Ohio Brewer's Spotlight: Corey Miller, Hansa Brewery
We're back and talking with another local Ohio brewer who is putting his creative talents to use at Hansa Brewery in Ohio City. Corey Miller has been brewing since his college years and brings some really interesting (and really great) beer recipes to the table. I got a chance to meet Corey, assistant brewer Bob Bergmann and Hansa Brewery owner Boris Music on my trip, got to tour the production floor and ask a ton of questions (check out our review on Hansa Brewery here!)
Fermenting Ohio: Let’s talk backstory, how did you start out and what led you to Hansa Brewery?
Corey Miller: I had a buddy in college and his dad was a homebrewer. I did not know that was possible and was immediately drawn to the idea and it seemed to make sense to start brewing one gallon all grain batches in my dorm room. Luckily, my room was next to the community kitchen so when the RA would come around we’d claim to be making oatmeal. So that was really the start. I was attending CSU for music and while looking for part time work I found a gig at Indigo Imp Brewery. I worked with them for about two years, and I also worked at the Cleveland Brew Shop and helped them transition from Tremont to the current location on Lorain Ave. That lasted about two years as well, and from there went to Platform Brewing Co. while also contract brewing at Buckeye Brewing. I also helped Forest City Brewing get started and contracted with Brick and Barrel as well. To get to Hansa, my friend and former brew master at Portside contacted me about a part time opportunity to help Hansa with their set up and one year later I’m here and heading up the brewing operation.
FO: What size system are you working with here?
CM: It’s a 10-hectoliter system from Slovenia, so that’s roughly 8 ½ barrels, a bit more if we max it out. We do have a 50hL tank but we’re still working up to the point where it would make sense to fill that.
FO: What’s your favorite Hansa beer to brew?
CM: I like to brew dark beers. The mash is my favorite part of the process, it smells so incredibly good, something about adding grain to the water, the physical labor, it’s all rewarding. The darker beers look cool and the aroma is a major plus. Here at Hansa, we have six year-round staple beers and then there are several one-offs I create from time to time. In fact, tomorrow we’re brewing a coffee stout in collaboration with Passengers Café that will be available just for the Ohio City area. I do enjoy brewing the Kölsch a lot as well, we’ve done that three time now for Hansa.
FO: What's on tap for this year? How far in advance do you have to plan these out?
CM: I do plan these out pretty far in advance. We brewed next year’s Christmas ale this past December and it’s sitting at about 15% alcohol. We plan to barrel age it, so that beer will take a while. Otherwise, I have most of this summer planned out, we’ll be looking at a Pilsner, a Radler, a Bière de Garde and a blueberry Gose are all on the docket.
FO: Have you collaborated with other breweries yet?
CM: I worked with Great Lakes and Brick and Barrel to meet on a new style we dubbed the “Cleveland Common”, we created the guidelines but from there we all brewed our own batches. We agreed the Cleveland Common has to be a wet hopped beer with red Ohio wheat, can use ale or lager yeast, and some other stipulations, but overall it was a very cool project to coordinate on. The process was interesting and it’s probably one of the favorite recipes that I’ve brewed. I hope to continue to coordinate with area breweries on some other ideas I have. Stay tuned!
FO: Why do you think Ohio is different for beer production from somewhere like the West Coast?
CM: That’s an interesting question, it’s not as if Ohio has a ton of people compared to other areas, but we make up for it with our love of drinking beer, I guess. There’s good water for brewing here and a lot of passionate people that want to see the brewing industry thrive. There are entrepreneurs that are willing to run the risk of investing in brewing in order to do their own thing, so I think that’s leading to more breweries opening up in Ohio.
FO: How did Hansa Brewery itself come to be?
CM: The owners had Hansa Travel Agency and an import store further down on Lorain Ave many years ago that was later moved to this location. At this time, this wasn’t the best part of town, it might have been even before Great Lakes was here. So, they moved and reopened their German imports store (that is still next door), and then the brewery which took three years to see through. The owner is from Slovenia, and there was a brewery for sale over there that was selling their equipment, so that’s what pulled the trigger for this project to get started.
FO: What do you feel is an underappreciated beer style that hasn’t received a lot of love in Ohio?
CM: English milds are definitely underrated. I’ve brewed a Grätzer, too, which is not super common, people haven’t taken fully to smoked beers yet, but I’m a big fan of them. We have the smoked sour beer here which is actually a very historic style as all beer was smoky and sour at some point. Before modern sanitation, everything had some bacteria/sourness to it, and when people realized malting grain would add more starch for more sugar later in the process, the only way to dry them back then was over a campfire. So, all beer was smoky and sour at one point, from which we’ve gravitated away from. There’s so many types of wood you can use and depths of smoke you can reach. The sour at Hansa is used with German Beech.
FO: Are there any other European styles you want to bring to life here?
CM: Definitely working on a pilsner, a clean, easy drinking beer. We also have a Roggenbier coming up, so that’s made with rye. Maybe an Eisbock next winter, which is basically taking a Doppelbock and freezing it, which will take some time but would be pretty cool to do.
I'd like to thank Corey, Bob and Boris for being great sports and even better hosts. I look forward to many more visits to Hansa Brewing !