Fretboard interviews Dave Mathews....The Brewer (Not that other guy!)
Mathews Brewing Company, located in Lake Worth, Florida, has only been open for a month and already is grabbing the attention of the locals and not-so-locals. A very upscale, sleekly designed micro-brewery that has not left out any detail, from the well-designed entrance-way, very expansive bar and indoor seating area, to the large outdoor courtyard and elevated stage area where live bands will be performing each week.
The owner is Dave Mathews, (no, not the other guy), but Dave Mathews, Brewer extraordinaire. Mathews Brewing Company is a state of the art, work of art, that poses as a kick ass microbrewery and live music venue. If you're into craft beer and you live in Lake Worth, you're going to be spending a lot of time and $ here. If you live outside Palm Beach County, well, you are also going to be spending a lot of time and $ here. The craft beers are fantastic, the service supreme and the bands that perform here will have you rock'n and dancing all night long. On Wednesdays through Sundays, bring your appetite because Mathews brings in the gourmet food trucks.
Taking some time out of his ultra-busy schedule, Dave was kind enough to sit down with Fretboard Magazine for a while to discuss the brewery and the meaning of life.
FM: Dave, thanks for taking some time out of your hectic schedule to sit down for a few minutes. So tell me a bit about yourself. Married? Any kids?
DM: Well, I'm not married now but I was. I'm divorced. It's been many years. We didn't have any kids. My kids are my 2 Jack Russells, Bandit and Cheyenne. Great dogs. But no wife. These days you can say the brewery is my mistress.
FM: Jack Russells are cool dogs. And, looking around here, you've got one gorgeous mistress. Congratulations.
DM: Thanks. I like her a lot.
FM: So Dave, how long have you been making beer?
DM: It's been about 20 years. It started out as a fluke but it became something I just fell in love with doing right from the get go.
FM: How did you first learn how to make beer?
DM: Believe it or not, from TV. I was sitting back watching a TV program and they were talking about this "Sam Adams Long-Shot" contest and I thought, "that's pretty cool, I'd like to give that a try." So, I went to a home-brew shop in West Palm Beach, spoke to the people there, bought the basics, went home and 20 years later, here we are.
FM: Did you win that contest?
DM: Not that one but I've won a lot of awards for home-brewing over the years.
FM: That's awesome. Congratulations. So, now, moving forward, when did you come up with the idea for Mathews Brewery?
DM: I'd say it was about 12 years ago. You know, a lot of people who make home-brews may not admit it but I'm sure they have this dream that they'd like to own their own craft brewery one day. I had that dream. Like a journalist (pointing at me), may one day want to write his own novel or start his own cool magazine. So, I started to put the business plan together about 2 years ago for Mathews Brewing Company. I sold my engineering company 1 1/2 years ago and that made this possible.
FM: Engineering company?
DM: Yeah. I'm actually a civil engineer by trade. I got a great offer for my company and sold it and now I'm here (pointing around). I invested a lot of time and my own money and we opened about 3 weeks ago, had the grand opening last weekend and the place was packed.
FM: As the owner, are you here every day?
DM: Yeah, pretty much. Not all day but most of the time. I'm hands on.
FM: (pointing to the dog logo painted on the wall) The logo for Mathews, where did you come up with that idea? It's one of those logos that I think will become instantly recognizable, like the McDonalds M.
DM: Well, that's the idea. It was designed after my first Jack Russell, Dakota. He was a great dog. Yeah, I wanted a cool logo, something that would be instantly recognizable but also, personal, to me.
FM: I'm going to assume something. Correct me if you have to, but, with your engineering background, did you design all the machinery here? The tanks? The whole system you use to make the beer?
DM: I didn't design the tanks. There's a company I contracted that designs and fabricates the fermentation tanks, those are the huge silver tanks you see behind the glass windows. I designed the setup. What you see back there (pointing to an elaborate system of huge, very cool looking tanks where the beer is brewed) is what I designed. I had an architectural firm create the plans from my designs. It's called a 3-vessel brewery system.
FM: It looks pretty complicated.
DM: Yeah, it is but fortunately, I know how it works.
FM: How long did it take for all this to be fabricated?
DM: Once the plans were all written out and they went to the fabricator, a few months. It's all custom built. Everything you see back there, the large tanks, are custom built based on the brewery's roof height.
FM: So if the roof was even higher, then you could have had even bigger tanks?
DM: That's right.
FM: Wow. Those tanks are pretty big already. Were you involved in the installation of everything?
DM: I was here during the installation. I continued to review the plans while that was going on. It was my concept that we took to paper.
FM: Is the brewing system automated or is there a lot of hands-on involved in your brewery's operation?
DM: Almost everything you see back there is automated. The brewing system is all automated, not like when I first started making beer at home. The only thing not automated obviously, is the selling of the final product.
FM: Have you ever had a bad batch? If so, how long did it take you to figure out what caused it?
DM: Actually, no. I never have. If you are very detailed and clean, there's really no reason to have that happen.
FM: Do you sell your beer to restaurants or retail stores?
DM: Currently, no. But, I have plans to do so in a few months, about 3 months we'll start that.
FM: Can you give a hint if anything might be coming from your brewery (new brew, special brew, etc.)?
DM: We'll have an Imperial Stout very soon called "Seek and Destroy, a Double New England IPA, "Radius" and a Strawberry Blonde called "Rhythm."
FM: How do you come up with the names of the beer? Obviously, you're a rock and roll fan.
DM: Yep. Love rock and roll, especially 90's grunge and alternative. If you go look at some of the fermentation tanks in the brew area in the back of the house, you'll notice that I've named several of the tanks.
