Homebrewing : Brew Talk

By: Adam Orrick, head brewer at Grove Street Brewhouse in Shelton Washington

Recently I have had the good fortune of spending more time with the fine brew crew down at Dick’s Brewing in Centralia.  As always, it is a lot of fun to sit over pints and talk shop with other Washington brewers, but I found myself in a completely different kind of conversation with Head Brewer Dave Pendleton and Brewer Parker Penley.  While these guys can talk all day about their own commercial brewing, our conversation tended toward homebrewing; a hobby I unfortunately spend very little time enjoying these days.  Ask most brewers and they will tell you the same thing: I used to homebrew a lot.  Now it isn’t a huge priority.  I might brew 2 or 3 times a year.  You may then be wondering why Dave and Parker and I spent a good deal discussing the hobby.


Interestingly, the Dick’s Brewing team, and the company history itself, is incredibly steeped in homebrewing.  The late, great founder Dick Young began as a homebrewer, and, due to his jack-of-all-trades skills and work ethic, his homebrewery sort of organically grew into a small business which then grew into one of the largest craft breweries in Washington state.  Not surprisingly, as the business grew, so did its labor force of equally passionate homebrewers. 


While not homebrewing as much as he would like, Dave Pendleton is the owner of Rocky Top Homebrew in Olympia.  Run by Dave and his family, you can find him their most Saturdays, eagerly ready to share the enormous library of brewing information he stashes in his brain.  I decided to ask Dave a few questions about simultaneously building careers in craft and homebrewing.


When and how did you get into home brewing?


I got into home brewing when I was 16 back in Bozeman MT. My dad received a home brew kit for Christmas and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. He was very into having me help with the process, probably considered it good bonding time with his son.


When and how did come to own Rocky Top?


I bought the homebrew shop after I graduated college in 1999. My sister and brother in law were living in Olympia, so I moved up and got a job with the Attorney General’s office and started buying supplies to brew in my spare time from the previous owner. I got to know him over time and he let me know that he wanted to sell the shop, so I got some loans and took the shop over.


Was Rocky Top always a family endeavor?


It became a family affair when I got the brewers job down at Dick’s. My sister helped out from time to time before that, but she took over full time and then my folks moved to Olympia in 2007 and my dad became involved then.


What is your goal at the shop? I mean, do you tend to supply more advanced brewers, beginners, or just anyone that walks through the door interested in brewing beer?


The goal for the shop has and always will be to supply beer and wine makers with the best ingredients and supplies to make great beer and wine. From advanced brewers to beginners, we always enjoy helping anyone that walks through the door. Beer is a big part of our family, and we love sharing what we know with anyone who is interested.


What particular challenges are presented in being both a commercial brewer and a homebrew supplier? How do they compliment one another and how do they clash?


They seem to complement each other more than clash. Being involved in a commercial setting has of course increased my brewing knowledge, which in turn allows me to relay what I have learned to the customers at Rocky Top. The challenge is the six day work week, five at the brewery and Saturdays at the brew shop. But, it’s all for the love of beer!!


Have any of the Dick’s beers been scaled down for home brewing, and are they available to your customers?


Not yet, but coming soon. Whenever I can find the time.


You pretty much went from home brewer to brewer to head brewer at Dick’s over the course of a year, correct? What part of your homebrew background translated well to commercial brewing? What didn’t apply at all?


When I started at Dicks, I had the man himself, Dick Young, teaching me how he wanted the beers to be made, and how he wanted his brewery ran. My home brewing background allowed me to hit the ground running. Just knowing the process from milling and mashing to fermentation, the basic knowledge that is made life easier. One of the main things that didn’t translate from home brew to commercial was the packaging aspect. A bottling line and kegging was a new thing for me, but I had a great teacher, and great co workers so it was just a longer learning curve than the brewing side of things.


You don’t homebrew much anymore. Do you miss it?


I do miss it a lot. Between the two jobs and the family I’m going to start making some more time. Homebrewing will always be one of my favorite hobbies.


Any advice for folks interested in brewing their own beer?


When you decide that you want to brew your own beer, my advice would be to not get discouraged, read and brew as much as you can, and just have fun. Just like anything else in life, the more you do it the better you will get. And no matter what you will have beer when you’re done.


Rocky Top is located at 1617 Harrison Ave NW in Olympia.  In the coming weeks, I hope to talk with Dick’s Brewer, Parker Penley about his homebrewing.  Although Parker brews at least 5 days a week at work, he still finds time to brew 10 or 20 gallons a week at home.


Anyone interested in brewing their own should stop in at Rocky Top.  Their staff are incredibly knowledgeable, passionate, and helpful.  They will get you started the right way, making good beer your first time.



About the author

Adam Orrick is the head brewer at Grove Street Brewhouse in Shelton, WA.  He has been brewing professionally since June of 2009, all of which has been spent at GSB, save a brief internship at Lazy Boy Brewing in Everett, WA.  For more about Adam and Grove Street, visit their brewery, their facebook page, or the GSB blog at grovestreetbrewhouse.wordpress.com

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