My running joke with Matt Simonds, owner of Broken Trail Spirits & Brew, is that at least once a year he has to totally change up some part of the operation. Recently, Matt needed more space at the original location on Stanford for his increased production — especially for contract production of a nationally distributed, canned Moscow Mule — so he shut down that taproom to bring in more equipment, etc. And now, apparently, Matt deemed it was time to hire a new full-time brewer. He decided to keep it in the neighborhood and bring on David Rosebeary from right down the street at Cantero Brewing Company.
So, I headed over to have a casual chat with Matt and David about this new partnership. I was curious who approached whom, and what prompted the move for David. As it happens, there was no big crisis or bad breakup. It was due to an organically evolving relationship, mixed with a bit of serendipity.
Broken Trail is a place that David said he liked to hang out in his limited free time. Anyone who knows Matt knows that if you hang out there, you feel like one of his best buddies. Matt just has that kind of personality. Also, David started developing more of an interest in the distilling side of the operation and how it ties in to the brewing aspects, particularly the possibilities with barrel aging.
David said he also has a family member who happens to have a separate working relationship with Matt. He is a driver who delivers to Broken Trail and could see the evolution and the increase in the production aspect, David said. He mentioned to David that it looked like Broken Trail was super busy and might need help. David told him that if Matt got in a bind, then Matt could reach out and ask David for help. The family member then talked to Matt, asking if he needed any help with brewing. At that time, Matt said he did not think he had the need to hire another full-time brewer. But, the seed was planted.
Some time later, Matt lost an assistant and realized he was having a very hard time both keeping up with the production side of his distilling operation and also brewing beer. He said the beer was really starting to suffer. The path Matt kept taking in the past was to bring in “understudies” and he would train them up. He would put a lot of effort into bringing on new employees and training them. Either they would learn and then want to move on, or things just don’t work out, and then he was back to square one.
Matt said he remembered hearing about David and decided to check out some of his beer. Matt said he felt it was a good match, so he asked David if he was still interested in working with him; maybe it was time for Matt to change his thinking and bring on someone with experience who could perhaps teach him some things. Matt said he plans on having David help with the fermentation side of distilling as well. David decided to take the opportunity to explore new challenges with a company he not only knew, but had liked for some time.
I asked David how the adjustment is going, but it had really only been a day or two, so it was a bit difficult for him to answer that question. He said he is excited to help Matt get the beer program back in shape, with both the core beers and hopefully more seasonals than Matt was able to produce. The Uptown taproom has 10 taps, so they can fit quite a bit of beer. One beer David said he is looking forward to brewing is an old ale recipe, and he is looking forward to putting some of it in barrels to age.
As for Cantero, fans of that brewery should not worry as David’s co-head brewer, George Gonzales, is still running the show over there. David told Stoutmeister in an earlier conversation that things will be just fine down the street.
Back at Broken Trail, Matt said he is hoping “down the line” (ha) to be able to finally can his own beer, since he has all the equipment and capability, just not the consistency and volume he wants. Plus, Matt said he wants each of his products to be respected independently, and not ride on the coattails of any of the other products.
I asked Matt if there were any plans to put in a pilot system for small batches, but he replied that they don’t have the room to spare. They do have some 4-barrel fermenters and can run half batches, and he said he thinks anything less than four barrels just isn’t worth it. I said you have to be pretty confident, though, because if the beer doesn’t work out, you really don’t want to get rid of four barrels if you can avoid it. This is when the mad scientist that is apt to show up in Matt spoke up and gave me the quote of the day. He said they have an advantage. They can distill any beer that they screw up, so in the best possible iteration of when life gives you lemons, Matt proclaimed, “There are no bad beers, just great whiskeys!”