Batch 236: East Brother Beer Company's Rob Lightner

Updated: Feb 13



The Unfiltered Gentlemen Craft Beer Podcast Batch 236 with East Brother Beer Co's Rob Lightner
Listen to The Unfiltered Gentlemen Craft Beer Podcast Batch 236 with East Brother Beer Co's Rob Lightner on Apple and Google Podcasts

Cheers and hella great beers! We're very excited to welcome Rob Lightner, co-founder of East Brother Beer Co. He's here to share East Brother's story, running a brewery in a pandemic, and talk about what separates them from the competition. He also leads us on a tasting of a few of their beers.


In addition to being a co-founder, Rob is also in charge of sales, marketing, and the overall bottom line. He also fancies himself quite the quality control officer!


Greg and Rob start out discussing his background in beer and falling in love with not only craft beer but his neighbor (and fellow co-founder) Chris's homebrew. These early, classic-style beers lead to East Brother Beer Co's heart and what their beer is all about. Paul talks about why they chose the name they did and gives a bit of a geography lesson along the way. We also find out how they found their head brewer, Paul Liszewski.


The discussion turns to the current time and trying to operate a brewery during a pandemic with ever-changing rules, regulations, and hardships. Rob talks about some of the programs they've implemented, from distribution to online beer tastings and everything in between. He also talks about distribution and being forced to ramp up canning and distributing out of state. And they wrap everything up with a round of rapid-fire questions and find out Rob's favorite word for being drunk.


The beers we taste are; Red Lager, Red IPA, and Oatmeal Stout.


A huge thank you to Rob Lightner, Jaime Dooley, and the entire East Brother crew for their time and great beer. If you're in the Bay Area, head over to 1001 Canal Blvd in Richmond, CA. You can visit them online at www.EastBrotherBeer.com and on the social outlets @EastBrotherBeer.


Don't forget to check us out at www.theunfilteredgentlemen.com and follow us on our social medias for some great beer shots: www.facebook.com/theunfilteredgentlemen, @unfilteredgents on Twitter, and TheUnfilteredGentlemen on Instagram! We want you to drunk dial (805) 538-BEER (2337); we'd love to hear from you! The Unfiltered Gentlemen Craft Beer Podcast.


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The Unfiltered Gentlemen Batch 236 with Rob Lightner of East Brother Beer Company


Hey everybody. Welcome into the unfiltered gentlemen, just Greg here today. I have a very special episode for you. I'm being joined by Rob Lightner. Co-founder sales. Guru and marketing and bottom line guy over at East brother beer company grub.


How's it going? Thanks for joining. Great. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. You know, um, first got introduced to, uh, East brother and I, I have a shock collar on that zap. So every time I put an S on that, cause it's singular East brother. Uh, first got introduced to you guys a few months ago, you started popping up in Southern California, picked it up and it was Bo-Pils.


Amazing. And then got to do the festival pack. You guys are selling online with the pretzel necklace and all the different beers, and I was super impressed. And, uh, luckily Jamie helped set this up and just really wanted to talk to you guys. Talk about beer and talk about, uh, your spot up there. And, and, you know, obviously we can talk a little about what's going on in the road and all that stuff.


Um, we also, just so everybody knows, we have a few beers here. We're going to sample. We have the red lager, the red IPA and the stout. So we'll get to those as we keep on going through. Uh, so Rob, if you don't mind, I want to start with you and your history as a beer drinker. When did you get into craft beer?


Um, probably, um, I'm a few years older than you Greg. So probably met by the time you were born. Maybe, I don't know, uh, a long time ago. Um, I mean, I remember, you know, Sierra Nevada, and of course the anchor's been around forever. I'm from the Bay area. So anchor is sort of the, you know, the stalwarts, arguably one of the original craft breweries.


I remember in the nineties, uh, like in the eighties in college, we'd be drinking. MGD, you know, Miller genuine draft. Like I was special, you know, fancy and then stuff like Sierra, Nevada started coming on on the radar and it was like, Oh my God. But this is an amazing experience. I lived in Japan for a few years.


I used to travel to different countries for business. And I went to France once and I was introduced to Belgian beers in France. And that was again, like, it's just a mindblower. I had no idea that that beer cause Belgian is so characteristic, you know, it's got those amazing notes and flavors and just so distinctive and that kind of blew my mind.


So, so those sorts of collectively those experiences got me really, really, uh, developed an affinity for, for beer. Nice. And then you are co-founder with your partner, Chris and head brewer, Paul. When did you meet Chris? Uh, Chris and I have known each other a couple of decades, probably we, we used to live on the same street and he lives a couple blocks away now.


So we're still neighbors, but, um, we have, we happen to have kids that are the same age, so kind of, we bonded like our wives met and we both had like one-year-olds and then our bides got pregnant, had kids at like within a month of each other. So yeah, it's kind of cool. Kids really grew up together and, you know, scootering and biking and raising hell around the street.


And, uh, so, so we go way back and we went camping together. And Chris and I were always talking about doing something, some kind of work together. Um, he had his, he's had his own business for a lot of years doing kind of retail store development. I worked in a number of corporate jobs, but he started brewing and the quality was just outstanding.


