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interview_with_paul_phillipon_brewmaster_at_duck-rabbit_brewery_farmville_nc | June | 2009 Articles

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Interview with Paul Philippon, Brewmaster at Duck-Rabbit Brewery, Farmville, NC

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Baseball is one of my favorite summer things, and beer is another. I know I'm not alone, and I figured I'd take the opportunity to interview one of my favorite brewers, Paul Philippon of Duck-Rabbit Brewery, to share some sudsy insights with the Braves fans here. Enjoy! (They call themselves "dark beer specialists"; check out their fantastic Milk Stout.) Tonight is the final game in the Braves-Pirates series, Jair Jurrjens vs. Jeff Karstens.

Update: the spelling of the interviewee's name was misspelled when this was first published. It is now correct.

1. The baseball season's upon us, and summer's only a few months away, the time of year that makes me think of grass, sun, and beer. You're a former professor of philosophy -- how did you get into the brewing business? How did you wind up in Farmville, North Carolina?

I started out as a homebrewer back in 1987. Even while pursuing my academic career, I was becoming more and more serious about brewing. There came a point in the mid 90s when I felt that a career in academia might not be for me (there really aren't a lot of great jobs available!) so I started to look into becoming a professional brewer. I got some education at Siebel, a brewing school in Chicago, and then sent out resumes. Within an alarmingly short period of time I had a job as a brewer in Cincinnati. Eventually my career took me to another brewing job in Louisville KY and then to one here in North Carolina.
All along I had it in mind that I wanted to build to a point at which it made sense to open my own place. It was important to me to own the real estate on which the brewery would sit and to have enough land to allow for possible future expansion. The stars finally aligned to allow me to do that in Farmville. The community here has been extremely welcoming and I was able to afford the real estate - a match made in heaven!

2. Most summer seasonal beers are light-colored, and many are wheat-based, because it's assumed that they drink better when the heat goes up. The Duck-Rabbit Brewery is a dark beer specialist in the heart of the south, so you clearly run in the opposite direction. What is your favorite kind of beer to drink in the summer? What would you drink at a baseball game? What goes best with popcorn, hot dogs, french fries...

I prefer delicious beers in the summer (and in the winter and... ). I love light colored beers and dark colored beers and everything in between. I guess, rather than picking a particular style, I'll say that I love to drink beers brewed in the region where I'm drinking. Around here, beers from the southeast are best! At a baseball game I'd drink a regional craft beer if it were available. Any of our year-round beers would be great at a game, in my opinion. I'd probably steer away from the really big higher alcohol beers (like our seasonals). As to the food pairing you mention, I think anything that's satisfying you at a ball game would go great with stadium snacks.

3. How do you develop a recipe? How often do you tweak an old one, and how often do you try to create a new one? Anything currently in the pipeline?

Well, as I mentioned in answer to question 1, I've been brewing for quite a long time. For me, recipe development usually starts with looking back at what I've done in the past. Mix this with ideas about the flavor profile I want to achieve in the new beer and with an understanding of how different ingredients and techniques contribute to the flavors in our beers and I have a recipe! As to tweaking old recipes, with our year-round beers we constantly strive for consistency. We're not trying to change the flavor profiles of those beers. With that said, though, beer is made from agricultural products which are inherently variable. So, there is some tweaking required in order to achieve consistency. 
We don't come out with new recipes very often, but as it happens we do have a couple of new things in the pipeline right now. We're about to release the first in a series of limited release lagers - The Duck-Rabbitor Dopplebock. For now, anyway, that will be draught only and it should start to appear in the next couple of weeks. After that, we have a Schwarzbier in the tank (a German dark lager - really refreshing!).

4. You're from Michigan, so you moved from one big basketball state to another. Are you much of a sports fan? Do you have any thoughts on the Atlanta Braves? Any chance Duck-Rabbit beers might be available in Atlanta any time soon -- or even in Turner Field?

Ha! I am a sports fan, but no way am I going to make one group of Duck-Rabbit supporters angry by supporting a specific team! As to availability in Atlanta - we're there! We've been selling in Georgia since 2008. If the good folks at Turner Field would like to carry our products, we'd be thrilled! They can contact us at the brewery or Savannah Distributing in Georgia!

5. When I've talked to baseball statisticians, I've asked them how I can become a smarter fan. Since you're a Ph.D., and your brewery's logo (the duck-rabbit, which looks like a duck from one angle and a rabbit from another angle) comes from a concept by Ludwig Wittgenstein, how can I become a smarter beer drinker?

I guess I'd advise making your beverage decisions based on how delicious a beverage is (that's pretty simple, isn't it?). Trust your own assessment of what's delicious. We are exposed to huge amounts of advertising that want to influence our beverage decisions. These ads typically try to tell us what we should like, but they can't really know what we do like. Enjoy what's delicious and choose what you enjoy!
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