Monday, January 30, 2017

Pileated Brewing Aims to Play with Beer Styles

Jay Howe and Andrew Collins taught together at Huron High School, then homebrewed together for years as members of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, and now they are partners in yet another brewery coming to our fair city: Pileated Brewing Co.

Originally founded under the name Divergent Brewing, the future brewery is located in the rear of the same building that houses the PTO Thrift Store on South Industrial Hwy. The name change came about due to a trademark dispute with a brewery in Ohio, they explain. "We may have taken some slack from the state of Ohio, but growing up in Ann Arbor means that you don’t allow Ohio to get to you."

The new name refers to the pileated woodpecker, which has a striking red crest – not unlike the red beards sported by both of the brewery's founders.

I reached out to Jay and Andrew to find out more about their plans.

Seems to me you guys have been flying under the radar as far as upcoming entrants into the city’s beer scene goes. Can you tell me more about your brewery and why you decided to start it?

We have had a longer than average wait for licensing and as a result, we have been hesitant to move forward with a "hard" launch until we feel we have a product for the community to experience. We have been reluctant to put up our signage due to the high traffic volumes that it would attract. We want to be able to greet visitors with fresh beer.

Divergent Brewing was created because we don’t think that there is one solid path to brewing or recipe formulation. Brewing amazing craft beer is not just following a recipe. We look at life, and our business, as an organic path. There is not just one way to do things, and we try to follow those divergent ideas in order to find the well examined perspective on things.

There are many styles of beer, and these styles provide the drinker with a nice set of sensory expectations. Most craft beer enthusiasts know what to expect when they drink a dry Irish stout or a saison. At times, these styles can also be limiting if they dictate everything that you do. Part of the Pileated ethos is that styles are guidelines and they can and should be played with and/or completely ignored at times.

What happened with your name change?

This past summer we had a trademark conflict with a brewery in Ohio over our name. We decided that because we were not open yet (and still very early in the process), it made a lot more sense to use a Doing Business As (DBA) name for our beer and keep Divergent on our licensing. Instead of restarting our licensing process, we kept the company name of Divergent, but we will operate all brewing operations as Pileated Brewing Co.

What is your background? How did you get into brewing?

Pileated Brewing is really is a collaboration of science and art.

Andrew Collins, our co-owner and head brewer, has a background in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry. He brewed for McMenamins Pubs and Breweries for nearly a decade. He’s worked as a brewer, brewery trainer, wine maker, and environmental chemist. While he could easily be described as a true West Coast brewer, he was born and raised in Port Huron. Andrew started homebrewing by reading books and immersing himself in all parts of the brewing process. Some of these steps may have even taken place well before his 21st birthday [I won't tell. –DB] He has been brewing and enjoying beer for nearly three decades. Andrew's family has a history in the brewing industry as two of his relatives brewed for Rolling Rock in Erie, Pennsylvania. You could say that beer is in his blood.

Jay Howe has a background in the fine arts. His medium of choice is ceramics. Jay built a large wood-fired kiln that produces salt-fired stoneware that produces unique organic patterns. Jay has quite an intuitive feel for natural design, regularly featuring reclaimed materials. You will see many of these touches in the brewery. Jay used to provide all of the mugs for the Corner Brewery Mug Club memberships. When Jay completed his master's portfolio in art, he displayed this collection at the brewery. This show could be best described as "breweriana," as it featured mugs, tap handles, and ceramic draft towers.

Jay Howe's 2010 exhibit at the then-Corner Brewery.

Can you elaborate  on what you have planned?

We will be producing 22 oz bottles of unique craft beer for local retail establishments. By limiting our production to under 1,000 barrels, we can really focus on quality, and also take advantage of the self-distribution law. We will be producing high-quality, bottle-conditioned craft beer on a small five-barrel system. We will produce somewhere between 750 and 1000 bottles per brew.

Photo from Pileated's Facebook page.

We are focused on quality over quantity. We hope to incorporate the finest ingredients, chosen for their specific attributes. Above anything else, we want to make beer that the people in this area really enjoy. We want our beer to stand out. We will be producing the following beers:

  • Wrangling Dharma, a very hop-forward pale ale that features a complex, malty balance
  • Rainbow Warrior, a midwest style IPA 
  • Double Rainbow Warrior, a massive double IPA 
  • Red Bearded Father, a Belgian single 
  • Triple, a Belgian tripel 
  • Porter 
  • The Morrigan, a large, complex, malty, smoky red ale 
  • Night Hawk, a double American stout 
  • Our Special Ale, a holiday barleywine style ale that is a hybrid between an American/English barleywine 
  • Tilted Axis, a Belgian saison that features Brettanomyces strains of yeast

Where are you in the process? When do you plan to open? 

That’s the mystery question. We have our equipment in. Our installation is nearly complete, and we are still waiting on state licensing. We are looking to have four or five beers on tap in our very small taproom. The taproom will also serve our bottle conditioned ales for sale at a discounted rate. We will aim to provide unique, one-off varietals that may not be available in the stores.

Follow Pileated Brewing's progress on Facebook and Twitter.

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