Monday, February 19, 2018

Over a Pint: Lynnwood Brewing Concern

Lynnwood Brewing Concern's head brewer Bill Gerds
Lynnwood Brewing Concern's Bill Gerds has been head brewer since June of 2013.

By Dathan Kazsuk | Feb. 19, 2018
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Over a Pint is a new series where we’ll sit down with local North Carolina breweries and discuss informative intel over – you guessed it – a pint of beer. For our first installment, we sat down with Bill Gerds, head brewer at Raleigh’s Lynnwood Brewing Concern. Just like most brewers, Gerds got his start home brewing at a young age and eventually landed his first brewing job at Redwood Brewing Company in Flint, Michigan. Working there part time for 4 years, he learned a lot, which eventually led him to securing a job at Michigan’s Arbor Brewing Company.

This is how our interview began, over a couple IPAs. We discussed his past while he selected his favorite IPA of the moment, Hop Sauce. And I decided on one of LBC’s more recent releases, Hombre Enojado, a DIPA. Just two hop-heads talking about the past and what eventually brought him to North Carolina.

“I grew up in Southern California, plus my daughter turned 16 and lives in Michigan,” he says. “So I started looking to move somewhere warm.” Gerd’s then started applying for brewing jobs left and right. Resum├ęs were slinging all over the Southeast, from North Carolina to Florida.

It was through a classified in ProBrewers that Gerds saw the job posting from Lynnwood’s owner Ted Dwyer and applied for the position. Gerds flew out to North Carolina, and just like that, he became the brewer of Lynnwood Brewing Concern. That was all the way back on June 2, 2013.

And it was there, at the original location, where the restaurant still stands, he started pushing out some of Lynnwood’s favorites such as Bad Leroy, Putin Tang, Czars & Stripes and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Amber Lager. But there is one beer that gets the Raleigh locals to head over to the taproom and that’s LBC’s Imperial IPA, Hubris. Gerds admits that this hopped up IPA is one of his favorite beers to brew, which only comes out once or twice a year. “It’s my favorite because I can slap a bunch of hops in there and [that] makes me happy,” he says.

With the popularity of Hubris here in Raleigh and the popularity of IPAs in tall-boy cans, the obvious question was about to come out of my mouth before he beat me to the punch. Hubris will soon be packaged in 16-ounce cans sold in 4-packs. How that made my day.

When I first ordered my beer when I walked into LBC, it wasn’t hard to notice all the hardware hanging on the wall above all the taps. Gerds and his crew have been fortunate enough to win many medals, including a gold and silver award from the Great American Beer Festival last year. Hung with pride, Gerds confesses that these awards mean a lot to him. “They do. I love to compete,” he says. “It’s really one of the only ways we have to quantify what we’re doing … well, other than people buying and drinking our beer.”

And keeping with his competitive nature, Gerds mentions that LBC usually enters beers in the National IPA Challenge (NIPAC). He recently entered the beer in my hand, Hombre Enojado, in the next installment of this bracket-style competition pitting IPAs against one another. The competition starts out with 128 IPAs and widdles in half after each round until a champion is crowned. “Hubris lost in the championship 3 years ago, and Hop Sauce lost in the championship last year,” Gerds says. Maybe this is the year, and the angry man will win it all.

When you look up at the wall of beers at LBC you’ll find a wide array of great beers, from Hefeweizens to stouts – but the one thing you’ll see a lot of is IPAs. With Gerds being a hop head, it’s to be expected. But one thing you don’t see a lot of is the latest craze – New England India Pale Ale, or NEIPA. “We don’t make a whole of of them. We’ll make a few hazy IPAs but nothing that we’d come out and characterize as a New England IPA,” he says.

But even though he doesn’t make a lot of that hoppy nectar, he’ll be the first to admit that this craze isn’t going away anytime soon. “I think they’re here to stay. The only problem I see is the shelf life in packaging those beers. They don’t have a great shelf life, but if consumed fresh, they’re very tasty.” As we’re almost done with our beers, I decided to bring up a question that’s been bugging me with the freshness of canned IPAs … and that is ‘When is a fresh IPA no longer fresh?’. In Gerds opinion, anything under three months would still be considered fresh to him. “When I’m buying them, I’d personally like to see them under a month old,” he says. “But I won’t turn down a two or three month old IPA, but anything older I’ll probably start thinking about looking elsewhere.”

With us on our last few drops of beer left in our tulips, it was time to conclude the interview. But right before I stop the recorder on my phone, I had to find out what’s in store for us in 2018. And what I found out is that LBC has an assortment of beers to be released through its cellar program as well as a series of single-barrel releases. “We’re going to go straight out of a barrel and into a bottle,” Gerds says. “The series is based on whatever barrels we really like back there.” And with Gerds being a hop-head at heart, we’re pretty such guaranteed some more hoppy beers. “I don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but I always love pushing new hoppy beers.”

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