Our first post-lockdown #BrewingHeroes is finally here. This time our own Sandro went directly to the brewery to have a chat with Dr. Stefan Wolf from #DrBrauwolf. Together with him we talked about the success of #doctors in the Swiss beer scene, barrel aged wit beer and cocktail bars. So sit back, open a cold one and enjoy the interview.
Dr. Brauwolf or does the Swiss beer scene need to see a Doctor?
Courtesy of Dr. Brauwolf
Zurich Beer Tour: Who are you and what’s your job at Dr. Brauwolf ?
Stefan: My name is Stefan Wolf, I am founder and owner of the brewery. In addition, I would say that I am kind of the face of the #Brewery. As I said my name is Wolf, I brew beer and after I did my PhD, I was a pharmacist for a while. Because of the #Lockdown I worked again as a pharmacist. This is also how the brewery got its name. I planned this project years ago and wrote a business plan. Later on, me and a friend of mine we’re able to buy this custom made brewery from China. We assembled the whole thing together, you have to imagine that it was once a shipping container with 9 metric tons of chrome steel.
What is the motto of Dr. Brauwolf?
Where Beer meets Science. Because I am a scientist, I worked in a lab for 7 years before I started brewing professionally. And I want to use my #science experience for brewing. I want to analyze everything in a very detailed way. I would say every brewery checks the PH of their beer, but we want to have it logged very precisely, so we can come back to this data and find out what went wrong
Courtesy of Dr. Brauwolf
There is another “Doctor” in the Swiss brewing scene, namely Dr. Gabs. If you compare the beer scene to a hospital, what would be the specializations of Dr. Gabs and Dr. Brauwolf?
I do not know if you know about the story behind Gabriel the founder of Dr. Gabs. The funny thing about him is that he is actually an #imposter, a fake doctor. His whole family, parents and siblings, are doctors. Therefore, one day he decided: "I am going to be a doctor too". Therefore, about how we are different to each other I have to say that Dr. Gabs has come so far, they were founded about 15 years ago. I would say they are still craft, and especially in the last couple of years, they started to experiment more. Nevertheless, they kind of became victims of their own success. People loved their few beers so much that they had to start producing such massive amounts that they did not have the time to think about new styles to brew. Moreover, we are kind of the opposite to that, a really important part of our brewery is the tap room where we want to offer new beer styles as often as possible. Dr. Gabs also sells most of its beer through retail, and we on the opposite mostly sell to some small shops, bars and events or through our web shop.
What is your favorite hop variety at the moment?
Just this week I tried a cryo Sabro #hop and I was extremely surprised how peachy it was, just like peach Ice Tea. I have never brewed with it but it was just amazing. Other than that, for our beers I would say classic mosaic with its mango aromas.
What is your favorite yeast strain?
We mostly use “the tank”, US-05 yeast that goes perfectly through every beer in quite a short time. For the geeks, we just made a really experimental beer, a #NEIPA that didn’t quite come out as we wanted it to. There we used a mix of a 3% wine and the rest beer yeast. We wanted to get out the typical fruity aromas of white wine. And it did, but It just didn’t fit the beer style. So maybe we have to try it again with only 1% of wine yeast. It was a good beer, just not true to style.
Courtesy of Dr. Brauwolf
How much beer do you produce in a year?
Last year we produced 420hl, the year before 310hl so a rising trend. This year I was expecting 500hl but that was before corona happened, so if we get to the same numbers as last year that would be a great success.
Which is your flagship beer?
Out of our core range, it has to be our Pale Ale or #APA. It is my absolute favorite because it is kind of a lager substitute. Hoppy but still you can have a couple of them because it is not that strong.
What was the most special beer you ever brewed?
That would be a #vanilla cream ale. It smelled like and had almost the mouthfeel of vanilla ice cream. This was really special, many people liked it but there were also a lot of people who didn’t like it. It is not a beer you would drink every day. Other than that of course we had some interesting #barrelaged stuff. We did a barrel aged wit beer, a lot of people would call us crazy for that. But it was actually very tasty, also had some vanilla notes from the bourbon barrel.
What would be a beer you always dreamed of brewing?