And he, he had a very specific philosophy, um, that really resonated with me as well, which I'm happy to talk about, you know, length or not, but then that's kind of how it all came together for us. So was that like back in the eighties, it was like we'd known each other since the nineties, he was booming in the arts.


And then after a number of years of that, uh, you know, like I said, we we've been talking about working together for a long time. We couldn't figure out what should, well, what it would be, what it should be. And then, um, as like, You know, craft beer was starting to get, you know, it was kind of coming back. I remember there was a sort of like a crash in the nineties and then it went, you know, it was a little dormant there weren't, there wasn't that much growth in the arts.


And then in the, you know, since whatever 2010, 2011, and it started turning up and then it became clear to us, like I said, like, Oh, This is the business we need to do together. So how did that start? Were you guys hanging out just drinking beer and we're like, wow, we should, we should. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah, making money.


That's funny. I was the guy like when you're bringing home, uh, you know, people come around. Right. Kind of hang out. I was a guy that hung around more than anyone's like, I could, I could almost smell it. You know, I open my front door, like, Oh, Prince Brune today, honey, I gotta, I gotta go see Chris right now.


We gotta go talk about them. Yeah. And I was the guy who would like go out and I like run the timer for him or go out and get sandwiches. That was like my, that was my role. But, but we just loved it. We loved talking about it, drinking it, trying it, get back to what I said earlier. Chris had an approach that was really.


Doing the same thing over and over a lot of, a lot of, you know, home brewers sort of, Hey, let's throw this in and let's throw that and let's do this style. Let's do that stuff. Chris was more like, let's do a Vienna lager and make it a hundred times and just keep tweaking slightly each time and trying to make it better and better each time and make it true to style.


Right. Ultimately ended up that ended up becoming one of our taglines or positioning returned to classic styles. Like. Doing the classics and doing them well. Yeah. And you guys, you do focus on some of the classics. Like you got some loggers, you got some stouts. Um, I don't think you have any popsicles sour.


Oh, there's no donuts or fruit loops. I can tell you that much pizza. I mean, one burger did pizza that was. Something, uh, well, while we're talking about loggers, why don't you talk about the first beer we have? I've I've just poured the, uh, the red lager. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that. The one that, that I was talking about, I mean, that one that was brewed for years and years before we opened.


So this is one that we opened with and we opened with five core beers. The three you talked about, we got a red lager, red IPA. We have a gold IPA. So two IPA's, but then an oatmeal stout and a Bohemian Pilsner. We just called Bo pills. So two lagers, three, three ales. We opened with those and we, those are still our five core beers.


We've added some seasonals, which I can talk about, but basically the cores are what we really love to focus on in that bread. Logger, it's a beautiful beer. It's got that kind of, crackery sort of little bit, a little nutty on the, on the aroma. It is. Flavorful, we we've. We found that, um, a lot of our accounts because we're really we're, we have a taproom, um, but we're really about distribution as well into, on and off premise.


And it tends to get picked up by restaurants, places that serve food, because it's really great with food. It's got, it's pretty flavorful, but it's very light and crisp on the finish as well. And it's great as an accompaniment to food because it's 4.6 ABV so. It's one of those where you can have a couple or no, maybe three, depending on how your tolerance and you're okay.


You know, you're not falling over. It's one of those that is it's deceptive and how flavorful it is. I think. Um, but it's a really just great sip and beer, actually. All of our, I mean our sales manager, Jared, he's kind of like, these are our beers, the ones you just want to sit on the back porch and sip, you know, that's one of his things and there's nothing wrong with that.


No, no. I mean, that's kind of, what's great about beer. Yeah, exactly. And like you say, this one, uh, it's light like a lager, but you get punched with some, some caramel and some nuttiness upfront from the red and it's, it finishes dry and crispy and leaves you wanting more instead of just hanging around on your tongue forever.


Exactly. Exactly. That's it. And that's you just hit and one of our, our kind of criteria when we're evaluating beers and whether or not we're doing what we want to do, and that is, do you want another sip? There's a lot of experimentation innovation out there and. You know, sometimes something tastes great and, but you get halfway through and you're like, I kind of need something to clear my palette, you know?


So we're sort worked. That's kind of our approach from the get-go is, is have something that's flavorful, but that really finishes clean, clean finishes is really important. It doesn't mean no flavor. Right? I mean, you can like when IPA, you can have a nice pleasant bitterness, a balanced bitterness that, that leaves you wanting more as opposed to one that turns you off.


Yeah. And I think you touched on something very important because there are so many beers where. You could have a taster, but then. You couldn't have a pint there's one brewery in particular that I love, but they have one beer that is supposed to taste like basically liquid bacon. And it's, it's fun. And I could have a sampler of it, but I could never sit down with a full pint of it.


And so I think that, uh, self-editing yourself is, is a sign of maturity amongst a brewer who will, you know, make great beer. Talk about some of the seasonals though. What, what do you guys turn out? Not on a regular basis. Yeah, so it's funny. We, like I said, we started off classic styles. A really, we feel, we think of ourselves really as a logger centric brewery now, because of those five that I mentioned, the two loggers are the two best sellers on both pills.


