Small batches ferment creativity at Mraz Brewing Company
MICHAEL MRAZ, left, and Justin Simarro are brewing craft beer in El Dorado Hills with styles ranging from Belgian ales to West Coast-style IPAs. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum
One of California’s most honored home brewers just went pro.
Michael Mraz, California Home Brewer of the Year in 2008 and 2009, and winner of the Maltose Falcon in 2008 and 2012 has opened his own neighborhood brewery in El Dorado Hills.
California Home Brewer of the year is a title earned by accumulating kudos from judges in three separate competitions, one of which is the California Exposition and State Fair. The Maltose Falcon is an award given to best of show winners in The Mayfair, a nation-wide competition put on by the oldest home brew organization in the United States.
It all started as a hobby in college. Fast forward 20 years and Mraz, 41, is sitting at a polished wooden bar beneath a large chalkboard — sketched onto it the logo of his brewing company. The logo sets a sword between a pair of gothic angel wings. The wings are intended to symbolize the sanctuary found in a Belgian abbey — where beer is traditionally made in Belgium.
Belgian beers just happen to be one of Mraz’s specialites. Mraz’s Flanders Red, a Flemish sour beer, garnered one of the best of show Maltose Falcons.
“A Belgian abbey is a safe place to go to have a good beer, good company and good conversation,” Mraz said. “The sword represents trying something new and being aggressive in the beers that we make,” Mraz said. “We are small scale, we can take chances. Like brewing with new hops that no one else is using.”
Mraz manages his brewery with the help of his son Justin Simarro, 23, who pours beer, teaches beer and keeps the business hopping.
Mraz Brewing serves seven varieties of beer on tap and they rotate through different beers seasonally. Right now craft beer enthusiasts are guzzling down the Summer India Pale Ale and Belgian White that are both crisp and refreshing.
Certified Master Beer Judge and El Dorado County resident Beth Zangari shared her thoughts on the brew after a recent visit to the pub.
“I really enjoyed the light Summer IPA. It is a session-y beer, but still has a crisp hop flavor and firm bitterness, without being harsh or highly alcoholic. I call it being whopped upside the head with a hop sack,” Zangari said.
Coming soon will be a cream ale and a double IPA.
The cream ale is a light American Ale similar to a German Lager, without the time-consuming lagering process. And there will be nothing light about the double IPA which Mraz has dubbed the EDH IPA.
This beer is not only doubled in its ingredient bill but in its meaning as well. It is an acronym for both El Dorado Hills and the El Dorado Hops used in this 8-percent-alcohol hop monster.
“We are in El Dorado County, I thought it would be kinda cool to do a beer with El Dorado Hops,” Mraz said.
El Dorado is a new variety of hop; hops being an essential and often aromatic ingredient in beer. Hundreds of different types of hops exist, each with their own flavor profile. El Dorado, cultivated in the Pacific Northwest, first hit the market in 2010 and has since gained popularity among brewers. The hop elicits fruity notes, specifically tropical fruit flavors and citrus.
“You can’t come here without getting an education and learning about the beers,” said Gary Stowell, El Dorado Hills resident and one of the first to purchase a Mraz Brewing growler for craft beer to-go.
Mraz Brewing has a three barrel brewing system with 10 barrel fermenters. In a 12-hour brew day Mraz makes about 279 gallons of beer.
Just across the alley from the tap room is a space dedicated to aging beer in wine barrels. Using local barrels from Amador County’s Terra d’Oro and Montevina wineries, Mraz is able to impart delicate and sophisticated flavors from the barrel’s wine-soaked-wood into his ales.
Right now Mraz has a Belgian Dubbel on French Oak and a Belgian Blonde aging in three different barrels, each with 30 pounds of either raspberries, cherries or blueberries.
To make things even more interesting, that Belgian Blonde also has brettanomyces and lactobacillus; bacteria known for bringing dry, earthy and sour characteristics to the beer.
Find Mraz Brewing beer on tap at regional craft beer spots like Samuel Horne’s Tavern in Folsom, Final Gravity in Roseville, Bistro 33 in El Dorado Hills and Dad’s Kitchen in Sacramento. They will have bottled beer available next month.
For more information call 916-934-0744, check out the Website at mrazbrewingcompany.com or stop by the brewery located at 2222 Francisco Drive, Suite 510 in El Dorado Hills.