As an Oakland native, I felt a bit of pride when I heard Nate Smith named his award winning Double IPA: North Oakland Double IPA. It speaks to his love of the area and perhaps how he feels it is home. Much like I do.
His beer is currently on tap at Triple Rock brewing in Berkeley and I suggest you try it while it is still there. Go out and feel the East Bay love presented in all of its hoppy glory.
Nate will take this beer to the Great Amerian Beer Festival this week in hopes of placing in the Pro-Am contest. I wanted to speak with Nate about this beer, how he became the DIPA mad scientist, and how he hooked up with Rodger Davis, Brewmaster of Triple Rock, for the GABF Pro-Am. Not everyone can get into the Pro-Am competition….you need an actual award winning beer and you need the Pro Brewer to help you brew it.
Nate was kind enough to answer my questions before he headed out to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival.
Tell me about your backgound…how long have you been brewing and how did you evolve into brewing Double IPAs?
I started brewing in spring of 1998 shortly after I moved to Santa Clara County, CA from the east coast. A curiosity for the world of beer and a lack of money drove me to find my first extract and plastic-bucket kit. I was immediately hooked even though my first batch turned out like crap. I brewed nearly every weekend back then, mostly so my friends and I would have something to drink. Plastic buckets as mash-tuns, all bottle conditioned, no kegs, no temperature controlled fermentation. I keep an old webpage up that I put online back then about that first 9 months or so of brewing: http://destroy.net/brewing/1417. It’s funny to look back at that and remember barley and hop cultivars/strains that are now gone and to look at my old OG/FG statistics.
I brewed as many ale styles as I could, with as many yeast strains as I could, it was quite a revelation in those first few months of brewing to learn that “brewers make the wort, yeast makes the beer”. Phil Montalbano at the Fermentation Frenzy homebrew shop in Los Altos was really instrumental in helping me along in the beginning. Most respect to him for encouraging me to go all grain and to make yeast starters. I think Phil planted the seeds that would eventually make me a IPA brewer later on; back in 1999 I remember he gave me sample of Amarillo hops as a “super cascade” that I used in dry-hopping a few pale ales. That fresh, citrusy aromatic hop quality that you can only get from a really fresh, clean dry-hopped beer always stuck with me even during 2001-2004 when I was spending a lot more free time playing music than brewing.
By 2004 I moved to a small house in North Oakland where I could resume some of the things that I’d missed for a while: cooking, gardening and home brewing. I met Nicole around the same time and she was just beginning to explore the world of beer. Sooner or later we were on brewery tours and at the Toronado and Barclays – and that really re-inspired me to really taste, understand, enjoy and start home-brewing again with new ideas and passion. At the same time all of these wonderful, interesting new-interpretations of IPAs were appearing from Russian River, Bear Republic, Stone, Moylans, etc.. All of these interesting complex resiny, citrusy, dank, piney flavors really struck a chord. That was a turning point for my understanding
of beer. This wasn’t just another brewing fad, these hop forward flavored beers had really matured from American Pale ale into a unique, world-class regional style. From there I had to try my hand at brewing a fresh, home-brewed example. So I started brewing a lot of IPAs and Double IPAs in addition to the Pale Ales and Belgian styles I was doing already.
What awards have you won with this beer…which one got you the “in” for the pro-am?
For the North Oakland Double IPA:
* 1st Place, 2008 BAM World Cup of Beer – Category 14, India Pale Ale
* Best of Show, BAM World Cup of Beer 2008
* 2nd Place, 2008 Mayfaire Regional Homebrew competition – Class 7, India Pale Ale
* 2nd Place, 2008 National Homebrew Competition, 1st Round, IPA Category – Western Region
* 1st Place, IPA, 2008 Bay Area Brew Off – Alameda County Fair
* Best of Show, 2008 Alameda County Fair Bay Area Brew Off
I had to pick just one – It was the World Cup beer that lead to the Pro-Am.
How did you hook up with Rodger Davis, Brewmaster of Triple Rock?
Rodger and I talked about doing a Pro-Am beer at the Trappist the night after the World Cup in March 2008. I’d known Rodger a bit a few years prior as an acquaintance that I’d see from time to time at beer
festivals and bars. He was between breweries at the time, so I wasn’t quite sure if we’d find a place to do this beer as a Pro-Am beer, but we talked about it again a few times over the days and months. Finally he wound up at Triple Rock when Christian left for Iron Springs. Great timing really, because the new assistant brewer at Triple Rock, George Kumparak has been a friend for many years and we were already talking about trying to do some brewing collaborations before Rodger started there. Perfect situation all around.
Your DIPA is called North Oakland DIPA. I’m an Oakland native myself, are you going to bring it on and make the 510 proud?
