The Aftermath of Mad Science with Eric Bachli
Eric Bachli talks to us about his brewing philosophies and practices, which have launched a new era of innovation and mad science at Sixpoint Brewery. With his brewing acumen, Bachli has helped Sixpoint become a powerhouse in pushing boundaries, while keeping quality of the liquid of the utmost importance.
You came to Sixpoint about 2 years ago now with the mission to take innovation, research & development, and mad science to another level. What was your vision for that when you first started? What did that mean to you?
My philosophy of brewing is that the liquid is the life-blood of the company - the heart and soul of every individual, every department is rooted and expressed in the beer that is brewed. It is the tie that binds all of us at a craft brewery and we are all beholden to the quality and integrity of every beer we make. When I joined Sixpoint this was the very ethos that Shane Welch, founder of Sixpoint and critical mentor in my brewing career, lived and brewed by. I was brought on the team with a like-minded vision, to take our beer to the next level and truly establish a robust innovation program that has come to life both in our small batch monthly releases and on a national scale. Every beer has a purpose. The grand goal for me is to create an experience, to facilitate contemplation and positive emotion when a consumer takes a sip. If this happens even for a split second then I’ve accomplished my goal as a brewer.
Do you think you’ve accomplished that vision in the past 2 years? Or has that vision completely morphed since then? What do you hope to accomplish in the next 2 years at Sixpoint?
The establishment of an innovation center for brewing as a counterpart to our larger scale production has been critical for the health of the company, the future of the brand and inspiring for all of our staff. Everyone at the brewery, no matter what department, is a brewer in their own way - they all contribute to the process of creating an experience for the consumer whether its through label design, compliance, pricing or the actual brewing itself. We’ve harnessed the collective insights from all of our staff to create 3 new beers every month! Our company takes a huge amount of pride in seeing our collective achievements released in NYC and beyond.
So our vision has remained steadfast, in promoting innovation through collective insights among the most passionate group of individuals. We are taking it to a whole new level with the buildout of a new brewery here in Brooklyn where we’ve customized every detail of the brewery to facilitate our innovation - giving us more flexibility and opportunity to push limits and boundaries.
The future is bright (and hazy!) for us - we will continue to push boundaries, develop new beers and brands, and stay in tune with our customer base and the evolution of craft beer. We exist because of our fans and craft beer culture, so it’s important that we never become complacent and continuously challenge ourselves to evolve with craft beer. That’s one of the most exciting things about craft beer - it’s always evolving and pushing boundaries. Sixpoint is and will continue to be a part of that.
It’s been very obvious that you’ve put your personal touch on things since coming to Sixpoint. A noticeable benchmark was the release of Meltdown, a creamy Double IPA with fantastically bright citrus and juicy tropical notes that played with Mandarina Bavaria hops. It was very different from what Sixpoint has done in the past, but has really shown what Sixpoint can do and how prepared they are to move with the market and create new things. Yet, regardless of style or how crazy the concept, your beers are always dialed in, intentional and elegant. What do you accredit that most to? How do you think your own personal brewing style and methods have developed and evolved through your career?
Thank you for the compliment! Meltdown is a company favorite and I have a feeling you may be seeing more of it in the future :) Every beer is dialed in due to our conceptual process - each beer starts as a vision. We imagine what the beer should look like, taste like and the overall experience. From there we put pen to paper to design the recipe, and after that its numerous trial batches and sensory to test whether or not we achieved what we set out to create. It’s really a fun process and sometimes we get it on the first batch and other times it can take numerous batches. It also ties back to our ethos of creating experiences and the passion we put into our beer. If you are lifeless or without true heart then how can you create a beer with integrity? Shane used to say that great beer wasn’t made in a boardroom, and I really believe that the emotion a brewer puts into their beer is reflected in the quality, integrity and customer experience. So the beer has to be dialed in to the vision, intentionally designed, and elegant in outcome - and I believe these attributes naturally happen if pursued with heart & soul by every individual on the team whether brewing, finance, sales, marketing or operations.
You’ve also created Sparkler, a very unique and fine-tuned Hazy IPA. While it’s a Hazy IPA, you’ve managed to keep the body dry and effervescent. How did you manage this and what inspired you to create a dry Hazy IPA?
Last year we were really interested in creating a New England IPA that could be refreshing and repeatable on the hottest of summer days. Typically I’ve worked towards creating more full bodied NEIPAs with slightly sweeter finishes, but those are typically not suitable for long sessions on the beach. For this beer we took the inverse approach - adjusting mash temperatures and utilizing enzymes to ensure a dry finish yet maintaining potent aromatics and flavor with a bountiful combination of Citra, Mosaic and Azacca hops. We loved the result and aesthetic of the beer, but the repeatability reigned supreme in our eyes - even with a higher ABV at 7%.
Sixpoint released the Jammer variety pack this summer, which plays on their original Jammer release from 2014. How did you and Sixpoint choose the variety flavors of Citrus, Berry, Ruby, and Tropical Jammers? What was it like formulating these different recipes?
Citrus Jammer was the second national beer I formulated for Sixpoint (the blending of 3 Beans being the first). It took 3 months of intensive formulation, analytical testing and repeated sensory trials to hone it in to our vision. I’m really proud of the result and it remains one of my favorite beers developed to date. It utilizes a complex approach of blending base beers, utilization of enzyme in the beer to dry out the finish and balance the sweetness of the added juices, and the harmony and intensity of several different juices added to the base beers. Blending multiple components can be a challenge and you’ve got to dial it in to create a refreshing and repeatable experience for the consumer. Similar to Citrus Jammer we looked at dozens of juices individually and many combinations of juices when developing the extended family of Jammers including Berry, Ruby, and Tropical Jammer. Designing these beers took nearly a year of trials - assessing different blends and ratios until we hit the vision for each concept. It was a glorious day the first Jammer Session Pack came off the lines and something we all reveled in!
Sixpoint’s summer series has new cans releasing at the brewery on Friday’s with Tavern29 putting those new beers on tap for every release. What do you enjoy most about the brewery releases? What do you enjoy most about the Tavern29 release parties?
I love the releases. It’s awesome to see the fruition of all of our piloting and brewing trials come to life in a final package. It’s part of the story for beers that later go on to national distribution including beers like Hootie, Sparkler, and Meltdown, all trialed in small batches out of brewery in Red Hook. The releases also showcase the integration of our app technology, a point of sale technology that we designed in house. At Sixpoint we strive to innovate at all levels, whether beer, point of sale, or experiential. I attend almost every release and love to talk to people that come by to pick up our beer and really dive in to their impressions of the new beers. It’s one of the ways I stay in tune with craft beer culture.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Sixpoint?
Culture rooted in our shared philosophy and perspective on beer and the passion and accountability we collectively have towards our brand. We don’t want to let our fans or our brand down, so everyone at the company is putting their best foot forward to ensure continued success. We also believe in the well being and happiness of every one of our employees -because of these values we maintain an open and honest environment. Everyone can express their feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes and we can move forward together… as colleagues and friends - at the end of the day, we are family.
Sixpoint Rooftop Releases at Tavern 29: