The newest addition to our brewery… also represents the history of Valiant.
Way back when we realized we wanted to go pro with craft beer, there was still one big unknown: would we be a contract brewery? A nano brewery? A micro brewery?
Brian designed a system, the manufacturer’s price was right, and we took the plunge. The day we went out to pick up the equipment was huge! We were hauling a trailer of all this brewery equipment down the freeway, with people honking at us and waving.
That was when we started to feel really official!
Next step: Brian had to figure out how to hook up all the equipment. He started searching for parts on eBay, and even got a huge heat exchanger (since the Blichmann he had for his original homebrewing equipment was too inefficient for this 80-gallon system).
We set up in the garage. As we fine-tuned the business plan for our brewery, Brian got very familiar with his new system. And eventually, the business plan took a turn and we realized we were going to go big—very big!—with our brewery.
Back to the drawing board: Brian designed a new system (the one you see in the tasting room today), incorporating many of the parts we’d already gathered. And the rest is history!
Now that history has come full circle. Our smaller system is part of the big picture, allowing us to brew small batches of experimental beers (and—just as important, though slightly less exciting—to propagate yeast for our brews). Stonewall Jackson 5 was brewed on this system.
Before we set up the Pico system last month, it had been two years since Brian had brewed on it! It might be going overboard to say it felt like a homecoming… but we will admit that it’s awesome to have the flexibility to make sure our beer is the absolute best it can be, going out the door.
So next time you’re in the tasting room, admiring all the shiny equipment, make sure you spare a glance for our Pico. After all, it’s where Valiant got its start.
Behold: a Jericho BOTTLE LABEL.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: does this mean that Valiant is bottling beer??
Short answer: Not yet–but soon! We have to run the label by the TTB and the ABC and then we get to play with our beautiful BOTTLING MACHINE. (Seriously, take a look at these pix and tell us it’s not beautiful! We double-dog dare ya!)
And don’t worry–you’ll be the first to know when Valiant bottled beer is available!
The search for the perfect coffee was where we focused very heavily for this beer (after all, the brewing side is something that we know very well!). We knew that our coffee selection could make or break the brew. The wrong amount, type, or brewing technique could really put the beer into another category (making it something other than beer!). We wanted to do something different than other area breweries, so we headed up to Jones Coffee, a family-owned and -operated coffee roaster and shop in Pasadena.
Like Valiant, Jones Coffee is located in a commercial industrial building. Once you’re inside, you feel like you’re in a whole new world—all relating to the fine craftsmanship of roasting and creating coffee drinks. Owner Chuck Jones has spent 18 years in the coffee business (in fact his family owns a plantation in Guatemala, and some of the coffee beans used come from there).
The next step was the fun part: narrowing down the selection of coffees we thought would be the perfect fit for Mounds of Grounds. Like Brian with his beers, Chuck has a detailed temperature printout for each roast. The guys studied them to understand what influenced what with respects to temperature inside the roaster.
After learning about all the coffee roasts, we went through a selection of narrowed-down coffee beans by means of smelling. Now, it’s important to understand that the aroma will change on these beams depending on how you steep them—whether in cold, hot, or very hot water. Therefore, the artistic side has to come out and narrow down the selection.
It was really fun to watch Chuck brew our coffee. He showed Brian handling techniques that he’d never seen before. You can tell that Chuck has been doing this for some time! Finally we got to sample the brews.
We finished going through all the different kinds of roasts and found the roast we thought would fit for our Saison. With a final recap and a confirmation that we about to head out the door with 15lb of coffee, we had one last recap of everything learned by Chuck.
We thank Jones Coffee so much for their time that day! We are extremely excited about other opportunities for creating more concoctions for the craft brew world using Chuck’s coffee. This whole experience really shows why this industry is so much fun: these little tiny business really make a big impact!
What made this honor even more exciting was discovering who our fellow French- and Belgian-Style Saison award-winners are: San Diego’s Green Flash (for their Saison Diego) and Goose Island in Chicago (for Sofie). Receiving an award alongside these established and respected breweries is so exciting for us—and it’s a real affirmation of everything Valiant has been striving to do.
Deciding what to submit to a competition can be tough—especially when we’re so proud of all of our beers! But we can’t just enter our whole list, so a lot of thought goes into our submissions for competitions. We have to admit, though, deciding on Fields Ablaze was darn easy. Our fans have made it very clear that it’s top of the charts!
Entering competitions is especially fun for Brian: as a certified beer judge, it’s a kick for him to enter beers into a competition for other judges to taste and talk about!
After completing the Beer Judge Certification Program, Brian began judging beer competitions—so he knows exactly what the judges are up against. So many great beers, so many interesting styles and recipes! (It’s a tough job… but someone’s gotta do it!)
But back to Fields Ablaze: it’s a seasonal beer, so come to the tasting room to get it while you can. At an easy-drinking 7.2% ABV, it offers a refreshing tartness thanks to the lemongrass-seckel pear tea that infuses it. Even if we do say so ourselves, it’s the perfect summer beer (and let’s not forget—it’s an award-winner, too!).
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.”
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.
This is somewhat a complex question for me to answer. Yeah I can say, it’s because I’m passionate about beer, I enjoy the challenges that comes with creating fairy big beers that are drinkable, or I like being part of an industry that is growing at a pace that’s faster than light partials traveling through space (ok that’s a little over exaggerated), waking up at 2am with coffee in hand excited about firing up the kettle knowing that another creation will be taking place today, being around good friends and exploring the cultures of life while pouring grains into the mill. Yes these are all very good reasons why I like brewing but it goes to show that brewing, as a whole, means much more to me then I can talk about if trying to answer this question in one sentence – it simply cannot be done.
It’s interesting given my experiences and background with automotives, more directly drag racing of how the two (brewing and racing) are similar. Drag racing itself is simple, drive a vehicle as fast and safe as you can 1,320 ft while hoping that you can beat your opponent. However prior to going down the track, you have endless amounts of time in building the car, performing maintenance, ensuring all your safety equipment is still up to date, packing for the weekend at the track, setting up the pits, etc… All this so you can drive down the track for a total of 7 seconds! Yes large amounts of time spent for such little in return but we love it. Brewing is very similar to this in that you spend a great deal of time ahead, during and after making beer to ensure that the one perfect moment, when someone takes a sip of our beer, gives them that unique experience that only comes from all that hard work. This moment, quick in time compared to everything leading to that one event is what is so precious to us and why we love brewing!
I’d like bore you with all the technical stuff that comes into play with brewing, remember I’m a gear head and the more knobs, switches and valves I can push/pull the happier I am but that is only interesting to a small number of you but is important to understand about me. However I’ll spare that time for when we get the chance to talk in person or perhaps for a future update.
There are many craft beer companies in Orange County, but there are not many offering ales (over 8%) with good flavor. That is our niche. We are “Your Ale Specialist”