Interview with Greg Deuhs from Redhook
Posted on July 15, 2010 by mike
The first interview in the Brewery Highlight Series for Redhook Ales. Click the link for more articles.
In today’s interview we talk with Head Brewmaster of the Woodinville Redhook Ale’s brewery, Greg Duehs. You may recognize his name from the specialty beer labels that Redhook is putting out. Beer is in his blood!
I’ve cut down the interview to keep it interesting, to hear the whole audio recorded interview click here.
Mike: Ted was telling me you have an interesting background. I’ve done a little bit of research on the net about you, and there really wasn’t a whole lot there. So my first question is, can you give us a little bit of information on your background? Where you grew up, what school you went to, you know, other information along those lines.
Greg Deuhs: I grew up in Saint Paul, MN.
Mike: Sweet, that is kind of near where I live.
Greg Deuhs: Yep, I was a homebrewer in the late 80′s so my friend told me, “Hey, you make pretty good homebrew you should do it for a living.” And I never really thought of that. So I started looking around the local beer scene in the Twin Cities at the time…at the time the only craft brewers or microbrewers available were James Paige and Summit. And course they were the big brewers there at the time.
I was always fascinated with beer. I grew up going to breweries of Minnesota. Ever since I was a little kid my father would take me on brewery tours at least 4 to 6 times a year, especially during those summer vacations we’d go to all the breweries. In those days there was Grain Belt, Hamm’s, Schmidts, there was Schell’s in New Ulm, there was Cold Spring. So those breweries were always breweries I went to. I was always fascinated with the beer that was, you know, the beer and the brewing process. And I remember looking into the kettles at the Hamm’s brewery in Saint Paul and seeing the copper kettles and if you’ve ever seen pictures of that brewery or been to that brewery it was a beautiful, traditional brewery with 3 or 4 levels with the mash mixers on top the lauter tuns on the next floor and the kettles on the floor below it and it really put an impression on me. So when I was homebrewing those kinds of things made were reminiscent to when I was a kid going to breweries.
Greg Deuhs: So I’d be homebrewing and my friends said I should think about doing that for a living. At the time I went over to the craft breweries in town and I went to Jim Paige and I sat with Jim Paige one day and offered to work for free there. And that’s what I did. I started working for free cleaning kegs. One of my first jobs was not only cleaning kegs, because everyone has to do that, was shoveling out the lauter tun. That was the job you always got as a new person. But at the time to buy malt, there wasn’t…malt houses weren’t setup to sell to small breweries. So the malt house in Minneapolis had a bag system that made 100 pound bags of malt. We’d go over there with a rental truck and pick up about 10,000 pounds of malt. The 100 pound bags would slide down a shoot and you would grab the bag and you’d have to put it on your shoulder and carry it into the truck and stack them up in the truck. At the time I probably only weighed 150 pounds so lifting a 100 pound bag was a lot…
Mike: I can’t imagine doing that in the middle of August in St. Paul or the Upper Midwest. It is REALLY hot…
Greg Deuhs: Yea! About every 4 to 6 weeks we’d have to go…you know 10,ooo pounds of grain was only good for about 10 brews. So depending on what time of the year it was every month you’d have to go over with the truck and pick up the malt.
So that was my first exposure at Jim Paige. Eventually after being there a few months I ended up by default becoming the head brewer, in fact I was the only brewer there because it was Jim Paige and me and there was another guy that started the homebrew shop that Jim Paige used to have. Then it went from there.
I worked at Jim’s for 3 years and during that time I went to the Siebel Short Course in brewing I was really into making beer commercially. From there I went on to, I decided I needed to make some money so I could buy a house. Being a craft brewer making 1,500 barrels a year is a pretty tough business so I was offered a job at the Hamm’s brewery, which was Strohs at the time in St. Paul. I started there as a production supervisor of brewing. I was there for a year and a half and I worked my way up to assistant brewmaster of that brewery. During that time was the early to mid 90′s where the craft beer scene started to take off.
Mike: So you made it over to Redhook and what year did you start working there?
Greg Deuhs: I’ve been here two years.
Mike: Two years. So your, from my understanding, in charge of the complete operation?
