Sam Gambill doesn’t just want to brew a great beer, he wants to engender a communal affair. The brew master and owner behind the curtains at Holsopple Brewing, Gambill and company run a tight ship with a small system, making for a focused array of brews. Tucked away in a sleep corner of Lyndon, Holsopple is the kind of place that you post up after a day at the rat race, a place to unwind with friends. There are games, multiple screens, and video games waiting for you to get in to, and even a guitar for the more adventurous. That sense of community manifests in their beers as comforting and easy, a draft list curated for those seeking the familiar, but with a fresh edge. Talking to them a few weeks ago, I walked through their system, their process, and some of their upcoming projects, including a barrel aged brew that I anticipate greatly, and a coffee stout that just made the rounds. We caught up with Gambill to ask about home brewing, scale, and slam dunks!
Never Nervous: How did you get into brewing?
Sam Gambill: Came across a homebrewing shop while going to school at Ohio State, bought Charlie Papazian’s Complete Joy of Homebrew, and the rest is history.
What was your first beer and how well did it turn out?
My first brew was an extract 5 gallon batch of English Mild. I burnt out my parents’ electric range coil boiling on the stove and drank the batch when it was flat because I was too excited to wait for carbonation.
NN: How did you transition from homebrewing to running your own brewery?
SG: My degree at Ohio State was Genetics, but I was unsure of what I was going to do with it. Luckily I found a Food Science Masters program at UC Davis that had a specialized group researching beer science. I applied, was accepted, and spent the next two years studying fiber content in beer (there is a lot!). Since graduating, I have worked numerous jobs in industry and also met my wife, Kristy Holsopple, at a brewery. Between the two of us, we have worked at Sam Adams, Firestone Walker, Full Sail Brewing, Miller Brewing, Hood River Distilling, Brown Forman, and Buffalo Trace.
NN: Tell us about the day-to-day of running a brewery? What’s the best and worst parts of your day?
“You have raw materials that need to be ordered, schedules to make and follow, maintenance to perform…… but the best part is beer is the final product.”
SG: Brewing is like any manufacturing setting. You have raw materials that need to be ordered, schedules to make and follow, maintenance to perform…… but the best part is beer is the final product. A long hard day of work is quickly rewarded when you can sit down with the team and enjoy a Holsopple beer.
NN: How has Holsopple engaged in the local community? How have your Lyndon neighbors received you?
SG: My favorite story to tell about our local engagement had to do with some regulars. When we opened they were about a month away from deciding if they needed to renew their rental lease. After a few nights at the Taproom, they decided that it was in their best interest to renew the lease and continue living in the Lyndon area near the brewery!
We have many neighborhood visitors who either walk or bike to the brewery.
NN: What is the most exciting beer you’ve brewed and why?
- Sam – Paula’s Pilsner – First beer through the system, turned out clean and there was nothing to hide behind.
- Kristy Holsopple – Peach Gose – As an avid gardener and foodie, I was super excited to work with a local farm to get fresh peaches that we processed in house. This beer also used a lactobacillius culture that I prepared and grew up. It was the culmination of work and leisure. It ended up being the best beer release we had for any beer.
- John Gambill – Alpha D Citra DIPA – Customer’s most asked about beer after it was all gone.
- Michael Whitman – Coffee Stout – The first recipe I was able to design and brew myself.
NN: Counter to that, how do you keep it interesting and fresh brewing your tap standards?
SG: At first we were tweaking recipes, but now we have most of the standards dialed in. It is always our goal of producing the same flavored beer each batch even though we may be using different lots of malt or hops. Understanding how to keep batches consistent makes things interesting.
NN: What are some beers that you’d like to brew, but haven’t had a chance to yet?
SG: There are definitely some Belgium styles that are on the list and it will be nice to have our first year brewing a holiday seasonal beer. We are actually ordering the grain for it soon!
NN: Are you anxious about brewing sour beers in case they infect your system?
SG: At the moment we are only using Lactobacillus for production of our sour beers. We have no worries that our standard operating procedures will prevent this from spreading to other batches. If, or when, we decide use Brettanomyces, we would have to re-evaluate.
NN: What have you learned as a brewer that you didn’t expect?
SG: The business side of things is where we are learning the most. Cash flow, taxes, marketing………. There is so much time spent completing tasks that are not related brewing.
“There is so much time spent completing tasks that are not related brewing.”
NN: What music do you listen to while brewing if at all?
NN: Relative to that, I understand you’d like to host music nights. What kind of music are you drawn to and why?
SG: We are excited to have any local, organic music here at Holsopple. Bluegrass, hip-hop, rock, country…. We are interested in having everyone!
NN: If you could time travel, where would you visit and why?
SG: I am a Sci-fi guy, so I would go 1000 years in the future to see what the hell has evolved. It would probably be beyond my comprehension.
NN: Would you rather have nun chucks that ended in lightsabers or the ability to always slam dunk? Why?
SG: Slam dunk, I am not a fighter.
NN: What non-brewing things have you riled lately? Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank (like a non-Holsopple brew) lately that has you excited?
SG: There are a couple TV series I’ve seen lately that are great. The OA is this really cool show on Netflix that has me waiting for the next season, and I was also entertained by Colony (Sawyer from Lost is the main character, so that is a plus).
NN: Last but never least, what are your top three desert island albums at the moment and why?
- Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism – This will not change
- Wilco – Sky Blue Sky – Heard this live before the album was release at Tall Stacks and still love Impossible Germany
- The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street – It could have been Stevie Wonder Innervisions or Steely Dan AJA