Originally appeared here
By FPAC | 28 April 2012
Finally all of our artist prayers have been answered! BEER is coming to town. FPAC caught up with the folks (Jean-Claude & Esther Tetreault) from new Fort Point brewery, Trillium. Jean-Claude shares the secrets of his craft below and why Fort Point will be Trillium’s new home.
FPAC: How did you decide on the name Trillium?
JC: I’m a bit of a botany nerd, in addition to being a beer geek, so I’ve actually loved the trillium flower for quite some time. The flower, an American woodland wildflower, symbolizes what we are trying to achieve in our beers. Ephemeral beauty, balance, and a sense of place.
“These beers are what we envision might have been made today, if a centuries old beer culture had naturally evolved in New England.”
Of course, its not yet possible to source all of our ingredients from a local source, we do this as much as possible. We feel that using ingredients that are characteristically and naturally American, grown, harvested and gathered as close to the brewery as possible, we can really embody the ‘farmhouse’ notion that we are striving to achieve, which can be a little tricky in an urban setting such as Fort Point. So, until we can build a brewery on some farmland ourselves, that means working with companies like Valley Malt, Buckle Farm, Four Star Farms to source local grain, malt, fruit and spices…and we’re even growing some of our own hops on my uncle’s farm. We’re sourcing neutral wine barrels from places like Saltwater Farm Vineyard (where Esther and I were married) and Jonathan Edwards to age some of our ‘wild’ fermented farmhouse beers. We’re really excited for the first lot of spent spirit barrels to come available from Bully Boy and Grand Ten, two new Boston distilleries. We’re evenworking on culturing and nurturing fermentation microbes natural in the air around us to develop a truly unique and local beer
FPAC: What made you decide to move to Fort Point?
JC: Finding relatively affordable, small scale, light industrial space in greater Boston is really tricky. We’re competing with Biotech/Pharma and other companies that command a very high price per square foot, which originally didn’t have us considering any Boston zip codes. We were initially looking in places where some other breweries have recently cropped up (ie. Chelsea, Everett), but when a lease fell through at the last second at a location in Everett, a colleague of our real estate agent knew of a spot worth exploring on Congress street in Fort Point that met some of the criteria we had laid out. The space was in pretty rough shape, but had some solid bones. The seemingly endless opportunity of Fort Point was sort of a ‘no duh’ part of the decision. My good friend/designer and I looked at the place, squinted really hard, and developed a vision for what was possible. We knew we were in for the long haul with the zoning variance process, so we had time to roll up our sleeves to clean out the years of rust, dust and debris. Just looking around, we knew were were in a very special place, and will hopefully be part of the continued revival of this little part of Fort Point. The immediate rush of support from Friends of Fort Point, FPAC, Greentown Labs, and countless residents and businesses has energized us through this very arduous process of building a brewery. The welcoming experience has been pretty unbelievable, considering it happened before folks even had a chance to try our beers!
FPAC: Will the new brewery be doing public tours?
JC: Due to the small footprint of the space and the inherent space, cost and liability limitations that would be needed to allow the public in to a manufacturing/production floor; we won’t be able to do a true walk-through type of tour. We will, however, have an attached retail space that will have a partition wall framed with reclaimed windows (from the demolition of 319A street) that will allow visitors a vantage point to see the production floor, the brewhouse, fermentation vessels and wooden barrels (and maybe a busy brewer or two!).
FPAC: Brewing is an art craft all its own. What is the process? (For those of us who are not up on our Hops and fermenting)
JC: Yes, brewing is a craft, for sure…and has nearly limitless opportunities for creativity and expression. But, the basic process for brewing beer is fairly straightforward. Beer is made of water, malt/grain, hops and water. The brewer will crush malt (which is simply grain that has been sprouted and kilned) and mix it with some warm water. The warm water will dissolve the starches and proteins in the grain to make an oatmeal like mixture. The warmth of the water activates the enzymes naturally present in the grain, which break down the starches in to various kinds of sugars. Once the starches are converted to sugars, the brewer will then rinse the grain with more warm water to get the sugary liquid (call ‘wort’…pronounced ‘wert‘) out, which then gets transferred to the boil kettle. The wort is heated to a boil. The brewer will add hops at various points in the boil. Hops are the resinous flower of a really incredible plant. Depending on the kind of hops and when they are added in the boil, the brewer can contribute to hops-contributed bitterness, as well as characteristic aromas/flavors of floral, spicy, citrus, fruit to the finished beer. When the boil is completed (usually somewhere between 60 and 90minutes), the brewer will rapidly cool the wort down from boiling to ~60-70F and then add a culture of yeast. Beer yeast is a unicellular organism that can consume the sugars in the wort and turn it in to alcohol, carbon dioxide and a myriad of flavors and aromas that can turn a sugary, malty, hoppy liquid in to the amazing thing we know as beer. This is known as fermentation, and can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the type of beer and fermentation microbes that are added. We’ll then package the beer in to kegs or bottles. There are some beers will then be served immediately, as they are enjoyed as fresh as possible, while that really need some time to condition to come in to their own after quite a bit more time. Once the beer leaves the brewery, we hope that the experience of beer will be enhanced, not only by the right glassware or food pairings, but most importantly the friends family it is shared with and moment in which it is enjoyed.
FPAC: How many beers does Trillium currently produce and what is your favorite?
JC: Oh, we have dozens and dozens of recipes that we have already brewed. There are probably hundreds more that are swirling around our heads, but haven’t made it to the kettle yet. We plan to focus a good percentage of our production on 4 core brands, but will also have a steady stream of small batch releases…there are just too many different kind of beer we want to make to limit ourselves. If you follow our facebook andtwitter account, you’ll see hints of what beers we have in store as we tweak and improve recipes on our pilot brewery.
FPAC: With the craft beer craze that is sweeping New England, how does Trillium hope to stand out from the rest?
JC: We couldn’t be more excited about the incredible rebirth of brewing and beer culture in Boston, New England and all across the country. Craft brewing is an increasingly crowded but still a relatively small segment of the overall market. Ultimately, we strive to make beers that are truly memorable and world-class. We hope to reach a balance in them that appeal not only to the hardened beer geeks, but also to folks with a burgeoning appreciation for better beers
FPAC: On your site you talk about the local artisans who help collaborate with Trillium to help enhance your craft. Any future plans for Trillium to team up with some local artists?
JC: Absolutely. Gabrielle Schaffner and I have had a few exchanges where we discussed all the different collaboration/inspiration opportunities there could be. We’re excited about the possibilities here, so stay tuned via FPAC for more on these opportunities in the coming months.
FPAC: When is the expected move in date?
JC: Oh, we’ve been banging away at our 369 Congress Street location since January 2011. Most of that time has been spent waiting for community hearings, the zoning variance hearing/approval and the building permit, which we finally received in February 2012. If you’ve walked by recently, you’ll continue to see some big changes to the exterior; there’s an equally dramatic change going on in the interior as well. There are loads of things that can (will) go wrong, but we’re really hoping to brew our first batch of commercial beer toward late summer/early fall of this year.