Herkimer Pub: Achtung, Beer Drinkers!
These are interesting times at Uptown's Herkimer brewpub. Its owner, Blake Richardson, is preparing to open a Japanese street food restaurant called Moto-i in the old Machu Picchu space on Lyndale Avenue. Meanwhile, there's beer to be brewed. That's where the pub's newly appointed brewmaster, Gustavo de Toledo Vale, comes in.
Until a few years ago, the Brazilian-born de Toledo Vale was working a steady job at the Wall Street Journal in New York, brewing beer at home whenever he got the chance. The newspaper job made him miserable.
"I'd been sitting in front of a computer for 10 years, laying out pages," de Toledo Vale says. "I just got really bored, doing financial page after financial page, and I wondered: 'When am I supposed to have fun?'"
Wanderlust and a love of good brew brought de Toledo Vale and his wife to Germany, where he took a six-month brewing course in Berlin at the VLB (Versuchs und Lehranstalt fur Brauerei). Later, a demanding apprenticeship at the famed Paulaner Brewery's Brauhaus (brewpub) in Munich prepped him for the jump to the Herkimer. Now he brews German-style beers for American drinkers.
"[Paulaner] wasn't that different from here. That's probably why they chose me for this job, because it was pretty much what I was doing in Germany," he says. "But at Paulaner, we only brewed three beers at a time. There were always two beers on tap and one special. Here I have six different beers on tap. I'm juggling three or four microorganisms to brew the beer, and in that respect it's a lot harder."
De Toledo Vale contrasts a more rigid German style of brewing with the American approach.
"The Germans are very regional about their beers," he says. "The guys at Paulaner were discussing when is beer not beer anymore. I was trying to give some smart idea and they said: 'Wrong. If it's not Bavarian, it's not beer.'"
"The tradition means something," he adds. "Before I went to Germany, I was like all the home brewers: I liked to make pale ales, and my favorite beer was an IPA [India pale ale]—really hoppy stuff. When I got there, I got a new appreciation for the white lagers and the pilsners."
De Toledo Vale is the man behind a new brew at Herkimer, the Gose Speziell Weiss. A slightly salty, semi-sour, coriander-laced wheat beer that recalls a Belgian wit, it's thirst-quenching without being dull. For the brewmaster, it's a chance to spread his wings at a job that focuses exclusively on German beers. "The Gose...is really different, and it's tricky to make. You have to add lactobacillus as well as the yeast. So, believe me, I'm not bored."
De Toledo Vale hopes to open his own brewpub one day but is characteristically modest about whether the career is a special calling.
"I'd like to tell you there was some great epiphany that I had, but...you know, I just like beer, I like brewing. And frankly," he adds, "I like to see people getting hammered on something I made. It's really entertaining."
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