After spending more than a decade as a professional skater, snowboarder, and BMXer, Matt Lindenmuth decided to open his own brewery, Saucony Creek Brewing. Hailing from Kutztown, PA, Lindenmuth was a fixture at the X-Games, Gravity Games, and the AST Dew Tour for many years before chasing his dream of opening his own brewery. Lindenmuth got into good beer as a teenager while touring Europe, and started stove-top homebrewing as he hit the twilight of his action sports career.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Lindenmuth launched Saucony Creek Brewing just a few short months ago, and has had breakout success during Philly Beer Week 2013. Using his action sports connections, Saucony Creek hosted a professional BMX demo in the street out front of the P.O.P.E. in South Philly, complete with huge vert ramps and a hype man on the mic. But, that didn't take attention away from the fantastic beer that was pouring from the taps that Lindenmuth brewed himself.
Eater chatted up Lindenmuth about his first experiences with great beer, his obsessive dedication to farm-to-pint, and how Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery—a man he never met—inspired him to chase his dream.
How did you fall in love with craft beer?
I fell in love with good beer at a very young age, while I was touring around Europe during my action sports career. I was on tour for some of my sponsors, probably around 14, 15 years old. At that age you're allowed to drink in countries like Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, and, of course they all have amazing beer.
Since that was my first exposure to beer, it was odd to go to high school parties where people were drinking, uh, Keystone Light. I didn't understand. I guess that's the short answer. I was lucky enough to get my first taste of beer while traveling, spending upwards of two or three months in Germany and Belgium each year, which is a lot of time to experience great beer at such a young age.
So, how did you transition that love of good beer into brewing?
I started on my stove like most people. I had an older cousin who was homebrewing as a hobby. And since I had that exposure to great beer across the pond, I knew what I was looking for. Around that same time I moved west to continue my career in the action sports industry, and I had to be closer to my sponsors. I was living in the Eastern Sierras at the time, and met a bunch of guys who were all homebrewers, too, and they guided me during the beginning stages of my hobby. And, like most hobbies in my life, once I get interested in something I go way over the top with it. That was the same situation with my skating and snowboarding. It's just my nature.
So, I started buying and reading books, traveling to brewpubs and breweries all over to meet and talk to people and I became obsessed with it. I guess that's the best way to describe it. I was hooked. I had a shoestring budget, but I figured if I put myself out there and work my ass off and stick to my passion, I can make it work. I really owe a lot to Sam Calagione, a guy I never met, for inspiring me to do this for a living. So, here I am living my dream.
What beer was the first to make an impression on you?
Well, I think it was Belgium, where a friend of mine turned me onto a blend that was, uh, Guinness and Lindeman's Framboise. I thought it was amazing. Like no beer I've ever tasted, and it showed me that beer flavors could be almost anything. And, unlike most people at that age, we werent hiding in our parents' garage slamming beers, we were experiencing it in a bar, so it didn't feel like something we shouldn't be doing. That put beer in a different light for me than most American teenagers.
After that, I really got into all of the Belgian standards like Dubbels and Trippels, and then the whole sour thing pretty early on. Oh, and Saison, I really got into those early on, too.
You mentioned that even though you never met Sam Calagione, he was instrumental in your decision to be a brewer. Can you talk more about that?
For sure. The way he writes about beer, it's very inspirational, and he's very passionate. Most importantly, he's articulate about beer and I connected with his story. Especially about being a craftsmen in general. Not just beer, but being a craftsman is important, whether its someone who is a carpenter, artist or whatever. I love the idea of having dedication to a specific craft, a skill.
Your brewery is set up in Kutztown. Why did you choose that location?
I grew up there. Before I left town to become a pro-skater, I always knew I would come home to start my family life. That didn't happen yet, but I believed there was untapped potential in the community for beer culture. There's lots of farmland and, of course, farmers, and there's natural water sources and wells, all of the things that go into making beer. So, it was a logical decision. All of the people here are passionate about what they do, and I thought that bringing everyone together into one pint of beer would create something special for our local community. It's a beautiful idea.
So, are all of your ingredients sourced right there in Kutztown?
Well, we grow acres and acres of hops in Berks County, and we have barley growing as well. We have a spring barley crop coming in and bought all of our own malting equipment, so we're going to start using our own barley in August. We have winter barley coming in, too, and we should have 200 acres of winter barley later this year, which will provide all of our base malts for our beers. So, we will actually be doing complete farm-to-pint at our brewery.
We get our water from the local watershed here, specifically from the Saucony Creek which supplies our wells with water. Our Stonefly IPA is a nod to the Schuylkill Action Network, who are responsible for keeping our water sources healthy. The stonefly is their unofficial mascot, as there is an abundance of stoneflies around the Saucony Creek. Since stoneflies only live around water that is clean and healthy, it's indicative of a good source. We partnered up with them, and give a portion of the proceeds from the Stonefly IPA to support their amazing work.
Oh, in keeping with the local theme, we commission local woodworkers make our tap handles, so we are doing our very best to be 100% local for every part of our beer.
So do you do all the brewing at Saucony Creek?
When we launched a few months ago, I was the sole brewer. But, we just hired Mike LaRosa from Rock Bottom Brewery in King of Prussia, and he's doing great work. He trained under Brian McConnell, who is a very talented guy, and is known for IPAs, which are a favorite of mine, and one of the styles we focus on.
You guys are a new brewery, but have gotten some good pub in the early going. What styles of beer do you offer besides the Stonefly IPA?
Well, in addition to Stonefly, we just kegged off an Imperial IPA, which is a double IPA made with all Crystal hops, and we just finished a Honey Saison. Oh, we have a Cucumber Kolsch coming out in the next couple weeks. We have a pilsner coming out, too. The pilsner has been a challenge because of the hard water up here, especially coming right out of the well, but we're close to getting it right. In the market we have a Belgian Strong Dark, and a session IPA. We have an Oatmeal Coffee Stout, too, which is a very sessionable 5% ABV.
We are waiting on some local wine barrels to get our sour going, too. We've got a lot going on.
I'll say. So, Beer Week is wrapping up. Where can the beer people find you and your beer the rest of the week?
Tonight we are launching our Double IPA at Grace Tavern around 5:30 p.m. I'm going to be canoeing all the way down the Schuylkill and deliver the keg to the bar myself. which is going to be a lot of fun. We'll be there until around 10:00 p.m. So, people should come out.
Well, thanks for your time, and congratulations on your success. I'm sure your brewery is going to be a big part of the local scene for many years.
Thanks! I sure hope so. We're just trying to make good tasting beers for our fans.