Broad Ripple Brew Pub
Interview with a Brewmaster

Interview with a Head Brewer – Step by Step

Our return to interviews. Our first interview in a while has us posing questions to someone we can safely say has taken his career in brewing step by step. Incrementally making his way in the brewing industry and at this point achieving the goal of most homebrewers, to be brewing professionally. Come read along of the journey that the latest brewer to sit in the Comfy Computer Chair of Fame took to his current position and please welcome the Head Brewer for Broad Ripple Brewpub, Jonathon Mullen.

Name(s):  Jonathon Mullens

Brewery Name:  Broad Ripple Brewpub

How long have you beer head brewer/brewmaster there?
I have been the only brewer here 5 years come November.

Any type of formal training in brewing science or art? If not, how did you learn the craft?
No true
formal training hence the reason I did not list myself as a brewmaster in the previous question. I honed my skills as a brewer starting as a home brewer. During that time I became BJCP certified which helped me better understand my mistakes. Counting my homebrewing years, I have been brewing for over 12 years now.

If you will, a brief history of your brewing experience (where have you brewed)?
I started at a
brewery called Union Brewing Company when they first opened their doors in 2013 helping with brewing and cellaring part
time while still sitting at a desk during the day. In 2014, I started at a
brewery called Flat 12 starting with packaging and cleaning kegs.
Spending a short time of
about 5 months there as I was beginning training for the brew deck, I landed the job here at Broad Ripple Brew Pub as the brewer where I do everything from brewing, cleaning, cellaring, selling and deliveries among other odds and ends.

How large is the brewery (# of barrels annually)?
The brewery is a 7 bbl system and we rock
about 500 bbls a year.

Is it automated or is there a lot of exercise involved in your brewery’s operation?
What’s this
automation you speak of? Kidding… It’s pretty manual process that needs a lot of attention from start to finish during the lifespan of the brews. So to answer the question, a lot of exercise is involved and like almost every brewery out there it can be like working in a sauna.

Have you ever had a bad batch? If so, how long did it take you to figure out what caused it?
Yes and I am not afraid to dump them. This has happened for a couple of different reasons but anywhere from the moment it is noticed to
a few months to sort out the problem and try and get
it fixed. I do the best I can without having a full fledged lab in house and the BJCP
training has
come in handy for sure with some of the issues.

Is there more pressure put upon you as head brewer in a smallish brewery to try and matchother small breweries in

We have been around for almost 29 (we opened up in
November of 1990) years so we are hoping we put some pressure on others. For the
most part,
we stick to what got us here and what has kept our doors open for so long. Don’t get me wrong, we still experiment and have fun
from time to time but the ESB will always be on the beer

Can you give a hint if anything might be coming from your brewery (new brew, special brew,etc.)?
We just launched a Hard Seltzer brand called Fizzy Lifting Drink where we will play
around with the unusual side of fruits and herbs and
gives us a gluten free option as well.

Please describe the weirdest ingredient you have ever put in beer.
As a homebrewer, I once
used sheep liver in the strike water to make a Haguas themed beer. Yes, it actually tasted okay in the end. As a
professional, I have used Pine Cones in a gruit which I try to make every year if
tank space is sufficient.

Do you or your brewery attend the large beer gatherings (i.e. Great American Beer Festival, Zythos, etc.)?
The biggest event we attend is Great Taste of Midwest on almost a yearly basis.
We have been to GABF but that was before my time and
back in the earlier days of craft beer.

brbpesbAny awards, either for you or your brewery?
We have won awards for GABF, World Beer Cup
and Indiana Brewers Cup for various brews we make here. We only hang one above our bar that’s for the ESB that we won at GABF back in 1991.

Most every workplace has some type of tradition. Does your brewery have some type of tradition on brew day or at another time? For example, using a special tool that has been around for a very long time, play specific music while brewing, etc.
Well, I usually play music
through out the brewday. Varies depending on my mood what I listen too. We do have a wall of broken things that is like a graveyard of what brewers have taken out usually by dropping on the floor.

++++ Misc ++++

Have you traveled outside of America to experience another beer culture, in say, Belgium or
Germany or the UK? If so, what was your impression.
I have not been to any country yet that is
known for its beer. I have plans to some day in the next couple years if all goes well. However, the owner of our brewery is from Yorkshire in England so he is usually the first to let me know something is a bit off, especially when it comes to the ESB.

If you had to pick a favorite beer from the brewery and offer it to a stranger, which one would it be and why?
Hands down our ESB. I normally explain to them that Bitter is how it was ordered
in England, “I’ll take a bitter” and this is the pint you would be given. It’s not to malty and not to hoppy and it is a perfect beer to start with as you can go even maltier or hoppier from there.

If you could sit down with anyone (living or dead) and have a beer, who would it be and why? What would be the first
question you would ask them?

Just one? Damn that’s a bit too much of
a challenge for me because I have often thought of a top 5 but since I only get one I would have to say
Abraham Lincoln. The first question I would have to ask is where is a good place to grab
a pint around here? That would be assuming that I
would have gone back in time to have a beer
with him.

If you were omnipotent, what would you change (first) to improve our beer universe?
would be the top selling style of beers but for now I will continue to convince people one pint at a time. Oh and lagers, there would be
more lagers.

Any advice for those aspiring (kitchen/homebrew) future pro brewers out there?
Don’t, just
don’t. Kidding… Never stop learning and study off flavors. Make changes to the process at one step at a time not all at once.
And please, don’t just jump into a 20 bbl system thinking it is going
to be the same as a 10 gallon batch. And clean, clean, clean! Oh, and you
better get used to
people besides your friends and family judging your brews.

***Personal (but not too personal)***

Favorite beer and food pairing?
ESB and Pizza. But also a well made lager and sushi go a mile
with me as well.

In the kitchen I make a mean?
German Potato Salad with homemade malt vinegar.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
Usually just relax and spend time
with my family and friends. Seems lame but really it’s about all I want to do.jonathan mullen

Are you married? Any children?
Married with 1 kid who are the loves of my life.

Describe your perfect beer day (outside the brewery). For example, a day with family or friends
at the brewery, a picnic with family or just a
quiet day at home (sipping your brewery’s beers).

Beer is best when around people. Bottles shares are fun and a great way to try things that have aged or that you haven’t tried but nothing
beats sitting around a fire and conversing over brews
with your good friends.

Any final thoughts?
Well first off, thanks for the interview. If anyone reading this is ever in the
Indianapolis area, come and check use out. We try and have
something for everyone beer wise.
Our food menu has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on it as well. We have a great patio space for
dogs and humans and we are kid friendly. The bartender has a set of darts for the dart
room as well. Of course, walk around the place to get
the feeling you are in an English pub in
the countryside. Cheers!