By far that one, you know, it's won a couple of awards. And so obviously we're flogging that information, uh, and the little shelf tags and the grocery stores and stuff. Cause it's a, it's a jungle out there. Yeah. That's the one I see on shelves the most. Yeah. Yeah. But it's just a great beer Pilsner is just to me, that's the epitome of the classic style.


The first year we just had the five and then in the second year, so we start wielding 2017, 2018. Chris was like, let's do, let's start doing some more beers. I was a little hesitant. Like I just, I like simplicity and, and, you know, do more beers. Okay. That's like more things we have to track and everything, but he was totally right.


So we introduced a lager series. In the next year in 2019, we introduced what we call a freighter series a, which is big, bold ales. So we're doing we're we're lower ABV. So we thought let's do some big bold stuff. And the reason for the series was because, you know, let's, let's not deny it. We are sort of in that.


Era of what have you done for me lately? You know, like what is, what is new and what's what's next? And I tried this and now I wanna try that. It's all, it's a world of FOMO, right? We decided to participate in a way where we're not making something new and different all the time. I think since we opened, this is our.


Fourth year, we've probably brewed 15 beers, 15 recipes, but we start with that longer series. And the first one we did was a Baltic Porter, such a great PR um, Baltic Porter, Porter styles are ales, but Baltic Porter, I guess, cause damn cold up there. The Baltics is a logger and they lager yeast. So that the first one, then in the spring, we have a, my Bach also probably a not very well-known style, but it's just a wonderful style of wonderful style of offering both, you know, a nice balance of malt and hops.


And the summer we do a pre-prohibition logger, we call it a pre-pro lager. And that's, uh, just this year we, we, we worked with Admiral maltings in Alameda, which is a craft molester, and they had worked with a farmer who had a heritage six row barley. Wow. So basically like we use this heritage grain that was being used before prohibition.


That was like, as close as we could get to what the pre-prohibition lager would be. So is it just the classic American lager? And then in the fall we do a festival shocker, uh, but that's also, you know, great classic. So those are the four loggers. So it's a once a quarter. Basically we released one of those.


Um, and then we have the freighter series, which, uh, like I said, a big bold ales. So English strong ale, double IPA, Russian Imperial stout, and Oh, Belgian, triple, I think you had right. You guys. Yeah. Thanks by the way for being on that, a little virtual taproom we did when we were released. So, so great to see the rapport between all the guys.


That's what we're world jonesing for in this era of, of isolation and disconnectedness. Nice to virtually hang out with some people and share a beer. That's what beer is all about. Yeah. And other than that, that session, Paul was talking about that monster and how you guys are working with them and to get like this locally source mall, and basically everything you guys are using now is coming in locally, except for maybe some of the hops for the series beers.


We're doing those. Yeah. Yeah. That's really cool. Um, bringing it back to you and Chris starting things off. What is, I said this before the show. I've been having to like, you know, hit myself every time I put an S on, on East brother. Cause there's no S so where did the name come from? Uh, yeah, just the, you know, it's our fault for naming ourselves, the word brother, and expecting people to know that a singular, because of course everything in any company with brother and it is like, you know, whatever X, Y, Z brothers.


So East brother is a, it's an Island in the San Francisco Bay. It's just North of the Richmond bridge. It's been there, uh, who knows has been there for a, a long time, but there was a lighthouse on it. The lighthouse has been there since 18. I want to say 76. So, you know, coming up 140, 150 years. And there's a, there's a little rock next to the Island, which is West brother.


So sometime way back, someone said, Hey, that's going to be brother and that's going to be West brother. Um, and they built a, you know, they leveled the bigger rock and stuck a lighthouse on it. And it's funny. Most of the people in the Bay area don't know. That have not heard of East brother. Most of them know, Oh yeah.


There's a little lighthouse on that Island. Um, they don't know the name, but the people in Richmond, which is where we're located all say, Oh, thanks for naming yourselves after you, after you know, he's bro. That's super cool. It's so it's kind of an iconic piece of Richmond history and we want it to pay our respects.


Yeah, no, that's cool. It's funny. My wife is from the Bay area. I said East brother to her and she goes, Hmm. Nope. Never heard of it is in the Island, not the brutal. Yeah. That's funny. Um, how did you guys get Paul into the mix opened? We had another head brewer guy named Peter landman, super great guy. Um, helped us enormously in building the brewery and getting us up and running.


He really is a, he's a surfer. He's an ocean guy. So he needed to be closer to the two to the waves and he moved to Santa Cruz. And he works for a brewery down there now. So he moved on, uh, about, uh, after about a year. And we found Paul, I don't know, we just interviewed a bunch of different people and Paul to come right to the end, to the end of being when we hired him a few months after we hired him, um, I came out and looked at his car and his license plate.


He had changed his life, but he got a, he got a vanity plate and believe it or not, he got a plate logger. I mean, how does that, how is that available? You know, I couldn't believe so. I guess the point is. He embraced what we're doing, you know, from the get go, he is a believer in, you know, process and.


