Greetings fellow comrades in craft. Welcome to yet another installment of Behind the Brew with Beer Selfie. For this take, I once again decided to play it close to the vest and visit another (VERY) local brewery here in my hometown of Lodi, CA. I was thrilled that a hometown kid like myself could sit down with Grant, the owner of IDOL Beer Works, and talk about all things beer related under the sun. The things I learned from him were incredible and his perspective on beer, not only in our region but across the globe made me that much more excited to do this brewery justice in this article.
To understand IDOL’s beginning we need to go back to before they opened their doors to the fine folks of Lodi. Grant owned a business called Flight Lounge in the city of Woodbridge (basically a little mini city within Lodi). It was a nice spot that specialized in good eats and even better craft beer options. At the time, it was really the only place in town you could go and find an extensive selection of good local brews. This was the first time Grant could display his true passion for all things beer. Being born and raised in Scotland, he joked with me and said this long love of beer started very young and could be credited to “Always being around Rugby clubs growing up”. He knew that he wanted to start pushing the beer (more importantly CRAFT beer) scene into the city of Lodi. What he didn’t know was if the people here would be accepting of it.
It goes without saying (but G dangit I’m going to say it anyways) that opening up a place that centralizes its drink offerings around craft beer took guts. We are in the heart of wine country out here after all. My city alone is home to some of the best-grown Zinfandel in the world (no that is not an exaggeration). So it’s safe to say that Grant’s hesitation about the reception of beer here was warranted. However, the beer was welcomed with open arms. So after owning Flight Lounge for a while he started to think about how to take this beer passion even further. He had been homebrewing and studying beer for quite some time, so he felt the only natural next step would be to open up a legitimate craft brewery here in town. So that’s exactly what he did.
Not only was Grant born and raised in Scotland until coming to the states at the age of 23, but he also lived in Austria for 10 years. Gee, rough life. It was here where he began to realize something very important about the beer industry: Germany knows what the heck they’re doing when it comes to making beer. While living in the land of hops and dreams, he became even MORE smitten with beer (somehow his smitten meter wasn’t already full) when he got more involved with the German processes of making beer. We’re talking about a country with a 1,000-year history of this beautiful fermented beverage. He fell head over heels for their scientific, precise approach to brewing that – in Grant’s opinion – has allowed their styles and breweries to remain unflappable and stand the test of time. You can see a lot of German influence in Grant’s beer at IDOL from a lot of the beer is unfiltered to the fermentation times and lengths he goes to for certain styles. There is a lot of passion, and a WHOLE LOT of commitment, research, and experimentation put into his hopped-up babies. And boy howdy does it all pay off in the end result.
When I got to the brewery, I wasn’t quite sure where the questions and conversations were going to lead us. I try to ask more general, open-ended questions and hope that those more poignant, specific questions will come out as we talk more. This was certainly the case with Grant’s and my conversation. After warming up, we got further and further into the idea of where the craft beer movement is heading. How he believes that small (and sometimes not so small) craft breweries are seen as “piranha that the big domestics are scared of and will do anything to keep them at bay”. He then told me about the principles on which he based his brewery. He calls them the 3 C’s: Craft, Community, and Culture. All of these areas are covered extensively in this place. He’s opened up a brewery that is so involved with our community that I can only liken it to him having his hands in the dirt of our town. His tilling is bringing out the best and shows just what this little place has to offer to the world. If I can be frank, I suggest that he adds another C to that vision. It stands for Charity. IDOL has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities across the board. Most recently, he raised funds for the Operation Restored Warrior Project. His goal for his brewery is to always do things right and that goes for the execution of his beer as well as the engagement within the community. Speaking of beer, that’s what we got to talk about next. I asked him what his initial goal was for IDOL and its beer. His answer was simple yet sincere: “I just had the goal that when you taste my beer, I want it to be an excursion. I want all of the flavors to hit you in a way that you don’t see them coming”. Well, speaking from personal experience with his brews he accomplished that and then some. While we’re were on subject… Let’s talk about the BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER.
I tried 4 beers brewed by Grant and his right-hand brewer James themselves. Each one was better than the last and the first was pretty dang great, to begin with! To start off I tried the Hazzelicious, a 7% NEIPA with a little extra haze thrown in there. Incredibly refreshing with the up-front bitterness being matched with a light haze that makes you want to keep tipping your glass to your mouth till there’s nothing left but the faint memory of a great beer. It was smooth, well-rounded, and delicious. Seeing that my glass needed some liquid rejuvenation. Grant then poured me a couple of tasters to wet my whistle while I was choosing my next full glass. One of the tasters was the Ballistic Leprechaun. This is one intense Irish Strong Red Ale, but not in the way that you’d think. At 12.3% you’d assume it’d feel like getting smacked by a shillelagh stick square in the noggin, but instead, it comes off as an unbelievably smooth ride. My first question to Grant was if it was barrel aged because it has this amazing caramelized malt forwardness and was just a touch sweet so I assumed it had taken a nap in some type of barrel at some point. Nope. Just an extremely well-executed, unfiltered red ale that pours a beautiful deep copper color. No boozy heaviness. No cloying sweetness. The second taster had the acclaimed Double Image DIPA in there. It’s basically like IPA candy. A smooth, thick-ish body is accompanied by a surprising – yet very welcomed – light sweetness on the back end. Let’s not forgot how well those hops work off of everything! Bitter and biting in the best kind of way. I finished my drinking excursion with a full cup of the Dragon My Ass. A dragonfruit cream ale that has a really neat backstory to it. I won’t fill this paragraph up with that, but if you’re ever in the brewery you can try your luck and ask Grant about it. The beer itself is pretty unique. I told him it was so balanced I couldn’t tell when the floral hop profile stopped and when the floral-er, sweet dragonfruit began! Plus it had that textbook, palate coating body that all Cream Ales should have. It was like I was caught in some amazingly twisted twilight zone episode about beer. And I would’ve stayed there forever had the beer in my glass not run out. The color is also GORGEOUS. I wrapped up the interview with my thirst quenched and my head full of ideas for the article.
As I walked away from the brewery I was a little nervous about doing this man and his brewery justice with my writing. I mean, I have so many paragraphs to fit all of this into. He had so much knowledge to drop and my fingers could only type so fast (especially when delicious beers are involved). With everything I learned from Grant, I was worried I’d be unable to put all those things into words and that his true intentions and sincerity would get lost somewhere between the tips of my fingers and the keys on my laptop. I can only hope that I’ve recounted what an awesome, informative experience this was for me and how grateful I am to Grant and the folks at IDOL for having me. I can’t wait to see what they have cooking for the next couple of months. Grant did tell me about a few new beers they’re working on. When I asked him if he could tell me anything about them he smirked and swiftly replied, “No”. Alright then… keep your secrets. As soon as I get word of those new beers dropping I’m heading over there ASAP. If you’re ever in our small town and are looking for some gooooood beer, you have to make a stop at IDOL. Come inside, enjoy good company, and get the chance to talk with Grant. He’s quiet and humble but is passionate enough to let his genius slip through the more you talk with him (the more beer he drinks also helps). Thanks for tuning it! Till next time y’all, cheers and onward for beer!
Written by Jordan Perkins
Jordan works in the alcohol distribution industry and has a passion for family, writing, and all things beer (both drinking and brewing it).