On Thursday, January 15, Ryan Maloney, Head Brewer at Mispillion River Brewing, presented “Art of Brewing” to members of the Mispillion Art League. During his presentation, Mr. Maloney described the brewing process and explained why creating craft beer is an artistic endeavor.
Since opening 15 months ago, Mispillion River Brewing, owned in part by Eric and Megan Williams, has met with critical acclaim for the craft beer they brew on site in the Milford Business Park on Airport Road in Milford. They have supplied specially crafted beers to local restaurants, including Abbott’s Grill and Arenas.
During his presentation, Mr. Maloney passed various types of oats around the room, encouraging attendees to smell, feel and even taste them. He explained how oats worked in the brewing process. He then did the same with a variety of hops, explaining that hops were used for bittering and flavor.
“Different hop varieties provide different flavors for beer,” Mr. Maloney explained. “They come in pellets or whole leaf. At Mispillion, we use the pelleted type known as Type 90, as it is less compressed. I am going to pass around the different types for you to smell, but I do not recommend that you taste them.”
Mr. Maloney explained that the slightest variation in temperature can make a significant difference in the taste of beer during the brewing process. Therefore, the most critical part of creating consistent beer flavors is to closely monitor temperature, something that becomes easier with experience.
Like many brewers, Mr. Maloney got his start as a home brewer after becoming a fan of Dogfish Head when he was younger. He said that the cost to start home brewing was around $200 for the initial kit, but that he had invested as much as $4,000 in the equipment he had for his home brews. He then attended brewing school where he honed his craft and came to work for Mispillion Brewing Company as an assistant brewer under Jared Barnes, the initial head brewer at the company. When Mr. Barnes left, Mr. Maloney was promoted to head brewer.
“Some of our mistakes have actually become some of our best sellers,” Mr. Maloney said. “One of our year round beers came about because our previous brewer left part of one recipe in our grist hopper. We didn’t know it was in there until we added other hops and brewed a batch. It turned out to be surprisingly good, but it took us awhile to replicate because we didn’t know what was in there to start with.” The new beer will be available in cans soon and is known as “Holy Crap.”
Mr. Maloney said that even the labels on the cans are artistic as each label is designed by Tom Ryan’s Studio. Mr. Maloney said that they give Mr. Ryan an idea and he runs with it, creating unique, artistic labels that they receive compliments on very often.
“We use cans because they are more environmentally friendly than glass,” Mr. Maloney explained. “Beer is very susceptible to light which is why most beer manufacturers use brown bottles as they filter 90 percent of light. Cans filter 100 percent. If any of you have had beer bottled in green or clear bottles, such as Heinekin or Corona, you may have come across a beer with a ‘skunky’ flavor. That is because light has altered the taste of the beer.” Mr. Maloney also said that they use what are known as sleeve labels on their cans as they allow them to use a wider variety of colors than standard printed cans.
The names of the beers they brew are chosen in a variety of ways. Mr. Maloney said that sometimes they come up with the name during the brewing process while others are chosen by customers.
“We are brewing a beer now that will be a benefit for Chad Spicer,” Mr. Maloney said. “His fellow officers chose the name “Short and Stout” as a tribute to Officer Spicer. Our “Black Tie” beer was named by someone sitting at the bar. I like to take samples of new brews I am trying for customers to taste, and that was one of them. A customer came up with the name and that is what we called it.”
One of the attendees asked whether Dogfish Head was “too big” now to deal with the smaller breweries, and Mr. Maloney responded that Sam Calagione had invited them to an event just a few days before.
“We are a very tight community,” Mr. Maloney said. “We kind of compete but we don’t really compete against each other. We are more in competition with what we call ‘big beer.’ When we were ready to open, our keg washer had not been installed. We contacted 3rd Wave Brewery in Delmar who let us bring our kegs down, use their equipment and supplies so we could open the brewery ahead of schedule. Sometimes one of us will call the other and say ‘hey, I need such and such.’ We are always ready and willing to help each other out.”
Mr. Maloney said that summer is their biggest season, mainly because Delaware is a tourist driven state. The beer is currently only available in Delaware, but they are in talks with Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states. He said that he was surprised that Florida was included in their expansion discussions, but that there is a big following for Mispillion beers in the state.
The event ended with tastings of a variety of Mispillion Brewing Company beers. The brewery is open seven days per week. They often have food trucks at the brewery on weekends as well as live music on Friday and Saturday night. The hours are Monday and Tuesday from 4 pm to 10 pm; Wednesday and Thursday from 4 pm to 11 pm; Friday and Saturday from 11 am until Midnight; and Sunday Noon to 6 pm.