Incremental improvements and, you know, trying to save costs here and trying to eke out some efficiency there and trying to improve our quality over here. And he comes from the world of software and, you know, kind of the tech, the tech world. So he also loves spreadsheets, which is near and dear to my heart.


Um, so he, he, he. Connects with both Chris and me on multiple levels. But, uh, but yeah, Paul's has been amazing. And, and taking the reins and running the whole production operation, basically. Yeah. After talking to him for a few minutes, definitely a beer nerd. Great to talk to, and definitely knows his stuff.


Totally. Totally. He's a, yeah, he's one of those people that like Chris and like anyone, I don't know that he's intellectually curious, you know? And so they're always like asking questions and researching things and finding meaning and finding fulfillment in learning and education and moving forward. And that's something that we embrace and appreciate even offline after we did our little tasting, he was so what do you guys think like really?


What do you think? And could I make any tweaks to it? Like it was all about wanting to make sure he was making the best beer he could make, which. Which is always nice to hear and, and, uh, it's refreshing because a lot of times you tell a brewer like, Hey, you know, you might've missed something here. It's not going to go well.


Yeah. I mean, she's, uh, it's, it's brewing is brewing, uh, solving problems, you know, it's things breaking and solving problems, but, but also again, like. Acknowledging that things don't always go well, you know, sometimes things go sideways and it's like something going on with this one or, you know, I'd be lying if I say we didn't, we don't have our share of problems, um, that we don't need to talk about now.


But, but, but, uh, yeah, just always being open-minded. Yeah, sure. It's a great attribute. Uh, speaking of him and his beer let's let's talk about the red IPA. Nice. Yeah. So the red IPA, um, that one, I think we had done. Uh, one, two, the gold IPA came first. And again, I'm talking back like in the small batch days.


Um, and that, that gold IP has kind of a classic West coast IPA. And my, my wife especially really like, and likes Deschutes, fresh squeezed. So if you remember that beer, remember, I mean, it's. There's no need to remember it's in here now and it's sellable. Um, so that, that was kind of the inspiration for the red IPA.


So it's a very, you know, it's a very malt forward beer. I think you could say that probably about a lot of our beers, which again is a little bit of a little anti trend, maybe in this very, in this hops, this age of hops and juiciness and sweetness, mult confer to sweetness as well. So, uh, we wanted to have something that was kind of a contrast or a compliment to the, to the gold IPA.


And this one, like all of our beers doesn't have a whole, well, we don't have any beers with, you know, five or six hops in them. This one red IPA has Simco and mosaic. I dunno. I feel like those are pretty, pretty hot hops these days. You see in a lot of things and, and, uh, Chris, Chris, Joseph is a way back for the Simcoe.


I think too. I think it tends to be kind of, um, you know, citrusy, whereas mosaic is a little more like stone fruity, and that's really what comes out in the red iPad that, that really works with a malt very well in terms of the sweetness and the, um, the beautiful kind of aromatics that you get. You know, it has hoppiness for sure, but it it's, it's definitely a multi beer and it finishes, uh, pretty clean.


It's multi, but it's not thick and chewy, which is nice. When you have an IPA, you get a lot of the citrus, a little bit of the pine on the nose. I don't get so much in the mall until you take a swig and then the malt comes in and you get some of that caramely sweetness along with the hops that you're talking about.


Some citrus, some pine, some, uh, some that stone fruit, this is really easy to drink. Yeah. Yeah. It's one of the, I mean, honestly, you could probably call that an Amber ale. It's a little bit bigger than an Amber ale. I think given the amount of hops we're putting in, it does qualify, whatever the, uh, you know, subjective criteria for qualification as an IPA, or I think it does qualify.


Um, but it's one of those, especially we opened our taproom. People would come by and they're like, Oh, let's try that red up here. And, and they'd be like, I don't like IPS because you know, people, sometimes it's just too know too bitter, too, whatever. And they're like, I don't like IPA's, but I love this red IPA, you know?


Cause. It's pretty drinkable. It's extremely drink well. And a lot of people think of IPA's. They think of, uh, you know, those, those kick in the teeth kind of bitter pine tree, liquid pine trees that they used to make. Yeah. It's fascinating. Like how IPS have evolved down with the NEPA's or whatever we're calling them these days.


Those, those re I mean, it's pretty new, right? It's what, three, four years maybe. I mean, I think those, you know, Treehouse and those guys started doing them and I feel like those were, uh, Almost a reaction to a rejection of the overwhelming bitterness, except for like, I don't know, 10 years ago there was like a hops, arms race to get bitter bitter, bitter IVs.


Oh, a hundred, 110 or 20. It's like, it's not impossible. And it got to the point where people were like, I don't like this. It's not that good. And now I had one, I can't remember what it was, but I had an IPA and it was kind of like a classic West coast and it was just too bitter. I couldn't, I couldn't drink it.


No, it tasted good initially, but it had what I thought was an overwhelming amount of bitterness. I think the new England thing I'm going to the sweetness is almost, uh, you know, it's con completely in the other direction. It still has tons of aromatics and stuff, but it's so. There's no bitterness at all.


