Brewer Profile and Interview: Derrick Morse

Profile and Interview by Millie and Ken Carman for professorgoodales.net

KC: State your name for the record!!!

DM: Derrick Morse. M-o-r-s-e,  like “Morse code.”

KC: Any relation to Samuel B.?

DM: No, we’re more related to the Morse brothers who were pretty intricately involved in the Revolutionary War.

At this point we talked about his pump, and Nashville’s Jackalope Brewing who had to have a Mandarin manual for their equipment. Derrick told a story about Twisted Pine where he brewed before Cool Springs.

 DM: Funny story: at Twisted Pine: we were installing the first in a series of 60 gallon tanks. We found the tanks had been welded to the inside of the tanker. We had to get the smallest guy to get the welds off from inside of the tanker. Once we got it on our dock inside we saw a pack of cigarettes.  Again we had to get the small guy to crawl in, get a pack of Mandarin cigarettes. On the pack, we got it translated, it said, “To increase health, stop smoking early. Not “stop smoking,”

KC: Then you have sanitary issues…

DM: Exactly.

KC: Unless you wanted to brew a Specialty “tobacco infused…”

DM:  Let’s just say we used a VERY thorough cleaning method before using that tank. If you come into a brewery thinking everything will go hunky dory you have another thing coming. You’re faced with some of the most ridiculous challenges in your life.

KC: How did you get into brewing?

 DM: I was in marketing. A student at Colorado University. Moved away for seven years. (To Phoenix.) When I came back to Boulder I offered my marketing services to Twisted Pine, for free except for a 50 pound bag of two row a month and beer. I completely redesigned their website, did all their social media.  After about $60,000 worth of work I said, “I appreciate the exposure you’ve given me, but I can’t keep doing this for free.” They did have a production job, “but, yeah, it would only pay $10 an hour.” I cleaned floors and kegs for six months.

KC: It was a way in…

DM: A way in; my foot in the door. The owner at the time, Bob Baile, tried my homebrews when I brought them in and said, “This is probably one of the most eclectic group of beers I’ve ever had from a hombrewer.”  I had brought him Sours, high gravity Belgians and very clean North Pacific hop bombs. A beer we have on tap now is one of the beers I brought him as an interview beer. Eventually we introduced a program at Twisted Pine giving everyone in the brewery a chance to brew a one barrel batch of whatever they wanted:  even the last guy hired. Very quickly I made it up the ranks there.

He talked about how he got to Cool Springs while looking for more tanks, and saw the ad for a new brewer, and said: “There’s NO brewery in Franklin, TN.!” He mentioned why he started homebrewing: moving to Phoenix he discovered it was “was the black hole of good beer.” Told how he said “No,” to a second phone interview for the Cool Springs job the next day because his wife, Kaleigh, was having contractions and “more than likely we’ll be having a baby boy tomorrow…”

DM: The doctors walked into the delivery room and asked if the guy out there on the phone was her fiancé, and she said, “Oh, yeah he’s doing a phone interview…” and they just happened to be big beer nerds. She ended talking to them between contractions about the beer releases at Left Hand, and since they were big fans of Twisted Pine they were eager to be able to name the future releases we were going to come out with.   (I think from that phone interview Chris knew…) that I could bring some of the experiences I’ve had at a production facility about ten times the size of Cool Springs: some of the procedures, policies, along with  my experience brewing unique beer styles. I hoped to develop my reputation here as a brewer rather than the big pond I was in. I think aside from Ashville, Nashville can be a very dominant place for a good craft beer community. I really want to be part of that. Like the plan to have a production facility that is doing 60-70,000 barrels.

KC: You talked to us about your plans for a small one barrel system…

Derrick holding torpedo to be used in making some of the new brews for Cool Springs.

   DM: Yes, I’ve had a couple of phone conversations with local and national manufacturers for Pico systems: just a bit smaller than a Nano brewery. It’s a small niche market because it’s higher than high end homebrewers who are doing 15-20 gallon batches and low end for nano. Most nanos are running 2-3 barrel systems. What they’re going to build for me is 1 or 2 one barrel fermenters, kettle and mash tun. What we’ll do is do some real super obscure beer styles. Who knows if they’ll sell in this market. Also use hop varietals out of New Zealand. I’m not sure I want to launch into a whole 7 barrel version of hop varietals there’s not a lot of literature on. Gives me a chance to do super fun stuff and push the limit of people’s palates. If a lactose infused, brett Saison sits in a keg for a while: no big deal, but 7 barrels of it in a tank? That’s not good for me. It’s a cost effective way for me to express my freedom without hurting the company, and I can find out what works well during different seasons. That’s what I expressed to Chris in my interview, “If you’re looking for someone who is just going to reproduce the recipes that Mike Kraft did I’m sure there are a lot of brewers on the east coast who can do that. My interest is to reproduce what they already love, but also push the palates in the area. It’s also the system for our Sour program that will start ramping up during the middle of the summer.  It also keep be busy.

KC: Keeps the mind going, the creativity…

DM: Absolutely.

KC: Any suggestions for homebrewers?

