Pick Six: Burial’s Jess and Doug Reiser Find Inspiration in Flavor and Story

Jess and Doug Reiser, cofounders of Asheville’s Burial Beer, share a thoughtful six that have inspired their own personal journeys and shaped the beers that they now produce.

Jamie Bogner May 10, 2023 - 13 min read

Pick Six: Burial’s Jess and Doug Reiser Find Inspiration in Flavor and Story Primary Image

Illustration: Jamie Bogner

For Jess and Doug Reiser, a focus on story, connection, and significance is as important as flavor and technical execution when it comes to making and selling beer. For those who’ve visited the Burial breweries and taprooms or purchased their exquisitely and obtusely named beers, this should be obvious—the tone and mood of the brands and the place create the right atmosphere in which to properly enjoy those beers. You can’t separate the liquid from the experience.

Not surprisingly, the breweries and beers that have inspired them hew closely to that philosophy, representing moments when they gleaned deeper insight about what beer—and the experience of beer—could be.

“My approach is rooted in what inspired me in the beginning of getting into craft beer,” says Jess Reiser, “beers that opened my eyes to craft and that take me back to that time and place that jumpstarted this chapter in my life.”

These six beers tell a story about the early inspiration and later evolution of Burial into what it is today.


De Dolle Stille Nacht

Esen, West Flanders, Belgium
“Stille Nacht was the beer that helped me understand just how much complexity beer can have, and it also felt like a rarity—it was my first dive into this idea of beer not being always accessible or beer being seasonal. I transitioned from drinking macro beers that are consistent in flavor, generally lighter in flavor, and available everywhere all the time, all year. In contrast, Stille Nacht was this inspirational beer that you couldn’t always get, so when it came back around or someone gifted it to you, that really felt like something special and something to savor—like a nice bottle of wine you might get and age. The ability to age it, the complexities of the flavor, and this notion of it not always being available were definitely eye-opening and something that caused me to start gravitating toward, or having a better understanding of, craft beer and what it meant.” —Jess Reiser

La Cumbre Beer

“I’m going to give incredible props to—and you might hate me for this—Busch Light. And the reason I say Busch Light is that all of us go through this period of introduction to drinking the thing we know as beer. For me, it was what I snuck from my dad’s fridge early on, and that was Busch. I also snuck MGD [Miller Genuine Draft], but I was not ready for premium draft beer at 17 or 18 years old when I was doing this. Busch Light was the first one I actually liked—it provided some balance between my perception of beer flavor as harsh and bitter and something that was drinkable and somewhat refreshing when hanging out with friends.

“The right beer to say, though, is La Cumbre Beer.

“Eight or nine years ago—it was in our third year—we made a 3.5 percent ABV light lager called Innertube, which has become probably our most beloved beer internally for the team. Certainly within our community, people love this beer because it’s 3.5 percent ABV and is actually delicious. But I think that I would never have gotten the chops to do it had I not visited a Craft Brewers Conference out in Colorado and had my first La Cumbre Beer and said, ‘This is it. This is exactly the lightness, the drinkability, the perfect craft take on otherwise cheap adjunct macro lager.’ It’s something that should be celebrated as ‘craft’ because clearly a ton of thought and ingenuity went into La Cumbre making that beer. I remember reading an article by their head brewer Jeff Erway about how much thought he put into trying to get the simplest ingredients for that beer. It inspired me to make Innertube, and it really started turning our mental wheels and got us thinking about taking on a lot of these underappreciated lager styles.” —Doug Reiser


Boundary Bay Cyclops 1 Eye.P.A.

Bellingham, Washington
“When we lived in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, we lived about two blocks away from this place called Cyclops. Boundary Bay made a beer exclusively for the bar called called 1 Eye.P.A. It was another step in my ongoing quest to understand craft beer—both stylistically by getting more into the hoppier side of things, but also culturally with this idea of collaboration, because you had a brewery and a bar collaborating on a beer brand. But for us, it was a matter of time and place—this was a place that we went often in our mid-20s, as we were getting into craft beer, and that beer was always available at that particular bar and just became an association, right? It helped lead us to the realization that when you go to a place, it’s about the atmosphere, and beer can play such a big role in the overall experience of a place. As I think about it now, I can still taste it, and it takes me back to that time in our lives, that place of Belltown in early 2010s, and it’s meaningful and special how one beer could signify so much and bring so much back. We see it now where people will reference an experience they had at Burial or an experience they had with a Burial beer, and there’s real meaning—and longevity to that meaning—for people. Cyclops 1 Eye.P.A. is that beer for us—it definitely meant that to me and again brought my attention to this additional layer of what craft beer is for people. It’s not just any old beverage; it has a lot of meaning.” —Jess Reiser

Alpine Nelson

Alpine, California
“I wrestled among inspirational hoppy beers because hops were the reason I decided to get into beer, start brewing, and inevitably start a brewery. I was absolutely fixated on them because we lived in Seattle, and we used to visit the Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Yakima, Washington. I could go on and on about all the fresh-hop beers, and I almost picked a fresh-hop beer for this list, but ultimately it was Alpine Nelson that inspired and drove me to brew IPA.

