I was sitting at the end of the bar with Brian Strumke drinking a beer. He had quite recent been to Hawaii for some much needed vacation and a collaboration brew with Honolulu beerworks. He was now prepping for his talk at Tørst for the second event in the Meet the brewer-serie. I asked him if he was the type that liked to talk in front of people or not. He said sometimes he does and sometimes he don’t. Either way, a beer or two can help anyone to relax. 😉
Brian Strumke himself. Cult leader of Stillwater (as he says on Facebook).
So, last Monday, it was time for Stillwater’s Brian Strumke to tell his story. Brian is the founder and owner of Stillwater Artisanal and is originally from Baltimore, MD, but lives nowadays in Brooklyn, NY. In Baltimore he owns a bar called Of Love and Regret, that carries many of his beers.
Before Stillwater existed Brian was a homebrewing DJ, playing electronic music. He met Brian Ewing, who distributes beer in NYC and they started talking about getting Brian’s beer out there. Brian thought a lot about the possibilities to make beer, travel the world and make a living. A thought that was very appealing to him. So he started Stillwater Artinasal, a gypsy brewery, and have now for five years been brewing at breweries in 12 different countries. Ewing distributed his beers and Brian tells us how it kind of felt like he still was in the music business and Ewing was his manager. Since Brian is a former DJ, he finds a lot of references in the world of music. When a guy in the bar asks him if he still ever DJ’s, he says no, there’s unfortunately not enough time for that. But he also admits that when he looks back, his strongest skill was home brewing, so he has definitely chosen the right thing.
A classic label in old Stillwater style. Image courtesy of dcbeer.com
Brian is an artistic minded person and it’s with that in mind he designs his beers. And for a very long time he has been in an old, psychadelic world. For us that already are big fans of Stillwater’s beers are probably used to see his special designed labels with a gothic and mysterious style. His friend Lee Verzosa (a tattoo artist) is the person who has designed all of his labels until now. Stillwater has taken a new direction, a new chapter you could say. From the Belgian styles with a lot of farmhouse ales that we are used to see, Stillwater has recently started a new serie: Contemporary Works, which is based on already existing contemporary arts. The biggest difference in this serie is the lack of belgian yeast. But also the design, which is very minimalistic. In the serie so far there is:
- Mono, a dry hopped pilsner.
- Stereo, an IPA.
- Surround, a smoked imperial stout.
- Yacht, a canned lager.
- Vacuum, a smoked india black ale.
- Projector, an imperial rice IPA.
Mono, Stereo and Surround from the new Contemporary Works. Image courtesy of beeradvocate.com
With this new serie Brian wants to show that he can be versatile. Even if Belgian ales are his own favourites he knows there are a lot of people out there who doesn’t like them and this is a good way of reaching everyone. He likes the idea of working with a theme, just like for a musician to work with an album. It’s easy to make a one hit, but harder to make a full album. He likes how the work in that way gets a body.
An issue that is important for him is locally produced beers, which is why a brewery in Brazil brews his beers continuously , and he is for the moment looking for a place in Europe for the same reason. He doesn’t know how many beers in total he have made, but takes a guess at around 100 different ones.
If he could pick out two favourite beers of his own it would be Premium and Debauched. I myself have a Stillwater in my fridge waiting for me to crack open, Folklore (an untraditional stout). Can’t wait! Cheers!
OK, so this is not really how it went down at Tørst. But we had fun. =)