Interview: brewmaster Chris Enegren (Enegren Brewing Co.)

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Photo courtesy of Enegren Brewing Co.

Enegren Brewing Company was born in a Loyola Marymount University dorm when Chris Enegren started his homebrewing career. Then his brother Matt and friend Joe Nascenzi joined the team. According to their website, “We opened on July 31st with two beers on tap – Valkyrie Altbier and Protector Imperial IPA. We soon expanded to seasonal brews – Captain’s Summer Session, Fall Foliage Pale Ale and Daniel Irons Winter Oatmeal Stout.” They are looking to add more fermenters and to build a bigger brewery space. I recently corresponded with Chris to learn more about Enegren and their beers.

Sean Inman: At what point did you know you’d work with beer for a living?

Chris Enegren: Ever since Matt, Joe and I started brewing together, we had always had the goal to start a brewery. The dreams developed to more of a plan when I moved the primitive college all-grain system back to my parent’s house after graduating and turning it into an automated pilot system. After working out a few kinks, Matt, Joe and I had a great system to begin exploring beer styles and process design with.  It was at that point where we really sat down and discussed how we would take our hobby to a commercial brewing level. We decided to take as long as we needed to take to do things right and to be able to grow a business from the ground up.

SI: Is there anybody who mentored you along the way? If so, what did they teach you that was so valuable?

CE: I would say that our best mentors are our co-workers and bosses at our day jobs. Currently, we all work full-time day jobs. I’m an Engineering Supervisor at Medtronic, Matt is a Tax manager at Power One and Joe is a project manager at Internet Brands, an internet marketing firm. Having these skill backgrounds has been extremely helpful in starting and running our business.

Daniel Irons himself has been an incredible inspiration as well.

SI: What was the first beer you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?

CE: The first beer I brewed was a malt extract Amber Ale. From what I remember, It was rather flat and a little thin, but it was such a breakthrough for me at the time because I had brewed about 5 gallons of beer that was better than the stuff found at college parties for less money and I didn’t need to be 21 to buy the ingredients.

SI: What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew at your brewery? What does a beer have to be?

CE: The criteria is that it needs to be consistent and it has to be something we’re proud to share. There is no point making a really great beer that people love if you’re going to make it taste different every time. Our brew system is completely custom designed and we built in a lot of automated functions and controls to ensure consistency at every point.

SI: What’s your top selling beer, and why do you think that’s the case?

CE: Our top selling beer is Valkyrie California Alt. It sells well because it’s different from a lot of the beers on the market being that it’s very malt forward. It also pairs very well with lots of rich foods and has allowed us to get on tap at a lot of great restaurants. Although it’s our best selling beer, its also the one we dread brewing the most due to the amount of Munich II malt used in it and the intense temperature controlled mash it takes to convert it.

SI: How do you go about naming your beers?

CE: There isn’t really a set criteria for how we name them, but we always try to use a name that has a good story behind it and it usually takes a while to figure the names out.

Here are a few:

Valkyrie:  The name Enegren is Swedish.  Valkyries were the mythical angels that would bring fallen warriors to heaven.  We have always believed that beer is the best reward for hard work.

Protector:  When we were doing an all-night home brew batch, our golden retriever named Duke was laying on the driveway periodically growling into the darkness. In our brew notes we referred to him as the “Protector” of the brewery from evil spirits. We ended up taking that same Imperial IPA recipe we brewed that night and tweaking it for the commercial brewery.

La Fleur De Mars: I had a nightmare in which I was brewing with Matt and this crazy comet storm came raining down on us. In the dream, Matt told me that it was “La Fleur de Mars,” I then woke up freaking out in bed. The next day I translated the term to The Flower of Mars.  We decided to interpret this in a beer. We used Saison yeast for the French name, made it red in color and added smoked chilies post fermentation.

SI: What was the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your inspiration and approach?

CE: The most recent beer we brewed was “Captain Patrick” Irish Stout. This beer will be released on March 16th, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. We’re also having Custom Melt, a local grilled cheese company come out and grill on site. The menu isn’t set yet, but I’m sure this will involve a stout pairing with a corned beef melt.

The inspiration behind the beer comes from a long lost story of the man who was once believed to be St. Patrick.  We’ll have the story on our blog closer to the release date.

SI: How many events do you go to in a month?

CE: Maybe about 1 a month. However, since expanding all of our finished beer storage and raw materials handling to another building we have been able to greatly expand our tasting room to facilitate food trucks and other food events.

SI: If you could only drink one more beer, and you couldn’t brew it, what would it be and why?

CE: If I had to choose 1 beer to have the rest of my life, I’d choose something that I wouldn’t get tired of and that would be refreshing as well as something I could just sip on.  With that being said, I’d choose Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown. Although my beer tastes have changed over the years, that’s one beer I have always liked a lot.


Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman's writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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