Wherever I may foam

Wherever I may foam

The Miami Valley gains a gypsy brewery

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: Nowhere In Particular, Dayton’s gypsy brewery, hits the streets Dayton Beer Week

Two years ago, the Miami Valley was without a brewery. Today, nearly a dozen have popped up, ranging in size from tiny brewpubs to full-scale distribution breweries. Later this month, add one more to the mix: a gypsy brewery appropriately dubbed Nowhere In Particular.

What is gypsy brewing? The term “gypsy brewer” is a relatively new one. Most breweries make a product only after securing a location and investing in equipment. Gypsy brewers skip these steps and go straight to making beer. To do so, gypsy brewers pair with host breweries. The host breweries are established facilities that are not always operating at capacity and often have times between brewing cycles when the mash tuns and fermenters sit empty. The gypsy brewer leverages the unused capacity, brewing at the host location during off-hours or between cycles. 

Nowhere in Particular finds itself on a short list of gypsy brewers. Most people would be lucky to name one or two, and even tried-and-true beer geeks struggle to list more than four or five. Mikkeller, Evil Twin and Stillwater Artisanal Ales are relatively well-known gypsies that distribute to the Miami Valley. Pretty Things is another sought-after brand that limits its distribution to New England. 

Although gypsy brewers borrow equipment, they do the work themselves. Unlike contract brewers, who pay another brewery to create, package and distribute their beer, gypsy brewers are the ones grinding the grains and monitoring hop schedules on brewday. Pretty Things explained on their website: “Just as tenant farmers rent land and farm it themselves, we rent a brewery, formulate and brew our beers ourselves. So: we are tenant brewers. This is different to contract brewing, where a head brewer from the host brewery brews and/or formulates the beer for someone else. The important thing about tenant brewing is we supply all the brewday labor, without help from other professional brewers. This makes us different from just about everyone else you’ll meet.”

This style of brewing is for those who already know how to brew and who know the industry, but don’t want to, or cannot, make the investment in capital and shudder at the idea of being tied to a single location. Success comes through flexibility and adaptability, with the ability to create and foster relationships across the brewing industry. 

It’s this promise of flexibility that tends to draw brewers into the gypsy model. Rather than create a single style over and over, gypsy brewers tend to push creatively, often brewing whatever intrigues them at the time. In an article in The Atlantic Monthly, Martha Paquette of Pretty Things explained the draw: “We’re able to be crazy creative. We brew for our own entertainment.” A look at their catalog confirms this. Pretty Things has resurrected historic styles from as far back as the 1830s. 

Gypsy brewing also lends itself to collaborations. Sometimes the gypsy and host breweries extend their partnership, with brewers collaborating on recipes and building the beers together. Mikkeller incorporates collaboration into its vision, noting on its website a drive to “cooperate with other breweries around the world, who inspire us and teach us new ways of doing things.” Mikkeller had made good on that promise, creating highly sought-after collaborations with some of the top brewers in the U.S. and abroad, including Three Floyds (Indiana), de Struise (Belgium), Hill Farmstead (Vermont) and Anchorage Brewing (Alaska). 

True to its gypsy nature, details about Nowhere in Particular are shrouded in mystery. The brewer is undisclosed, wishing to be thought of as no one in particular. This may be a case of misplaced modesty, as this brewer has a long history in the industry, brewing in Colorado (where he won four medals at the Great American Beer Festival), Canada and New England before moving to the Miami Valley. 

By day, he brews for a Miami Valley microbrewery. But his weekends are brewdays in places like Cincinnati, Indiana and Michigan, where he creates boundary-pushing beers. “I can brew whatever I want and it’s always going to be different,” Nowhere’s brewer teased when asked about his beer. “The first few beers will be recognized styles, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess what the beers will be.”

Given he already has a day job in the industry and a solid relationship with his current employer (who, Nowhere’s brewer notes, has been very supportive of the new initiative), what is the appeal of gypsy brewing? 

“Going in and working on this will give me more insight on other people’s equipment,” he said. “I love the idea of working with various brewers. But more importantly, it lets me travel. I’ve always been a nomad; this is an expression of who I am.”

Nowhere in Particular releases its first beer, a double IPA dubbed Wanderlust, during Dayton Beer Week. The inaugural beer was crafted at Rivertown’s brewery in Cincinnati and will be distributed via Premium Beverage Supply. Premium is keeping the release location under wraps, but has hinted it will debut at one of Dayton’s leading craft bars. Look for details on Premium’s website and social media as Dayton Beer Week approaches. 

Kevin J. Gray is Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geek. A firm believer in all things balance, when Kevin isn’t drinking craft beer, he’s hiking or biking to keep his beer belly in optimal shape. Reach Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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One Response to “Wherever I may foam” Subscribe

  1. Bob August 6, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Mikkeller and evil twin do not do the brewing. They are the go-to gypsy brewers, but by your definition would be “contract brewers.”

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