Grind Time: Iron Fist brewmaster visits Oahu

Feb. 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Iron Fist Brewing Co. brewmaster Brandon Sieminski is in Honolulu this week to share his beers with the public. (Courtesy photo)

Iron Fist Brewing Co. brewmaster Brandon Sieminski is in Honolulu this week to share his beers with the public. (Courtesy photo)

BY JASON GENEGABUS / jason@staradvertiser.com

As the old saying goes, age ain’t nothing but a number. Iron Fist Brewing Co. brewmaster Brandon Sieminski may be just 24 years old, but his skill in creating craft brews has seen his family-owned company grow faster than anyone imagined.

Available in Hawaii at select bars and retailers, Iron Fist got its start just seven years ago in San Diego, Calif. Growing up in a family of wine connoisseurs, trips to vineyards in Europe eventually led to exploring beer and the brewing process. Despite being underage, he was exposed to the European culture of moderate alcohol consumption and learned to appreciate the taste of beer and techniques used to produce it.

IRON FIST BREWING BEER TASTING

With brewmaster Brandon Sieminski

» Where: Edge Bar, Sheraton Waikiki
» When: 6 p.m. Friday
» Cost: $40 (includes “heavy pupu”)
» Info: (808) 265-5976

Sieminski’s father and brother eventually joined him in making the jump from homebrewers to brewery owners, and the company now employs a staff of 12 — including Sieminski’s mother and grandparents.

“I’ve been lucky in that I have a family who were willing to get behind this,” he admitted during an interview at McCully bar Pint & Jigger on Tuesday. “We’re still one of the small guys, by far, even in San Diego (where there are a lot of craft breweries), but it’s grown a lot quicker than we all expected.”

Iron Fist currently produces 10 different styles of beer, from the Kölsch-style Renegade Blonde and Nelson the ImpALEr extra pale ale to more bold brews like The Gauntlet double IPA (9.5% ABV) and Uprising, a Belgian-style Trippel IPA (12% ABV). Two other styles — Dubbel Fisted, a Belgian-style Dubbel ale with a “California twist” (8.1% ABV) and imperial oatmeal stout Velvet Glove (9.0% ABV) — made their debut in Hawaii this month to help introduce beer drinkers to the brand.

“As far as the product goes, the recipe formulation, for the big production stuff, I’m responsible for that,” Sieminski explained. “At the same time, we have a lot of specialty kegs that I leave to whoever wants to do one. Everybody who works there has a creative side, and I think it’s important to showcase that.”

While Hawaii retailers will be limited to official bottled offerings from Iron Fist, visitors to the brewery’s tasting room in Vista, Calif. are often treated to limited-release brews that won’t last long enough to make it into the wild. The recent addition of a one-barrel brewing system has served as additional motivation for Sieminski to try new things.

“That’s probably my favorite piece of equipment in the brewery,” he said. “We’ve been pumping out unique, one-off batches that don’t really make it outside of the tasting room. There’s no commitment, which is nice, since it’s one barrel of beer and we can sell that in a weekend pretty easily. So it gives us a nice creative outlet. It’s a fun way for us to do something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary.”

Another brewing practice at Iron Fist that draws attention is the company’s decision to carbonate all their products with 100-percent naturally-occuring yeast, Sieminski said.

“For our kegs, at the end of fermentation we’ll seal off the fermenter so the last little bit of carbon dioxide produced by the yeast gets reabsorbed,” he said. “After the beer is done fermenting, we’ll crash cool it — kind of a of mini-lagering — for a period of no less than two weeks at 35 degrees, which allows for the (carbon dioxide) to reabsorb into the beer and kind of cleans it up, crisps up the flavors a little bit.

“In the case of our bottles, we bottle-condition everything. So it goes in flat with a little bit of champagne yeast and a little bit of sugar, and that creates the carbonation.”

Of course, the extra work results in higher costs. But Sieminski believes it’s worth it to create the best-tasting beer possible.

“It’s a very difficult process to master,” he said. “It’s more time-intensive, and time is money. It would be a lot easier for us to fill-carbonate it and send it out to market, but we take the extra time and extra risk to bottle-condition because I think it makes for better beer. Finer carbonation means the beer is smoother on the palate, and when you have carbonation that’s coming from yeast, it actually adds more flavor.”

TO HELP welcome Sieminski to Hawaii, the Sheraton Waikiki’s Edge Bar will host a special tasting event on Friday.

Beers scheduled to be poured include:

» Nelson the ImpALEr (Extra Pale Ale)
» Dubbel Fisted (Belgian Style Dubbel with a California Twist)
» Renegade Blonde (Kölsch-Style Blonde)
» Uprising (Belgian-Style Trippel IPA)
» Velvet Glove (Imperial Oatmeal Stout)

For those who can’t make it to the tasting, or want to purchase Iron Fist beers themselves to drink at home, bottles are available at the Liquor Collection at Ward Warehouse, Ewa Pantry in Ewa Beach, Shiroma’s Wine & More in Pearl City, Whole Foods Market Kahala and all Tamura’s Fine Wines & Liquors and Fujioka’s Wine Times locations on Oahu.
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“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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