Absolutely! The 510 and especially North Oakland feel like home more than anywhere else I’ve lived in my adult life. The last 3 years of trial batches were definitely a product of the environment in which they were created. Everyone from Nicole (Trappist) to my hophead neighbor Scott (Barclays), to the pizza delivery guy to the folks in Stormcrow and Beercraft – I tried to serve this beer to anyone who was interested and get their feedback for future changes. Part of it is a bit absurd, tongue-in-cheek, as if this beer was brewed in the “North Oakland Double IPA” style, as if such a a category exists! Brian Hunt is one of my brewing heroes, and I like how he talks about beer and food being highly regional, so the name is a nod of respect to that idea.
Is this your first time to GABF or have you been before, what are your expectations of the event?
No, I’ve never been to the GABF before. I expect to be overwhelmed and under the constant urge to try way too many beers that are unavailable to us in Northern California such as the hoppy beer from Alpine Brewing and Three Floyds to the fruit beers from New Glarus, the unfiltered beers of Furthermore to the Belgian and French ales from Southampton. I’m also really looking forward to meeting up with the handful of people I know in the brewing world and enjoy an extended time away from my day job to sit down and seriously discuss brewing and beer with some friends over some fine beverages.
I don’t know the number but I’m sure there are quite a few entries in the pro-am…..is it more then to just savor the experience of being in the pro-am or is it really going after the medal?
There are approximately 60 entries in the Pro-Am category. I just love being able to savor the experience. Any medals would just be icing on the cake. Being able to take a day out of my normal routine to be invited to make a 7 barrel batch based on my homebrew recipe is just amazing. It’s a great feeling just to walk in Triple Rock and order this beer for myself and my friends. And then at the same time notice that other people around the bar are ordering and enjoying the beer (with no encouragement or input from me!) is a really cool experience. Thanks to Rodger, George, the Martin brothers and the Triple Rock staff for going out of their way to help pull this off. They tracked down special types and quantities of grain, adjuncts and
hops for this beer that they normally don’t stock, which was so kind of them. This beer was very expensive to begin with, and to take on extra expense and chance of using special ingredients for a one-off beer is very respectful.
You are also in a couple of bands, one of them being Stormcrow. Is metal and brewing a great mix or what?
Metal/punk/hardcore and brewing go hand in hand. This is one case in which stereotypes are true, and for good reason. Great music and
great drink go back with humans as far as time, and for me the perfect combination is heavy music and beer. Beer and music pairing anyone? We hear a lot about food and beer pairing, but what about music and beer pairing? I used to jokingly pair music with the recipes as a suggestion for consumption and on brew day. Let’s try a more updated version:
Full Sail Session Lager or PBR with Amebix, Dystopia or Bolt Thrower
Boont Amber or Red Seal with At The Gates
St. Bernardus Abt 12 or Konigshoven Quad with Asunder, Sunn or Laudanum
Pliny the Elder or Port Brewing Wipeout IPA with Sleep or Kyuss
Old Rasputin or Shakespeare Stout with Darkthrone, Emperor or Ludicra
Duvel or Damnation with Slayer or Morbid Angel
St. Feuillien or Witkap Tripel with Carcass or Napalm Death
Cantillon Iris or Drie Foaintainen Oude Gueuze with The Fucking Champs or Tarantula Hawk
Hahaha.. It could go on forever.. this is ridiculous. If I ever work in a production brewery I’m going to lobby for music and beer pairing suggestions on the bottle labels, just to be confusing and obnoxious if nothing else.
If the economy keeps going south and you had to sell either your triple rectifier amp head or your brew system what would you pick?
I’d go to the soup lines and try to keep both. But, if push comes to shove, I suppose it would have to be the Triple Rectifier, since that’s easier to quantify for someone else. My brewing system is a cobbled together mess that wouldn’t be very well understood by anyone else, so I’ll probably take that one to the grave.
Mike McDole of Clayton teamed up with Sean of 21st Ammendment for the Pro-Am. Do you know Mike?
Tasty McDole is one of the best brewers around and just an awesome guy. Generous and friendly doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m happy I do know him a bit, and thankful for this hobby that I do, otherwise
I probably wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to meet folks like him. We did a cross-bay “release party tour” one evening when his Pro-Am beer was on at the 21A and mine was on tap at Triple Rock. That was pretty awesome.
You vs. McDole, could this be a classic battle of the 925 vs the 510?
Yes, you’re right! Well, Tasty loses points because he didn’t have a 925 brewery produce his beer. Nah, just kidding. If either of these entries places in the Pro-Am entry, I’ll be thrilled. The 21A “Tasty” is an awesome beer, I encourage everyone to go down to 21A and enjoy a pint when it’s back on again soon. The nose and hop flavor of an IPA with the drinkability of a Pale Ale. Just absolutely wonderful.
Best of luck to you Nate and enjoy GABF!
*photos of Nate are courtesy of Nate. The photo of him with the BOS ribbon was taken by Peter and Sam at the betterbeerblog.com
Jon / Beer Obsessed, thanks for inviting me to do the interview! Cheers!!!