Sometimes. Yeah. I think one of the nice things that the new England's have brought along, even if you don't like hazy IPA's I think they've brought along, um, kind of a focus on balance. And so people like the, the fruit that they're getting out of it, they like the juice that they're getting out of it. So all of a sudden it's like, Oh, we could balance these out and we don't have to kick you in the teeth.


There it is. Right. What do you know? Well, it definitely doesn't kick you in the teeth. This is nice and balanced and easy to drink. I don't know if you know off hand what the IB use are on it. I won't hold it against you. If you don't. I'd say somewhere in like forties, forties, or fifties, it's pretty. Yeah, it's pretty modest.


Yeah, exactly. Um, all right. Let's, let's, let's turn to some businessy things. I think one of the big questions these days, especially for breweries that are, are doing well is, is how has COVID affected you guys and how has it caused you to kind of rethink your business strategy? Yeah, it sucks, man. Be honest with you.


It really does. It's just, I mean, for everyone, not just breweries, like every small business, I mean, for, for everyone everyone's society, let's get right to it in so many ways. Um, but running a, running a business. Especially one with a retail operation, like a taproom. It's been rough with a taproom, cause we're trying to keep people on staff and we're trying to, but we're trying to run the business at the same time.


We've been lucky. Uh, you know, I won't say we're like flourishing, but we're, we're not, I mean, we're surviving, let's put it that way. We have had been canning since day one and we had been working on that off-premise channel. Uh, if, you know, if you can call that a channel, I mean, it's millions of different.


Accounts and types of accounts within, within that. But we had also signed with, um, a distributor mine warehouse last year. Which helped a lot with our, the, uh, our expansion throughout Northern California. And we had planned to go to Southern California probably late this year, early next year. And, and COVID really expedited that as we were like, okay, all the on premise has gone.


Of course that means a distributor or suffers as well. I mean, they had a furlough, so many of their on-premise that was kind of a catalyst for us to move up our plans. But the other big thing that we're so thankful for is that we purchased a canning line in 2019. We had been using a mobile canner at some point, it's the classic rent versus buy, right?


If you're renting and you're doing small volumes, it makes sense. But the more volume you're doing, the more you're paying in rent. And at some point it's better to just take that money and buy a line. And we did that in 2019, so we didn't have to, once COVID hit and the draft business went to zero and.


The canned business increased. We were not caught flat-footed and having to deal with like scheduling the mobile canner to come, you know, three times a week, which wouldn't have been possible. So, you know, those are the main things that we've been able to do. And we've really been, we've been subsisting on, on the cans and as the taproom was closed, we, of course, you know, The state lockdown was like March, middle of March, I think the 13th or something like that.


Yeah. And like within a week we had the online store up and we had the marketing and Hey, we're doing curbside come by. And we were, I mean, for a few months they were selling a lot. People come in and buy a complete on any. Cases we're selling, that's slowed down as on-premise has opened up. And now people are just basically frustrated, but I mean, it's like, it's just ongoing.


It's the hardest part is again, not just as a small business owner, but as a human living in societies, the uncertainty of it all is just trying to figure out what to do, but what we've also, I would say we also. Last thing on from a business side is expedited. I think our activities are, are looking for new channels of revenue, getting more irons in the fire we will, as of next week, the available in Pennsylvania.


Oh yeah. First state we've gone. We've gone out of state. We looked at where we're demands seem to be coming from on our social channels. And like Pennsylvania was one of the States. So interesting. How, how far across the country? Not like, Oh, did that or Arizona? I mean, we're talking to Nevada too.


Obviously. It's like easier. Cause you feel afraid on there and it increases the cost, but it's like, yeah, people want Pennsylvania, but let's do that. Absolutely. If the people want it. I mean, one of my questions also, you talking about canteens and stay one. I was going to ask you, was that part of the plan too, to can obviously, like you said, canteen has had to step up during the pandemic, but, um, so that sounds like it was, it was already in the works and you guys were thinking ahead on that one.


Yeah, totally. I think one of our earliest. Drafted the business plan had us in bottles. And then I don't know, we just, we wrestled with it because even today I think the, the general public believes like it's nicer to drink a beer out of a bottle, but as anyone who's in, in or around the industry knows a can is just far superior in terms of preserving the quality and the freshness.


And. You know, it's lighter. So it's better for, you know, shipping and it's cancer recycled at a higher rate than bottles. They're better for branding. There's more, you know, there's more real estate to work within in our taproom, we serve pints. And one of the things that annoyed us about going around to different places and saying, here's a pint and you can get in 12 or 13 ounces like that, ain't a pipe.


Right? So, so when the taproom, we bought 20 ounce glasses and we have our logo with got a line on it. So that's like the fill line. So that's the 16 ounce. What we call a proper poor. So if you buy a pint, we give you a pint and we thought it'd be neat to like, just parallel that in the distribution side and do pints, you know, can pints.


And there were definitely people going like some like liquor stores. I don't, I don't carry a 16 ounce cans. I could only carry 12. This is like four years ago. Now. That's not at least in Northern California. There's nothing wrong with 16 ounce cans. They're so ubiquitous. No, it's almost rare to see a 12 ounce can.


