Rochester native and longtime homebrewer Jeremy Raub worked as a music editor before teaming with father Steve and wife Ting Su on the first production brewery in the City of Los Angeles in years, opening Eagle Rock Brewery in late 2009. Since then, they’ve added a tasting room, a roster of educational events, and even earned a gold medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, for an Imperial Red Ale called Red Velvet, which they brewed with Donny Hummel. We met at the brewery’s tasting room on January 17, and Jeremy Raub shared several brewing insights.
At what point did you know that you’d work with beer professionally?
I was working with beer in a non-professional way for quite awhile, as a homebrewer, and as a beer enthusiast, beer judge, beer nerd, I’d guess you’d say. From early on in homebrewing, probably about the tenth batch or so that I ever brewed at home, I started thinking, “This would be a really cool profession, and I could really see myself doing this every day.” I guess that was my first thought that it would be possible, and first got the idea. That was, I guess, 2004.
Was there anybody who mentored you along the way?
It started out, my dad taught me how to homebrew. We sort of mentored each other in a sense because we were learning together and discovering all the different aspects of the brewing process, together. As far as a brewing mentor, I didn’t have a specific brewing mentor, but it was a lot of homebrewing friends who sort of mentored me and just helped me improve my brewing skills and helped me aspire to a certain level of brewing technique.
You were a member of Maltose Falcons [homebrew club]?
Are you still?
Yeah. I haven’t been to a meeting in quite awhile because I’ve been so busy at the brewery, but I still go to the events and participate in some of their competitions, at least in a judging capacity. We’re actually hosting a Maltose Falcons competition here this weekend. It’s the Doug King Memorial Competition. The Falcons started that competition, that they hosted at their homebrew club for a number of years. It used to be when BJ’s in Woodland Hills was still brewing, they would take the winner from the Doug King competition and brew their beer at BJ’s there and serve it. They’d brew one batch and then serve it ‘til it was gone. When that BJ’s stopped brewing and they closed down, it was right around the time that we were starting up, so the Falcons – and kind of appreciating that tradition of professional brewers working with homebrewers – we decided to pick up where they left off. We decided, whoever wins, we’ll brew their beer here, and the original intention wasn’t to make it the Great American Beer Fest Pro-Am entry for us, but the first we year that we did that, the beer that came out of the Doug King competition was Red Velvet. We made it with Donny Hummel. The beer was fantastic and everybody loved it. So we decided, with Donny, “Yeah, let’s take it to GABF.” Of course we won the gold medal for it, which is pretty remarkable. And then from there, okay, we’ll make it the tradition that this competition will yield our Pro-Am entry for the Great American Beer Fest.
Do you have a very first beer memory, good or bad?
Drinking or brewing?
It could be either, just beer related.
Very first? Oh, that’s a tough one. It’s hard for me to remember last week. I would say, my first craft beer memory was when I first moved to L.A., in my early twenties, my roommate and I would go down to Vendome liquor and look at all the craft beers they had in the cooler, and we would just get them because the bottles looked cool, or we liked the labels. That was kind of my first memory. We were really into trying new beers and new flavors. The first beer that really inspired me, that I really liked quite a bit, was Dead Guy Ale from Rogue. That kind of inspired me to look into beer a little bit more and look into different aspects of beer and brewers.
What was the very first homebrew for you, and how did it turn out?
Well, the very first time that I brewed was with my dad, and it was back, I believe it was 1994. I just finished high school and was in college and had come back from college for the holidays and my dad was brewing beer. I want to say it was his Full Moon Bock, which he just re-brewed recently. I remember looking over his shoulder and seeing him add hops, and it turned green, and I thought, “Ugh, that’s gross!” I thought, “So that’s beer, huh?” But in trying that beer, I was impressed, and then I wanted to try brewing with him the next time he brewed, so I did that.
What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew at Eagle Rock Brewery?
Really, it can be anything, especially if it’s just kind of a pilot batch or a one-off. There’s really, I guess, no particular criteria before we decide. I guess the only criteria would be if it’s something that we’re going to like to drink, all of us here.
Do you have to agree on the idea? How does that work?
We don’t have to agree on it, but if I come up with an idea, and everybody else says, “Oh, that sounds horrible. I’m not going to want to drink that.” For me, it doesn’t feel worthwhile to want to make that beer because nobody else is excited about it.
Do you get that reaction sometimes?
I guess in brainstorming sessions, yeah. All of us sort of throw out ideas. We’re just brainstorming, and everybody might say, “Oh, no, no.”
Where are the brainstorming sessions, and who’s involved?
Usually the brainstorming sessions are during a workday here. Sometimes it happens during lunchtime when we sit down to eat, and we’re usually having a beer, and we just start talking about ideas. Either that or late at night, if we’re working really long hours, and for some reason the creative juices start flowing, or it’s nonsense that starts flowing. It’s usually either at lunchtime or late, late at night that we start brainstorming.
It’s you, Ting, Erick, your dad?
It’s everybody, my dad, [brewer] Erick [Garcia], Lee [Bakofsky], Andrew [Bakofsky] and Ting. It’s really everybody.
Does it make your job easier or harder to have other breweries opening in L.A. at this point?
I don’t know really, to be honest. I think in the short term, it may seem a little bit harder for us, because there’s a limited number of tap handles out there, so there’s obviously going to be some competition for tap handle space, but in the long term, it’s going to be helpful for us, and for all of the brewers involved, because the more craft brewers that are out there in L.A. that are actively looking for tap handle space, the more that space is going to open up, and the more craft brewers are in L.A., the more power we’re going to have as a collective group to educate people and to kind of create that demand for what we’re doing.
What was the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was the inspiration and approach?