Since making the transition from co-founder and head brewer at The Granary, to head pub brewer at Freetail Brewing Co., Alex Rattray’s made a splash with some new brews and fresh ideas, giving the SA craft beer scene something to talk about. Rattray has always added a creative flare to his brews, making beer sampling an experience that is anything but dull. After creating several house beers for The Granary including the Rye Saison, Brown Ale, and Coffee IPA, along with special releases like the Dortmunder Export, Strawberry Berliner Weisse, and Funky Tangerine Saison, Rattray is beefing up his brewing skills with some brewers who have undoubtedly made their mark on the SA craft beer scene.
One of his recent creations, inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, featured a Lucky Charms, oatmeal milk, and coffee stout flight. With a palate cleanser between each sip, the festive flavors came shining through. I wouldn’t have ordered a whole pint of the Lucky Charms stout, since I’d rather enjoy my stars, hearts and horseshoes with milk, but a few sips made for a fun experience.
In keeping with the belief that brewing is a creative process, Alex and the team at Freetail are working on some new flavors inspired by ’90s boy bands like NSYNC and Hanson. Each brew has a spunky name like “Bye Bye Bye,” a North East inspired IPA with juicy hops that was released in late February. “It’s Gonna Be May” is going to be released in mid-May sometime which will have a similar flavor profile as the “Bye Bye Bye,” but will be aged with a few different grains like barley, oats, rye, and wheat. The “Dirty Hop” (also set to debut sometime this May) will be a dry hop lager with tropical fruit and floral spice notes. And last but not least, “Tearin’ Up My Hop” is set for a summer release and they are still working on the specifics.
I sat down with Alex to talk about his transition to the multi-site brewery and pub, what inspires his ideas, and what we can look forward to on the beer list at Freetail.
Having been a co-owner/founder of a restaurant and now taking a step into a role where you can just focus on the brewing, what have you enjoyed and is there anything you miss about being a restaurant owner?
I miss the guests and staff at The Granary, but it’s been great to be able to specialize in just making beer. Now all of my creativity can go into brewing and events associated with it. It’s amazing to have the time to be able to do it and not worry about running a whole restaurant.
Freetail is a bigger brewery, so I have a lot more opportunities for creativity and quality control. We have 12 in-house brews here, and as many as 28 total brews on the menu at any given time. Working with the brewers downtown [at Freetail’s main brewery] is a really cool experience. I love having a team to reach out to with questions and run ideas by. It’s really helped me learn and grow as a brewer. I’ve been given a lot of freedom to brew what I want and the atmosphere at the brewpub lends to that creativity.
Where do you get your ideas? Are there any specific dining experiences that have inspired your brews?
Lately I’ve gotten inspiration from different cocktails. We have a beer coming out soon that’s inspired by the Kentucky Derby. It will have a similar flavor profile as a mint julep. I got the idea for some forthcoming brews from scotch cocktails. I’m also really inspired by my travels. Beer really does vary by region, so it’s interesting to try different beers in different places.
I even draw from culture and current events. There’s a beer coming out for Shark Week [this June]. We’re calling it the Shark Punch gose. It has a salty flavor profile and will be aged with blood oranges. Our attempts at being creative with our brews draws in a crowd that might not otherwise be interested in craft beer.
What are you most looking forward to brewing in the coming months?
I’m excited about the gose because it’s my first time brewing one. It will be a cool color because of the blood oranges and it will be a lighter beer which will be perfect for summer. We also have a Belgian quad coming up that we are aging in scotch barrels. I’m really excited about that.
Visit Rattray at Freetail’s brewpub at 4035 N. 1604 W., Suite 105, (210) 395-4974.