When Weyerbacher’s longtime Brewmaster bowed out, Chief Operating Office Josh Lampe looked to his talented bench for a successor.
American craft breweries are innovative almost by definition. It’s how they remain relevant. But Lampe knows that great American craft breweries find a way to be innovative, without losing their souls. “We’ve got a lot of talent on our bench,” Lampe explains. “And they get what Weyerbacher is all about. It made sense to look in-house first to find our next head brewer. Matt Snyder started with us as an apprentice. But even in that role, he’s come up with some remarkable beers.”
So, who is Matt Snyder and what does he have in mind for this local brewery in Easton, PA? Draught Lines met with Matt and Josh at Weyerbacher’s taproom to get a taste of things to come.
Draught Lines (D.L.) Matt, congrats on your new position! Can you tell us a bit about your journey in beer and what led you to take the reins at Weyerbacher?
Matt Snyder (M.S.) I went to school for brewing at the American Brewers Guild. The program ends with an apprenticeship, where you’re partnered with a brewery to work and learn. The Brewers Guild happened to partner me with Weyerbacher, which was perfect. I had been living in the Lehigh Valley area for a while, so I was already drinking their beer. It felt like a great fit. A few months later, when my apprenticeship was over, Josh took me on and offered me a position in the packaging line. From there, I moved on to the cellar and a few months later, I was brewing – that was about five years ago. I’ve been working my way up since.
When I’m not brewing, I’m usually thinking about brewing. Or, I’m camping, hiking or kicking back and listening to some metal.
D.L. Now that you’re head brewer, how much of your brewing style comes from things you’ve learned at Weyerbacher and how much is totally your own spin on things?
M.S. It’s definitely a mix of both. There are always changing trends in beer. So, I’ve done my best to balance trying new things, while remaining true to what Weyerbacher is known for.
Josh Lampe (J.L.) One of the things Weyerbacher has always focused on is innovation. And Matt has been instrumental in the new things we’ve done these last few years. He really showed that he could come up with some pretty astounding stuff. This year’s 23rd Anniversary ale was a golden stout that was pretty much all him. It’s an incredibly unique take on a stout – it’s clear, you can see right through it. But if you close your eyes and take a sip, it tastes like a stout, and has the mouth feel of a stout. It’s an awesome beer, with an ABV of 11%. He’s continuing the Weyerbacher tradition of making big beers, but in a totally new way.
M.S. We always want to be a leader. It’s important for us to try new things. As a brewer, when it comes to beer crazes and trends, I’m game to try them. I want to know how to make good representations of all styles, so I’m always going to give it a shot. Hazy beers, bruts, there’s always a craze going on. You want to give people what they want, but it’s also about having a diverse portfolio of beers available at any given time. For us, it’s not just about big beers anymore. You’re always going to see a range of styles in our taproom.
J.L. It used to be that we didn’t brew anything that was under 6%. That changed with Tart Nouveau a few years back, which Matt had a hand in. Now, we always have at least one beer that’s sessionable. We want something that our employees can enjoy at the bar at the end of the day. And I can’t always crush a TINY [11.8% ABV] at 5 o’clock.
D.L. Matt, how do you approach a new style?
M.S. I do a lot of research. I reach out to friends in the industry who I admire and ask how they did it, and what they’d do differently. It’s never blind. I always gather resources to give the beer the best chance possible by putting in the time before we actually get to brewing. I always start out simple. I don’t just throw the kitchen sink at something. I need to find out what the base level is first. For me, brewing is all about layers, and you need to know what each layer tastes like individually.
D.L. Last year, Weyerbacher caught lightning in a bottle with Dallas Sucks, and this year it made its triumphant return at the start of football season. Is this year’s beer the same as last year?
M.S. The recipe has been tweaked a bit, but really it’s the same beer – an easy drinking pale ale clocking in at 4.5% ABV.
J.L. The response last year was awesome. We got national attention for it. We consider ourselves a Philly brewery, and to have people recognize us as a part of that was really nice. It was also a good year to offer it. Not saying it was the beer that won the Super Bowl for us, but…
M.S. It was hilarious to see the response. It was way bigger than we thought it would be. You could see people come together and get behind how much Dallas sucks.
J.L. We had Dallas fans come through the brewery, and they got it too. It was all in good fun.
D.L. Dallas Sucks was a collaboration with Jose Pistola’s. Are collaborations something you’re looking to do more of?
J.L. Collaborations are a great way for us to keep growing as brewers, but we’re also here to have fun. Bottom line, we love making beer. For Dallas Sucks for instance, I really love football, so doing a football-themed beer made sense. Matt loves metal, so he’s teamed up with a couple of metal bands for collaborations.
M.S. Dying Fetus and Black Dahlia Murder.
J.L. Finding people to collaborate with is what excites us.
M.S. At the end of the day, it’s still about making great beer. It doesn’t mean that metal beers are for metal-heads or sports beers are for sports fanatics. It all comes down to having fun and making good beer.
D.L. What’s in store for the colder months ahead?
J.L. Monks in the Trunk, a variety pack including Funky Monks, Berry Monks and Merry Monks, as well as Quad will be available in November. And, new this year, we’re releasing SimCloud, a hazy rendition of Double Simcoe, in December. In January, we’re bringing back Infinite Eclipse, which is a blackened stout with an intense amount of roast and a semi-sweet finish. We brew it in collaboration with Decibel Magazine for the Metal & Beer Fest. That’s going to be available in 16 oz. cans. Sunday Morning Stout and Sunday Molé Stout will also be back in 2019.