Monday, April 4, 2016

Anchor's New Brewmaster Scott Ungermann Talks about Brewing, Go West! IPA and other new Anchor Beers

The classic copper brew kettles at Anchor
Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann has a tough act to follow. His predecessor, Mark Carpenter is a legend in American brewing, having been at Anchor's since the early 70's. Carpenter had been the longtime Assistant Brewmaster until Fritz Maytag sold the brewery in 2010.  Then, Carpenter was promoted to Brewmaster. While Carpenter was at Anchor, he was highly instrumental establishing beer styles like the American IPA, the American Barleywines, and the Winter Seasonal. And of course, there was always Anchor Steam.

The iconic brewery promoted Scott Ungermann to Brewmaster at the start of this year, with Carpenter becoming Brewmaster Emeritus. Ungermann arrived at Anchor in mid 2014, from of all places A-B InBev, and started as Anchor's Production Director. Ungermann's first major release is GoWest!, Anchor's version of the West Coast IPA. Anchor graciously provided an opportunity to interview Ungermann about his life in brewing, the development of Go West! and what else is in store at Anchor, which was conducted via e-mail.

Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you get into brewing?

I grew up in the Bay Area and always had a deep respect for Anchor Brewing. I first toured the brewery as a senior at Cal in 1987 and fell in love with the brewery and the beers – especially Anchor Steam. I was an English major at Cal, and just saw brewing as a hobby. My buddy Darryl and I bought our first home brew kit at The Oak Barrel in Berkeley in 1988, not long after we toured the brewery.  After graduation when I was teaching high school in Southern California, my Mom sent me an article on the Brewing program at UC Davis with a note that said “this might be interesting . . . “  My wife had recently graduated from UC Davis, and we quickly decided to move back up North to pursue this dream. I studied Brewing science and got an MS in Food Science from UC Davis in 1995. Shortly after graduating, we moved to New Jersey for her job and I took a job with Anheuser-Busch at the Newark Brewery as a Brewing Supervisor. This led to an 18 year career that took us from New Jersey to Columbus, Ohio and then St. Louis, ultimately leading to a position as Brewmaster at the Fairfield brewery back in Northern California. When I heard about an opening to come to Anchor in 2014, I jumped at the opportunity to come here and make great beers in the brewery that inspired me in the first place.

I see from your LinkedIn profile you've worked for a long time at different Anheuser-Busch facilities before coming to Anchor in 2014.  How has that transition been like?  What do you hope to accomplish at Anchor?

The transition has been amazing. This is a wonderful brewery to work at with a great group of people. I get to be a lot more involved in every aspect of innovation and new beer development. Although very challenging, it has also been a lot of fun.  Being appointed Brewmaster this year, I knew I had big shoes to fill. Having Mark Carpenter stay on board as Brewmaster Emeritus is definitely helping the transition and he will continue to be a valued resource. With Anchor,  I’m looking forward to bringing new and different beers to the growing portfolio and pushing the brewing boundaries a bit with new methods. We most recently did that by utilizing a completely new dry hopping technique that I helped design, used to create Go West! IPA. We will, of course, still continue to honor our traditional brewing methods by using our all copper Brewhouse, open fermentation vessels, and the hands-on attention that we give to each brew.
Scott Ungermann during his days at A-B InBev in
promotional photo during that period

OK, let's talk about Go West!  Why did Anchor decide to release this beer?

We knew that beer drinkers were craving a more hop-forward beer from Anchor, and we wanted to create something was a nod to our California roots.  IPAs were enjoyed as early as 1849 during the California Gold Rush. Anchor has a long history in the Golden State, and Go West! IPA is another way we honor that heritage. The end result is a complex brew with aromas of citrus, pine and the tropics with a crisp bitterness and clean finish.

Can you go through the process of developing the recipe and nailing down the brewing process.

Developing any new beer is a high-wire act. We try to balance the desired outcome with the practicalities of brewing in our very unique brewery.  The first thing to do is taste many other existing beers as well as all of our available ingredients.  In designing Go West! IPA we knew that we wanted a golden color, not too malt forward, a pleasant hop bitterness and a bold hoppy aroma with fresh notes of pine and citrus as well as some tropical fruit aroma. We brewed many single hop brews on our pilot system to evaluate different hop varieties, we varied our mashing schemes, and we tasted everything – as a panel. This can’t be done alone. It took months of brewing and re-brewing and tasting and re-tasting. The hops that we selected from these trials were Calypso, Citra, Equinox and Eureka. We also decided that we needed to try a different method of dry-hopping rather than the bags of hop cones that we have been using for years in Liberty Ale and our other dry-hopped beers. We worked with Mueller to design a tank that we could flow-through to get the freshest possible dry-hop aroma. We call this tank the Odeprot. We then began large scale brewing trials that we released down at our beer garden at The Yard. This gave us the practical experience of releasing our new IPA in a place where we could get direct feedback from our beer drinkers. Eventually we arrived at a final recipe and began brewing this new beer!

Were there any particular IPA's that inspired you for Go West!?  Any particular favorite IPA's from other breweries you're willing to share?

We tasted many IPAs as panel. We did this tasting blind so as not to skew any data based on bias. This is always tricky. We worked very hard to arrive at an original recipe without attempting to replicate any other beers – we wanted something that was fresh and new, but also that was true to Anchor roots. There are many excellent IPAs being made by many other breweries throughout California and across the country. It wouldn't be fair to single out one or two above the rest, but we have a deep respect for the many other Northern California breweries that are making excellent beers of all styles.

Any new beers in the works you can talk about?

We currently have an interesting series of beers called the Pacific Siren Series we are releasing. These are lighter sessionable beers flavored with natural fruits. Meyer Lemon Lager is a crisp refreshing Lager brewed with Meyer Lemon juice, lemon peels and lightly dry-hopped with a hop variety called Lemondrop.  This is a zesty, citrusy beer with a nice dry finish that is very drinkable and balanced. The second beer in this series is Mango Wheat.  It is a light refreshing wheat beer with a beautiful Mango aroma that comes from aging the beer on Mangos.  We are also releasing a new beer that is a collaboration with the SF Giants called Orange Splash Lager.  This is a very exciting beer for us as we are all huge Giants fans and have a great partnership with them.  The beer is a refreshing Orange Lager that is brewed with orange peels, Mandarin orange juice and a specialty malt that brings a nice orange hue to the beer. This beer has a zesty Orange aroma, but finishes crisp and is a very nice drinkable Lager for the ballpark. Last – we are continuing to release special “one-off” beers at the Anchor Beer Garden at the Yard that include full-size brews that will be available all season as well as some special Firkins that are available on a very limited basis.  The first Yard Series beer of this year is called Opening Day IPA and will be released prior to the beginning of the season. It is a sessionable IPA at 4.98% ABV and 45 IBUs, brewed with 100% pale 2-row for a bright, golden color.  We hopped it generously with Nelson Sauvin in the brewkettle and then dry-hopped with Cascade, El Dorado and the Haas experimental hop 431 in the Odeprot at nearly 2 lbs per barrel.  The result is a nice crisp IPA that is bursting with lush tropical and citrus hop aromas.  And of course there’s always the next big thing . . .

It still amazes me today that Anchor beers from the 70's like Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine, Christmas Ale and Anchor Steam still remain highly relevant forty years later, coming from a totally different era of American brewing. Yet, despite this history, the brewery never seems tired or out of date. We look forward to Anchor's next big things.

Anchor Brewmaster Emeritus Mark Carpenter

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