Bad Weather Brewing’s Heritage Lager Series: Beers That Tell A Story

To understand where we are going, we have to study where we’ve been. At Bad Weather Brewing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, Head Brewer Andy Ruhland has gifted us with a series of beers that tell a story. I am speaking of the Heritage Lager Series. The first iteration of this was released in late summer and was similar to the flagship beer produced at the Schmidt Brewery back in the day. The second and most recent one was released at the beginning of November and is currently on tap. I’ve admired from afar this unique beer series that highlights beers from eras gone by. Andy was nice enough to answer some questions about this series. Here is what he had to say!

Interview with Andy Ruhland of Bad Weather

What was the initial impetus for the Heritage Lager Series?

Initially, I wanted to revive now closed brewery recipes. Minnesota breweries to be exact. But after some quick research I learned that’s not really attainable. There is little historical data on those kinds of things. So I shifted gears a bit. It was also a response to how fast things have been changing in the industry lately. Trends come and go so fast. Lately consumers tend to just want whatever the next cool thing is. Let’s slow things down a bit. How did we get here as an industry? What methods did brewers use historically? Let’s not forget about those who brewed and paved the way before us. I wanted to focus on lagerbier specifically.

Where does your fascination for classic styles come from?

I guess you could call me an “Old School” kind of brewer. I really like the classics. I think part of that goes back to my days taking the BJCP exam prep classes. This class was the first process in becoming a certified judge for homebrew competitions. Once a week we would explore classic styles all the way through the BJCP guidelines. That really has stuck with me all these years later. I like utilizing old school methods of brewing like cereal mashing, decoction mashing, etc.

What was the biggest takeaway from your experience working with Phil and Sig on the first Heritage Lager?

Gaining 2 friends. But also, learning about how they brewed at the Schmidt Brewery back in its heyday. A lot of methods we incorporated into our collaboration brew at Bad Weather. They have so many stories. They are a wealth of knowledge. I think we brewers today need to take it upon ourselves to communicate with the retired brewing community.

What inspired you for the second beer in the Heritage Lager Series?

I got in contact with a former Brewmaster at the Hamm’s St. Paul brewery about historical ingredients. He sent me down the rabbit hole of what breweries had to do during and shortly after WWII in regards to ingredient substitutions. That is what I wanted to focus on for Heritage #2.

What does Cassava do in a beer and why was it deemed a good ingredient when more traditional brewing ingredients were scarce?

Cassava is full of starch. The main component also present in malted barley. Starch is converted into sugar which is then consumed by yeast to create alcohol, flavors and aromas. Other than that I don’t think its an ideal ingredient for brewing. Its devoid of enzymes and nutrients needed during the brewing process so you really need to put it through the ringer on the brewhouse. I think during that era brewers were using whatever they could get there hands on. They had to supplement with other forms of fermentables like corn, rice, wheat, sorghum, soybeans and cassava. Cassava was only used after the war for a brief period of time as there were fears of worldwide famine. It’s fairly flavor neutral in beer so it was a good substitute for brewers making light lager.

As a brewer and a lover of quality beer, why do you think it is important for people to learn about the historical journey and evolution of brewing techniques and methods?

I’ve always thought there’s this potential for a generational gap of brewing knowledge. Sure we’ve got lots of literature to read, but learning these things first hand from our predecessors is really important. Take Sig and Phil for example. Lots of conversations about brewing techniques and methods that I am sure are not in a book.

After seeing the first two beers in the series come to fruition, what are some things you would like to see in the future iterations of the Bad Weather Heritage Lager Series?

I have another potential collaboration planned with another former brewmaster of a closed MN brewery. I also would like to brew a Pre-Prohibition lager. I would also like to source some new ingredients for some of these. Just yesterday I saw a brewer who works at Dovetail brewing in Chicago post on Twitter about brewing with a barley variety that hasn’t been used in brewing since WWII. Stuff like that is really interesting to me. So trying to work with some smaller malting companies with stuff like this.

Tasting Notes: Heritage Lager Series #2-1946 Post WWII Lager

Visually, it has the look of a pristine lager. A nice white head with big bubbles that dissipate as it sits. The straw color of the beer has magnificent clarity to it. The aroma has a hint of bread and corn to it. There is a malt sweetness that comes across as a faint essence Corn Pops cereal. The finish is effervescent, but also has more body than I was expecting. It balances on the edge of crisp, and the finish is a little bit dry with a slight bitter bite from the hops. At the taproom, I had several pours of it and at 5.4%, it is the perfect beer for doing trivia with some friends.

As a beer writer, I love learning about beer in all forms. Andy’s passion for quality beer is a boon to the Saint Paul craft beer scene. If you are lucky enough to catch him at the taproom, he loves to chat beer and is one of the kinder individuals you will find. I cannot wait to see how other beers in this series come to pass. Things like the Bad Weather Heritage Lager Series really augment the fabric of our craft beer scene in Minnesota. So, make sure you get in to try this beer! Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .