2015 is proving to be an benchmark year for Wyoming’s Melvin Brewing. Following last month’s Great American Beer Festival, the Jackson based brewery left Denver with the coveted title of Best Small Brewpub of the Year and two highly sought after Brewers Association Medals; a gold medal for American Style Fruit Beer and bronze medal for Fresh or Wet Hop Ale.
What’s next? Melvin Brewing will open it’s brand new production facility in Alpine, Wyoming later this year; and they’ll be sporting some shiny new hardware, including a Newlands 30-bbl, 4-vessel system.
Loki Media’s Brad Gustafson caught up with colorful co-founder Jeremy Tofte in this jovial interview posted below.
What’s the inspiration behind the name “Melvin Brewing”? Also, what’s the elephant logo all about?
“It’s two fold. Our friend Rukus drew the elephant at the bar and said this is your new logo, his name is Melvin. At that point, we were just beginning to make Melvin IPA and I was bartending every night, so I thought it would be funny if people came to the bar and ordered a Melvin, which is when you get your underwear pulled over your face.”
Why did you decide to open Melvin in Wyoming? It’s not the first place you think of when talking about craft beer. Why not Oregon, Washington, or even Montana? (Jeremy was born in Montana, and spent much of his life in the Pacific Northwest.)
“The State of Wyoming gave us a $3,000,000 state grant to set up shop in the county with the highest unemployment in the state. We are located in a great spot where we can literally load the snowboards on the sleds, jam out the bay doors and get some powder turns in just a few minutes. In the summer we wake surf from the boat launch on the property. There is also a motor cross course a 1/4 mile from the brewery and tons of mountain biking surrounding us. Way of life is everything. We distribute to Oregon & Washington so that we can surf the ocean and ride Mount Baker and Mount Hood Meadows. Maybe not the best business plan, but it’s worth a shot.”
You have “making tuna salads” listed as a personal interest on the Melvin Brewery official website. So what goes into making a great tuna salad? Can you share your secrets with Loki?
“Thanks for asking. The young lady writing the copy for the site interviewed me at my place and watched my awesome ability to make a great tuna salad. It’s all about slowly pan frying the walnuts in coconut oil.”
Melvin Brewing wins two prestigious medals at Denver’s GABF 2015. Photo: Melvin Brewing Official Facebook
What does it mean for Melvin Brewing to win such a prestigious award at GABF? How is this good for business?
“It blew us away. We are so used to the brewery of the year awards being announced at the end, SO we were not even paying attention. All ten or so of us were drinking beer out in the hallway and we heard our names. Cool feeling for sure. Our Head Brewer Kirk Mchale has been working on the Chchchch-Cherry Bomb recipe for 15 years, it’s won Silver at GABF, Bronze at WBC and now finally a Gold. It’s probably going to be good for business outside of Wyoming. Everyone in Jackson is so busy climbing, biking and skiing that beer is a low priority on most peoples list, and rightly so. We all moved here to play. In the annual JH readers poll, we got 3rd best beer (first time we ever made the list) and then we won WBC Gold in the 2nd or 3rd most entered category a week later. That’s when we realized that we needed to start thinking bigger than Jackson.”
What’s next for Melvin Brewing? Can you share any exciting news or plans with Loki?
“We begin sending Kegs to Colorado around early December and to Seattle area before the holiday season in December. Cans and bottles are coming to these great places this winter! We are also working with a landlord in Bellingham, Washington trying to develop a space for a 7bbl tasting room. That would be fun as shit.”
Construction of Melvin Brewing’s new facility in Alpine, Wyoming.
Can we expect any new beers in the near future? Any new Wu-Tang inspired brew names in the mix?
“Killer Bee’s Honey Ale will be out this summer and we have a bunch of Cognac Barrels on the way to age the Uncle Rukus RIS. We have a RIIPA series (rotating imperial india pale ales) that is going to blow the fuck up. Being trapped in this valley where distributors don’t bring in many of the new styles of beers, Kirk has just been experimenting with different hop additions and amounts and he has created double IPA’s even better than the 2×4. We have not been able to be influenced by the outside world so we are creating new flavors.”
What goes into making the delicious beer recipes at Melvin? How does Melvin break the rules of hop-science?
“It’s all about the right hops at the right time. When the taste and the smell go together so well that you cannot tell it’s 9% and 100 IBU’s then we know we did it right. Our DIPA’s spend 28 days in the fermenter so that’s a big part of our process. It’s been hell getting funding for the brewery as we had to get so many fermenters right off the bat so that we can cellar the beer properly and not cut corners with the juice.”
Are there any Brewers or Breweries that inspired you? Who do you look up to and what role do they play in your career as a Brewer, Field Hoperative and Founder?
“My family had a beer distributorship north of Seattle that I started working at when I was 12. In high school, my dad thought It was a great idea to put me in charge of repacking breakage. Back then there was so little craft being sold, I would just take the micros (as we called them) to friends houses and polish them back. I’m not sure if he knows this, so sorry pops. Redhook Brewing’s Blackhook was the first beer that blew me away when I was 16. I used to drive the work truck down to Kalama and pick up Pyramid and for whatever reason they would give me a gallon of Espresso Stout every time. That was game changing. I remember drinking Elysian back in the day and I actually approached Dick Cantwell at CBC ’04 asking for guidance, I think I might have scared him a little bit. The main breweries that have influenced me are Big Sky and Pizza Port. Big Sky keeps making killer, consistent beer and they are big, and in the middle of nowhere. The first time I had Pizza Port beer I knew it was something special. Jackson Hole used to have off-seasons, so I would shut down the restaurant and go surfing in Oceanside a few times per year. Each time I went to Pizza Port Carlsbad I just kept getting more and more into the beer. Finally I got an intro with the brewer Kirk McHale. A couple years later I lured him to Jackson with promises of powder. Turns out he does not ski, but 5 years later we are still going strong. We have only gotten in one fist fight!”
Denver loves Melvin Brews. When exactly can we expect to have your beer distributed here?
“We hope to have it to Denver first week of December and hopefully before that. We love it there. Our Head Production Brewer is from there and likes to visit and everyone that leaves Jackson either moves to SF, Denver or PDX (it’s a rule) so it will be great connecting with old homies.”
— melvin brewing (@Melvinbrewing) October 8, 2015