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When he launched the business in 2011, Main & Mill cofounder Denny Foster had no idea they’d be bottling barrel-aged stouts that would be shipped around the country by zealous traders. The goal at that point was a standard local brewpub with great beer and great food—a place for locals to enjoy some pints and each others’ company. But by the time they opened in 2014 (delayed by a painful three year renovation of a historic building), the market had already changed. Foster, and head brewer Brandon Bischoff embarked on a two-pronged strategy of lower ABV beers on tap for their local audience and bigger, bolder bottled beers for a metro Saint Louis audience that craved imperial stouts. Here, they discuss what they’ve learned over the past few years fo brewing big beers on a very small pub system—building base recipes for big stouts, adding adjunct ingredients by using a keg as brink for high-intensity infusions then dosing the blend back into the main tank to achieve the perfect balance, using small-scale blending and beer specifically brewed for characteristics like body to tweak other batches, making the most of a small brew system by using the parti-gyle process to get more beers out of each mash, the importance of naming and descriptions in selling beer, using natural extracts along with natural ingredients to heighten aroma in flavored beers, and the arms race around stout body that’s forcing brewers to rethink the balance of drinkability.
“We’re still trying to find that happy medium,” says Foster, “where people in the industry don’t say it’s thin, but it’s still able to be drinkable where you can also enjoy it, share, and not feel like your eyes are blown back because it’s essentially just a few points away from Hershey’s syrup. We’re always trying to figure that out.”
Note- at approximately the 23 minute mark, Foster intended to say that Ethiopian coffee was more prototypical “coffee” flavor, as opposed to the more fruity and acidic Guatemalan coffee.
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