FM: (I take a walk with Dave to the back of the house in the brewing area and sure enough, the big fermentation tanks are all labeled with 90's rock and roll band names) We've got Green Day, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. I think I'm going to have to be a regular here.
DM: I hope so. Bring your friends. Fretboard is always welcome here.
FM: Do you get any requests from friends or customers for a special brew?
DM: No, not really. But, I'm planning to do some type of collaboration with 26 Degree Brewery. I'm sure we'll come up with something really cool, no pun intended.
FM: None taken. Now, I've got to ask this question. I actually thought of this on the drive here. What’s the weirdest ingredient you have ever put in beer. Fruit? Vegetables? Meat?
DM: Hmmm? The weirdest ingredient? Well, I haven't tossed in any steak or pepperoni. Let's see.....coffee, apricot and banana. But, no vegetables or meat.
FM: I can hear your servers asking, "Hey buddy, how'd you like your beer? Uh....medium rare!"
DM: That would definitely be a first.
FM: Do you or your brewery attend the large beer gatherings (i.e. Great American Beer Festival, Zythos, etc.)?
DM: No, haven't been to any of those. But, I did attend the Florida Brewer's Guild in Tampa. I'd go again.
FM: Any awards, either for you or your brewery?
DM: Personally, I've won several home-brewing awards. I plan to submit some of the commercial beers in 2018.
FM: Mathews has a nice sized outdoor stage and courtyard. I know you plan to make live music a consistent part of the brewery. How often do you plan to feature live bands?
DM: We'll have live bands every Thursday through Sunday. And, on Wednesdays through Sundays, we'll have the food trucks in the back of the courtyard so families can bring their kids.
FM: That's great to include the food trucks. I know without them, as a "beer only" business, you couldn't allow minors. Great idea. Speaking of music, what kind of music will you be featuring here? Rock, Classic rock, reggae, folk, blues, maybe something that features the harpsichord?
DM: (Dave stares at me as if I'm a couple ounces short of a full pint) Harpsichord?
FM: Hey, I gotta ask. You never know. I know some people in the fitness industry who enjoy working out to show tunes.
DM: No comment on that. The bands we bring in here will be alternative rock, definitely.
FM: Do you have plans to bring in any national acts to the place? You’ve got the space to pull it off, a nice intimate setting. You could probably put a few hundred people out in the courtyard.
DM: Yes, most definitely. That will be for our 1-year anniversary next January. We'll start thinking about that soon. It'll be here before we know it.
FM: Bringing the food trucks here. Is that something you had planned from day 1 in your business plan?
DM: Absolutely. I wanted to create a great brewery and place entire families could come to. Without the food trucks in the courtyard, we can't allow the kids. So far, it's been a hit.
FM: Have you traveled outside of the United States to experience another beer culture, in say, England or Germany? If so, what was your impression.
DM: No, not yet. Maybe one day. I've traveled to California, which is the home of the West Coast IPA micro-brews. There's some really great craft beers there.
FM: If you had to pick a favorite beer from your brewery and offer it to a stranger, which one would it be and why?
DM: Sweet Emotion Cream Ale. It's a lighter beer, marinated on Madagascar vanilla bean. A really nice smooth beer.
FM: Did you have to travel to Madagascar to get the vanilla beans?
DM: Yeah! I just got back. (laughing).
FM: Any advice for those aspiring (kitchen / home-brew) future pro brewers out there?
DM: Yes. Go get the book, "Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian. He's the Godfather of home brewing. I've read the book several times.
FM: Alright. Let’s test your beer / food pairing. You know how those wine snobs only pair certain wines with certain foods?
DM: Bring it
FM: Which of your beers go good with a 16-ounce steak?
DM: Heavy Metal IPA
DM: White Goblin Belgian Witbier
DM: Night Moves Amber Ale
DM: Florida Hope Juice New England Pale Ale
FM: What about for a vegan? (God forbid)
FM: Perfect! Do you offer gluten free beer? (had to ask)
DM: No. Gluten free need not knock on this brewery's door.
FM: What about someone who’s watching their waistline but still wants to experience a great craft beer? What do you recommend?
DM: L Dub Tropical Pale Ale. It's more of a session beer.
FM: For our readers not in the know, explain a session beer?
DM: It's a beer that has a relatively low alcohol content so it's suitable for drinking over an extended period.
It's usually about 3 to 4% alcohol.
FM: What do you like to do away from the brewery? How do you spend your free time, if you have any, at the moment.
DM: Free time? Hmmm... Paying bills! Actually, I like to relax by listening to music and hang with my dogs.
FM: What do you enjoy most about owning your own brewery?
DM: The craft beer business is an enjoyable lifestyle. It's not the grind of a daily job.
FM: What do you find to be the most difficult or time consuming, with relation to the brewery?
DM: All the paperwork. There's tons of regulations that have to be followed very closely. That's a big part of the business.
FM: Where do you want to be with Mathews Brewery a year from now?
DM: Doing lots of distribution with kegs and cans in Palm Beach County. I want to be known for great beer, great atmosphere, and great live entertainment for the whole family.
FM: How about 5 years from now?
DM: (laughing) Break even on my investment!
FM: I hear ya! Well Dave, this has been great. Thank you for taking some time out of your incredibly busy schedule to sit down with me for a few minutes. The place is great. Congratulations again. I was here last weekend for the grand opening and let me tell the readers, the place is magnificent, the beer is tasty and cold and the live entertainment is on point.
DM: Thank you. We're off to a great start here.
Craig Marks, Editor
You can find Mathews Brewing Company on their website at www.mathewsbrewingcompany.com.
Mathews Brewing Company
130 South H Street
Lake Worth, FL 33460