That Brew You Do: Blue Oak Brewing's Rye Vienna Lager
Blue Oak Brewing is micro-brewing at its peak: the entire operation is located in 400 square-feet of space in San Carlos. Owner, brewer, and barkeep Alex Porter leverages his two-decades of experience as a chemical engineer for Bay Area biotech firms to facilitate fermentation with a scientist’s precision, while maintaining the innovation and ingenuity of an artisan.
Porter’s mantra is simple: make good beer. Most recipes are one-off experiments that Porter tweaks, refines, and re-brews based on a combination of how he likes it, and customer feedback. The Blue Oak model of democratic fermentation has resulted in a taproom that leans heavily on well-executed classics. There’s always some incarnation of an IPA on hand, typically accompanied by a coterie of Belgians, stouts, and even some sours. Their Rye Vienna Lager provides a great introduction to Porter’s methods.
What was your inspiration for the Rye Vienna Lager?
That started off as a one-off recipe, but I’m making it again because it was just so good. When we had it on tap, it was screaming off the line, everyone was drinking it so fast.
For me, brewing isn’t really about any one style, it’s about constantly refining our methods, on everything we make, to a threshold where people think that our beer is just killer. That’s the best feeling, seeing people in our tap room having a good time.
How do you decide what to brew next?
I really enjoy the creative process, but, as time goes by, I get critical of everything I make because all I see are the ways that something could be better. I’ll try one of my beers and be like, “It needs this, it needs that.” It’s all just experimentation, and finding out what works and doesn’t work. You know, I like when a beer turns out great.
What drives you as a brewer?
Getting great feedback from our fans, like, “Hey, you did a good job, man.” I also really value when they’re honest about what they don’t like. If it sucks, tell me it sucks, because then the next batch can be that much better. There’s all kinds of cool, creative takes that a brewer can use in approaching any particular style, but for me, it’s all about whether people are enjoying my beer with the ultimate compliment being that they want it again. — By Clayton Schuster