A lot has changed in the beer industry over the 23 years AleSmith Brewing has been in operation. Even with a reputation for producing exceptional beer across styles, leadership at that Miramar stalwart know they can’t rest on their laurels. This competitive market demands nimbleness, necessitating evolution and innovation. To that end, the company has revamped its portfolio for the coming year, installed a 10-barrel pilot brewery, a new PSA canning line and, a bit more out of the ordinary, an on-site cheese-making facility—CheeseSmith Artisan Creamery. With so much going on, we felt it was a good time to play a little catch-up with owner, brewmaster and head of fromage, Peter Zien.
What can we expect from AleSmith’s portfolio in the New Year?
Foremost is the revamping of our core line-up to reflect the tastes that make up the current craft beer scene. We have two new IPAs making their way to the marketplace—including a hazy—as well as our Double IPA, which had previously been a seasonal offering. AleSmith .394 Pale Ale, Nut Brown, Spezial Pils and Sublime Mexican Lager will round out the core line-up that will be available throughout the year. From the high-end series of our core line-up, Speedway Stout and Horny Devil will be seen in a new size: 11.2-ounce four-packs. This user-friendly sizing has been a topic for years, desired by many who found the 25-ounce bottles a little intimidating. We’ll also be revisiting the Hawaiian Speedway and Vietnamese Speedway during the year, and of course a variety of barrel-aged beers spot the 2019 calendar. Another exciting bit of news for 2019 is the Hopwright Series consisting of six new IPA-style beers released approximately two months apart. The first in the series is our new Brutiful Day brut-style IPA, which will be available in February. This will be followed by five additional releases of anything-but-ordinary IPAs, each more innovative than the previous! For the Seasonal releases, some of the ol’ favorites like My Bloody Valentine and AleSchmidt Octoberfest will be returning plus four new beers including a kettle sour and a Winter IPA. For .394 Pale Ale and baseball fans, we have two new versions of our most popular beer bookending the baseball season: a hazy .394 named Spring Training that will be released as the season starts and the Hall of Fame Imperial .394 around World Series time. Rounding out the “new” from AleSmith in 2019, are four collaborations with fellow craft breweries, the first involving our good friends at Maui Brewing. This pale ale brewed with rice and galaxy hops is named Hi Hoaloha and will hit the shelves in February. We will also be working with Brewery Ommegang from New York on a very special beer slated for release later in the year.
How do you plan to utilize the new 10-barrel brewhouse?
The new 10-barrel brewhouse will be operational in early January 2019 and will allow us the flexibility to introduce a great number of new beers for direct sale from the tasting room. We will also be brewing many of the old favorites from AleSmith’s 23-year history as well as popular homebrew recipes from myself and others here at AleSmith. It will be located directly in front of our Krones 85-barrel brewhouse and will utilize some of the infrastructures already in place.
What drove you to add a cheese-making operation?
The similarities of brewing beer and producing cheese scratch the same itch for me: absolute cleanliness is crucial, and both involve enzymes and a natural conversion from raw material to finished product. The brew day and cheese-making day are similarly long and filled with many parameters that directly translate to the quality of the finished product. I fell in love with cheese-making about six years after my brewing career began in 1995 and I am proud to now own both a brewery and a creamery. I have two different cow milk sources, one being from a local farm that takes our spent grain for cattle feed.
What types of cheese do you expect to produce?
I am a licensed pasteurizer and cheeses for the near future will be fully pasteurized examples of popular cheese styles from around the world. In time, I expect to produce washed-rind, bacteria-smeared and blue cheese varieties as well as aged cheese made from raw milk. I’ve been making cheese in the new state-of-the-art clean room since November, and first cheeses are aging in the “cave.” OK, it’s not really a cave, it’s a coldbox, but I control temperature and humidity to replicate a cave setting. Initial offerings will be a hand-milled Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Colby, a Speedway-Stout- and-coffee-rubbed Cheddar and, of course, mountains of Midwest-style cheese curds, both natural and flavored with various herbs, spices and peppers.
When will CheeseSmith’s wares be available to the public?
Select retail accounts will have access to carrying CheeseSmith, but you will always be able to sample and purchase CheeseSmith offerings from the AleSmith tasting room beginning in January 2019. A variety of package sizes will be available as well as whole wheels and sliced wedges. We also plan to open a CheeseSmith membership club for those interested in receiving exclusive cheese and items designed to be paired with cheese such as local jams, honey, nuts, artisan crackers, CheeseSmith boards, cheese knives and more fun items.