Yeah, I know. Right. We switched from bottles of cans because we just loved the brand. And I think actually the group we were working, we were the group called good beer hunting in Chicago, founded by a guy named Michael Kaiser. One of our favorite people on absolute genius when it comes to all things branding, but just general strategic and conceptual thinking.


They really envision our brand build the visual identity, the design, and the, the first drawings that were done were with cans. So we're like, Oh my God, those cans. And I mean, what you see now is like, we didn't never change them. I don't ever plan on doing a rebrand. Well, I think we were talking about this off air, but I was saying how I liked your logo.


So it's clean, it's easy. It almost has this like throwback baseball field to it. I'm holding it up as if you don't know what your own logo looks like. Um, but yeah, it's, it's a really nice clean logo that right now it seems like the whole trend is let's make a Picasso on a can. And this stands out for the opposite reason.


Yeah, exactly. That and that when we, and we feel like that sort of, that vintage look is kind of reflective of the beer. It's not, it's not challenging, you know, it's something you look at and go, Oh, okay. Yeah. I've seen that before. That's familiar, you know, there's a kind of like a built-in affinity and the beer is, is also kind of understated and not like, not meant to overwhelm you it's meant to compliment your, your social interactions.


So, um, yeah, we're, we love that. I love the minimalist kind of approach and I think it does end up. Pop in a little bit on the shelf when it's in that scene, that sea of what arguably, I mean, it's beautiful artwork. Sure. But when you throw 20 of them together, they'll sort of look, it can look a little busy.


Yeah, it's true. Um, so were you guys, were you guys doing the whole shipping program before the pandemic or is that because of the pandemic fully? Because dependent, I'm glad you brought that up. So yeah, we did the curbside pickup and then we started shipping as well. So we shipped throughout California.


So that was another component of how can we get the beer to the people? One of the, it's hard to say, but good things that came out of the pandemic is beer shipping. I've been able to try. So many breweries, at least, you know, within California that I wouldn't have tried because I'm not going to drive to nor Cal on a weekly basis to try different breweries.


Um, you know, got to try you guys got to try some humble seed and some, you know, some other breweries that started shipping and it's not a bad thing. It's, it's been nice to get that in the mail. How has that been working out for you guys? Is that like a popular program? It's like it's prizes. You. Yeah. And you're like, why would people buy our beer?


But you know, look, we're doing marketing, right. We're on social media. We're connecting with influencers. We have digital ad campaigns going. I mean, yeah. We're, you know, we're, we're trying to, not just, you know, for instance with, with, uh, Pennsylvania trying to take the approach of not, uh, just throw it on the truck and then cross our fingers.


Like we want to have some program in place to build our brand and let people know about us. So when you do that, actually people start learning about you and then they order your beer. It's very, very gratifying, actually. Yeah, I bet. And I think the, um, I think you called the festival in the box where, you know, it's like 40 bucks, you get, uh, I think six beers and, and a little necklace of a pretzel necklace.


I think it's a great idea. It's it's fun. And it, it plays to everybody's wish that we could go to a beer festival and we get to try more than just one of your beers, where if you buy a case, we get to try one and that's it. But I think it's a really fun idea and a great marketing idea. Yeah, that was neat.


That was, I think Steven, our taproom manager and Jamie, our marketing manager that was in the context of GABF realizing that no one, you know, not only can you not go to GBF, um, I'm aware we're in November now. So we would ordinarily be concluding the season of festivals where we had attended, you know, I dunno, 30 festivals over the course of six months and we've done none, you know, like we did a couple of virtual ones, which were pretty cool, but, um, yeah.


We're like, well, how can we, how can we, um, try to replicate that and make people feel like, you know, it's not, it's not all bad. You know, it was a really fun idea. How has the business strategy evolve and this isn't just, you know, because of COVID, but how has the business strategy evolved over the years to kind of help you guys stay competitive as obviously the beer market explodes?


Yeah. It's I mean, it is a very competitive market, for sure. I'll be honest. We have not really changed dramatically and we, and the more there are. But I, I would be lying if I told you people didn't come to us and say, Hey, when are you going to do a hazy IPA? Or why don't you do a pastry store? So the donuts in, um, but it's just, I feel like there's enough of that out there.


And we hear it from our managers and restaurant managers, like. Okay. It says all your beers are like, I'm on, I've got 80 breweries trying to sell me IPA's right now. But I don't have like something that where your red lager fits or I don't have a stout right now. And that oatmeal sell would be perfect for a pills that, you know, pills, this works everywhere.


And even though a lot of, I think a lot more brewers are making them now, I think they're making them as kind of like an add-on like, Oh, people are asking for it on taproom. So let's make a lager and we can have a lager handle. We've been making that since. You know, again, this is well before we opened and it's more, I think it's part of our identity and the more I see trends and trend chasing, which again is fine.


Like any, I mean, I've, I've worked in a few different industries and there's always like the trendy stuff and there's the stuff that gets the attention. And then there's the stuff that's sort of like more reliable and oftentimes comprises those larger portion of the volume. I mean, look at beer. If you look across the beer category, I mean, Global beer consumption at least 80%, maybe 85 is loggers.


