The secret Cellar down the street – The Bruery

I follow what feels like 200 breweries on Facebook – and one of them kept catching my eye: The Bruery from Placentia, California. At the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in Portland, I almost tripped over the feet of Kyle Giannuzzi, Senior Cellarman, and Jeremy Grinkey, Bruery Terreux Supervisor. “Have you been following us?” was their first question to me, to which the answer was a simple “No, not offline at least, I’ve just been having lunch!” Like me, the two of them were attending the CBC for the first time, and didn’t want to buy anything, just gather information on the latest technology and trends. If there was anything I needed, I should just get in touch with, they told me, and off they went. The conversation stuck in my mind – and hardly had I arrived home then I got in touch with the guys. I wanted to learn more about this brewery, which has opted for storage and maturation in wooden barrels.

Finally I had an opportunity to talk to Victor Lester – the Packaging Supervisor at The Bruery.


Tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get into brewing and when did you join The Bruery?

My first exposure to brewing was in my late teens, when my Dad and Brother-in-Law began home-brewing together. It wasn’t long before they built their own brew sculpture and were producing some pretty tasty brews. I would hang around on brew days whenever I got the chance to, and absorbed whatever knowledge I could. This knowledge stayed tucked away in the back of my memory until I actually started home-brewing myself right around the time I started working at The Bruery. Working in a production brewery caused my home-brewing career to come to an early end. When you have access to more beer than you know what to do with, and work around it five days a week, the desire to spend an additional eight hours brewing at home on the weekend becomes much less


What’s so special about The Bruery? Why did you choose to work there?

There are so many things that could be said about what’s so special about The Bruery, but if I had to pick just one, it would be how amazing the culture is within the company. We are all like-minded individuals with the same common goals and inspirations. It’s very much a family atmosphere, and everyone becomes good friends at work as well as outside of work. We all support each other through the many trials and tribulations of working in such a fast-paced and quickly growing brewery, where no two days are ever the same.

I actually sort of stumbled into this job almost five years ago. My dad is an electrician and as soon as I could walk as a child, he began taking me with him to various jobsites where I learned the ins and outs of the trade. I was lucky enough a little later in life to spend a few weekends with him working on this cool new brewery (aka…The Bruery) that was opening just up the street from where I lived and grew up. This ultimately landed me a job as a keg washer about a year after they opened up, when I was in search of a new job and The Bruery was looking for some help. I ultimately worked my a** off learning and absorbing mountains of new information in what was such a new departure from what I was previously doing in life to make my way through the ranks, and eventually end up as the Packaging Supervisor here.


There are not so many breweries that have a similar barrel-aged philosophy to The Bruery. Can you explain the challenges that working with wooden barrels entails?

There are many, many challenges that come along with having such a large barrel program from the complicated logistics of transporting barrels from warehouse to warehouse or the sheer quantity barrels that have to be kept track of in our database. Just performing inventory alone on approximately 3,000 barrels is a monumental task that isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s also the inherent risk that comes into play with using such an organic vessel to age the product that we work so hard to produce. We have no way of telling how the barrel was handled before it came into our possession, and sometimes that can come back to bite us in the end. We exhaust every option in caring for our precious beer while it ages away peacefully in these barrels, but ultimately we are just the backseat driver letting nature take its course. Sometimes the results are unfavorable and we have to make the difficult decision to dump a barrel when it isn’t up to our strict taste standards. It is also a huge investment to brew such a large volume of beer and put it into barrels where it will sit, taking up expensive warehouse space and countless man-hours spent caring for them without any return on investment for six months to three years.


Has Barrel Aged always been part of the philosophy of The Bruery?

Short answer is yes. In some way shape or form, there has always been a barrel aging program but obviously in the past, when we were in our infancy, our barrel program was only a couple hundred barrels which limited our barrel aged releases. Now that we have upwards of 3,000 barrels in our program, we have much more freedom to experiment and come up with new beers and blends. With Terreux finally operational, our sour program should improve greatly. We have a full time staff over there now to take very good care of our barrels and give them the love they need. Before this, we had to divide our attention between our clean and sour programs which was a very daunting task. We are all very excited to see this play out.


Where do you get the barrels from? Do you have certain suppliers, or are you researching a lot?

We get our bourbon barrels from Kelvin primarily and our wine barrels are from all over the place. We do like to experiment with all types of different barrels from different suppliers and companies though. While the bulk of our releases come from bourbon or wine barrels, we have tried everything else out there that we can get our hands on like port, madeira, scotch, tequila, brandy, rum, new American oak, cognac, rye whiskey, French oak, Portuguese brandy, etc…


Tell me about the bottling line – what experiences do you have so far – and what were things like before you got it.

Let me start with where we came from and where we are now as far as bottling is concerned. When I first started in packaging here 5 years ago, we had a four head Meheen filler for clean beer packaging and an old six head gravity filler for our sour beers (which led to many 16-hour days as a result). Fast-forward in time a little bit, and we had purchased a second Meheen filler to be able to package our clean beers on, and re-purpose the original Meheen for sour beer packaging. This is how we packaged between 8 – 9,000 bbls of beer per year until we finally took the leap and purchased the Kosme line. Since we began running the new bottling line, it has been a crazy whirlwind of learning as much as possible in as little time as possible.


Coming from operating Meheens and having no experience on a rotary filler of any sort made for a very steep learning curve that was very daunting and seemed almost impossible at times. Through many headaches and with lots of perseverance, though, I have managed to overcome the challenge, and we are now packaging more beer faster than ever before. In an ordinary 8-hour shift on the Meheens, we would have been able to package around 30 bbls of beer. On the new line, we can knock out a 120bbl tank in one day. Our efficiency has gone up and our TPOs have gone down, which gets more beer out to the thirsty customers with a much more stable shelf life overall. I certainly still have a lot to learn, but being able to look back just a few short months when we began the install to now, I am optimistic for what the future holds.


What plans are there for the immediate future? Any new stuff coming up?

In the immediate future, we have a couple of new things that are very exciting for us as a company and hopefully for our customers as well.

It is, next to other projects, Terreux, our newly branded sour and wild beer production facility. Just last week, we launched this amazing new brand and later on this year, we will very excitedly open our new tasting room at this facility, so customers will be able to visit us in more than one location and see two entirely different sides of the same company.


Tell us more about Terreux – what are you guys doing there?

Terreux is our newest brand under The Bruery umbrella. This will be where we produce our sour and wild beers. With an entire portion of our staff dedicated to working over there, we will have the time and resources to play around with a lot of new ideas and concepts that we simply didn’t have staff or resources for previously. We will be seeing a new crop of year-round wild and sour beers along with improvements to a lot of our pre-existing sours that carried over from The Bruery. We will also be opening a second tasting room at this location which is very exciting for us as well as for the customers who will get to see into another side of our company and enjoy beers in a new setting.


If you had one brewing wish for the future – what would that be?

That’s a tough one, but I would wish to see the current interest and growth within our industry continue. Its always great meeting someone who is just getting into drinking craft beer and is like a wide-eyed child on Christmas morning when they get to try so many new and excellent beers from so many world-class breweries near and far.

Share on Pinterest
Your Comment

All (*) marked fields are mandatory fields