Carston Haney: Alameda Brewing Co.

Carston Haney: Head Brewer at Alameda Brewing Co.

A home brewer for several years, Carston Haney first got into commercial brewing by helping to build and then brewing for Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks brew pub in Millheim, PA.
For Carston, working at the brewpub was an eye opening experience.

“A lot of people had never drunk anything besides Coors their entire life,” Haney recalls. “It’s kind of neat. I really appreciated turning people on to good beer.”
Carston moved to Portland in 2008 where he joined the team at Alameda Brewing Co. A staple on Northeast Fremont since its opening in 1996, Alameda had developed a loyal neighborhood following and its Black Bear XX Stout has been the recipient of several awards including the Gold Medal at the Great American Brew Fest in 2003 and again in 2005.

The staff at Alameda was just beginning to bottle when Carston joined the team and since then, has grown its distribution progressively at about 30 percent a year.

In 2011, Carston oversaw the construction of the brewery’s new 20-barrel system in an 8,000 square foot warehouse in Southeast Portland. While Alameda had previously been operating with a 5-barrel system, the new production facility holds a 20-barrel system, allowing the brewery to fill up to 40 kegs at a time. The brew pub has expanded its distribution throughout the Northwest, reaching Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, Alberta and Alaska.

While Carston has certainly played a major role increasing the brewery’s production and distribution capabilities, developing new beers is also a big part of his position as head brewer.

“When I come up with an idea for a new beer, it’s a little bit like painting,” he explains of the brewing process. “I have a palette of raw materials-that’s your malt, your hops, water chemistry, and your yeast strain-and I envision what I want the beer to be like. Then I work backwards from there to decide what goes into it.”

It’s a talent that has taken Carston some time to develop.

“That’s the difference I’ve noticed between professional brewers and home brewers,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of recipes from home brewers, and good home brewers too, but it’s kind of like they throw the whole kitchen sink in there. They’ll have seven different varieties of hops and seven different varieties of malt for something that’s a pale ale that just needs to be simple. Our pale ale is two hop varieties, one for bitterness, one for flavor and aroma, and three malts: a base malt, a little bit of Munich, and some crystal malt which gives it a nice color and a caramel sweetness to it,” he continues. “That is something that’s learned by experience. I’ve been doing this professionally for about eight years now and I learn something new every day.“

Carston’s favorite beer at Alameda is one he developed about four years ago, an Imperial IPA called Yellow Wolf. The brew pub is also beginning to experiment with barrel aging at its Southeast facility using used bourbon, rum and whiskey barrels from local distilleries.

As head brewer, it is Carston’s responsibility to not only create new beers but also to update old favorites, a task that’s easier said than done.

“There are existing recipes here like our Black Bear Stout that are already kind of set in stone. It’s won medals and I’m not going to change that,” Carston explains. “Our pale has been around for 10 years and it’s the owner’s favorite beer so I’m going to change that. But there are a bunch of other beers that are standards here that I’ve tweaked a little bit over there the years. You never do anything drastically. You have to push things in a direction over time, over multiple batches and years.”

Currently, the brewery is gearing up for a number of special releases for this summer’s various beer fests including a Belgian golden ale made with mamey, a squash-like fruit from Mexico, for the Fruit Beer Festival in June and a 5 percent extra pale ale for the Oregon Brewer’s Festival at the end of July. These seasonal beers will also be available for a limited time at the brew house.

Alameda Brewhouse is open daily. For information, go to www.alamedabrewing.com.

About The Author: Katie Mitchell