There's a, it's not a trend like it's, there's a, there's a proven audience out there. So, so I guess to answer your question, we, we have just really doubled down and we're sticking with our guns and sticking to what we feel. Um, first of all, we love to do and, and we feel there's a market for, so I would imagine.


Doing that makes it easier to say convert someone over from, to, to craft beer because you're sticking with solid styles. LA obviously used to drink lagers. So you have a classic solid lager and they come in like, Oh, this isn't so foreign. It's not. You know, some super bitter IPA or something like that.


Totally, totally. And it's, it's again, it's, you know, people criticize American macro lagers. I mean, those truth be told those guys know what they're doing very well and then make an exactly what they want to make. And there is a market for it, you know, we like to think, okay, both pills, pilot, more flavorful Pilsner then sure than a macro lager.


Absolutely. And when you can introduce people to that, that's kind of a revelation. So it's like, Oh, this is, this is light and crispy. But it sure is delicious, you know, flavor to it. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, and there are challenges. I mean, you can't sell a four-pack of pills for 22 bucks, like you can't hazy IPA.


Right. So there's pricing challenges again, when we're, when we're looking at doing volume and. Realizing economies of scale as we grow, you know, it's definitely a workable model. Yeah. What I imagine most people don't know is that logger took a whole lot more work than that hazy IPA. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and, and, you know, get into the nuts and bolts of the, of the brewery.


This is one thing we discovered when we first opened, we opened with far fewer tanks than we needed very quickly. We're like, Oh shit, we can't. If we're gonna do these loggers, they're gonna be, you know, the bloggers we're, we're selling better out in the market than the Ailes. And we had to run out and go get more stainless steel.


Yeah. I think we've increased the side, our capacity, like by a factor of six, since we opened, we started out with 20 barrel fermenters and we got a bunch of sixties. And just earlier this year we brought in a couple of 100 barrel fermenters and those are full of pills. Wow. How many, uh, what's your output annually at this point?


2,500 barrels in 2019. Wow. Um, you know, it's still in the scheme of things, small, I think we're in the top thousand in the country now, because there's so many that are doing, you know, whatever, less than that, that are oftentimes taproom models or whatever. But this year we're, it looks like we'll be flat with lap with last year, which.


Is disappointing in one sense. And in the first couple of months of the year, we came out, we had basically doubled our size every year since we opened and this year started great. And we came out, we were like on track and then of course everything went sideways. And so this is not where we wanted to be, but I think given the realities, I'm pretty happy with where we are not going backwards, I think is the ultimate goal right now.


So. All right. Let's, uh, let's live in the mood a little bit. Tell us about this, uh, oatmeal steps. That's the one I'm drinking. So. I would start by saying, is this the similarities to other beers are that it's balanced and drinkable, that's really our goal. Um, and stouts in this age of over the top barrel aged pastry, all those kinds of things, big ABV, this is kind of none of those things.


It's, but it's a very flavorful. We don't add anything to any of our beers, other than hops, malt, yeast, water. I think the Belgian Trevell we put a little candy sugar in there cause that's the classic recipe. Right. But everything else, you know, the coffee and the chocolate that you get out of this stout is all, you know, from the roasted malts and the interplay with the yeast and the hops.


I love this beer because first of all, it's is 5.4% ADV. So, you know, you can drink it anytime a year. Paul was saying. He was checking also untapped. Um, we got, we got into the Oakland Coliseum where the Oakland A's play last summer, summer 2019. And they were selling pills and stout. And tons of people were drinking that stout because first of all, you know, barrier nights, not warm and people were drinking and he kept getting check-ins on the, on the stout, like in the middle of summer.


And we don't, it's funny. We don't see, we don't really see a downturn in estate sales in the summertime. I also listen to one of your guys' earlier podcasts guys talking about Guinness and Guinness, right? What is it? Four, 4%. I don't know what the ABV is, but that's a, that's a pretty easy drinking beer, even though it's got this reputation of being this big, bold thing, right.


It's really not. It's a dry Irish stout, you know? Um, and this, this one oatmeal stout is arguably a little bit bigger. The oatmeal is an important component because it, it confers a little bit of silkiness to the mouthfeel. It's just got that really smooth. Drinkability I think it's designed at least to finish with, uh, a pretty, uh, a pretty snappy finish.


You'll get some lingering probably a little bit. Like when you drink a cup of coffee, you know that a little espresso may be a little, little that, but pleasant, um, notes of bitterness, the nice, uh, coffee bitterness, not, uh, any sort of over the top bitterness. Yeah, you definitely get some coffee up front finishes with a little bit of chocolate.


Um, like you said, that oatmeal gives it just a little bit of silkiness it's just a nice, I think I said this about the red lager. It's a nice pleasant drinking experience. And at 5.4, you can have a couple of these and be BA okay. And I love hearing, I mean, that's, that's really, our goal is to add. A nice pleasantry experience.


The other funny thing about this one or one of our, um, local coffee place in Richmond called kaleidoscope coffee in the summertime. I think Cassie who's the owner. She does stout floats. So you can come in and get a, a, an East brother oatmeal style with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in, and it's like, So good.


