Its Friday May 19th, and we’ve reached the end of our American Craft Beer Week spotlight series.
To wrap it all up, we had a chat with VP of Sales for DFW’s own Lakewood Brewing, Jeremiah Wallis.
We caught Jeremiah on a rare vacation day and asked to hear his thoughts about Lakewood’s rapid expansion, their recipe for success, and a little bit about his personal experience in the craft beer industry.
The following is a condensed transcript of the conversation, which has been edited for clarity.
How long have you been with Lakewood?
J: 3 and a half years! I did 8 and a half years with Boulevard before that.
I understand you have a pretty unique background, can you tell us about that?
J: Of course….Haha! To take it back a little further than Boulevard, I went to OU for meteorology, took that over to Pre-Med, and that’s kinda where my love for beer started. Everybody knows about the old 3.2% laws in Oklahoma ,that are about to change of course, and there really wasn’t much high-octane beer up there. I actually used to homebrew for the rugby team, so we’d have our own stuff to drink beyond the 3.2% ABV. I got enamored with it and just rock & rolled, homebrewed all the way into medical school. I was really starting to get a little disenfranchised with the medical field, but my love for brewing just kept getting bigger & bigger.
I was working as an intern for Boulevard in Med School, and when I graduated, I forewent my residency and decided to go directly into the craft beer field. When I came back to Texas from Oklahoma, I was working at a Market Street as the head of their beer department, and when Boulevard launched in Texas, I put 2 & 2 together, talked to some of those cats, and it turned out I was a pretty natural fit for their sales team.
So you were a doctor, working at Market Street, selling beer?
J: Uhhh…I had gone through medical school, I wasn’t a doctor hahahaha! If I said I was a doctor, I probably would have gotten my ass kicked.
You guys have become a huge presence in the Texas beer scene. Do you ever miss the early days?
J: You know there are a lot of positives and negatives. I came in about a year and a half after Lakewood opened, so it was different for me. We were still small and grassroots at that point. I guess what I do miss is, since we were still small scale, I really got to see my impact; Seeing the choices that my sales team and I made help bring us to a larger playing field. There’s this misconception that when you grow like we have, you stop being continually innovative, but honestly that’s never stopped. I just miss being able to make small moves. Now the craft beer market it so diverse, that you have to blow it up & take it to the next level to really wow someone.
It seems like you guys have been very successful playing with flavors, especially in the Seduction series, is it tough working with all those different adjunct ingredients?
J: It definitely can be. Take the Coconut temptress for example… The batch we made at the brewery was just incredible, but scale was an issue. You want the ingredients to mesh, and all the right flavors to come through, but the tricky thing is making the recipe in such a way that you can get all those flavors without using something like extract. We definitely want to stay away from that, so the raw materials become an issue. You know, we made this fantastic beer at the brewery, the brewers went wild and had a good time with it, but it would take 3 small islands of coconuts to replicate that particular recipe on a larger scale. We’re working with it and I’m excited about it, but it’s just a battle with having to be practical.
Were there any other flavors or variations that sounded great but never made it to production?
J: Peanut Butter was one. Tropical variations. You know, The Temptress is so big and bold, that you have to do a lot to overcome those robust flavors, so there are a lot of obstacles there too. Even seasonality can be an issue: making sure that when you’re using fresh purees and aseptic ingredients, that you can actually get them when you need them. You miss a day or two in some of these ordering windows and you’re left with half of what you need for your beer. We’re still working on Peanut Butter Temptress, but we don’t want to put it out there until we perfect it.
So now that you guys are on such a large scale, what does an average brew day look like?
J: Oh man…A lot of guys yelling at me because I’m workin’ them too hard. Hahaha! No no, in reality we’ve got a good split between our core brands and we usually do 3-4 batches a day. We’ve added some more staff, so that will quickly turn to 4-5 a day so we can turn & burn. We also do canning, bottling, & kegging every day and sometimes we do all 3 at once.
Sounds like a crazy juggling act.
J: Absolutely. I’m usually outside that world, but we’ve made some great back-of-house investments in efficiency in the brewery and I think its going to make everything easier. We care a lot about quality-of-life, for our employees so we want to make sure that they can get off work when they need to & not have to come work every weekend. That work-life balance is really important to us.
Can you give us a hint about anything new coming from Lakewood?
J: You know, we’re pretty transparent. Right now, we’re doing planning for 2018. I think everyone’s probably heard that we have a 3rd draft tower in the taproom specifically for sour and barrel aged beers. Well we also bought a building right down the street that we’ve turned into our barrel-aging facility. Right behind the building, they had a 7 bay fleet garage and instead of installing a cooler inside, we just spray insulated the interior of the building and made the whole thing into one giant cooler. That’s become our new sour facility. You’ve already seen some small batch stuff in the taproom, but I think you’ll see a lot of more once we let the crew go wild in the facility.
The biggest thing is that we’re gonna get Wim (Bens, founder) back into the brewhouse. You know with all the crazy expansion we’ve had over the last few years, he’s been pulled into a lot of the administrative side of things, but we’re taking a lot of that off his shoulders so he can get back into the brewhouse and go wild.
Alright man! What Lakewood beer should we be drinking right now?
J: All Call, for sure! We’re really proud of that beer but beyond the beer itself, between us and Guns & Hoses we raised over 1 million dollars last year for the families of fallen first responders. Artsy Tarsty is new to the market and is not yo be missed. It’s a super solid peach Berliner wiesse that’s actually a keg only release so you’ll have to find that at places like Taps & Caps.
Lakewood Brewing Co.
Lakewood Brewing Co is located 2302 Executive Drive, Garland, Texas 75041. The brewery taproom & beer garden is open 7 days a week and they offer free brewery tours every Saturday. Click this link for more details. We encourage you to visit and try the beer at the source, including the small batch brews we mentioned earlier! For those times you can’t make it out to the brewery, your local Taps & Caps serves up Lakewood brews on our ever rotating tap wall.