AMA Lee Ellis, Midnight Sun

Discussion in 'TalkBeer AMA' started by drgarage, Nov 25, 2014.

  1. drgarage

    drgarage

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    Let's get this started!

    Msbc Brewer this is your thread!
     
  2. Johnnyhitch1

    Johnnyhitch1

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    Where did your quest for barrel aging beer start?
     
  3. lurchingbeast

    lurchingbeast

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    Could you lay out some of the logistical challenges you face brewing in Alaska?
     
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  4. sacrelicio

    sacrelicio

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    Why is M so tight?
     
  5. Msbc Brewer

    Msbc Brewer

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    Thanks for the Thread! I will use it wisely...

    First and foremost, I 'd like to answer the "Why is M so tight?" I assume you are using early millennial vernacular to say it's totally awesome. To be honest, on my long commute home to my small shack in the mountains, I often ask myself that very same question. I believe there are three parts to that answer. One; when M was made, it was an expansion on the flavor threshold of what a beer could be. To be honest, I think that there is a huge difference between the beers that were being made in the mid 2000's and what is being crafted today. I think an M being released today would still be amazing, but the ability to wow craft drinkers has become much more difficult. Second; Malt bill. A lot of folks are trying to figure out what kind of crazy ingredients we can stuff into a beer (myself included), but nothing quite beats a well crafted malt bill that utilizes the best malts available. Third; Good Oak. Every barrel is different. Re-creating any barrel aged beer can be a huge challenge. Every year is a vintage with barrel aged beers that are released annually.

    With that said, I'll answer Johnnyhitch1 with an unlikely answer. I was visiting Missoula, MT back in 2005 and had my first barrel aged barley wine from a small experiment that Big Sky Brewing was doing. I had been a craft brewer for three years and had never drank anything like it. Imagine a doll in my hands, now I'm using a finger to point the area from the toes up to the head. That's where barrel aged beer touched me and I liked it. When I moved to Alaska in 2007, MSBC blew my mind, so much so that I waited 6 months for a job. I learned a lot about barrels from Gabe Fletcher and Ben Johnson.
     
  6. sacrelicio

    sacrelicio

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    I've never had the M, but any chance it could be remade (as close as possible at least)?
     
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  7. Msbc Brewer

    Msbc Brewer

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    Hahahaha! Wow, how to answer that question... All of it. It's all a big pain in the ass. I can start by breaking down our logistics chain. There are four routes for how things can arrive in Alaska. Steamship, Barge, Over-the-Road, and by air. Steamship (which sounds like an old sternwheeler driven by a bearded man holding a corn cob pipe) is the fastest way to get bulk materials to Alaska. It takes about 3-5 days from Seattle depending on the weather in the gulf. It costs about 50% more that the Barge, something like $7000 for 40k pounds of malt, Seattle to Anchorage. Over the road costs about the same, and takes a day or two longer. We don't usually ship this method because the loads have to clear customs twice and trucks breakdown a lot on roads that are -20 to -40 degrees F. Barge is the slowest, cheapest, and preferred method. 10-17 days from Seattle and it runs once a week. Air Shipping is last resort. However, our Air Cargo gets here way faster than most other places in the country. ANC is the third busiest air cargo hub in the world and everything in Anchorage is 20 minutes from the airport. I have made emergency orders that left Indiana at 5pm CST and been at my door 8am AKST. Pretty crazy.

    So that's how stuff gets here. Local supply is interesting. When I was a brewer in Seattle I could spend up to 4-5 hours a day driving around picking up parts and materials. Anchorage is the Hub of all Alaska, especially for the oil and gas industry. Nothing in Anchorage is more than a 20 minute drive from anywhere else in Anchorage. All the parts suppliers are in one 3 square mile area. I literally couldn't ask for a better set-up, except that no really stocks parts up here. Plenty of suppliers and they can all get it here tomorrow at the earliest.

    We have a metric shit ton of water. So that part is easy. Oh, and a lot of Natural Gas too.

    So the simple answer is: Plan Ahead. The biggest challenge is forecasting months ahead of time. Just to get extra boring I could talk about Inventory Critical Control Points, but you should get me drunk first. And then get yourself drunk too. Figure out what you need to thrive and order it 3-6 months before you need it. My biggest challenge used to be convincing the money controller that when we order stuff, we order more than what we immediately need. The owners get it now and have seen the benefits of not shutting down, then going to lunch for five hours and taking shots of Jame-o because everything is at a stand still waiting for a seal kit.

