Interview: Dee Dee Germain
Brew/Drink/Run is excited to co-sponsor another tap takeover at Your Pie Savannah this Thursday, May 2, 2013. The brewery featured in this tap takeover is Allagash Brewing Company. The Portland, Maine based brewery is a Brew/Drink/Run favorite. We find their dedication to experimentation in brewing to be exciting and worth discussion. As such they have been featured on several Brew/Drink/Run podcasts and you can read all about the brewcation visit to Allagash Brewing here.
In preparation for the Allagash takeover of Your Pie Savannah we got in touch with Dee Dee Germain. Dee Dee is a long time Allagash employee whose jobs have covered everything from sweeping floors to assistant brewer. She is currently the Allagash Communications and Marketing Manager. Dee Dee Sat down with us to discuss brewing, running and of course some Allagash beer.
Brew/Drink/Run: We understand you had a unusual path to working at Allagash, could you tell us a little bit about your story?
Dee Dee: I started here about ten years ago basically cleaning but really as an assistant brewer, which just means cleaning mostly. I learned how to clean up after other people who brewed and eventually learned how to brew. That’s where it all started. I then moved into maintenance and now I’m in marketing so I’ve done a little bit of it of everything.
Brew/Drink/Run: How did you end up at Allagash in the first place?
Dee Dee: I had moved here from Virginia looking for a change in career. Being from Virginia we didn’t have much good beer back then. Yuengling was down there, but I had just started seeing it around. Mostly I thought beer was Heineken and Budweiser. I was not a very good beer drinker for that reason. When I came to Maine I was told I had to try Allagash White and I fell in love with it. At the time I was driving a taxi and one day a brewer got in for a ride. It sparked something in my head so I started reading up on brewing and I decided I needed to work for Allagash because it was my favorite beer. So I called them up and they said no. But they said to take a tour and I did. We hit it off and two weeks later I got a call asking if I wanted to work at Allagash. That’s the short version, I guess.
Brew/Drink/Run: It seems you might have taken a different route from other brewers who start home brewing, develop a passion for it and end up finding a job in brewing professionally. Did your experience work the other way, did you end up home brewing as a result of your career path?
Dee Dee: I have actually to this day never home brewed. I do make cider, wine and mead so I do a lot with fermentable stuff but at this point it’s like a thing that I’m never going to home brew. When I started at Allagash there were really long days in the old brewery, it was hot a really a lot of hard work and I was scrubbing a lot of things and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was do the same thing I had done for the last eight or nine hours.
Now we have a little homebrew system here [at Allagash] – a pilot system – and I have brewed on that quite a bit but never at home.
Brew/Drink/Run: Are all Allagash employees open to experiment with that system?
Dee Dee: Yes, absolutely. We have what’s called a “pilot team,” we call them, a home brew pilot team. You submit recipes to them and they put you in line to brew and they try to keep something constantly going on that system. We have a little fermenter and all that stuff and as it empties we try to fill it right back up and keep fresh stuff in the pipeline.
Brew/Drink/Run: Have any of those beers made it to production?
Dee Dee: Yeah, a few of them! We had one called Saison Mihm, that was brewed by Ryan Mihm who is a brewer here and started on that system. 2009 Fluxus was a saison with sweet potatoes and black pepper. That was my recipe and that I actually did on the pilot system because we didn’t know what the sweet potatoes were going to do. We thought it might be the worst idea ever, so we brewed on the small system and it became Fluxus 2009. And this years Fluxus was actually off the pilot system as well. That will be released in July.
Brew/Drink/Run: Can you give away a little hint of what the next one will be?
Dee Dee: Yeah! I can totally tell you. It’s already brewed and in the can. It’s a porter but it was actually brewed with blood oranges. It really wacky, but good. At first I didn’t know about it but it’s really good and should be released late June early July.
Brew/Drink/Run: We understand you had a hand in the development of Allagash Black. Is that true and can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dee Dee: Yeah, that’s true. Working here I had stated drinking a lot of different kinds of beer and specifically a lot of Belgian beers. Before working here I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to them. I would go to Julio’s [Julio’s Liquor’s in Westborough Massachusetts] and I would go in the Belgian section and pick up a bunch of randoms and see what they were about. I tried one called [Brasserie] Ellezelloise, their Hercule stout, it’s a Belgian stout, and thought it was frick’n delicious. I loved the fruity Belgian yeast character with the stout. So I wanted to try and brew one but Rob said “Belgian’s don’t make stouts” and I said “but they do I’ve had it.” So I pushed for a few months and finally I went down to Julio’s and bought a bottle and tried it as a group. Rob said “I guess they do make stouts. Lets give it a shot and see what happens.” At the time we didn’t have the pilot system so I brewed it on the regular big, 30 barrel, system. It came out awesome the first time. I’m not saying that because it was mine. Typically when we brewed on the big system we brew a batch and follow it with a an adjustment batch, when something was too sweet, that’s too dry or didn’t get enough hops so we brew a second batch and then we’d blend them to get a balance. Well, when we brewed the black the first time we asked what we would change and everyone said nothing so it kinda started off like that.
Brew/Drink/Run: We’re actually located down here in Savannah GA. Have you ever visited here?
Dee Dee: I frink’n LOVE Savannah. When I was getting ready to move to Maine I actually picked a bunch of places around the country I might want to live and Savannah was on the short, short list. You have huge bugs though.
Brew/Drink/Run: Can you tell us about the Maine Beer scene?
