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Wednesday, August 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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7 Sips With … Ben Quick, Steam Plant

Rick Bonino

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 Ben Quick, who started as an assistant at the Steam Plant in 2007 when it was an offshoot of the former Coeur d’Alene Brewing, then returned as head brewer under the current ownership in December 2012.

 

Q: How did you get into brewing, and what were you doing before this?

A: I started homebrewing when I was 16 with the family, we made wine and mead and apple cider. We had an apple tree, and a cider press. We were just using what we had available on the farm (in Colville). Beer came a couple of years later, I think I was just out of high school when I started making beer. I pretty much fully transitioned to beer because it was a lot faster, and I like beer more. It accelerated from there. It was the curiosity of the process, different techniques, different styles, very much just a culinary interest that developed, and the science of it, too.  

I was going to school, I got an art degree, I did construction. When I was 26, I got a job with the Coeur d’Alene Brewing Co. I worked there between 2007 and 2009, and got laid off in 2009 with a lot of other people during that time in the country. I was the sole brewer here, so that’s kind of how the foot got in this door. At that time, they had three locations (Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Moscow) and two with breweries. I was the only brewer who lived in Spokane, so they had me take over the Steam Plant location. Rather than have a guy drive over from Idaho, I was 15 minutes away. So I worked half the time there, half the time here. It wasn’t full production here the way it is now, it was supplementary, so we’d brew five different kinds here of the 12, and then the rest of it was brought over in kegs.

I worked for the parks department (after the layoff), I worked for various different operations, and I kept up with my homebrewing. I went to school to get a master’s degree in occupational therapy, and then right when I was kind of getting to the halfway point with that, I got offered a job with No-Li, then two weeks later I got offered the head brewer job here at the Steam Plant.

Q: How would you describe your brewing philosophy?

A: I just try to go for quality. I typically am not satisfied – I was telling my assistant brewer, Kevin (Green), the other day that it’s kind of funny how good beer, you almost have no comment for, it’s like, eh. Because you’re waiting for something more exceptional all the time, how can we make it better? It’s like, at some point, isn’t a good beer good enough? But it’s a constant, how can we make it better, even though it doesn’t really need to be, or maybe can’t be. … You kind of need to be a little bit OCD to be a good brewer, because then you can go for more consistency and quality and you’re clean with everything. I don’t think I’m OCD, but some people might say I am (laughs). … I guess my only other philosophy would be, don’t brew anything that you wouldn’t drink yourself.    

Q: What’s your favorite beer that you’ve made here?

A: My favorite is our Oktoberfest. That’s the one I look forward to brewing the most. It’s pretty rare that a small brewery gets to dabble in lagers (because of the extra time involved). And then maybe a close second would be the summer seasonal, the blood orange ale. I’m not typically a fruit beer person, but I was pretty happy with that one. It’s got the citrus, it’s pretty balanced. I’m not really a hophead like a lot of brewers are, I like wheat beers, I like balanced beers. A pale ale is probably my typical go-to, or I’ll go with a blonde ale, the lighter stuff. I like the big beers, too, but to me they’re more dessert wine-like, where I just want something to sip on. If I want to have more than one, I can’t go barleywine.   

With the (new) Boiler 7, we want to keep that rolling as far as a one-off, experimental kind of IPA – we’ll probably call them different things, like Boiler 7, Boiler 8. We kind of went for the number being the alcohol level. The idea for the next one was maybe doing a session IPA for summer, we’ll just see how quickly this first one goes, and adjust from there.

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