Q&A With Kyle Hurst Of Big Alice Brewing
Kyle Hurst, the Co-Founder and Brewer of Big Alice Brewing originated from Wisconsin and began drinking beer at the young age of….let's say 21! A sip of a friend's homebrew and a subsequent homebrew kit for father's day began a trajectory that resulted in the increasingly unique Big Alice Brewery. He is but one of the many players that contributes to the success of the brewery. A full listing of the team members and their own completely legitimate histories with beer can be found by clicking the words that you've been reading. While we certainly appreciate the whole team, Hurst was the one who answered our email and thus our questions. Ready to learn about his favorite beer styles and his thoughts on beer culture and his neighbouring breweries? Read on starting now.
EDG: Big Alice is known for making unique beers. I would say you are similar to Dogfish Head in that regard. How do you respond to this comparison and was it always your intention to make unique beers?
Hurst:. I'm flattered by the comparison to Dogfish Head. Thank you. Interestingly, we actually started on the same system as Dogfish Head, a 1/2bbl brewhouse produced by SABCO, but I think that may be where the comparison ends. From the very beginning it has always been our intention to make unique beers. The original plan was to make a bunch of experimental beers for ourselves and sell just enough to the public to cover our expenses. We wanted others to fund our homebrewing addiction.
EDG: While you guys brew unique beers, you are still a small scale brewery. Does the limited space limit creativity?
Hurst: Quite the opposite. The limited space and small scale operation, although now bigger (5bbl system), actually allows for increased creativity. If something strikes us as worth trying the probability of any ingredient being cost-prohibitive is greatly reduced
EDG: With craft beer becoming more popular there has been a rise in beer culture. Some passionate fans are thus labeled "beer snobs". What are your thoughts on current beer culture, the fans and the potential of the craft beer bubble to eventually pop?
Hurst: I don't like the term beer "snob" leave that for the wine drinkers. I prefer beer "nerd" or beer "geek." As for any talk of a bubble, I'm not buying it. Craft beer has taken hold in a way it never did prior. You only need to look at the spike in craft beer bars in the city. A few years ago, it was possible to count all the craft beer bars in NYC on one hand, maybe two. Now, you have that many in just about any neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens with more opening all the time.
EDG: What is your relationship with the other breweries in NYC, especially those located in Queens?
Hurst: The brewing community in NYC is awesome. Great people across the board. It is not uncommon to see people from one brewery in another brewery at any given time. The camaraderie is part of what makes craft beer so cool. In Long Island City, we actually cross-promote all of our breweries to all of our customers. We've printed postcards with a map of LIC breweries (Big Alice, Rockaway, Transmitter, and LIC Beer Project) on one side and contact info for all of us on the other. You find them in all of our taprooms. [Note: Big Alice even includes guest beers on their tap and recently included beer from Gun Hill Brewing which saved me a trip to the Bronx]
EDG:Can you describe your brewing process? What goes on during the R&D stage?
Hurst: Interesting question. If we have an R&D stage I guess it would involve a lot drinking and eating since that where most inspiration comes.
EDG: In hindsight, what would you have done differently regarding the formation of the brewery?
Hurst: I think if I could go back I get bigger space from the very start. I feel like we are constantly trying to find ways to increase production and our footprint prohibits adding additional fermentation tanks. It would also be nice to have a larger taproom
EDG:What's your favorite type of beer?
Hurst: My favorite type of beer is...free. Part of the reason we are always making different beers is because I'm always drinking different beers. That being said, I do have seasonal tendencies. I like witbiers and sours in the summer and imperial stouts and barleywines in the winter.
EDG: What advice can you offer to home brewers?
Hurst: My advice to homebrewers is to brew with confidence. I often hear, homebrewers say they'd be afraid to try some style or technique and I say what do you have to lose. If a beer doesn't turn out do one of two things; drink it anyway or cook with it.
EDG: Congratulations of your 2015 Ruppert’s Cup at New York City Beer Week and good luck in the upcoming 2016 event. How has this victory affected business?
Hurst: Thank you! We are thrilled and humbled to be the 2015 Ruppert's Cup winners. Part of what makes it so humbling is that it is a people's choice award. Our customers put down $5 per vote for us and, more importantly, to help feed NYC's hungry. The cup is displayed proudly in our taproom and is often a topic of conversation [note: Sadly they were unable to secure the cup for 2016. Luckily it remains in Queens at Transmitter Brewing which is also in LIC]
EDG: Rockaway Brewing Company had a successful Kickstarter which resulted in a small canning operation. Some stores now carry their cans. Would you consider taking a similar route or do you plan to remain mostly draft only?
Hurst: We are currently exploring the possibility of canning. It opens a number of possible avenues for getting our beer to more people.
EDG: If money and space weren’t an issue, what beer would you make?
Hurst: I would open a separate brewhouse dedicated solely to brett-fermented sours.
EDG: What has been the most unusual ingredient that you have brewed with?
Hurst: That question takes me back to our first brew day a little over 3 years ago. I would have to say the most unusual ingredient is a citron fruit called Buddha's Hand. We found the Buddha's Hand at a food co-op in Brooklyn and we're intrigued by the sheer sight of it
EDG: How was the ingredient incorporated? Would you likely use this ingredient again?
Hurst: We used it to make a Belgian IPA and if I recall we added it during fermentation. The finished beer was super complex and heavy on the citrus notes. No plans to brew with it again but I try not to speak in absolutes so anything is possible.
EDG: You have been noticeably absent from recent beer events such as the NYC Craft Beer Festival, The Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival and The Bacon Beer Classic. Is there a reason for this?
Hurst: Due to our limited production we have to limit the number of events we attend. You will find us at all NYC Brewers Guild events throughout the year and a handful of other select events. Additionally, we host a number of events in our taproom. The best way to know where we'll be and what's going on is to follow us on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, or on our website
- Two new, empty half-growler bottles (each bottle holds 32 ounces)
- Two half-growler fills each month for 6 months; choose from any beer on tap
- A Big Alice Brewing tote bag
- 10% off merchandise
- First opportunity to purchase special bottle releases