By Lindsey Wojcik
The dog days of summer are upon us, and there’s no better way to end a humid, sun-filled day with a cold beer in hand. Southern Tier Brewing Company understands this and touts its newest seasonal brew—fittingly named Farmer’s Tan—as the beer to grab at the beginning of a summer evening. Plus, Farmer’s Tan pairs well with traditional barbecue fare like hot dogs, burgers, and grilled foods. What could be better?
Phineas DeMink, founder, president and owner of Southern Tier, along with the company’s graphic designer, Nathan Arnone, takes Writer’s Bone on a tour of the brewery’s history and beers.
Lindsey Wojcik: Tell us about Southern Tier's history and how you started brewing.
Phineas DeMink: I first started home brewing while going to college. It quickly became an obsessive hobby for me. Every weekend, my roommate and I would make five-gallon batches of beer on our stove. Shortly after finishing school, I found a magazine article about a course you could take to become a professional brewer. At the time, it seemed like a great way to defer entering the workforce. I headed out to California to take the class. That's where I was able to network and get my first professional brewing job at the Ellicottville Brewing Company in New York.
While in Ellicottville, I met my business partner and wife, Sara, who was also working at the brewery. After four years at EBC, I decided to go back to school at the Seibel Institute of Technology to further my brewing education. Upon graduation, I took a job with the Goose Island Brewing Company. I worked there from 1998 to 2002. Sara and I decided to leave the Chicago area and head back to her hometown of Lakewood, N.Y., to start a business and family. In early 2003, the Southern Tier Brewing Company was born.
LW: Give us a quick tour of the different beers you offer. What brew would you recommend for a newbie?
PD: We make around 30 unique beers throughout the year. For those just starting out, I'd recommend our lightest and newest beer. Farmer's Tan is a session (low abv.) India Pale Ale. It's not high in alcohol, not too bitter, but it has enough of a hop bite for an initiation.
LW: I'd consider Pumking the king of pumpkin brews. What's the secret to this wildly popular brew?
PD: It's a secret, of course! Joking aside, it's a flavorful beer that is released for the fall season, so it is limited in availability. We've worked really hard to perfect the recipe to make beer taste like pumpkin pie, right down to the spices and crust flavor.
LW: What was your biggest mistake brewing? What lessons did you learn from a bad recipe or brewing mishap?
PD: Trial and error is not necessarily a mistake. Learning by doing is the only way to learn. Taking notes and remembering to refer back to those notes for next time is a lesson. But they have it right when they say "just do it."
LW: Your logo has four distinct symbols. What is the meaning behind each symbol and how does it convey Southern Tier's mission?
Nathan Arnore: The logo is made of several symbols, each with significance. At the top we have a hop cone, one of the essential ingredients in beer. Below this we have two pieces of brewing equipment, the mash paddle, or rake, and a shovel. Outside and around the logo are grains, another important ingredient, and between this and the equipment you'll notice a circle. This represents the brewing vessels, as well as the glass. The bottom-most piece is the brewer's star. This is an age-old symbol of brewing purity, originating in Germany in the 1500s. The six-pointed star represents pure ingredients; water, hops, grains, malting, yeast, and, of course, the brewer.
LW: Southern Tier is inching its way to become one of the top 25 craft brewing companies in the country, recently moving into the No. 31 slot, according to USA Today. What are your plans for growth and what does the future look like for Southern Tier?
NA: We are constantly making improvements to the brewery for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is to maintain high quality products. That is our number one goal. But we also have a need to increase capacity, but never to sacrifice the liquid. So most every addition to the brewery relates back to improving production and therefore improving the beer.
LW: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?
NA: Haha! Well, after all, beer is the drink of the people, is it not?
LW: If you were going to run one of your beers for President, which one would it be and what would your campaign slogan be?
NA: I'd run UnEarthly for President. It's an Imperial India Pale Ale. We'd use the campaign slogan "A Pint in Every Hand."
LW: Name one random fact about your company.
NA: We replanted more trees on our property than we removed to make room for our brewery.