Jason Grable is the co-founder and brewer at Random Precision Brewing Co. in Columbus. The brewery, which opened last year, focuses on sour beers.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: I was a homebrewer for about seven or eight years when I decided to pursue a career as a brewer and open a brewery. I think most homebrewers get to the point where they wonder if they can do it for a living. I practiced law for over 14 years before making this career change. Civil defense litigation is a very adversarial occupation; assuming my clients were pleased, I only ended up ticking off the rest of the people I interacted with every day. A lot of people don’t understand that, and I envy them.
Being a brewer and owning a brewery is a tremendous amount of hard work, but having that person, with either a preconceived notion of or a bad experience with a sour beer, trying a RPBC sour and smiling, truly makes my day. That and seeing someone come into the taproom and silently mouth “sour stout” with a perplexed look on their face as they read the menu board.
Q: What's the story behind the name Random Precision?
A: The name of the brewery is two-fold and, based upon the current audience, the first basis is simply the nature of barrel-aged sours. Brewers of non-sours work on their craft in a very precise environment. Sealed, controlled, and very unchanging. With barrel-aged sours, much of the control over how a beer is going to turn out is given away. Allowing the beer to sour in an used wooden barrel, with oxygen exposure over the course of 10 to 12 months, with varying temperatures and humidity causes the beer with several strains of yeast and bacteria to ebb and flow. A 10-barrel batch of my golden sour ages in six wine barrels that are typically within a few feet of each other, but the end flavor, pH, and other characteristics aren’t the same. So there is a certain amount of randomness to the beer after 10 months of aging. Many times, the beer is different than how I expected, sometimes for the better, a few times for the worse, and even occasionally exactly how I thought it would turn out.
I’m also a huge Pink Floyd fan and there is a verse in Shine on You Crazy Diamond: “You wore out your welcome with random precision.” Random precision — it’s a beautiful oxymoron.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite craft beer trends now?
A: My favorite trend, especially in the Central Ohio craft beer scene, is the growth of barrel-aged sour breweries. Compared to other similar cities, Columbus was lagging behind in its sour breweries. Sours are small subset of craft beer, but most craft beer lovers will at least try the style. The more options/locations for people to be exposed to the style only benefits all of us. Each brewery is going to have its own take on the style, but I can’t imagine that any one of us would not want sours to be more commonplace.
Trends I’m not a fan of? I don’t know how much of a trend it is, but it disappoints me to see craft breweries “recreate” Bud Light or PBR. I can appreciate a fine pilsner, but a flavor trip back to my college days isn’t what I’m looking for.
Q: What's your best-selling beer and why do you think it's so popular?
A: The only beer that has never changed since we opened is the Misconstrued Sarcasm Brettanomyces IPA. I have had six different variations of Bending Towards the Sun berliner weisse and I love to play around with different variations. The ginger version has been the favorite, so that’s going back on tap soon.
With the barrel-aged sours, I have three base beers (golden, red, and a stout). Of the 14 variations of these beers, I think the most popular was the Passage of Time (red sour) with black currants. I know why the IPA has sold so well; people expect a microbrewery to make an IPA. This is my version that still works with staying true to making beers with a wild yeast, a bacteria, or some combination of both. I was very surprised by the popularity of the Passage of Time with black currants as I truly took a flyer on that beer. I had never made it, but after a conversation with one of the regular customers, I wanted to try it.
That’s probably one of the best parts about my brewery, making small batches of different sours and seeing what the customers like. If it’s well received, my savvy business sense tells me to make it again. If it’s less popular, I will get through the few kegs I have and try to figure out why it wasn’t popular. Sometimes that just means adding more or less fruit. Sometimes, it just isn’t a good fit. Either way, I will continue to experiment with new variations of my beers, including the spirit barrel varieties.
The base sours are all aged in neutral wine barrels, but I have done two, limited sours, aged in spirit barrels: Plethora of Pinatas, the golden sour aged in tequila barrels with lime infused sea salt, and Anxious Glances, the red sour aged in brandy barrels with orange and lemon zest. The Plethora of Pinatas will be back later this summer.
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/brewed and why?
A: Wow. That’s hard. I feel that I’m a fairly experienced connoisseur of craft beer. I was and continue to be blown away by sour stouts. The first one I ever had was The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness. It was my first attempt at a homebrew clone and it serves as the basis for RPBC’s Obscuration. It’s the same grain bill and same hops as a traditional stout and common sense tells you it shouldn’t work when it’s made sour, but it does. It’s very unique, but whoever came up with the idea was clearly looking to reinvent the wheel. That creativity is inspiring.
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