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Terrapin Beer Co. was born thanks to the inspiration of John Cochran and Spike Buckowsky, who started to realize craft recipes in 2002. Automation in beer processing and filling was still far away, but it was the first, fundamental step.
Today, what started as two guys and a 25 barrel brewhouse has grown into what is affectionately known as the Terrapin Tribe.
In this interview Jack Albanese, Master Brewer and VP of Operations at the Terrapin Beer Company, explains what stays behind the Terrapin’s beer: care, imagination and ability to learn something new every day!
Jack, when did you start your career as a master brewer? Are there any funny stories you would like to tell us about this period?
My career in brewing started with a phone call to Terrapin. To finish a master’s degree, I had to complete a final internship in the fermentation science field. What better place than a brewery!? As green as I was, I showed up at 8am the next morning for an interview in a suit and tie, and I proceeded to be bombarded with comments from everyone I encountered. At least three people threatened to cut my tie off. After about an hour, I was offered the internship, which eventually turned into an opportunity to build the Quality Assurance department at the brewery, and I have not worn a tie to work since!
Which beer do you enjoy making best? And why?
Right now, I would say that Hoppin’ Bubbly Brut IPA is my favorite representation of brewing development at Terrapin. It started as an idea by our Founder/VP of Brewing Development, Spike Buckowski. Spike was developing a Brut IPA recipe and we were piloting different batches at our Terrapin ATL Brewlab facility in Atlanta. After a few iterations, we were afforded the opportunity to collaborate with Miller High Life on a project. With High Life being the “Champagne of Beers”, we thought, what better way to merge Terrapin and High Life than by using the Brut IPA style. Taking the grain bill of Miller High Life and the hops and rye malt from Spike’s Gold Medal award winning Rye Pale Ale, Hoppin’ Bubbly Brut IPA was born.
You enter a beer store and can only buy 3 different beers that do not come from your brewery. Which would you choose and why?
Wherever I am, I always look for something local to get a feel for the beer scene.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the first craft beer I ever tasted, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Trick question, I am going to buy a 6 pack of Terrapin Hopsecutioner for quality testing!
Is there a beer that you haven’t managed to taste yet and that you have been chasing after for ages?
Until recently, unfiltered and unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell. Every tapping I would attend, there was an issue that didn’t allow the beer to be shipped or get through customs. I finally had some in March, and it was worth the wait!
Outside of the brew house, what do you enjoy doing? In other words, what are your hobbies?
I love getting outside. Mountain biking, hiking, anything where I can experience nature and the outdoors.
Do you think the aesthetic aspects of a beer bottle or can is important (artwork, label, etc. )?
Absolutely. It can often be the customer’s first experience with your product. Make sure you tell your story with everything that comes out of the brewery.
Which other brew master would you like to work with? Can you explain why?
The great thing about this industry is that you can learn something new every day. I am always looking to learn new things, so I’d love to collaborate with anyone who is willing to teach me something, and eager to have a beer or two after brewing.
Which advice would you give to someone willing to choose this profession?
As a brewer, you have the ability to conceptualize a product, create it, and see it come to fruition in a final vessel that is consumed and enjoyed by so many. That is something that most people do not get to experience. It is not the easiest job in the world, but it just may be one of the most rewarding.
Is producing beer technique only, or is there room for improvisation?
I believe that all aspects of brewing, from the creation of the recipe to beer processing and filling, are equal parts art and science.
The soundtrack of your day in the brew house (Max 10 tracks).
Pick any 10 Van Halen songs and we are in business
Of all the beers that you have tried, which would you choose for these occasions:
1. Christmas with the family: Wake N Bake, because I am going to need equal parts coffee and imperial stout to get me through
2. your birthday: A Belgian Lambic. I’m celebrating.
3. a day at the swimming pool: Helles… it gets hot in Georgia
Can the equipment “make the difference” during the production process of a beer? In which way?
Absolutely. Consistency and dependability in equipment allow brewers the ability to focus on the product and process.
Which equipment of the CFT Group are you working with?
- A 5-vessel 100bbl Rolec brewhouse
- CFT 24/4 can filler
Comparing your production process before and after the installation of CFT Group equipment, which are the main benefits you have obtained?
Consistency, repeatability, and world class manufacturing
Thank you Jack, it was a pleasure to meet you!
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