DM: Temperature control.  It is probably by far the one thing homebrewers skip is as important as any equipment that you could use.  Chris White’s book: “Yeast,” is extremely invaluable. He describes what esters different yeasts produce under different temperatures. Control on your fermentations temperature takes your beers to the next level. $600 mash tuns? I’d much rather use a cooler and spend that on a nano glycol system for my carboys… or do what I did: use a circulating pump going up through a kegerator with a CPU coolant block sitting on the inside of my kegerator, going back down into a water bath… have a  pump recirculating around my carboy. Your IPAs will taste more clean, crisp, brown ales more nutty, less diacetyl. You can increase fermentation time, do cool, fun, things like cold crash without putting it into a refrigerator. The difference between professional and homebrewing really has nothing to do with the equipment until you get it into the fermentation vessel. I have met many homebrewers who are just as good a brewer as any professional, just as intelligent. Design a system that can do that, you’ll can have quality over many generations: produce the same style over and over with minimal difference.

KC: You use mostly pellets, I assume.

DM: Yes.

KC:  Will you start using more leaf?

DM: We’re going to see if I can procure some fresh hops. Then there’s also the New Zealand fresh hops harvest coming up. I think it’s June, but then you have to use a hop back which is the torpedo I showed you guys, but the 7 barrel we’re always going to stick with… (For the regular brew .)

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KC: You’ve got to keep main tanks for main product.

DM: Exactly, and pelletized is just so much easier.

KC: How long were you at Twisted Pine?

DM: If you include the “internship,” which was just me working for free, roughly about 2 years.

    KC: So when did you put on the Black IPA ( called “Shaft” as in “the movie.”)?

DM: That was Saturday’s beer release: my fiancé’s first brew (here).  She sat down with me, we discussed what hops she wanted to use, what beer base. I was completely hands off as she brewed it. (Like what Derrick did with the staff at Twisted Pine.) What I do is find beer that represents the style, do a tasting and we pinpoint from each beer what we like the most and if they would potentially work together. Then add in my own flavor intricacies, and then start building the beer from back to front.  (That’s how he brews too) So we sat down with 4 or 5 IPAs, like Hop in the Dark, Sublimely Self Righteous, Hoppy Night from Twisted Pine: all Black IPAs, to use as an idea for where we’ll go. A lot of the beer we have now (aroma-wise) are based around a good spiced, floral note, with hints of pine… Amarillo, Columbus, Tomahawk…  there’s almost 7 pounds of hops in just the dry hop alone. Then we looked at the flavor profile we liked: we used a lot of Cascade which give you that huge grapefruit, citrus, profile.  That was the middle of the boil hop addition. Then “what can we do to kind of kick the pants off” for bitterness.) Warrior.  When I first brewed this, it had 7 hop additions. This one has 10. It’s a fun beer to brew: quite complex;  almost like a crescendo with that bitter at the end. Those kinds of beers are my shift beers, “If you won’t drink it at the end of your shift, why brew it?” I don’t want my beer to be  “just another IPA,” or “another Pale Ale.”

KC: A shame you can’t do an occasional Barleywine with the laws here.

DM: Hmm… I’ll see about how I might do a 6.2% Barleywine.

KC: Barleywine light?

DM: Don’t know how it would happen. I’d have to be very careful with attenuation.

KC: Is Kaleigh still in the industry?

DM: No, she wound up getting promoted during the middle of her maternity leave. We had to call them 2 days after they promoted her, kind of a bummer. She had worked so hard. They thought she was the bee’s knees.  The owner’s wife really liked Kaleigh, so it was tough for us. I really loved Twisted Pines. The guys I worked with, Bob Baile? Fantastic. Bob was a former chemical engineer turned brewer: one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. Kind of getting away now from the great group of in-industry friend we used to hang with now. They were, you know, degenerates? (Chuckle.)

KC: Have you trained at any specific institute or…

DM: Nope.

KC: That can be good.

DM:  I thought about UC Davis, and Siebel, ultimately what it comes down to is practical knowledge vs. applied knowledge, what’s better in certain situations. I’ve known Siebel guys who really didn’t know a lot about brewing, and those who had a passion for the industry and learned everything from reading books. My library  at home is huge. Anytime I didn’t understand something I would buy a book, read it front to back, back to front: 7 more times. If you looked at my books you’d never understand them because of all my hand written notes.

    KC: Any preference for certain sanitation methods?

DM:  Yes, at Twisted Pine we used Birko: out of Boulder. A lot of brewers, like Dogfish, use them. The caustic and peracetic acid used before were fine, but now we use Birko’s version of Star San, and their version of PBW. Easier on tanks and I don’t have to use 180 degree water. For the tanks; dioxyclor phosphoric acid: chlorine-based: kills a little more. I can stick my hands in it.

Derrick mentioned they were switching to Country Malts, matching the malts to each beer for better quality and style. Both interviews left us a bit pumped. Unfortunately Derrick had to get back to his pump problem and a possible drive to Knoxville in case brew gremlins succeeded. We left hoping the rest of his day would be a great day, less like Bill Shatner from The Twilight Zone when he saw the gremlin on the wing of the plane… though I swear I heard an odd, maniacal, wet Gizmo-like laughter from the brewery as we walked out the door.
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