Interview with Anthem Brewing's Founder and Head Brewmaster: Matt Anthony
March 21, 2015
This month, our Craft Brewery Series limited edition recipe was a collaboration with an Oklahoma City favorite: Anthem Brewing. We replicated their popular Belgian Style Blonde Ale, Golden One, and we are thrilled to let Mr. Beer customers brew this delicious beer for themselves. We had a chance to chat with Anthem founder and head brewmaster, Matt Anthony, about how he began brewing, his favorite beer to brew, and the biggest challenges he faced when deciding to pursue his dream of opening a brewery.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and Anthem Brewing: I started homebrewing back in January of 2001. As my love of brewing grew, I knew I wanted to try and open my own brewery. The vision was to create a Belgian inspired brewery, using old world techniques like open top fermenters. Belgian and barrel aged beers are hands down my favorites, so that was my vision for Anthem Brewing. After years of research, in 2010 I really started tightening up the idea and pursuing it. In April of 2012 I quit my day job and Anthem brewed its first commercial batch a few days later on May 2nd. Q: Tell us about your first brewing experience: My first brewing experience was with a Mr. Beer kit that my wife, then girlfriend, gave me for Christmas. The idea of making my own beer really excited me, and I was geeking out the whole time. It was hard to believe how fun and easy it was. I'll never forget getting to taste the finished beer a few weeks later. Not only had brewing it been fun, but the end results tasted great! A switch was flipped in my brain that day, and brewing became my passion. Q: What has been the biggest challenge in the transition from homebrewing to opening your own brewery? Realizing how different the two are. There is so much more at stake financially and with your reputation every time you brew a large commercial batch versus when brewing at home. Second, while the principles and science remain the same, the mechanics are pretty different, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Scaling up recipes is another interested challenge, because taking a recipe from homebrew scale to commercial doesn't usually scale linearly. Q: What is your favorite beer to brew? My Belgian stout, Uroboros. There is nothing better than the smell of brewing a stout first thing in the morning. Q: If you could share a beer with one person, who would it be? My uncle Loren who passed away before the brewery opened. Q: Any advice for new homebrewers? To homebrewers I'd say, never take yourself too seriously. It is, in my opinion, the most fun hobby of all time. People can get too hung up on things like BJCP style guidelines, and following a certain process that someone else insists you follow. Yes, beer is a science, but if you let it outweigh the art of brewing, you suck the fun out of it. Play and experiment. Brew the beers that excite you, and design recipes that appeal to your taste, not some rigid style dogma. Practice good sanitation religiously, everything else is up for experimentation except for that aspect. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and don't be afraid of a batch not turning out. It's not the end of the world, it's beer, and you know how to make more! Q: Any advice for homebrewers looking to take the next step in opening up a brewery? Go volunteer at a local brewery. Spend as much time there helping in as many areas as possible. Having that awareness of just how different a production environment is from homebrewing, before opening your own brewery, is so crucial. You'll also learn quite a bit, including the things you do and do not like about their setup that you can apply to your brewery. Which can save you money and time down the road. Last, stay true to your vision and never compromise on it or your beer. Those are yours, and they are invaluable, so don't sell them short for the sake of efficiency or margins. Never let it stop being about the beer.