Aspiring Brewmaster Directs Operations At Llywelyn’s Pub

by J.B. Lester,
Healthy Planet Publisher/Editor

I suppose it’s my English, Scottish, Irish, German heritage that makes me such a beer lover. After visting many pubs and taverns in Europe, I have long been a beer aficionado or as one beer blogger calls himself, a “cerevisaphile”. Cerevisa is Latin for beer. In most countries, the local “pub” or “tavern” is the place where locals meet to sip and socialize. It is no wonder then that pubs top my list of evenings out. And it was at Llywelyn’s Pub in Webster Groves where I met another beer lover and Llywelyn’s Director of Operations, Tom Brehen. This smiling, unassuming young man has a growing passion for the art of beer making. In fact, he recently had the opportunity to create his own special brew, a Russian Imperial Stout that is available at Llywelyn’s Pub. My wife and I had the pleasure of tasting Tom’s new brew, and found it bold in flavor and smooth on the tounge. And with a higher alcohol content than most beers, it is served in a brandy snifter instead of a tall beer glass which usually indicates a sipping versus gulping experience. Tom calls it “a very efficient beer.” I recently had a chance to dig into this aspiring brewmaster’s mind to see just what drives his passion for stouts, ales & lagers.

Why are you attracted to brewing?
Tom: The love of beer attracted me to brewing. I love cooking, and brewing is cooking, essentially. I’m proud of all the beers I have made and love tweaking recipes. I also love the camaraderie of the home brewing community.

What level brewer are you? 
Tom: I am a home brewer that is fortunate enough to work with different brewers around the area.

How long have you been brewing and what are your brew plans for the future?
Tom: I have been brewing for 2 years now. Right now I am planning along with four other home brewers to set up a co-op or partnership to combine different ideas and/or techniques. I would like to start a nano-brewery in the St. Louis Area and then maybe move on to microbrewery status.

Are you an independent brewer or is your brewing connected to Llywelyn’s?
Tom: I am fortunate enough to be able to brew with various local breweries. We then buy those beers through the distributorship and sell through our 6 locations. We can move enough beer where it is worthwhile for these local breweries to work with us. It creates excitement for us and more sales for the local breweries.

What was your first brew and why did you choose that recipe?
Tom: My first brew was a Russian Imperial Stout. I chose that type because I absolutely love the malty, chocolaty smoothness with a bigger hop kick than most traditional stouts. It blew the top off my fermenter. Ugly mess.

Would you like to own your own brew house someday?
Tom: That would be a great dream for me to achieve. Hopefully one day I can make enough beers that make a lot of people smile.

Pair up three of your favorite craft beers with three of your favorite foods.
Tom: Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewery and Steak. The Civil Life Brown and a slow cooked brisket. 4 Hands Divided Sky Rye IPA and Pizza.

What do you see for the future of Craft Beers and Micro Breweries?
Tom: I see only growth. The new craft beer drinkers are a finicky lot. We like certain beers, but want to move on to a new one as soon as it touches the market. That basically creates an infinite market for craft beer. We see it all the time at the pubs, a highly anticipated beer is released; there is a huge bubble of sales, then the community moves on to something else. This is why the seasonal offerings are so popular. If a brewery can produce great tasting beers and find its niche then the possibilities are endless.

What would you say are the “Green” and “Healthy” benefits of Craft Beers?
Tom: I know Schlafly gives their spent grain (grain that was steeped in water) away to local farmers for feed. I do believe they give away the spent yeast as well. These are really the only bi-products of brewing beer. Meaning no waste. As to the health benefits, besides the mental health of letting out stress, Craft beer contains more nutrients than does wine. Craft beer also contains some soluble fiber, some B vitamins (notably folate), a range of antioxidants and it is also the richest source of silicon; silicon in the diet may help in countering osteoperosis. It’s good for you!!!

Stay tuned for more craft beer stories in the April edition of The Healthy Planet magazine. In the meantime, I suggest visiting a local brewery or a brew pub and taste testing for yourself what all the excitement is about. It will certainly cure what ales you! – JBL