20 Questions With Shebeen Brewing Company

If you didn’t get the news yet, Shebeen Brewing Company is a Wolcott, Connecticut brewery that will be opening their doors in early 2013. With Rich Visco (the head brewmaster) being a passionate beer guy (like all brewers should be!) and very friendly, he was more than happy to go along with answering a bunch of questions about himself, homebrewing and Shebeen Brewing Company. Follow Shebeen Brewing by liking their Facebook page!

Shebeen Brewing Company Logo

Questions About You

What was the first beer you ever recall drinking?
My first beer was Primo in Hawaii in the mid-1970′s. My Dad was in the Navy and we were stationed there. I just remember his Navy buddies drinking it and my first stolen sip long before I should have been allowed a sip.

Did you attend any brewing schools or work with other breweries?
I attended some courses by the American Brewer’s Guild back in the 1990′s with my friend from Junior High School. I also did my thesis for my Masters in Business Administration on opening a brewpub. It never happened but my friend Scott Shirley who attended with me – and was supposed to be the brewmaster – ended up brewing for Long Trail to Tuckerman’s and eventually the head brewer for Harpoon Brewing Company. He now runs the Vermont brewery is always providing help and guidance.

Do you have a favorite craft beer that isn’t brewed by yourself?
My favorite English is Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. Domestically, my favorite is currently Harpoon’s Rye IPA. I think rye is an under appreciated grain and I just love how it adds flavor to a beer or bourbon.

Other than brewing beer, what is a favorite hobby or interest you have outside of the brewery?
When the weather gets better I kayak daily at dawn on Lake Terramuggus in Marlborough, Connecticut.

Questions About Shebeen Brewing Company

We’ve stopped by on brewing days before, what is your favorite music group (or genre) to listen to when brewing?
I am a product of the 1980′s and love Alternative Rock like U2, The Replacements, The Clash, The Police, Big Country, etc.

In only a few words, what do you want people to think of Shebeen Brewing Company as they taste your beer?
They taste the love and passion that went into making a local fresh craft product.

Do you have any favorite New England ingredients that you like to use in your beer recipes?
I use locally picked concord grapes that grow in Marlborough, Connecticut in a Saison style that I made for the past 10 years. I found a cooperative in New York that grows the grape in concentrate but still seeking out a local Connecticut grower that I can use.

What do you enjoy most about running your own brewery?
The freedom on so many levels from design, to recipe, to running the business.

What are you most looking forward to when Shebeen Brewing Company opens the doors and taps in early 2013?
Seeing others enjoy the beer and have the ability to influence what we make. How cool is that? That’s what sets local craft brewers apart from your foreign owned mass produced products. Want more chocolate in the Rye Porter? You got it.

You are given a tax-free gift of $100,000 (with no obligations) to invest into the brewery, what would you do with it?
I would put it into an automated bottling or canning line. I switched to kegs years ago for home brewing. There is nothing more tedious than bottling.

Do you use any special brewing computer/mobile applications when brewing beer or for tracking details various batches?
I’ve used a few over the years and using iBrewMaster on iPad right now to formulate and perfect recipes.

What marketing tactics have you found best so far for getting the word out about Shebeen Brewing Company?
So far Facebook has been the most effective. Word of mouth and the Waterbury Republican American have also been very effective.

Do you think a ‘bubble’ is approaching anytime soon with all the craft breweries opening up throughout the United States?
I think there will be a saturation point but Connecticut has long since lagged the rest of the country. I think the younger generation will keep the movement going and the more the movement is widespread, I think people will put local and fresh over traditional bland and heavily marketed products. We are seeing the foreign owned companies fight back with micro tactics and pseudo labels but if we collectively stick together, the craft brewers can educate and thrive.

Questions About Home Brewing

What inspiration can you share with home brewers who are looking to start their own business?
All I can say is if you are serious about starting a brewery, a lot of what you know of home brewing will help you even at a larger scale. The equipment changes but the principles that you followed still apply.

What was the catalyst that got you into home brewing?
I originally tried home brewing to save money. It didn’t quite work out that way but eventually allowed me to brew beers I wanted to drink.

During your home brewing days, how many bottles of beer do you think you brewed for friends and family before establishing Shebeen Brewing Company?
I’ve been brewing for over 23 years so I have no idea. Just in 2012, I brewed about 25 five-gallon batches alone.

Humor

Do you or anyone else at the brewery enjoy eating the spent grains for breakfast on brewing days?
Not really. I’ve munched on them before but I find the beer so much more compelling. The yeast also leaves behind an added bonus!

For some ridiculous reason you are forced to only drink one style of beer for the remainder of your life, what do you choose?
Porter. I am not into big, boozy beer or over hopped. I like a good drinkable porter. I like to use rye to change it up a bit but a good session Porter any day for me.

You’re stranded on an island with some very domestic mass-produced light beer that washed ashore. Do you drink from a local fresh water source or go for the beer?
I would have to drink the water. I don’t like to go to the bathroom that often. The mass stuff goes right through me.

Rumor has it that most parents might love (well ‘like’ is probably a better word choice…) one child more than another, so the same has to be true for beer. Do you have a favorite beer that you brew?
The styles I brewed the most over the years was Saison and Porter but something special happened when I created the Black Hop IPA. Its exactly what I said I don’t like for ‘drinking one style for the rest of my life‘ question but there is something awesome about the balance in that beer. The hop balances the booze which balances the black burnt against the thicker malt body. It’s intense but very drinkable and smooth. Its crazy.

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