Interview – Jesse Ross, Lake Tribe Brewing @laketribebrew

As an FSU grad, it makes me happy to no end to see how well craft beer is going in Tallahassee. Of those, I’ve been quite fortunate to try several beers from Lake Tribe Brewing, a Tally brewhouse that recently celebrated their first anniversary. 

As a natural extension, I interviewed their brewmaster Jesse Ross about Leon County, barrels, and the YMCA. 

When did you first discover craft beer? What was the beer that really opened your eyes to brewing?

I started trying craft beer right after I turned 21 (2005). Beer has always been our family’s beverage of choice, so there were usually some craft beers around to try. Before I had tuned and developed my beer palate, I would read about the flavors and aromas that different beers were supposed to have, but I mostly just picked up on the bitterness. It wasn’t until I tried a Sweetwater IPA (at the brewery) that I started to pickup on the awesome grapefruit flavor that the hops give that beer. It was like a switch was flipped, and I could detect all the complexities of different beers from then on.

When did you start brewing?

I first started brewing in 2012. I would just read and read (books, blogs, message boards) about the whole process, so I understood everything that was going on. Instead of starting off with the typical extract kit, I dove in and made an all-grain batch from a recipe I formulated myself. The lady at the homebrew shop thought I was crazy, so I was even more determined to make it a success.

What would you say is your signature beer, and how did it come about?

Our signature beer is probably our Red Cloud IPA, which happens to be that very first beer I brewed. I love IPAs and wanted to experiment with all of the flavors different hops impart. My brother and I named it after our Dad’s YMCA Indian Guides name, partially because we wanted to convince him to help us start a brewery. It worked.

How did you come about finding your brewing space?

We started out by narrowing our search down to the areas of town that are zoned appropriately. After that we had to make sure that the utilities were available (3-phase power and natural gas). We knew we wanted an industrial/warehouse type area, where rent would be reasonable, and many of the craft breweries we visited were in similar locations.

How do you get inspiration in developing recipes and names for your beers?

The seasons dictate a lot of the base beer styles that we brew; dark and roasty when it’s cold, bright and crisp when it’s warm. Jason (brother, co-owner), often times has wild ideas for the beer and I reign them in a little and make it happen. Most of the beer names have some tie to the outdoors, those that don’t still have a personal tie to friends and family that inspired the beer.

What was the inspiration behind the name of your brewery?

When my brothers and sisters were young, my dad put us in YMCA Indian Guides and Princesses (similar to Boy Scouts). The tribe we were in was called Lake Tribe. That group of guys ended up forming a very close friendship that continues to this day. We regularly go camping, hiking, canoeing, backpacking, so it just felt like the perfect name. Many of those guys help out at the brewery.

There are a lot of people getting interested in joining the craft beer industry. Do you have any advice for this people?

Do your research. Know that everything moves incredibly slowly, so be prepared for that. There are tons of obstacles; some seen, some unseen.

Do you see an end to the recent Florida craft beer boom?

The growth will no doubt slow down, but that doesn’t mean that new breweries will stop popping up. I think the size of breweries will start to come down some. The industry will probably start becoming much more regional, so there will be less craft breweries distributing across the country. I think that’s a good thing. Like a good local restaurant, breweries that only serve a region makes them feel more special.

Lake Tribe has already gotten a relatively good barrel program started. How difficult is it for new breweries to get barrels to age? How essential do you think it is?

We haven’t had too much trouble finding barrels. It’s mostly just a matter of how much you are willing to spend. Of course, we haven’t tried to get anything too exotic or in high demand.

Gainesville gets a lot of attention from the Florida Craft Beer community. How big is craft beer in Tallahassee, and what do you think the future of craft beer looks like in Leon County?

Craft beer has definitely grown in Tallahassee since I was younger, even in the last few years you can see growth. However, there is still plenty of room for more enlightenment in Tallahassee. As more and more people are exposed to craft beer, there’s no doubt that Tallahassee will start getting some attention on its own.

What’s next for Lake Tribe Brewing?

Right now we’re trying to really become synonymous with Tallahassee beer, so we’re trying to get in most restaurants and bars in the region. After that, we’d like start canning in the next year or two. We’ll always be coming out with seasonal beers, and some experimental small batch beers that you can only get in the brewery.

Drink Florida Craft, 

Dave

@floridabeerblog

floridabeerblog@gmail.com

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