Will Kemper on Chuckanut Kölsch

Will Kemper on Chuckanut Kölsch

First Brewed
2009. 2011 with proprietary yeast.
Malt Varieties
Pils for main malt, slight Weizen for dryness, slight Acidulated for pH adjustment
Hop Varieties
Perle, Hallertau Tradition, and Mittlefruh
WKA (Will Kemper Ale)
Pastas, light dishes, or by itself.
Will Kemper on Chuckanut Kölsch

Will Kemper, co-founder of Bellingham, Washington’s Chuckanut Brewing Co. answers our ten questions about their flagship beer, “Kölsch.”

1. What is your flagship beer and when did you begin brewing it?

Chuckanut Kölsch in 2009.

2. Who wrote the recipe and how did that come about? What was the inspiration for it?

Will Kemper. Visiting Cologne and drinking various Kölsch beers.

3. Did you go through several tests or were you happy with it right away?

Generally okay from the beginning.

4. Has it changed at all over the years, or is it still the same as when you first brewed it?

There will always be slight changes due to slight changes in raw materials over the years. Tweaking to make Kölsch incredibly drinkable is always the target.

5. Did you think it was going to be your most popular beer or did that take you by surprise?

I do not feel that any of our beers have a greater popularity than others. So many are good on their own merits.

Brewer Will Kemper in the brewery with one of his Kölsches.

6. When did you realize it was your flagship beer?

When a main newspaper in Cologne, Bild, came to do an article about our Kölsch.

7. What do you like best about it and what is unique about your flagship as compared to other similar beers (assuming there are any similar ones).

It uses a proprietary yeast strain from Cologne.

8. How much of your early success do you attribute to your flagship beer?

Because we are a small brewery, none of our beers have had exposure to the larger beer market. Consequently, I cannot say that this beer or any of our other beers can claim an overriding influence as to our success as a brewery.

9. What is your favorite story involving your flagship beer?

When I was working at a brewery in Istanbul, one of my assistant brewers learned how to brew in his home town of Cologne. He brought the Kölsch strain to use, and I thought it superb. When we started Chuckanut, I made several attempts to get slants (yeast samples – ed.) sent over, but we were never able to do so. A couple of years later we went to Germany on business, and I decided to have a couple of slants sent from Cologne to the Weyermann facility in Bamberg where we were staying. I carried one slant with me and packed another in my suitcase and sent both to the Brewing Science Institute for maintenance immediately upon my return. That is the proprietary strain we use for our Kölsch. I am open to lending out our lager yeast, 3470, when available, but we do not lend out our Kölsch yeast.

10. What else would you want people to know about your flagship beer?

This beer has been well received by the public and from various beer contests. It is the present gold medal winner in the Kölsch category from the World Beer Cup, and has received three gold medals at Great American Beer Festival since we started entering it.

Will Kemper, along with his wife Mari, started one of the first craft breweries in the Northwest “Thomas Kemper Brewery” back in 1984. After leaving Kemper they moved to the East Coast where Will became a consultant in craft brewing and breweries and worked with Weeping Radish in Durham, NC, set up the first Dock Street Brewpub in Philly, set up the original Capital City Brewery in DC, and Lowell Brewing in Lowell, MA. Then they moved back to the NW where Will worked with Beers Across America, a group of craft breweries including Aviator Brewing in Woodinville, Norwester Brewing in Portland, Orange County Brewing in CA, Mile High Brewery in Denver, and a few more. When that ended he developed the first two brewpubs in Monterrey, Mexico (Sierra Madre Brewing Co). At the same time he taught brewing engineering for the American Brewers Guild in Davis, CA. Upon returning to the USA he began to consult with a group from Istanbul, Turkey and he and Mari went to Istanbul to put in the first craft brewpub in Turkey in 2002. They returned to American and he continued to consult with them when the two of them were asked to return to Istanbul to make the first craft brewery. They lived three years in Turkey for the project and when they finally returned to their home in Bellingham, WA they decided to start Chuckanut Brewery.

Winning Small Brewpub/Brewer of the Year at the GABF 2009 (the first time they entered this national contest) and the first time the title had been won with all Lager beers was amazing. When we won Small Brewery/Brewer of the Year 2011 at the GABF it was a confirmation that Chuckanut beers were indeed, some of the best in the nation. Continued awards of medals from the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, the North American Beer Awards, and the Washington Beer Awards is an indication that Chuckanut is one of the more awarded breweries in WA State.

Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.

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