Test Kitchen: When Did You Last Get Away?

Test Kitchen is an ongoing print column and online blog by the Publisher of Brewer Magazine and Test Kitchen Brewer Tyler Montgomery. With a 1.5 barrel brewhouse launched in 2019, this is his experience and notes from the journey along with reviews of products and services.


Last week I jumped back in as the photographer for Brewer Magazine cover photos. Over the past couple of years with the development of the Test Kitchen, I had to step away from a lot of the photoshoots, an area I truly enjoyed for many years.

After missing out on the opportunity to photograph Cigar City Brewing towards the end of 2019 I promised myself that I’d start stepping away from the Test Kitchen to handle photo sessions. For the upcoming March/April 2020 issue, I flew down to Tampa for a photoshoot with Tampa Bay Brewing’s David Doble and got to experience a lot of what the area has to offer in terms of craft brewing.

Until these two issues, Florida has been missed in cover stories by Brewer Magazine. One of the reasons had to do with the developing laws that made breweries struggle in the state. But now that many of those have lifted, the growth and development of craft beer has been outstanding — not to say the beers weren’t outstanding previously.

Stepping away from the brewery has been a major stress creator of mine. I’ll be the first to say that having hobbies and passions away from work is vital to success, but completely leaving town interjected a certain aggressive level of anxiety.

I continually recalled Sam Calgione stating in his book “Brewing Up a Business” that everything in early Dogfish Head was operating smoothly until he chose to take his first vacation. I don’t recall all the details, but I do know that it was a true annoyance and created havoc for his first vacation.

We’ve had a lot of really smooth brew days at the Test Kitchen as of late. Finally, the brewhouse has operated as expected and issues on that front have subsided — knock on wood.

All but one of our fermenters were full, but I was only to be gone for a few days for the shoot and I planned on brewing my first day back.

I forgot how exciting it had been over the years to sit down with other brewers and brewery owners to hear their stories. David and I laughed for a couple of hours over the issues we all face during startups. While there were circumstances in launching Brewer Magazine, none compared to the frustrations a new brewery faces. We ran into a multitude of problems from leaking tanks — yes, we water and pressure tested everything, but still had issues — pump failures on the brewhouse, stuck mashes, etc.

Our one blessing was that our relationship building before opening truly saved us as our friends at Mirror Twin Brewing — developers of Kentucky’s amazing NEIPAs — loaned us several kegs to get a jump when our brites were leaking dollars and dollars of beer everywhere — literally everywhere! The other was that the beers that we did kick off with came across with a lot of favor from our community.

Stepping away and talking with David made me realize how important relationships in this industry are. We must remember how difficult our own journey’s are and step in to offer advice and any help when new breweries or beverage manufacturers pop up around us.

On my return to the brewhouse, we received our shipment of South African hops from John Fearless — another relationship I’m really excited about. In upcoming weeks I’ll be discussing the use of these hop varieties beginning with “African Queen” (Alpha Acid 11.6%, SAB Hop Farms, 2018 Crop Year).

Remember to take time and get away. While you may run across issues while you’re away, you have to remember the importance of getting around peers. Their stories will help your issues fade regardless of how many years you’ve been open or experience in breweries.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: TEST KITCHEN: California Concentrates Co. - Brewer Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *