You’ve probably seen Jack Thomas hustling around the brewery, pouring behind the bar, or working one of the kajillion festivals we’ve attended recently. In addition to being Kelly’s brother, he’s Valiant’s (and Brian’s) assistant brewing technician. He’s our sales rep. And he may just be our number one fan. But he is so much more than that! Check him out.
Harvest Intern at Owen Roe, a winery in St Paul, Ore.
“I worked on the sorting line for the grapes. Punch-down crew. I took wine samples almost every morning to determine sugar levels and if any byproducts like EA or oxidation were occurring. I pitched yeast into new fermenters, and basically helped to take care of all fermenting red wines.”
Beer or wine?
“I like brewing better than I like wine-making, but both sciences are very wonderful and I loved every minute up at the winery.”
Favorite part of brewing?
“The ability to make a product however you want. You can make the beer to whatever specification you like, super hoppy, really strong, very delicate, or extremely strange. You can make something very different or very traditional. If you do a good job, people will love your beer. This is one of the few arenas where you can let your mind and artistry shine through in your creation. It’s very personal.
“The other great thing about beer is that there is a quick turnaround and this allows you to quickly find out what the people love or dislike. Very few industries can get such quick feedback.”
Most interesting part of working at Valiant?
“The most interesting is whatever I am doing that day, but I always have a great time picking names and writing stories for the beers we make.”
How important is taste-testing?
“Taste testing is VERY important. If you don’t know what sort of flavors or aromas your beer has, you won’t know if something goes wrong or if you have made a mistake. Also beer tastes great, and why not taste-test what is good? You are allowing your taste buds some exercise.”
Valiant’s secret weapon?
“All of our beers have three layers that work together. I find that most beers lack in balance and instead focus on gimmicks or one outstanding feature. Our beers have a fantastic aroma, a strong flavor, and a delightful finish. All three of these levels lead you from one to the other, none trying to outperform the other.”
“I play soccer, take pictures, read lots of science fiction, fantasy, and classics. I love camping and long walks on the beach.”
Famous last words?
“Try as many beers as you can, support the locals, and puns are a valid form of humor.”
Part 8 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Axiom.
Malty highlights hint at graham cracker sweetness, spiced with dark sweet cherry and raisin, all swirled within rich caramel. We admit it: just writing about Axiom, our new Trappist ale, makes our mouths water!
Our friends at St. Michael’s Norbertine Abbey in Silverado Canyon inspired us to brew this beer, and it was quite an undertaking. With seven different malts, Axiom hits the profile of many different grains—plus flaked oats (5% of the grain mix), which give the brew a silky texture.
Dextrose thinned out the body to perfect drinkability, plus gave it a push on the ABV (10.5%). We added golding hops for just 60 minutes to balance out that rich malty profile (Axiom has an IBU of 28). But the thing that ties it all together is the yeast, blending all those different ingredients into one exceptional beer. The flavors hit you first, leading you right into the warm, cozy sensation you can expect from a higher ABV beer, and concluding with a mildly dry, slightly sweet finish.
We’re pouring half our first batch of Axiom in the tasting room right now, while the other half is safe in our bourbon barrels. When we tap the aged Axiom in a few months, we expect it’ll be up around 12% ABV.
Part 7 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Mighty Maximus.
Don’t let the name fool you: while Mighty Maximus has a robust mouthfeel and a flavor as big as its name leads you to expect, it also has a rich toffee and roasty malt character. At 3.6% ABV it’s definitely a sessionable beer, but true to Valiant’s roots, it makes a big beer impression. And though the beer style is called bitter, bitterness is not its strongest characteristic.
Like all Valiant beers, the key to Mighty Maximus’s drinkability is balance.
The grain bill is rather simple, with classic British pale ale and a unique selection of roasted malts combining to give Mighty Maximus a little more character than beers that rely on the classic 2-row malt. Noble hops are added at different points on the late side of the boil, imparting the flavor—but with only 56 IBUs, the bitterness level is at a level even the biggest malt fan can appreciate!
With a bready-roasty-toasty aroma and just a hint of chocolate, Mighty Maximus is a totally approachable, totally drinkable beer. Watch for MM on nitro to go on tap in the tasting room soon.
Part 6 in our ongoing series of posts introducing you to the Valiant family of beers. Today’s installment: Fields Ablaze.
Traditionally brewed during the cooler months in the French-speaking region of Belgium, Saisons were stored for drinking during the summer months. In SoCal you never know when summery weather will hit, so just to stay ahead of the curve, Valiant released Fields Ablaze (6.8% ABV), a refreshing summer Saison, in the super early spring.
This light beer is perfect for people who enjoy classic American lagers; yeast provides a classic spiciness, but there’s no malt complexity weighing down the resulting brew.
What it does have is a tangy kick from a lemongrass-speckled pear “tea” that was added in the brite tank. A series of tests quickly showed which was the ideal beer-tea ratio to create a light, clean-tasting beer. For this Saison, that’s where the balance lies: it’s beer, after all, not lemongrass beer!
Relying on classic noble hops, pilsner malt and wheat, Fields Ablaze will be a comfortable fit for many beer drinkers—but the surprise addition of opal hops adds a flowery aroma, and a unique fermentation process adds more complex characteristics to the classic Saison yeast.
A big hit in the Valiant tasting room, it’s also the top-selling Valiant keg… something to keep in mind as the round of warm-weather holidays approaches (Cinco de Mayo, anyone?).
Axiom Trappist ale at the Pasadena Beerfest; Fields Ablaze and 31 Kings at the Taste of Orange; and six Valiant beers at the Kickoff Party. (Those six are still on tap, too—check out Find Our Beer for details.)
“Beerfests are always fun,” Brian’s friend Ingmar told us, “but moreso now for me since I can help out a buddy, talk with lots of people about Valiant, enjoy the vibe…. It really is an easy way to spend an afternoon!”
Less than two weeks after we opened the tasting room doors to the public, we reached another major Valiant landmark: First Flight.
This American Strong Ale has been brewing (ha!) in Brian’s mind for a very long time, but on Feb. 19 that recipe became reality. At 13.7% ABV, it’s Valiant’s first really big beer—a beer that says what we’re all about.
‘Tis the season for beer festivals… and as our schedule fills out, we’re glad to have so many supporters to lend us a hand–like our pals Steve Martin and Tony Bakke, who manned the Valiant booth with Jack at the 3rd Annual San Clemente Micro-Brew Fest. Presented by Left Coast Brewing on April 20, the brew fest attracted about 1000 beer fans–and lots of them got to taste our Fields Ablaze Saison and Jericho Imperial IPA.
“The first hour or two there were lots of questions about what made the beers unique, how long the brewery had been operating, and location questions,” Steve says.
“The last hour and a half or so was people returning for more beer and telling us how good the beer tasted!”
Our beer flavors stood out from the crowd, Steve heard over and over again (music to his ears—and ours too!). Jericho was a monster hit among the hopheads, and Fields Ablaze poured steadily all day. They guys drained the last of Valiant’s 30 gallons of beer about 30 minutes before the festival ended.
It was nonstop action–poor Steve didn’t even have a chance to eat!–but a true blue Valiant fan, he says the high point of the event was just hearing the buzz our beers generated.
“Many guests came over to Valiant because other guests told them they just had to try their beers,” he says. “That was the most fun aspect for me.”
Reduce, reuse, recycle—nowadays, that’s a concept just about everyone can agree on. And one of the major behind-the-scenes benefits of operating a brewery is the opportunity it gives us to do just that: reuse and recycle our materials in unique ways.
Since the start of this year, we’ve created 24 tons—that’s no typo, guys: tons—of spent grain. For every brewery, it’s a challenge to figure out what to do with all tonnage. After all, it’s not really waste: there are still plenty of natural uses for spent grain. We know some breweries that partner with local farmers who use the grain to fertilize their crops. Other brewers use spent grain as a base for products including candles, soap, and dog biscuits.
Right now, we’re transporting our spent grain back to the homestead in Silverado. It starts with Brian and Jack sliding a series of 55-gallon drums beneath the mash tun. With the push of a button, the grain pours out into each drum. Then the guys load the drums onto the forklift and fill the trailer.
That’s the easy part.
Once Brian gets home, he has to get the grain out of the drums and into our compost piles. He backs the trailer into the compost area, shoves over the drums—each can hold about 230 pounds of grain, but remember: wet grain weighs more than dry!—and builds up the mounds of compost. (The real danger is getting splashed with some of that wet grain. The odor is intense.)
With the tractor, Brian transports about 1000 pounds of the grain into our poultry pen. We have 5 turkeys, 18 ducks, 17 chickens (including one rooster), and a mere three geese. All that grain feeds all those birds for about four days.
The rest of the grain stays in the compost pile, slowly decomposing to a state where we can use it to fertilize our vegetable beds, fruit trees, and rose bushes. We’ve always been fans of compost—so cool to put kitchen scraps and garden waste to good use!—but it took us three years to actually get our first compost pile going. (Those of you who also compost know how long it can take for all those eggshells, vegetable peelings, and grass clippings to decompose into nutrient-rich compost!)
Now that the compost pile is up and running, so to speak, decomposition happens much more quickly. When Brian first began depositing Valiant’s spent grains, he created a 20-foot swath of 4-foot-tall piles. All that grain has now decomposed into a single pile.
We’ll always take advantage of Valiant’s spent grains for our little farm—but as we continue brewing, and the number of spent-grain-tons climbs, we also hope to build relationships with local farmers. Reduce, reuse, recycle—and reach out to others. It’s the
composter’s brewer’s way.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but when we went into the brewery business… it just didn’t occur to us that we were going to become salespeople, too! (All we wanna do is brew, you know?)
But sell we must, and sell we have, and sell we do. We spend about half the week going out for tastings at restaurants and bars—and setting up appointments for future tastings. We figure it takes an average of five hours of calling/ emailing/ visiting just to set up the appointment in the first place!
We’ve visited dozens of sites, and have a triple-digit list of other sites where we’d love to see Valiant on tap. (Speaking of which—if you have any suggestions for locations where you think Valiant would be a great fit, comment below and let us know!)
Some of the people we meet are total beer geeks. They’re interested in hearing about our lineup and the beer styles we’re planning on brewing; they sniff our pours, lift their glass to look at the beer in the light, and hold the beer in their mouths before swallowing. (It almost brings a tear to the eye. Beer connoisseurs—ya gotta love ’em!) Some places have a wall filled with tap handles—a little disconcerting for these new kids on the block! And some places are just plain surprising. Like one local joint where the owner offered all his customers a sample of the beers we brought… after the beer we’d brought was all gone.
Selling to new accounts is definitely the most challenging aspect of our business at this stage—but it has its high points. Some restaurant/ bar owners and managers have called to invite us for a tasting, because they’ve heard good things about our beers. A few wine bars have reached out to us because customers have suggested that Valiant beers would make a perfect companion to their wine list. One restaurant manager offered to drive over to the brewery to do the tasting, so we wouldn’t have to drive out to her!
While out on one tasting, Brian was explaining his brewing philosophy and describing what’s unique about Jericho (our Imperial IPA—but you knew that!): the high IBUs, unique hop profile, and malty balance. The restaurant manager seemed really interested—and when Brian suggested he do a side-by-side tasting of Jericho and a very established craft brewery’s DIPA, the manager thought it was a great idea. He ended up buying a keg of Jericho for his place!
We love pouring in our tasting room—but it is so cool to hear about people enjoying our brews at great restaurants and fun bars around the county. Stay tuned as we land more accounts, and check back often for an updated list of awesome places where you can relax with a Valiant (list is also available on our Facebook page—just click on Find Our Beer at the top of the page).
You’ve heard about half our crazy-busy weekend, pouring our kegs dry at the Backyard Brewfest. Well, here’s the other half–a six-hour extravaganza at the Los Angeles Beer Festival at Paramount Studios. It’s a mammoth event, and a seriously good time–check it out.