Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brew U. - Davis CA, USA

Everyone has those days when you are fully into whatever it is you do for a living, yet there you are dreaming of doing something else.  Maybe it's doing what you do already but for yourself instead of someone else. Possibly you want to just take a break and visit that far away place you have only seen in pictures. I suppose some are just waiting on winning the lotto and quitting all together. A lot of successful businesses arise from hobbyists "going pro".  Such is the case with many home brewers.  This is where the craft brewing movement sprouted from a few decades ago. I was one of those people trying to find happiness by doing what I love for work. The problem was I was nervous about investing (or in my case, borrowing) the huge sums of money involved in starting a proper brewery, only to have it fail. One way to shore up your brewing knowledge is going through one of the many brewing courses or books available, or for the lucky ones with the time and money to spend, attend one of the brewing schools sprinkled throughout the world. The two most respected in the US are the Master Brewers Program at the University of California at Davis' Extension (classes full until 2015!) and the Siebel Institute in Chicago (also fills up way in advance but has smaller courses available). My first online course was through UC Davis and it was on my cross country to do list to drop in and see the place in person. 

Welcome to Sudwerks... much more than meets the eye!
Sudwerks beautiful brewhouse that specializes in German style brews
Just outside of Sacramento, Davis is a progressive University town.  The brewing school provides instruction from respected brewing minds, Charles Bamforth, PhD, and Michael Lewis ,PhD.  The students learn the science and technology of brewing in classes and then apply their skills on the brewing systems at Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch, which is a brewpub and distributing brewery in Davis.  
Beers during class break
 Luckily Sacramento and Davis are on the drive between San Luis Obispo and Lake Tahoe and I called up the University office to see if I could sit in on a class.  Melissa was very helpful and as an online alumni they were happy to let me check it out.  The day's topic was packaging and what types of cardboard and aluminium were used for beer thoughout the years and what emerging packages might be encountered in the future.  A topic about as satisfying as a heavily oxidized brew. (one beer geek point if you got the beer pun) And even though Charlie and Michael were not teaching that
Beers after class
day Professor John Krochta was a good host with plenty of knowledge to share. On the upside, being a Friday it was also one of the days the students set up a portable bar in the shipping dock and try out all the experimental batches they have been brewing the last few weeks. It's know as the "Dock Store" and locals can check it out too, Thurs-Sat. Check out the times here: Sudwerk Dock Store. It was a cool but sunny day as we sampled what might be the beginnings of the next creative beers from some of America's emerging brewing talent.  I felt pretty special to be there that day. Another neat thing was the collection of craft beer shirts on the group of students. Some from back home in New York where I started my journey, some from places I had been the last few weeks driving across the US, and others from overseas and far away.  Craft beer is definitely a male dominated field, so it was nice to see two females in the class of 30. There was also a small international contingent, mostly from far flung Heineken breweries in Panama and Russia.  Everyone was warm and welcoming, even though I was a complete stranger just dropping into class... as such things go when you are a traveler and a craft beer fan.

Hidden gem: Sudwerk's Dock Store!
Another pleasent surprise for me was that Sudwerks also distributes beer. They are not just a brewpub as I had thought in the past. Brennen, one of the brewers, walked me through a few of the beers. Trent gave me a tour of the facility which is a full blown brewery with ongoing expansion just like most craft breweries across the country. Add Davis to the growing list of places I need to spend more time in on my next visit.

Sudwerk Dock Store Brews
Marzen - Dry, Semi sweet
33rd St Friends - Vanilla Dunkel, just like it sounds, yum!

Sudwerks Brewhouse
Sudwerks Bottling Line
Unitanks at Sudwerks


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