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Beermeister juggles Sex and Bikers

J.K. Perry
AE Brewmaster PU 2-19
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EDWARDS – Talk about beer, and Jeremy Pluck’s eyes shine like the silver fermentation tanks he lovingly tends to. Along the way, Pluck might stop for a taste of his Great Sex Honey Ale or King Schwing Pilsner – to make sure everything is just right.”Sometimes I quench my thirst with the fruits of my labor,” Pluck said. “You know, quality control.”The frothy suds everyone’s downing at Gore Range Brewery come straight from Brewmaster Pluck’s head, heart and hands. Since 1998 Pluck has been formulating concoctions such as King Schwing, Biker Stout and five other brews.But how do you get into brewing for a living?”I get asked that question a lot,” Pluck said.First of all, brewmasters need an education. After earning a degree in the at-the-time dwindling aerospace engineering field, Pluck took his home brews to another level by enrolling in a brewing program at the University of California at Davis, which he learned about in “brewspapers,” or trade magazines.Microbreweries exploded onto the scene in the late ’90s, and Pluck found brew work at a California brewery following graduation. After two years in California, Pluck landed the Gore Range gig in 1998.

“I do have one of the best jobs in the world,” Pluck said. “A lot of people covet my job.”At the time, the brewery was just a hole in the ground. Pluck helped install the fermentation tanks and myriad assorted equipment.”For a month I was basically a construction worker,” he said.Yeast makes beerThe process of making beer is somewhat complex, but a short explanation follows. Malted barley from a tank outside the brewery is transported via augers into a mill which grinds the barley.Barley, one of four main ingredients in beer, forms the majority of beer recipes. Some barleys are roasted for ales or stouts, others are light for pilasters. The ground barley is combined with water from 150 to 160 degrees – more heat, more robustness – in a large tank, where it sits for about 30 minutes. This is the mash.Pluck equates this step to brewing coffee. “Just like coffee, you can get a stronger beer by throwing more stuff in the tank,” Pluck.

Starches break down into sugars, and all the “good stuff,” or wort, is extracted from the tank and put into a kettle where hops are added for bitterness and flavor, Pluck said. The mixture is boiled for 75 minutes to render it sterile.The wort travels through a heat exchanger where it is cooled. The cooled mixture then goes to one of four fermentation tanks where yeast brings the beer to its final stage after three weeks.”I don’t make beer – yeast does,” Pluck said. “I help to help the yeast make beer.”After fermentation, the beer is cooled to around freezing, filtered, and stored in tanks before the frosty final product reaches anyone’s lips.Seasonal brewsPluck’s schedule depends on where the beer is at in the fermenting process and how many suds are swilled by the patronage.

“Sometimes it’s 15 days in a row before I get a break,” Pluck said. “Sometimes its a regular nine-to-five gig.”Pluck formulated his brews in the first two years at Gore Range, tweaking the recipe as needed. “Once the flavor is dialed in to where you want it, then you keep it that way,” he said.Pluck hopes to get another fermentation tank to lighten the brew load and perhaps get the chance to experiment with a seasonal brew, a difficult task now with the available equipment.”With six beers in four fermenters, it’s a juggling act,” he said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or jkperry@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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