Bill Batten was a homebrewer and data storage professional who turned his full attention to craft beer after 9/11. He recently celebrated his 11th anniversary with AleSmith Brewing Company, which resides in San Diego. He shared several craft beer insights at the 2013 L.A. Beer Week gala inside Union Station.
How did the opportunity with AleSmith come about?
I was a homebrewer and used to work at a data storage company. 9/11 came along and that was going away, it was taking a dive, and I decided to follow my passion as a brewer. Since then, I did sales to start with, and eventually worked my way into a brewhouse position.
What does a beer have to be for you to brew it at AleSmith?
At AleSmith, we love to make all the different styles, but we really focus on balance. We like to make big beers, obviously, with Speedway, Numbskull, Wee Heavy, but there’s still a lot of balance when it comes to those beers. They’re not just a big alcohol bomb or hop bomb, by any means. There’s got to be good balance with that beer for you to make it to our line-up.
What’s the collaboration like between you and Peter [Zien]?
What’s really good about AleSmith is that it’s not just a collaboration between me and Peter. It’s a collaboration between all the brewers. We really try to keep a round table forum so that everybody is giving their perspectives and ideas on how these beers should be. What’s nice is that we can make all these little tweaks and formulation changes based on a group consensus and not necessarily one person’s idea of what AleSmith should be.
What’s the most recent beer that you had groupthink on, and what was the result?
The newest one we did was Decadence. That’s going to be released in the next week, in the bottle. It’s a doppelbock, which is a shift of gear for AleSmith, since it’s the first lager we’ve done over there. We really had to work on it together to make sure everybody really felt that it was going to bring doppelbock style, so it would be nice and malty and have all that character in there and really bring forward that true German tradition and style. That’s really where AleSmith has flourished, in the beer styles that we really celebrate, how these beers have been made, and in the historical significance of these beers. It’s great that there are a lot of new beers out there, and new ideas coming through, but I really hope that we don’t lose our true history of brewing. That’s what AleSmith really champions and holds dear to its heart. We really love the traditional styles. We make it AleSmith, but we’re still honoring that tradition and those beer styles.
Who else in the craft beer industry do you look to for inspiration, guidance or advice?