It's been a few weeks since the last post, largely due to a busy work schedule. It's not like I stopped drinking beer, don't worry. I haven't had time in the last month to brew anything, but I've got some ideas kicking around. A few weeks back I had sent out some questions to Nick Funnell, the head brewer at Sweetwater Tavern. He was nice enough to get back to me. In case you haven't been there Sweetwater Tavern operates three locations in Northern Virginia: Merrifield, Centreville, and Sterling. It's one of the best restuarants near me in the Merrifield area, with a great food selection ranging from steak and fish to more casual offerings like sandwiches and salads (think Outback Steakhouse, but with good food and service). Also, the beer is made in-house and pretty darn good to boot. Nick has amassed some hardware from the Great American Brewfest over the years and it shows. Here goes:
Holz: First, can you give my readers an idea of how you got started in brewing? Were you originally a homebrewer?
Nick: I got started in brewing after getting a degree in Chemistry and finding an apprenticeship in a brewery. I have only ever homebrewed once, without distinction.
Holz: Did you attend any school to study brewing or did you start right out working at a brewery?
Nick: I studied brewing as part of my apprenticeship.
Holz: Sweetwater Tavern always has a nice selection of year round and seasonal offerings, how do you approach the creative process of crafting a new brew?
Nick: When we create a new beer we look for a gap in our portfolio that needs filling.
Holz: I believe Great American Restuarants (owner of Sweetwater Tavern) won two medals this year at the Great American Beer Fest, congratulations. Which beers won?
Nick: We won a Bronze medal in the Belgian Wit bier category for Wits’ End and a Gold in the Rye beer category for Crazy Jackass Ale.
Holz: Were you able to make it out to Denver this year for the festival?
Nick: I was lucky enough to be in Denver for the festival.
Holz: Occassionally, I see Great American beers available at the store, do you guys bottle your beers? Any plans to ramp up bottling production?
Nick: We do not bottle any beer for stores. We concentrate our efforts on getting people to come to us where we are able to fully guarantee the flavor and freshness of our beer. We do sell growlers of beer to go and they are filled on a counter pressure machine that ensures quality.
Holz: Which breweries and/or brewpubs inspire you?
Nick: Almost all breweries and brewpubs inspire me as there is something to be learned from each one.
Holz: Besides drinking the final product, what do you enjoy most about brewing?
Nick: The satisfaction of producing a great product that has developed a passionate following.
Holz: Which beer style do you enjoy brewing/drinking the most? The least?
Nick: All beers are equally satisfying to make as the process is essentially similar. As a brewer it is important to not favor one style over another when it comes to making the beer, or some will be better made than others. That wouldn’t be fair to the drinkers.
Holz: Is there any Sweetwater Tavern news (major or minor) that you want to share with my readers? New beers, locations, etc.?
Nick: Keep checking the website to see what we are up to.
Eat and Drink at Sweetwater. It is so ordered.