This is one in an occasional series of 7 Sips interviews, where we sit down for a pint and seven questions with someone active in the local craft beer community. Today we catch up with Craig Deitz of Big Barn Brewing on Green Bluff. He left his teaching career at Mead High School this fall to focus on the brewery, where he’s beginning to bottle his beers, and his Bodacious Berries Fruits and Brews farm.
Q: You just retired from teaching after 32 years to go full-time with the brewery. What prompted that?
A: We were pretty sure we were going that way, but the bottling was kind of an extra little nudge. My brother-in-law built me a four-head bottler and we’re looking this winter to move into that new marketing arena. We’re kind of excited about our labels – they play off of the farm, everything from our dog (Black Dog Stout) to sunflowers with our Mead Honey Lager and wheat fields for the Peone Wheat. When the bottler was built, we put 22-ouncers together and they were carbonated and they tasted good, and we were like, all right, we’re going to make it. But like any profession, you step away from something you’ve done for a long time and it’s a little scary. My wife, Jane, was great – she was like, you know, you need to do this. We decided if this really was to all fall apart, we would just move on, it would just be that it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t think that’s going to happen – we’re pretty blessed with the land we have and so forth, and with (partner) Brad (Paulson)’s help on the buildings, the fact we’ve done so much of it with volunteer help, we were affordable in what we’ve done, we’ve self-financed, we haven’t leveraged ourselves.
Q: How many styles have you been bottling?
A: We have the Dunn Day IPA, we have the honey lager and we have the Black Dog Stout, and we’ve got the Golden Pumpkin approved (for next year). We have the labels for the other ones all ready (to submit for approval). So far we have only sold bottles at two markets – we’ve sold them at Fairwood Market, when we were doing the farmers market there, and we’ve sold them at Perry Street. We’ve been selling bottles here, though I don’t even have any out right now. So we are just on the very cusp of breaking into that market. Probably one of our big first steps will be, this winter I want to make some Christmas packages where you might have four bottles and a couple of glasses, and we could package it up where it could be a gift. It could be kind of fun, I’ve got a spiced Belgian which I think would be really awesome in a bottle, let it sit for a while and give it a wax dip.
Q: Your taproom building isn’t insulated, but you’re going to be open again this winter in the big barn (where the brewery is located), right?
A: Last year was the first year we did the winter, and it worked out OK. We shut down until Thanksgiving weekend (after the farm season ended in October). This year’s a little different, we’re going to go ahead and close for a week, then we’ll start back up the weekend of Nov. 13 and we’ll go Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Half the time on weekends we’re down here working anyway. We do Christmas trees, so that will run us through the first of the year, and we’ll do the (NFL) playoffs, we had a fun time with that last year – hopefully the Seahawks will step it up again. We’ve got this fireplace, and I’ve got a fire pit on the back side. People just love getting out in the country, and in the winter if there’s some snow on the ground, you can sit out there with some picnic chairs and you’ve got a nice bonfire going and you can have a little beer to sip on, and you’re away from town, what a great venue, huh?
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