Beer Stories: Craft Beer Industry Insights

Co-Founder & CEO of Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery, John Pemberton

January 30, 2023 Hosts: Mischa Smith & Alex Violette, Guest: John Pemberton Season 1 Episode 7
Beer Stories: Craft Beer Industry Insights
Co-Founder & CEO of Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery, John Pemberton
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to Episode 7 of Beer Stories! Enter The Darkness with Alex & Mischa as they sit down with the man behind Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery in Saigon, Vietnam! The boys discuss the joys of starting a brewery from scratch in a foreign country, how John first discovered craft beer, HOPS!, building a brand, Joseph Conrad, Wholesale vs. Retail, why quality is the most important thing to any good craft brewery, thoughts on lo/no alcohol beers, John's favourite beer, how craft beer can help sustain a healthy marriage, and Contract Brewing vs. Export. We also get a wide range out of The Hangover Check and a spirited round of Fact or Fiction! Cheers! 

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Mischa Smith:

Welcome to another episode of Beer Stories. This is a podcast about beers. Our, producer is Niall Mackay of Seven Million Bikes podcast. Our theme music was composed and performed by Lewis Wright. My name is Misha Smith, my co-host, as always, alex Violet. How's it going, Alex?

Alex:

Oh, it's going well.

Mischas Smith:

our guest today is the founder and CEO of Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery based here in Homan City, Vietnam. John Pemberton.

John Pemberton:

Hey guys, thanks for asking me to join. Sierra Nevada great gateway beer, I think. and also Dogfish had 60 minute ipa, which stayed my two solid go-to beers for my whole time in the States, and was the start of a 16 kilo journey that I added on during that time in the US

Mischas Smith:

that you measure,

John Pemberton:

I mean, you don't go back once you discovered craft, right? after discovering craft beer, moved to China and there's no craft beer again. So there I am in a Barron wasteland of Ching do Heineken tiger and beers that really aren't worth getting fat for. a good mate of mine. He kept saying, we should brew. We should brew, we should brew. I very quickly got absolutely obsessed, quit my job, and did nothing but brew for six months. turned out I was pretty good at it. we don't have to deal with too many drunks, know? And I think the difference is, you know, you, you drink the cheaper macro beers. To get drunk, whereas craft beer, you're drinking it from the experience. Galax is another favorite of mine, but Galax is so hit and miss one year, it'll be outstanding. The next year it'll taste like sacks and, yeah.

Mischas Smith:

Tastes like once Sir

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I realized after I said that

Mischas Smith:

if I've ever heard that phrase. before.

John Pemberton:

It does, it tastes like, Muslim sack no, I'm with you on that. I'd love to see more sour beers in the market. and I think that they will take off eventually. I think it's just a case of time Who wants to drink bad beer? I mean, really it's just not worth it. There's enough beer which will give you a minging hangover and just taste mundane. the whole point of craft beer is to, for me, it's to challenge the way you look at beer and, and way people think about beer. And, and I think it's beholden upon us to just do the best job that we possibly can and put out the best flavors that we can.

Mischas Smith:

Life's too short to drink bad beer.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I only drink beer. That's worth getting fat for

Mischas Smith:

our guest today is john Pemberton.

John Pemberton:

Hey guys, thanks for asking me to join.

Mischas Smith:

Thanks for coming on. we start each episode with a recurring segment that we like to hangover check. Today is, uh Sunday morning Alex, why don't you start us off? How hungover were you today on a scale of one to 10?

Alex Violette:

Uh 2.1

Mischas Smith:

No rookie scars. Love it. No round numbers. John, how'd you, how are you feeling this morning? Probably

John Pemberton:

Probably weighing at about a seven. Oh wow. It was Matthew's birthday yesterday at Craft. Okay. So, yeah, got a bit messy

Mischas Smith:

I was about a three outta 10. I know we had a long day of PAing, so I wanted to be professional. Take it easy last night. Went home and watched a movie.

John Pemberton:

All right.

Mischas Smith:

John, growing up, all of us were, were old enough men that, were. Craft beer wasn't really part of the, the lexicon when we were kids. Do you remember like the first time you heard about this thing called craft beer? Or like, do you have a memorable first craft beer experience that you wanna share?