Greg Deuhs: Yes, I’m in charge of the Woodinville Brewery.
Mike: Ok, so what is your exact position?
Greg Deuhs: I am the Woodinville brewery plant manager and staff master brewer.
Mike: So, because I don’t know, what all does that entail?
Greg Deuhs: I’m pretty much in charge of the whole shooting match, from raw materials to finished product leaving out the door. Heading all departments brewing, packaging, maintenance engineering, administration, profit/loss the whole thing.
Mike: Wow, so when a beer goes out your doors its got your name on it? I know the 8-4-1 has your name on it.
Greg Deuhs: I have my name on the limited releases, but yes I am responsible for all, and I’ve very fortunate to have a good crew here that can help me out.
Mike: In actuality, I was sent one of those 8-4-1′s and I really think that the idea behind the beer, the team work and creating the guidelines for the creation was really interesting. Where did that idea come from, and I guess any idea to create a new recipe? Do you do anything for inspiration, sit down and have meetings…or what?
Greg Deuhs: Before a limited beer is made and this jug is last summer, so its essentially 8 months before the beer is even released, you know its like any other business plan. You come up with what the styles of beer are out there that would fit what we are looking for. And we had a very, ah, kind of list that we were looking for a beer that is unique, a beer high in alcohol, one that would have an appeal to the craft beer scene, one that would bring credibility to the brewery, and we had a couple of attributes that we were looking for. And that narrowed down the styles of beer we could do and the 8-4-1 idea came up in conversation about “Hey what if we had some sort of collaborative beer?” And the 8-4-1 name kind of evolved from that. Eight brewers, four recipes into one beer concept.
Mike: That’s pretty cool. So when I do finally get to open it, what can I expect from the Expedition 8-4-1?
Greg Deuhs: Its a very complex beer. It really turned out well in my mind. It is a high alcohol beer, it is 9.5%. You can tell it is a high alcohol content beer. You can tell the complex flavors though. It starts out rich and malty, with some hops upfront and the you taste some of the smoked malt and then the finish in my mind is the oak flavor of kind of the vanilla, the smooth vanilla oak flavor. That’s what I taste when I taste the 8-4-1.
Mike: So, feel free to not answer this question, but I feel I need to ask. Are there any secret projects or recipes that you are working on that you would be willing to give us a sneak preview on for the fall or…
Greg Deuhs: Yea…there are but we’ve been bound to secrecy. (Laugh)
Greg Deuhs: I can tell you that the fall release is going to be a beer that you would never think that Redhook would make. It is going to be a classic style of beer that I’ve tasted and it is very true to style and it will hopefully take note of Redhook.
Mike: Perfect, that is exactly the sneak preview I wanted.
Mike: Right on. Cool, well is there anything you’d like to add?
Greg Deuhs: Interestingly enough, and I always new there was some folklore in my family, my great great grand father immigrated from an area of Holland that border Germany and Belgium. He immigrated to Minnesota and he had a brewery in 1800′s that is now documented in a book called…”Amber Waves of Grain.” Its a new book that came out not to long ago that is the history of Minnesota brewing. In there it documented his brewery, in Minnesota outside of, which is now the suburbs of the Twin Cities. I guess I could say…I don’t want to sound like Jim Cooke, but I can say it goes back to my great, great grandfather who was a brewery and had a brewery.
Mike: It’s in your blood.
Greg Deuhs: Yea, so it was always talked about, it was never documented and now its documented. At the end of May I’m going back to Minnesota and there is a relative from Holland that is visiting and we are going to go to the farm where the brewery was. So I’m going to walk the grounds where the brewery was.
Mike: Wow, that is going to be really cool!
Greg Deuhs: So that to me will be a very memorable experience in my brewing career.
Mike: Wow, (a little astonished by this story) that is going to be cool! Well, I just want to thank you for your time again.
Greg Deuhs: Ok, yea! No problem.
Mike: I really look forward to trying the 8-4-1.
Greg Deuhs: Yep, and I look forward to the website.
Mike: Yep. Thank you very much and have a good day!
Greg Deuhs: Have a good day to!