger business is not what I expected! I wish I could trade a bit of my beer knowledge for knowledge of managing and motivating people. Business operators should know more about people than about anything else, and I can’t say I’m there yet!
NightOwl: You recently teamed up with Florida based Funky Buddha Brewery to create “Guava Libre.” How did that come about, and can you tell us about the experience?
Patrick: I’ve been an admirer of Funky Buddha for some time, and over the years I’ve become friends with Ryan and KC, the founders of Funky Buddha. They have a great focus on culinary flavors, often of a decadent, dessert-like quality. They make great beer, they’re great people, and so making a beer together was high on my list.
Ryan & KC came up with the idea of making a beer reminiscent of Pastelitos de Guayaba, or just “Cuban Pastry” as it seems to be known in Florida. It’s a delicious pastry with guava and cream cheese. We used toasty malts to give a pastry impression, lactose and vanilla for a cheesecake-like flavor, and guava, of course! It’s a really fun and delicious beer.
NightOwl: You can only have one beer for the rest of your life. What is it, and why?
Patrick: Such a thing would be pretty devastating. I’d choose Duvel, as it fits a lot of beer drinking occasions. Despite its high ABV, it’s a refreshing beer as it’s incredibly dry and well carbonated. With its yeast notes and hop flavor, it’s a complex beer, but not a beer that needs to be sipped and savored. Since I can’t drink anything else, the 8.5% ABV will help me to forget about not being able to have any other type of beer.
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