Interview: MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. beer pros

Craft Beer Los Angeles

Another brewery is fermenting in the Valley, MacLeod Ale Brewing Company will be a seven-barrel production brewery with a tasting room in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, in Van Nuys. The crew behind the British style ales are Alastair and Jennifer Boase along with Andy Black. The opening date for their cask conditioned British ales is (fingers crossed) November of this year. Via e-mail I conversed with the 2/3 of the trio about their brewing venture.

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

Jennifer Boase (JB) – It has been a long slow process, beginning with my childhood growing up amongst the hop fields of East Kent in England.  My dad would pick a few hops while out cycling, and bring them home to hang on the hearth.  I loved sticking my nose deeply into the cones and sucking in the smell, so I have one of those “childhood smell” loves for hop aroma. As an adult I really didn’t drink beer at all until I took up bagpiping [the rumors are true…pipers drink a lot], got a divorce [yes, those two events are probably related], met some craft beer loving pipers, and started going out socially with my new Scottish husband, Alastair, and his Celtic friends. The brewery idea was hatched out of financial desperation on the part of my pipe band…we needed a sponsor, and everyone thought it would be great to find a brewery to sponsor us [another band is sponsored by Bushmills]. Just one problem…there was only one brewery around at the time, and no one had the guts to approach them.  So I thought “Hey, I need a new career, the band needs a sponsor, everyone loves beer…” so I lured Alastair away from his landscaping career to help me build a brewery.

Andy Black (AB) – My milestone was starting an internship in the UK; after that got going I could stop worrying about having to pursue other career options and focus entirely on brewing as my future. Before that I was getting seriously frustrated having spent months trying to find opportunities in New England. Despite good connections and references I wasn’t getting anywhere in the brewing, though I had landed a decent job on the retail side of the industry and was having fun with a secret restaurant project. A brewer that I befriended suggested looking for internships and educational programs abroad, which turned out to be my path to the milestone.

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

(JB) – We had the great fortune of spending a few days with Tom Hennessy in his brewery immersion course.  Tom is a great businessman, and makes a damned fine pizza.  Wow.  Yeah, good beer too, of course.  And I’m not sure how widely it is known that he is also a bagpiper!  Tom’s easy-going manner convinced us that we could do it.  He makes it seem so effortless!  And also, he showed us that you don’t need all that “fancy store-boughten equipment”…you can make good use of used dairy tanks and such to save money.  But most importantly, Tom suggested that we could cut some money out of the budget by eliminating brite tanks, and encouraged us to make cask conditioned ale.  This suggestion led us on a wonderful path of discovery, and we are proudly taking on the Hennessy Challenge to make cask ale.

(AB) – Quite a few people put up with my wide-eyed enthusiasm. Dann Paquette of Pretty Things and Steve Wynn of Wine Brothers need to be singled out for big thank you’s. Oliver Fozard, Head Brewer and Chief Wednesdayite at Roosters probably did the most to shape me as a brewer. He taught me about being a brewer/consumer – it is all well and good to be meticulous about the brewhouse floor and having the perfect SOP for yeast harvesting, but the end product comes first (even if it is technically last). To him brewers need to be professional consumers, using their knowledge of the brewing process to better the experience of drinkers.

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

(JB) – We brewed a Hefeweizen from a mail-order kit, and were ecstatic that it even closely resembled actual beer.

(AB)– I brewed an extract red ale kit from my LHBS at the time, Basement BrewHaus in Providence, Rhode Island. My partner at the time, now wife, brewed it with me. It was fantastic, the best beer I’d ever tasted.

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


Address: 14741 Calvert Street, Van Nuys, CA 91411

Sean Inman

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

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