Dee Dee: It’s like everywhere in the country, it’s growing. I’m super excited about it and Allagash is super excited about it. We have a brewery [in Maine] called Rising Tide and I always say a rising tide lifts all ships so always follow that with no pun intended because of them but it’s true, it pushes everyone to be better and make more interesting beer and everyone’s quality. There are a crazy amount of new breweries. I saw a list of Maine breweries the other day and there are something like ten new breweries in Maine. There are currently about 30, which is a decent amount but that’s obviously ten more would be a huge increase for us. It’s doing good, we’ve had a lot of people start in the last couple of years are making different beers for the area. Typically this area was known for English style beers, and then we came along… but there weren’t a lot of American style breweries and that’s really what’s come up in the last few years.
Brew/Drink/Run: We’re co-sponsoring an Allagash tap take over at Your Pie, a local pizza place that is interested in promoting craft beer. We’re serving Curieux and Black but there are a few beers we are excited about trying for the first time and wondered what you can tell us about them. In particular we’re interested in learning about FV 13, James Bean, and Midnight Brett.
Dee Dee: FV 13 is the first beer we did in our “foudre” which is a giant oak barrel. They are retired wine vessels, we got ours from Bonny Boone vineyards out in California about five years ago. We had made a beer in a regular 55 gallon oak barrel that we all loved so when that came in we said “lets make more of it.” It doesn’t actually work that way it turns out because there is less surface contact and more oxygen. It’s a world of difference. We knew it was going to be different but we didn’t realize how different it was going to be. The 55 gallon version took a year. This time, after a year, it wasn’t even remotely similar. So we sat on it for three maybe four years. Around year two and half we started seeing some acidification and stuff we were looking for so we thought it might actually be something. We weren’t sure for a while but it started getting interesting in the flavor and started getting a little tart. It ended up being a very different beer from the one we were trying to reproduce. We call our fermenters, fermenter vessels and we number them FV 1, FV 2……. so when we got in the thirteenth fermenter we got superstitious about the number 13 so instead of calling it FV 13 we called the foudre FV 13. So that’s how the beer got it’s name, we named it after the foudre. So that’s the story with that. It’s pretty tart. It’s got a pretty good malt backbone to it but it’s definitely a tart beer. It’s actually got a little acidic character and it’s a blend of bugs [to clarify: bacteria, not insects – ed] in there to so there’s a little house brett in there as well.
Midnight Brett. Well when we bought our old brewery in 2006 we moved into the building we are in now and left the old building. The people who owned it rented it out to a guy who made stuff for boats, seats and stuff. A couple of years ago we want to buy this building and turn it into a place to put all of our sour barrels. We had been keeping them under the same roof which is a little dangerous. We haven’t had a lot of issues with it actually but bugs tend to jump around on barrels. We make a lot of Curieux so there was always the danger of Curieux getting infected, which has happened a couple of times and we had to dump it. So we moved the sours into the old building leaving us more room so we bought three more foudres. Midnight Brett came out of one of those foudres. It didn’t take long to make, I think, in the six-month range. It’s basically our brett in there with a dark beer. We made a golden version as well, a strong golden ale with brett. So we have golden and a midnight brett and they were treated very similarly but with a different malt build. They both came out really well and knock on wood it seems they like that environment very well but they’ve – and I almost don’t ant to say this out loud – but they’ve been pretty reliable so you may seem them more often. We’re hoping anyway.
Brew/Drink/Run: You should knock on wood right now.
Dee Dee: Yeah I just did a few times.
Lastly the James Bean is Curieux that we put cold press coffee into. We have a local roaster here in town and they roast coffee for it. Everybody does coffee beers but they do dark ones. Curieux is obviously a bourbon barrel aged beer. When we started doing Curieux everyone was doing dark beers in bourbon barrels. We decided to try a light beer on bourbon barrels and everyone thought it was going to be disgusting and it’s definitely not. We thought, everyone puts coffee in dark beers so why not try putting it in Curieux and see what happens. It’s really wacky. I’m not a big coffee in my beer person. I think it freaks me out more that I don’t like the taste of it. But I feel like alcohol gives you a buzz and coffee gives you a buzz. I feel like I’m going to explode or something. It’s quite tasty. It’s surprising because it’s a light beer and you don’t expect it to taste and smell like coffee – but it does. It’s a weird one but people love it. We used to call it just Coffee Curieux but we realized when we were going to start making it on a regular basis that that name was kind of lame. So we decided to call it James Bean as a shoot out to Jim Bean [Curieux is aged on Jim Bean barrels].
Brew/Drink/Run: We are interested in how the craft beer scene and the running scene have developed together in parallel. Both have grown together into communities that help each other and get over the finish line together. Could you tell us about your exercise regimen whether you run or not?
Dee Dee: Of all the people you could have talked to here I’m probably the least qualified to talk about exercise. There are quite a few people here who run and we do some charity races, 5Ks and 10k’s. My friends have decided that I need to do a Tough Mudder so I have just started doing the Couch to 5K program. I tell you I’ve got weak knees from when I was younger and stupid so I’m super paranoid about running but I go out a few times a week for a little run. It’s been nice, it’s a good stress release. I’ve been doing some kettlebell lately. We were cleaning up around here the other day and someone found a car battery with the straps still attached and we treated it as a kettlebell, it was like extreme kettlebell workout. That’s it – but we do have quite a few runners around here. Yeah the beer thing is tricky. In this industry we do drink a fair amount and it is important to stay in shape. I know its good for me. Mentally I know it’s good for me but sometimes I’m just, Ugh, I don’t want to do this right now.
Brew/Drink/Run: Don’t’ worry about it, some of us are not far off from Couch to 5K. Work at your own pace and remember it’s not a competition. It gets better.
Thanks so much to Dee Dee for taking the time to talk with us. We hope to see you on Thursday, May 2nd for Allagash Night at Your Pie Savannah (Sandfly location).