We are still working on that whole New England IPA thing, we did some good ones but I would love to reach a level like some US breweries, talking #Trillium or #Monkish. Also we would love to brew a good alcohol-free beer. That is something that is very challenging because alcohol brings lots of flavor.
Courtesy of Dr. Brauwolf
What is your favorite BBQ and beer combo?
Tell us about your Mango DIPA 2020 which was released just some weeks ago, are there any major changes to the last version?
For the last version we cut, pureed and pasteurized 100 #Mangos by hand that we then added to the beer. We did not do that again, that was just too much effort. Luckily, I have a friend who imports fruit juice. He had the chance to import smaller amounts of fruit juice directly from Ecuador, with fruits that are harvested ripe and are then processed on-site. They are then frozen and are sent to Switzerland. Then we used new hop varieties directly from #Yakima valley picked in 2019, so they are as fresh as possible.
What is better, beer in cans or bottles?
Definetly #cans. In a cultural point of view in Switzerland it is still really hard to sell canned beer. People do not like the Idea of beer getting served in a can in a restaurant, they want a bottled one that is poured in their glass. So our core range comes in bottles, but just next month we will be canning a beer again. There are people who like beer in cans, the thing is we cannot do both here at the brewery because of costs and space. However, we will be canning some monthly special editions with a mobile canning company called #Lab63. One of those will be a pink lemon sour.
Talking about your two Röstigraben collabs with Dr. Gabs and now the one with them and Officina Della Birra, how did all of this start and which of those 3 is your favorite?
My favorite is definitely the 3rd , the polenta edition. It’s a really light beer, with a nice maize aroma. We only used Swiss ingredients (only the malt was imported), so Farina Bona from Ticino, Balm from Ticino, yeast from Levatura from Vaud and hops from #Stammheim. We got the idea because I was acquainted with one of the Brewers from Dr. Gabs before he was brewing for them. I also got to know other people from the team later and we always joked about the Doctor+Doctor thing and one day we decided to do it.
Courtesy of Dr. Brauwolf
What can you tell us about your Taproom?
This is the first brewery #taproom in the city of Zurich. I knew taprooms from my time in the US, I lived in a small town where we had 3 breweries that had taprooms and they were always full. I thought there must already be 10 taprooms in Zurich, but when I talked to friends of mine who are working in the beer scene if found out there was not even one. Therefore, I knew I had to do this.
What is your tip for craft beer in Zurich, Bars or Restaurants?
For me in Zurich there is only 2 bars for real craft beer: The International Beer Bar with its Manager Aidan, who is an absolute beer freak and not everyone likes him because he always says what he thinks, but this is craft beer true to the bone. The other one would be the Alehouse with 20 taps, they also still serve a normal lager so that you can go there even with people that don’t want to drink craft beer. Sadly, there is not many more when you think that Zurich has like 200 cocktail bars.
We have to talk about corona, how did you handle this time? How did it affect your brewery?
It was a catastrophe for us. When events started to get postponed we had to start reducing our stock, leaving our beer in the #fermenter because it stays fresher there and so on. Then we had to change our whole system from selling mostly to bars and restaurants to selling only to private people. Nevertheless, I think we did a good Job, we pushed our online shop, so the revenues went up. Together with short-time work I would say we are save now, we did not make a lot of money but we can still keep the company running.
Do you think there was more support, for example in social media, for craft beer during this time?
Definitely, we had so many tags, post or story mentions. Everyone started to talk about drinking #local and telling their friends about this small brewery that needs help. In addition, I would say that helped a lot, so we sold at least 10 times more beer through our online shop than before. I just kind of think it is sad that this crisis was needed to make people realize that supporting your local businesses is important. That is not only true for beer, also for producers of vegetables or meat. However, I don’t want to complain, in the end people did realize it and that is the most important part.
Is there anything else you want to say?
I think we talked about everything. It is cool for me to see that people are starting to #drink local, asking the barkeeper what kind of beer they have rather than just ordering “a beer”. Moreover, I hope we can balance out the ratio of 2 craft beer bars to 200 cocktail bars in Zurich a bit more.
Thank you so much for your time Stefan, and all the best wishes to you and the whole team at #DrBrauwolf
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(The interview was loosely translated from German)