29 July 2008

Six Pack interview with Oaken Barrel's Andrew Castner

Before the explosive Indiana Beer Week had our undivided attention, we had visited Oaken Barrel and had the pleasure of talking to assistant brewmaster Andrew Castner and his lovely fiancee Brittney. Both are huge beer geeks. In fact, it was Brittney that first got Andrew interested in craft beers. What a woman!

Between rounds of beer, we took the opportunity to do another Six Pack interview...

1) How did you get into the beer brewing profession?

Well, I didn't do home brewing before working at Oaken Barrel. I actually had my own home business and decided to pick up some part time hours at Oaken Barrel waiting tables, etc. One day I told then brewmaster Ken Price that I would love to learn what's going on. That's how I got started.

I learned on the job and very quickly discovered that 95% of brewing is cleaning. The tanks, the lines, the bottles, the kegs. Cleaning and sanitizing. I never took any brewing classes. I learn best by trial and error, by making mistakes. But someday I would like to learn the classroom side of the profession. There is a lot of technical items to learn. The finer sides of the business.

2) What are your favorite beers at Oaken Barrel? And not at Oaken Barrel?

Snake Pit is my favorite, followed closely by Gnaw Bone. My other favorites go in cycles. Right now, I'm digging Breckenridge 471 IPA and Lost Abbey's Abbey Ale with the raisin puree.

3) If you could brew any style, what would it be?

Barley wine. In fact, we put a five year aged barleywine in the State Fair.

4) What are the challenges of working for a brew pub versus for production?

The toughest thing is balance between the two. You can never run out of beer at the restaurant. But you can never run out at the distributor either. If given my choice, I would focus on in-house beers. In the brew pub, with the customers, you get direct feedback. But what's great about sending packaged beer out is that most people know us coming in to the restaurant. Having to deal with both sides has it benefits, in that I get to do something different every day. It never gets boring.

5) What is in the future for Oaken Barrel?

Well, I'd like to put together a system to do 22oz. bottles so that we can ship the Superfly IPA. I'd also like to do a series of bottle conditioned "monster beers", like Imperial IPA's and Barleywines.

Also, Oaken Barrel is the old kid on the block. We're so well known that some might see us as stale compared to others. I'm trying to freshen things up, like packaging, tap handles, and the website. Our relationship with Victory Field has been great and should continue. We are also in the midst of changing the types of kegs we use, so our tap market should be expanding soon.

6) Congrats on your upcoming nuptials to Brittney. Will you be going to Belgium or some other beer centric destinations for your honeymoon?

No, unfortunately. The lil' lady wants to go to Hawai'i. Though, they do have Kona Brewing there...

1 comment:

  1. Maui Brewing Company is also a great brewery - we're looking forward to bringing back a suitcase of CoCoNut Porter. :)