The last time I was here (over six years ago) the beers were for the most part pretty unremarkable so when I returned this time I was please to see that they brought in a new head brewer. I ordered a sampling of the beers that were currently on tap and began tasting my way through from light to dark beginning with a Pilsner style lager. I was immediately impressed, here was a beer I could relate to as it embodied the character of the style. Crisp, clean malt with a hop bitterness that bordered on the Bohemian and kept the malt in check. Next was the German hefeweizen which I was so impressed with that when it came time, I ordered a full pint to go with my lunch. This beer has a huge spicy, clovey, phenolic blast of goodness just the way I would like my homebrew to mimic. Cloudy with a full mouthfeel, I was in heaven.
This was followed with an Oktoberfest style lager, a pale ale with a great hop aroma/flavor contribution and then an oatmeal stout.
These beers exemplify the best qualities of the classic styles and when lunch was done I had to follow up with a pint of the pale ale, I couldn't get enough of these beers. I guess this was apparent to head brewer Kent Wheat as he bought me another round of pale ale and invited me back into the brewery for a quick tour and to discuss my favorite subject, how to brew better beer.
I view Kent as a 'traditionalist' in that he brews within the framework of classic styles. Using his skills and knowledge to create beers that fit into the 'classic style guidelines' to perfection. He's a graduate from the American Brewer's Guild's Craftbrewers apprenticeship program where he says he learned the technical aspects of brewing with a focus on the science and biology that is required to sharpen ones brewing skills. He's been with LGB for about four years now pairing this knowledge with his passion to brew. From the short conversation I had with him, Kent exhibited the love of brewing and drive to improve on his beers that you witness in the most successful brewers. He clued me in on the need to ferment cool to get the higher levels of phenols in the hefeweizen and minimize the esters. He was very open about the processes he uses in the brewery and seemed willing to share. I hope to get a video interview with him in the future, let me know if you are interested in that.
If you're in the area, I highly recommend stopping in at Los Gatos Brewing Co. and having what I think are some of the better beers in this area.
In the mean time, I plan to brew another black IPA in a couple of days and the Santa Cruz County fair is coming up where my brewing partner Michelle and I will attempt to create an oatmeal stout in front of a live audience, without a net.