Brewer Bytes With Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
An Interview With Fal Allen, Brewmaster
Posted on 10/29/2013 by Chops
When the Anderson Valley Brewing Company opened its doors back in 1987 in Boonville, California, there were only 20 craft breweries in the United States. Yes, 20. These days it's not uncommon to find 20 craft breweries in a single town. My have things changed. Today, Anderson Valley is a well respected pillar of the craft beer community and they produce an array of award winning beers. Brewmaster Fal Allen, formerly the brewery's general manager, has been manning the tanks since 2010. BrewChief recently caught up with Fal, who happily offered up some Brewer Bytes.

What inspired you to get into brewing?

I was a home brewer and I loved to brew, and then one day it dawned on me - "hey, I could get paid for doing this". It turned out I could just barely get paid for working as a brewer. But over time the industry improved and so did the pay. Honestly I could not think of a better industry to be in. I love the people and I love what I am doing.

Do you have a fond memory about building your brewery?

The day we got the 100 barrel Huppman brew house operational was a good day (and a long one too).

Do you have a not-so-fond memory about building your brewery?

We won't talk about that...

How do you feel about your overall success today?

Great - I think that Anderson Valley Brewing makes great beers and we are well respected in the industry. Besides our core brands we have a robust barrel program and a pilot system where we make new beers at least every other month. We are having a good time too.

Where do you see your brewery in the future?

Right here in Boonville. We are going to keep growing but not at an insane pace. We just wanna concentrate on quality and innovation and keep making interesting beers with character and good drinkability.

What do you feel sets you apart from other brewers?

Our location - we are the only brewery in the world that's in Boonville, California. And Boonville is most definitely a unique place. We are a pretty remote place, we even have our own language here in the valley (really we do - its called Boontling) and we think about beer and brewing in a little bit of a different way.

What is your favorite beer or style to brew?

I love a nice light hoppy pale (or golden) ale. Maybe with a little secret spice added to subtly enhance the flavor.

What is the most challenging beer for you to brew?

I think that every beer has its own challenges but the trick it to make it interesting, and complex without going over the top. Making a beer that people will want to have a second (or third) pint of.

What was your worst brewing experience?

The day I removed a tri clamp on the wrong side of a valve - but even that was not so bad. What's that expression? The worst day fishing (or brewing) is better than the best day working.

What was your best or most rewarding brewing experience?

There have been a lot of rewarding experiences in the 25+ years I have been brewing - I have been a very lucky brewer.

What is something surprising you learned about brewing?

I learn new (and surprising) things every day in brewing. I learn how much I have yet to learn about running a brewery, or about how flavors interact or how yeast behaves. There is still a lot more to learn - it is one of the things that I love about brewing.

What are your favorite beers outside of your own?

I don't have favorites... but Duvel is pretty close, or some highly hopped well made pilsner... ummmm...

What breweries do you respect the most?

There are many - on many levels; I don't wanna list them. I might leave somebody out by accident.

What are your favorite beer styles?

Pale ale, Pilsner, brown ale, porter, Rauchbier, sour beer, barrel aged, pilsner (again, sure why not have another).

Where is your favorite place to enjoy a cold pint?

On the beach or If I can find a decent pint and a dark dive bar. Those are two of my favorites.

How do you feel about beer reviewing and its impact on the industry?

Meh... everyone's got an opinion.

How does it feel to have your beers reviewed on sites like BrewChief?

As a consumer I read reviews and hope that they give me some insight into a beer (or wine) before I buy it. As a brewer; when folks say nice things, then it feels good. For example our Heelch O' Hops recently got a great rating (and I enjoyed seeing that), but I know someone will try that beer and disagree with that review. You just can not please everyone all the time. I don't mind a bad review if it's well thought out, but a review that says something akin to "it sucks" is not helpful. A good review or a bad review, as a brewer you can't put too much stock in what people say about your beers. It's just an opinion.

What would you say to a beer snob who is hating on your brews?

That there is a beer for everyone, and if we all liked the same things, think how boring that would be.

What would you say to a beer novice who is trying your brews?

It's just beer, enjoy it. Drink what you like.

What advice would you give to a new home brewer?

Keep it clean and use good healthy yeast. All the rest is just the trim.

What advice would you give to a new craft beer fan?

Enjoy what you like, don't get caught up in what others like or don't like. Ignore the haters.

What is the best thing about being part of the beer industry?

The people, the great friends I have made over the last 25+ years. I love making beer but the people in this industry are really what makes it special.

If you could change one thing about the beer industry, what would it be?

I would like to see the demographic of craft beer drinkers more closely reflect the general demographic of the community. I would like to see craft beer reach out to a more diverse crowd.
More Info:  http://www.avbc.com

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Fal Allen, Brewmaster at Anderson Valley Brewing Co.
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