“The reason I had to dig this deep was that in the mid-2000s, IPA was pretty much four or five hops. I could go on about the beers that I loved—Port Brewing Hop-15, Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop IPA were incredible—but it was Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus, Amarillo, and Citra hops. When Alpine put out Nelson, everybody was like, ‘What the hell?’ Nelson Sauvin is this weird funky hop from New Zealand, nobody knew much about it, and Alpine were the first people to stake their reputation (and a major brand) on a hop from the South Pacific. They showed that these South Pacific hops can drive craft beer and make some of the best IPA out there. That beer, Nelson, specifically was brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross, another New Zealand hop. It was a banner-carrier for most of us who were making IPA a decade or more ago, 12, 15 years ago. And I think it probably is the reason that South Pacific hops really caught on, and we got outside of our little bin of C-hops and American trademarked hops and started widening the world that is hop-growing today.” —Doug Reiser

Cantillon Kriek

“I have to go back to Belgian beer here and pick Cantillon Kriek, but I think it really is just a nod to Cantillon in general. In the very beginning when Tim Gormley, our business partner, turned me on to craft beer, it was this realization of the deep history behind craft beer that inspired me to dig deeper and find more meaning behind beer as culture, history, and experience. I loved all the intention that goes into it and what that means for people and for places. To see that culture and history connect with wild yeast and the science of fermentation—Cantillon just embodies all of that, the coming together of those things. For us, it also signified a trip or pilgrimage, if you will, to the motherland. Doug, Tim, and I did go visit Cantillon, and that visit helped solidify our nascent idea that we all wanted to shift careers and open a brewery together. That trip, and going to Cantillon—where it really is its own ecosystem and where there are mice running around, and there are cats hanging out, and there are spiders and cobwebs—it just exists as this beautiful brewery. It felt so not-modern, and the subtle nuances and delicate flavor profiles of their beers were a fascinating parallel for me. Their embrace of the history of beer through the museum was something I gravitated toward.” —Jess Reiser

Anchorage The Ghosts in Their Eyes

Anchorage, Alaska
“I really struggled with this last one, but I felt that it was crucial to talk about our evolution into what most people consider East Coast or modern IPA. We probably came at this from the most improbable space. Our evolution started with some Northwest-inspired IPAs when we first made IPA, but inevitably, we were obsessed with Brettanomyces. Most of that obsession came from funky, protein-heavy beers. I think back to Boulevard Tank 7 or OG Tropic King from Funkwerks, even New Belgium Le Terroir. Mixed-fermentation, hoppy beers where the beer—unlike West Coast IPA—was not almost entirely about the hops; it was about the expression of the yeast as well, and the proteins that go into the beer. Those farmhouse stylings with the hops presented this phenolic piece that I don’t think could have ever pushed itself into popular culture. Those beers always had their audience, but they didn’t grow into IPA.

“But for us, The Ghosts in their Eyes by Anchorage was the first Brettanomyces IPA that I had on the West Coast when we were still living in Seattle, and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ The marriage of these big, high-alpha hops with pungent, expressive, estery Brettanomyces fermentation at high temperatures where the phenolics aren’t very present, and weedy aromas with this slightly hazy body—it was profound. At the time, it was only slightly hazy, because everybody was conditioning the haze out intentionally. But what Anchorage was doing was the most profound grouping of beers for Burial, because nobody in the East was messing around with that mixed fermentation or Brettanomyces in what was typically a Saccharomyces style. It culminated in our first ever—what we thought was a Brett IPA at the time, called Massacre of the Innocents. It was super-high-protein, with wheat and oats and even lactose at the time (because we were trying to fight against the Brettanomyces), and Citra and Galaxy hops. Of course, all the genome sequencing happened with White Labs, and that yeast that everybody thought was a Brettanomyces strain turned out to be Sacch Trois. So, we realized we were making Saccharomyces beer, and essentially, that was the evolution for us. We were making all these Sacch Trois IPAs, and they evolved into us making what is now the highest percentage of what we produce at Burial—these modern IPAs. I would be remiss not to speak of that different origin for our evolution into those spaces, because it certainly came from a love of the expression of yeast in hoppy beers.” —Doug Reiser

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].