And I think, I think it works better with something like this than a big boozy suite-style because it's not on the sweet side and therefore the, you know, it balances the sweet ice cream really well. So a little bit that carbonation too, where some of the big boozy stouts are usually pretty flat. This has a little bit that carbonation, that kind of replicates that root beer float experience from when you were a kid, very easy drinking, like I said.


Cool. All right. Before we end things I want to ask you, cause you kind of touched a little bit earlier. What was your, your, and talk to Chris, if you can, a little bit day job before. Opening a brewery. Well, Chris, like I said, has owned a retail store construction firm for a long time and he still runs that.


So he kind of, he kind of does double duty mine. I've worked in the video games industry for long time and I've worked for Sega kind of old school Sonic the hedgehog. Yes. Love love those plat, those side, scrolling platformers. Um, I mean, if you look a lot of games today, it's like that Sonic with a different skin.


That's true. But it's funny too, because I realized that I, I gravitate towards categories, products that are high engagement and high passion. There's a lot of similarities between games and beer, a lot of opinions and a lot of passion and a lot of like, I don't know, just a lot of social media posting and it's true.


A lot of allegiance and loyalty to brands and characters and styles of beer, you know? So it's kind of funny that I ended up, I've done a few other things like just before I came, um, we started this, I was working for a nonprofit called common sense media in San Francisco. They do kids, media literacy, basically teaching, teaching kids how to behave online, which passing.


Day and month and year becomes a seems to become more important. Yeah. So that was fun. And I did kind of business development. I did like licensing deals with Comcast and Google and Apple and stuff like that. So neither of you came from any sort of be related? No, no, no, no, no, no. But, um, I will say. All the business complete, you know, the things that I, I had done a bunch of different things over the years, I have brought all those skills and experiences to bear and with these brother and Chris is one of those people, who's a autodidact, you know, he teaches himself things and he's got a very, he's very, very mechanically inclined as is Paul.


Fear is chemistry also, right? It's like building stuff and then understanding the chemistry that's happening in the stuff you built basically. And his, his mind works that way. And so I think he's predisposed to, to make good beer and to, and to build it. I mean, you know, he'll come and. Like those 200 barrel fermenters recently, you basically just came in and installed them himself, you know, built a, just for a few a week or two, just built all this crazy scaffolding and piping and electrical.


And it was nuts. Like, damn dude, you just, how's it be over here on my laptop, just like I'm doing some other stuff, but Paul's like that supervise great job. Exactly. Yeah. Looks good. Uh, the Paul's like that too. Like I said, you know, very, um, no set breaks and just like, Oh, okay. We got to go fix it. That's awesome.


Um, so one thing I always like to end the interviews on is what I call rapid fire questions. These are series of questions. Don't think about them answer. First thing that comes to mind. Uh, nothing too serious here. What's the first beer you ever drink Schlitz, but what's the first beer you ever brewed? Uh, Red lighter.


What is the first beer of the brewery sold IPA cans or bottles? Cans. What is your favorite beer? Food pairing pills, nurse sausage and sauerkraut. Oh, that's a good one. It's Wednesday night. What are you drinking? Oatmeal. Stout. What is your beer? Cation destination Czechoslovakia, or the Czech Republic, I guess that doesn't exist anymore.


Uh, what's your favorite outside? So non East brother beer to shoots fresh squeezed favorite non-beer hobby. I'm biking. What's your favorite guilty pleasure. Beer. I have a guilty pleasure beer man. I'm in my fifties, I got a moderate, my intake. I always find out that people have a secret love for PBR. I'll totally drink that, but like I, yeah, I really pay attention to like, what's going in me and.


That's fair. And finally, what's your favorite word or sling for being drunk? Hammered. Nice and classic. Rob, thank you so much. If you guys are up in Northern Cal, go over to East brother beer company, 1001 canal Boulevard in Richmond, East brother, beer.com or East brother beer on the socials. And like we were talking about there they're shipping, they got the festival pack and all that good stuff.


So if you haven't tried it and you're in California. Uh, give it a try or, or soon to be Pennsylvania, right? Yes. So by the time this there's, you might be already drinking some East brother beer in NPA. Nice. So enjoy that. Uh, Rob, thank you so much for your time and yeah. Cheers, Greg. Thank you, man. It was really, really fun.


Really appreciate you, uh, bringing us on. Thanks one last time to Rob for taking the time out to talk with me and to Jamie and the entire East brother crew for getting some great beer down here to us in Southern California. And for helping to arrange everything. If you're in California, you can have East brother beer shipped to you.


They're also not distributing in Pennsylvania. And if you're up in the Bay area, you can always just stop by and check out the taproom. Especially when things start to open up again, you can find them@eastbrothersbeer.com and at East brother beer on the socials. You can find us@theunfilteredgentlemen.com and at the unfiltered gentlemen on the socials.


Email us the unfiltered gentleman@gmail.com. And don't forget to leave us a voicemail. Eight Oh five five three eight beer two three, three seven. I hope everyone is staying safe and very well hydrated. And on that note, goodnight, everybody.

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An unfiltered podcast about craft beer: the liquid, the lifestyle, and everything in-between.

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