So what, then, will be the end result of this perfect-world brewery buildout? Once we descended from the mezzanine to the ground floor, Engert began describing a wildly ambitious beer program: 15 drafts and five cask ales at all times, plus five drafts from other breweries, along with an assortment of house beers in 375- and 750-milliliter bottles and even magnums and Jeroboams. He wants to implement the same sort of constant rotation that is a hallmark of Birch & Barley/ChurchKey and other NRG restaurants.
Bluejacket’s beers will fall into six as-yet-unnamed categories, Engert said: “These six families in beer are what I think of when I think about what I want to drink.” The first category will be “restrained, full-flavored, long-conditioned beers” such as Pilseners and American pale ales, the low-alcohol beneficiaries of Engert’s never-rush mantra. The second group will be sour beers, sometimes brewed in the coolship and sometimes containing yeast and bacteria cultured in Bluejacket’s lab.
The third category will reflect another beer-geek trend: resurrections of historic beer styles and forgotten recipes. The fourth will be Belgian-influenced farmhouse ales, “some of the beers we love the most,” Engert says. “Culinary” beers inspired by specific spices and ingredients will round out the lineup, along with a category devoted to bold, high-alcohol beers such as barleywines and imperial stouts.
The strategy undoubtedly will be difficult (some might say impossible) to execute, particularly given that Babin and Engert intend to not only sell beer on-site but distribute it locally and perhaps even nationally. But at the end of my visit, Engert seemed self-assured and relaxed, lighting a cigarette as we stood on the ground floor with Parisi, beneath the factory building’s atrium and upper levels. Nearby, a small phalanx of steel tanks was waiting to be installed.
Engert said: “If anybody ever says to me, ‘What’s craft beer to you?’ I say, ‘It’s a beverage you can taste where flavor is the top priority, without sacrificing for efficiency.’ That’s why we built this brewery the way we did.”
Fromson is a writer living in Washington. Follow him on Twitter: @dfroms.