We had the opportunity to talk beer with Head Brewer Joe Laluk and assistant brewer Brad Young right before the Ludlam Island Brewery 1st Anniversary Celebration on June 29th. These two young brewers give you the feeling that they have worked together for years. Joe comes to Ludlam from River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ, after home brewing and a short stint at Nodding Head Brewery (A now closed brewpub) in Philly. Owner Bill Topley hired Joe in October 2015, and on his first paid week as a Ludlam Island Brewery employee, Bill took him to Europe. Joe is a big fan of kölsch beer and one of the stops was Cologne, Germany the birthplace of that style of beer. Stops were also made in Brussels and Amsterdam where they explored the beer styles of those areas and discussed what they would be brewing back home. Bill and Joe have hit if off and you can see it in the beer that they brew. Bill trusts Joe, and Joe treats the brewery as if it was his own, and the pride in his work is clear as soon as you spend a few minutes with him.
Brad is the first person that I met when visiting Ludlam a few months ago. Brad became the assistant brewer shortly after they opened, and the chemistry he and Joe have is really evident. Brad home brewed prior to coming to Ludlam, but this is his first commercial brewing experience. Brad has an energy about him that is infectious, he clearly loves what he is doing and it shows in his words and in his work.
What was the first beer you brewed and how was it?
Joe-A Cream Ale with my little brother. It was a Northern Brewer kit. We were looking for the easiest kit to start. I was around 18, my parents were cool with it. In the end, it was drinkable.
Brad-It was a Brown Ale, we didn’t really know what we were doing at the time. We put a bunch of brown sugar in it, which I now know just spikes your ABV, it really doesn’t add any flavor. We put some cinnamon sticks in it because we thought that would be cool. I think I was just freshly 21.
What is your favorite style to brew and why?
Joe-I think here our favorite style is Foundation (Pale Ale). It is a nice, middle of the road beer that we brew often so we can track consistency and trends in the brewhouse.
Brad-I love making IPA’s. I love our Lamplight and, Joe will tell you, every time we brew it I say “we can put some more hops in there” (we all chuckle at that)
Do you look at ratings on Untappd, Beer Advocate, or Rate Beer and, if you do, does it influence your recipes?
Joe-I do. I really wasn’t a big Untappd user, I really didn’t use it at the other places I brewed, but here I do. It has taken over Rate Beer and I do look at it, but I try not to let it influence me.
Brad-Yeah, I used Untappd a ton before I started working here in the industry for my check-ins. But, honestly, since I started working here I don’t really check in that much, I really don’t think about it, but I do check our beers in there and look at our ratings
How do you stay connected to the local area in relation to sourcing ingredients?
Joe-We actually went to Timberline Farms and helped them put up their hop trellises, and we also use some locally grown malted barley. We also used some locally grown blackberries last Summer for a Shandy. It was a great tasting beer, but we feel we didn’t use nearly enough blackberries to get it fruity enough
What is one tip you would give home brewers to make better beer?
Joe-Learn proper yeast pitching rates
Brad-Sanitizing properly. I had a bad beer one time, it was pretty gnarly, from a not properly sanitized fermenter.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone who wants to open a brewery?
Joe-Homebrewing experience definitely helps, but it is a big switch. When you get an entry level job in the commercial brewing industry you are not using your homebrew knowledge in the way that you would design a homebrew. You don’t have a say in recipes or anything, you are following a set of instructions from your boss. You need to work hard, clean well, and learn to follow instructions. You need to have a really good work ethic.
It there was a beer you could brew with no regards to cost, production, or sales what would it be?
Joe-I think Brad and I are on the same page with this, probably something with Galaxy Hops. I don’t have that much experience in using them, but they are a beautiful hop to use. It would be a big dirty IPA.
Brad– I would jump on that, but I would love to just get a ton of barrels and do barrel-aged grieses and stouts.
Looking back to your opening day forward, what was the one thing that happened that surprised you the most?
Joe-I am really surprised on how much the (Harry’s) Coffee Pale Ale has taken off. It was Bill’s (Owner Bill Topley) idea actually. The Foundation Rye Pale Ale is an old homebrew recipe I had. I brewed it for him once and he thought it would go good with coffee. So I had some ratios to work with from a previous job and it took me three tries until I got exactly what we are using now for this beer. I am really surprised, it is like our number 2 seller now.
Other than your beer, what is your go to after a long day at the brewery?
Joe-We love Trillium! We have been pretty lucky we have had a bunch of Trillium Hook-ups.
Brad-The new Bolero Snort releases usually make their way to our fridge downstairs too.
Where do you see the brewery in the future?
Joe-I would like to have a 15 BBL brewhouse and crank out some beer, a new building with city water and sewer would let us work faster. But we do love where we are now.
Brad-I am just going to keep hanging out with Joe.
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