By OC Weekly Staff
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Edwin Goei
By Kiera Wright-Ruiz
By Cleo Tobbi
The year that followed was a whirlwind—meeting with distributors and brewpub owners (the goal was to sell "a little bit of beer in a lot of places"), developing relationships with investors, debuting at beer fests and tastings across the U.S., expanding the staff, opening a public tasting room, and trying to not run out of cash.
And, of course, making beer, sometimes getting to the brewery at 3 in the morning to start the mash. The Bruery made mainstay brews such as Mischief, an ultra-hoppy Belgian-style golden pale ale, and Saison Rue, a farmhouse ale that becomes more complex with age. Then it made wilder ones. Autumn Maple, a popular fall brew, uses yams, maple syrup and pumpkin-pie spices. For Valentine's Day, it released Melange No. Sechs, brewed with cocoa nibs, rose petals and beets to give it a reddish color. "That one was kind of gross," Rue says. Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, a German-style sour ale, was brewed in memory of Rue's grandparents, Fred and Sarah Hottenroth, and hints at the tastes of ginger ale and sauerkraut. "It reminds me of sitting on their couch at Leisure World," Rue says. "It's that old, musty, familiar feel." Anyone on staff can invent a recipe and work with the brewers to make it on a small, 10-gallon pilot system, simply because Rue wants everyone to always be thinking.
Perhaps even more unconventional than what the company makes is what it won't make. No IPAs (India Pale Ales), Rue says, even though the ultra-hoppy style is easily the most popular among craft beers. "I love IPAs. They're successful for a reason, but we don't make one, and we promised never to make one," he asserts. "I think we came a little too late in the game, and I'm not going to bother with it."
Also, the way the Bruery makes beer is key. It doesn't filter or pasteurize. It has its own yeast strain and a system that uses direct fire instead of modern steam, so there's more caramelization and evaporation. "We try to not use too many gadgets and scientific methods," Rue says.
Just two months after opening, a breakthrough happened on a day that would go down in the brewery's history. It was Tuesday, July 1, 2008, which Rue calls "the day from hell." A pump was leaking, a brewing vessel started to overflow, and eventually, "mash and 170-degree water is flying everywhere," he recalls. "It's a tidal wave of hot shit, all over my arms, legs, in my boots, and the brewery is a disaster. I'm cussing, running around in frustration and in pain." A paddle got stuck in a valve, the room was blanketed in grainy goop, and Rue's hands were covered in blisters. When he wrote about the disaster beer on his blog, one commenter wrote, "Clearly, you should call it Black Tuesday." So it was.
The imperial stout, utilizing 2,500 pounds of grain—more than double any of the brewery's usual recipes—was aged in bourbon barrels for more than a year, raking in a symphony of flavors such as rich caramel, dark chocolate, molasses, toasted malt, sweet Morello cherry syrup, vanilla and burnt wood, along with a whopping 19.5 percent alcohol content that warms the senses. Some beer reviewers got an early taste and penned their reactions—"Absolutely amazing," "The best I've ever had," and, simply, "Wow." The word spun around the Internet about this holy grail of high-alcohol beers, and when it was released, a four-hour line snaked around the block, with fans driving in from Northern California and beyond. The limited-edition brew has been called "monstrous" and "frighteningly smooth" on beer-review sites and was named one of Beer Advocate's Top Five Beers on Planet Earth. "I could sniff this stuff for hours," one person posted on RateBeer. "This is no shit outfuckingstanding," wrote a Beer Club 4 Men blogger. Rue has seen bottles go for $300 apiece on eBay. "It's a beast," he says.
The Bruery's beers have been called "extreme," a trendy term in brewing circles coined by Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch that means creating new genres. But Rue isn't really into labels. "When people think of 'extreme,' they think of, like, motocross sports," he says. "I like to think of us as a very elegant brewery, rather than we're making ballsy, hit-you-in-the-face sorts of beers." Still, he says, "people typically like us because we're willing to do things others aren't."
Those in the craft-beer scene agree. "What are they doing that's not unique?" asks Koch. "I don't want to get too carried away by superlatives, but the OC craft-beer scene could be characterized by 'B.B.' and 'A.B.,' as in Before the Bruery and After the Bruery began. They have approached craft brewing with both boldness and a unique panache."
Armstrong believes Rue is bringing a sense of excitement to the beer industry that it needs. "They're all young—Patrick is, like, the oldest guy there, and they have a different vision of beer," he says. "There's so much energy there, as there should be."
Jeremy Raub, co-founder of Eagle Rock Brewery in Los Angeles, says the Bruery is "pushing the envelope" with the strengths of beers and exotic ingredients. "A lot of their sour beers are just absolutely world-class," he says. He adds that craft brewers don't see one another as competition. "We believe a rising tide is gonna lift all boats in the harbor. We want the scene to be better; we want it to grow. The goal is to make better beer for everybody."