Podcast Episode 331: Jacob Sembrano of Cruz Blanca Makes Technically Challenging Beers with Beautiful Ingredients and Stories to Tell

Chicago’s Cruz Blanca favors beers with a story to tell. In this episode, head brewer Jacob Sembrano tells the stories behind their their red corn lager, their thick and silky barrel-aged stouts, and their grisette made from 100 percent malted corn and acidified with native bacteria from the corn itself.

Jamie Bogner Nov 24, 2023 - 6 min read

Podcast Episode 331: Jacob Sembrano of Cruz Blanca Makes Technically Challenging Beers with Beautiful Ingredients and Stories to Tell Primary Image

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Jacob Sembrano loves ingredients, and his background as a chef instilled in him a deep love of connecting ingredients and their stories with the dishes he presented to customers. Now, at the helm of the brewhouse at Chicago’s Cruz Blanca, he’s forged a similar identity for his beers—connecting through ingredients with stories, and making beers with unusual methods. Their customers may not realize the technical prowess it takes to brew a 100 percent malted-corn grisette with French saison yeast, Brettanomyces, and a Lactobacillus strain cultured from the corn itself ... but they don’t have to—Cruz Blanca’s reverence for corn as an ingredient is apparent and welcome.

In this episode, Sembrano discusses how they brew a range of beers. Along the way, he covers:

  • making your own luck in the food and brewing worlds
  • applying a minimal-intervention yet highly technical approach to making a 100 percent corn grisette
  • pushing fermentation temperatures to reduce esters
  • brewing a red corn lager with 70 percent corn malt
  • using significant amounts of black and heavily roasted malts in barrel-aged stouts
  • building body without excessive sweetness
  • working with partner breweries to grow the brand
  • matching brewing profiles between locations across states

And more.

“I want my stout to fight me back a bit,” Sembrano says. “I want to feel it when I drink it.”

This episode is brought to you by:

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