    Then there is shipping Southbound. That stuff isn't cheap either. Which is ridiculous when you figure most those boats are empty going down. This is the part where I hurt people's feelings a lot. I have had to fire 2 different shipping companies in the last year due to losing pallets, screwing up billing, or just plain destroying pallets full of beer. The good part about this is I finally found a venue to utilize the skills I learned in the Marine Corps Infantry. Like making people aware that if they mess with my customers, I will personally come to their business and ruin their day.

    I hope this answers some questions, feel free to ask more! But yeah, this topic is the majority cause of my moderate to heavy drinking.
     
  8. Msbc Brewer

    Msbc Brewer

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    Hmmm, I'll just say that if we did re-release it, we wouldn't call it M. It is impossible to re-create it exactly. While Gabe Fletcher was an amazing Brewer, he sure sucked at documentation.
     
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  9. lurchingbeast

    lurchingbeast

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    Hell of a post. Thanks.
     
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  10. drgarage

    drgarage

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    Can we convert this from request to AMA? Lee is killing it in here.

    Trady
     
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  11. Wassailwilly

    Wassailwilly

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    And they say a picture is worth a thousand words !!
    That post painted one helluva picture
     
  12. stupac2

    stupac2

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    You should give it a go. M is incredible and I want more stuff like it around.
     
  13. Os

    Os

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    some awesome stuff here! Thanks Lee and welcome to TB!
     
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  14. mattafett

    mattafett

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    How do the shippers keep the beer from freezing during the winter?
     
  15. RyanG

    RyanG Previously Hot Dog Sandwich

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    Great AMA, thank you Lee.

    This thread makes me want to visit Anchorage, drink a ton of Midnight Sun and injure myself racing Mount Marathon

     
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  16. Msbc Brewer

    Msbc Brewer

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    As for more M, I'll say that Termination Dust is probably the closest re-creation we have done to date. Fairly similar malt bill, and very similar yeast blend. But again, it's kind one of those "that time, that place" beer. I love making big, dark, barrel aged belgians, stouts, and barley wines. Our Alaskan clientele demands it. As we say, session beers start at 8% up here.

    As for freezing shipments, a little known fact about refer containers is that they also have heating elements inside them. They can control the temp inside to as low as -40F and as high as 120F. We pay a little extra in the winter for "KFF" loads. Again, we avoid over the road shipments due to trucks breaking down and losing the ability to power the container. It has happened before. At least on the ocean the temperature doesn't get much worse than +10F.

    RyanG, the Mount Marathon event is a real party for sure! Oh and people have died on that race. Two years ago a gentleman was injured and disappeared never to be found. Apparently while he was awaiting a rescue, a bear found him and finished the job and that's no joke. Please do come to Alaska though, it's a wild place for sure. Last frontier is really the truth. I also think we have some amazing breweries up here. Of all the states I have traveled too, I feel like Alaska's breweries have the highest quantity of consistently great beers. It's hard to say which brewery I love best, but I'm never sorry I visit any of them.
     
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  17. barleywinefiend

    barleywinefiend

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    This guy hearts Anchorage. I miss my trips up there. Never had the chance to visit MSBC. :(
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
  18. barleywinefiend

    barleywinefiend

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    Nothing is cheap when it comes to shipping up there. FEDEX just robbed me for $75 on a 10lb box with $50 worth of content. Dooooooooh!
    <---------------------------had is first Terminal Dust last night.
     
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  19. blackcloud

    blackcloud

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    Juneau, Alaska
    here's a good one for ya... i know you're on the brew side and not the distribution side, but.... why is it so damned difficult to get things other than the non-standards down here in Juneau? I will say it's gotten better in the past couple of months, but it's a pretty big bummer to see MSBC beers show up in Southern Cal, and Portland before we see them in Juneau... (still haven't seen a bottle of Termination Dust down here yet.)
     
  20. barleywinefiend

    barleywinefiend

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    Dear MSBC,
    Why did you remove the "vintage year" from the Arctic Devil labels?
     
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