I was recently taken aback by an unpleasant experience with a professional brewer. After a short conversation about the business of brewing he convinced me that at some point, for the most part, professional brewers were left to give up their passion for brewing, and must devote their energies towards the need for fiscal responsibility in order to succeed in their business. Fortunately, I was quickly spared the idea of this disappointing, alternate reality when I had the chance to talk with Mike Hutson, the brewer at Sudwerk www.sudwerk.com in Davis, California. His passion for brewing still lives on despite the large financial needs required to operate a facility as large as Sudwerk. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Earlier, after driving three hours to Woodland, to pick up grain for the Zymurgeeks homebrew club www.zymurgeeks.org I decided to stop at Sudwerk in Davis for lunch and of course a couple of well deserved cool ones after the long drive. I ordered a Pilsner while I waited for my burger. This beer is very pale straw, a crisp light malt character and very refreshing. After getting the burger I ordered a stout. Black as night with a thick creamy tan head this beer was robust with a strong presence of crystal malts along with a good roasted bite. I took a couple pictures of the restaurant which features copper brewing kettles within a circular bar, and asked about viewing the brewery. Within moments Mike Hutson appeared, weary from the previous nights efforts, but enthusiastic and let me into the back where the beer is made. Mike is a graduate of the brewers program at UC Davis and has been brewing at Sudwerk for several years. The facility is used by UC for their Brew Masters Program, preparing the students to brew in a large scale brewery environment. I took a quick look at the mash/lauter tun and steam heated boil kettle. We passed the 130 bbl fermenters on the way down to the cellar where Mike was excited to take a sample and experience the results of a new batch of hefeweizen. Using a devise called a Zahm/Nagel, www.zahmnagel.com Mike checked the carbonation level of the beer, then we tasted. A great example of a classic German style hefeweizen with subtle esters and loads of phenolic spicyness along with a rich creaminess from the wheat. Very good. We finished tasting, and I thanked Mike for his continued enthusiasm which re-instilled in me the satisfaction of knowing that the business of brewing can continue to be about the beer even when the need for financial success seems to displace the alchemy and art of crafting great beer.
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