An Interview with Oregon-based brewers Suzanne and Dylan Goldsmith, founders of the Captured by Porches Brewing Company
Sooner or later you will run into a friend or neighbor that has tried to homebrew at one time in their life. Some will have stories of their successes, but usually it is of experiment, and failure. But we ran into one brewer that has studied, trained, and worked his way into the craft brewing profession to the point where he owns his own commercially successful brewery and label. He is Dylan Goldsmith, the Brewmaster for Oregon- based Captured by Porches Brewing Company.
In this Q & A, Suzanne and Dylan share a little insight into what it is like to build your brewery up from the grass roots and into a successful craft brewery. A little more background about Captured By Porches: Captured by Porches beer is made with all natural, locally grown ingredients, mostly organic. In the real ale tradition, it is naturally carbonated and unfiltered beer. Although many of the pubs it is served in use CO2 to push the beer, it is never force carbonated. We asked Dylan about how to dial in one’s carbonation level with such accuracy, ideas for serving real ale without a beer engine, and other questions related to brewing, and his wife Suzanne about what it is like to operate a brewery in a small town.
HomeBrewing.com = Dylan Blackthorn (correspondent, interviewer)
DG = Dylan Goldsmith (Brewmaster of Captured By Porches, interviewee)
SG = Suzanne Goldsmith (Business Manager of Captured By Porches, interviewee)
HomeBrewing.com: What inspired you to own your own brewery and how has that inspiration changed over the years?
SG: We were both students and we met while attending college. Dylan’s homebrew was doing quite well, and people wanted his beer for their parties. Eventually, he took a job working at a brewery where he was brewing his own beer and trading it for the use of the space as well as selling it.
HomeBrewing.com: What is it like owning and operating a family run business in these times? Do you have other employees besides family members?
SG: It’s just us two running the business – our children aren’t old enough to work. Dylan does most of the brewing and I handle the business side of things. He works really hard making all this beer. We sell beer together at farmer’s market out of our converted school bus – it has beer taps right on the side of the bus.
HomeBrewing.com: How big do you envision Captured by Porches to become? Do you plan on breaking out of the microbrewery market?
SG: We aren’t at the production level of a microbrewery – we don’t produce that much beer.
HomeBrewing.com: So you fall into the category of craft brewery, then.
SG: Yes, we’re a craft brewery. All of our beer is un-pasteurized, unfiltered, and carbonated naturally.
HomeBrewing.com: So, in essence, you produce what the English call Real Ale, made in the old style. Why have you chosen to make your beer this way?
SG: Dylan will have to answer that for you, he does most of the brewing.
DG: I wouldn’t use a filter even if I could afford one. I like making the beer traditionally as part of a general aesthetic toward simplicity. Beer is a living process, and continuing the carbonation in the keg reflects that, as opposed to it being a sterile and homogeneous product to be consumed.
HomeBrewing.com: I think it is really great that you are making beer in the old style craft tradition. I know that all of your beer is carbonated naturally. How do you dial in the natural carbonation process on a commercial scale?
DG: Well after the beer has undergone most of the fermenting process, I mix up a fresh batch of yeast and drop that into the keg. It is a really exacting process. If I am even a little bit off in my timing, the keg might be foamy. Then, either it gets returned or I have to go out to the bar it was delivered to and replace it. Returns are not good for business. Some places just return the keg, but I prefer if they call me if something goes wrong, because then I can fix it.
HomeBrewing.com: So you do house calls.
Some of the recent craft beers produced by Captured by Porches Brewing Company:
Cuddly Panda Porter | Spring Kölsch | Red Rye | Red Emma Amber
HomeBrewing.com: Do any of the pubs you serve to serve your beer from beer engines? Or do they push it with CO2?
DG: Well I make the beer naturally, and unfiltered, but I don’t have any control over how it is served after it leaves the brewery. Most pubs use CO2. I thought that it would not be hard to make a gravity feed system kegerator using soda kegs. You just have to turn the keg upside down and hook up the spigot to the gas tube and the liquid dip tube to an open-air line.
HomeBrewing.com: That is an amazing idea! Have you built this design?
DG: No, but I have a lot of time to think about these things while standing for hours in front of boiling brew kettles. Sometimes I will go out and make a kegerator for someone in trade for services or goods.
HomeBrewing.com: So you make kegerators? Do you use conversion kits or buy supplies elsewhere?
DG: Mostly at the hardware store.
HomeBrewing.com: You mention re-using waste from your brewing process to feed animals. Do you use the spent grains to feed only your own animals, or do you donate or sell it to farmers?
SG: We donate to some pig farmers and a farm for rescue horses.
HomeBrewing.com: As your business grows, do you plan on keeping the philosophy of re-use and re-purposement of the brewery’s waste as a priority?
SG: Yes, definitely. We are committed to using the least of the planet’s resources in making our beer – that is why we buy locally.
HomeBrewing.com: Explain some of the troubles you had with the city/zoning for the city based brewery you had planned on building early on.
SG: We saw this old gas station in a great part of Portland, and so we had the idea to rent it to start our own brewery. We put a lot of hard work into that space, and while we were working on it, we lived in our school bus on the lot. But the city gave us no slack. They wanted so many changes made to the space that we weren’t able to keep up with them. The zoning laws are hard to work with there. We had already moved our residence to Scappoose, a small town outside of Portland, as rent refugees. After six months of cold and rain and virtually no progress with the bureaucrats of Portland, we started looking at industrial spaces near our home. Saint Helens is a nice river front town just up the road.
HomeBrewing.com: On a related note, what are the benefits of operating your brewery in more of a small town environment?
SG: The zoning laws and inspection were a breeze. It was like they actually wanted us to start our business here. Our operation here is largely still unnoticeable. St Helens is a hard market for beer sales (one place sells beer). We do barter for all kinds of things – coffee, yoga classes, roto-tilling, tap handles, t-shirts, lower lease cost. We have a 2000 sq foot with storefront for $1200/month as opposed to $1800 in city of Portland. Dylan also makes converted kegerators and trades them for things like our Captured By Porches! Bumper stickers.
HomeBrewing.com: Do you exclusively use organic ingredients in your beer? Please explain why if you do or what exceptions you make and why.
SG: Our two year round beers (IPA and Amber) are made with 100% local and organic grains, and our Seasonal is organic if the ingredients are locally sourced. We prioritize local over organic when there is a choice, because we think that shipping organic ingredients over long distances defeats the point. Hops are problematic, because due to the hop shortage we had to sign up for buying contracts as to what was available.
HomeBrewing.com: (Bonus Question) Do you identify with Peckers as a spirit animal, or as a messenger from the gods?
SG: Absolutely. Peckers came to us just as we moved to St. Helens, and really had a strong impact on our family in our new home.
DG: I found Peckers, a starling, when he was just a little chick that had fallen from the nest. We nursed the bird back to health, and it would fly in and out of the house. Pecker’s behavior was unlike everything I read about birds, and how they can imprint on humans. One day Peckers flew away and gathered his own flock, and still comes back and visits.
SG: So Peckers was like a symbol of how our own family came back from the brink, shivering in that school bus for months, then finally moving to a real home in the country. Peckers didn’t conform to the notions people had of how birds should act. Our family is kind of like that too. Both Peckers and us beat the odds.
HomeBrewing.com: That’s amazing. It’s great to see that your business is successful and growing. I wish you and your family the best in your endeavors.
SG: Thanks, and thanks to HomeBrewing.com for interviewing us. We’ll be sure to send you a Captured By Porches! T-shirt!
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