John Pemberton:

I think it was when I moved to America. So, um being an Englishman, obviously we love our beer in England and, um I moved to the States and I was just like, oh my God, I'm moving to the land of Bud, bud Light. Cause, cause light, Milo. Milo. Like, what the hell am I gonna do? And uh my ex-wife threw this big party for me when I arrived and I'm sitting there crying into my Budweiser quite literally. And, This guy John, who later became a very dear friend of mine, I'm telling him like, what am I gonna do? There's no good beer. And he says, no, no, no. Come with me. And we walk around the corners to this massive beer barn. So this is my first experience with a beer barn. and he goes in and then we fill up this huge bag of beer and go back to my apartment, and he starts walking me through his craft beer journey basically. I think that night the, the takeaway for me was, uh Sierra Nevada great gateway beer, I think. and also Dogfish had 60 minute ipa, which stayed my two solid go-to beers for my whole time in the States, and was the start of a 16 kilo journey that I added on during that time in the US

Mischas Smith:

that you measure,

John Pemberton:

I mean, you don't go back once you discovered craft, right? Absolutely.

Alex Violette:

And, and you were instantly drawn to the happy beers.

John Pemberton:

Yes, yes. Very much so. Yeah. Didn't mess around. Went straight to the IPAs. and I guess, I mean, that's what's really inspired us, me harder Darkness is the hobby beers.

Mischas Smith:

So John, what were you doing when you had the idea to come to Vietnam and start a craft brewery?

John Pemberton:

I was already in Vietnam, so I came here with Ikea. So I was a country manager for Ikea on the sourcing procurement site, but I was an avid home brewer, so I'd lived in China for eight years before coming here. and after discovering craft beer, moved to China and there's no craft beer again. So there I am in a Barron wasteland of Ching do Heineken tiger and beers that really aren't worth getting fat for. so I decided, actually a good mate of mine. He kept saying, we should brew. We should brew, we should brew. And at that time I was traveling all the time. And then one night it's like 11 o'clock at night and there's a bang on my door. And this is, I mean, we are talking what, 10 years ago? So it was in the age of cell phones. I mean, who the just rocks up someone's door at 11 o'clock at night and knocks on the door. So I'm like bit worried. I answer the door and there's my mate Steve standing there with his. Bottle of beer in his hand and this big grin on his face. And he's so excited. He's like, you gotta try this, you've gotta try this, you've gotta try this. He literally bottled it and chilled it that day and just rushed over the minute it was cold enough to drink. and it was a red ale, absolutely stunning red ale. and I said to him like, look right, if you can make beer that good on your stove top, I'm in. Um so I said, I'll buy the system cuz he wasn't working at the time. I said, I'll buy the system and you teach me how to do that. So, um we put together a 80 liters, 80 liter kit. It was really fun. I mean we had to hand build everything, cuz you couldn't buy it pre-made in China. So we handbuilt the whole thing. It was actually a pretty good piece of kit. and we started brewing. So we, we went straight to keg, didn't mess around with bottle. so we were brewing, like making four cakes basically each time. I very quickly got absolutely obsessed, quit my job, and did nothing but brew for six months. I replaced Steve with pumps, sorry, Steve, just cuz I couldn't have him there all the time. So when I wanted to brew all the time. So I just replaced him with pumps and and got cracking. It was, a lot of fun. Turned out I was pretty good at it. and then Ikea head hunted me to come to Vietnam. So, I did that. But then halfway through my time in Vietnam, I met my partners. Where it was harder. So yeah, I was, I was really excited when you guys opened up and, rushed down there with my, my biking buddy and neighbor, and Tony and, uh bumped into Andrew there actually he was, he was out shopping with his wife. I think he'd escaped and was gonna cold beer and was excited to see what you guys were up to as well. Andrew's my partner. Yeah. one of the founding partners of Heart Das we'd had flights of beers there and then we went back to my place and, had some of, I think I had our curtains on and pillows f Foley at the time, or what would become Kurts and Bitter Foley. and Steve took a slug on one of them and said, oh mate, we gotta open a brewery. And that's kind of how the whole thing started snowballed after that.

Alex Violette:

It's a, it's an awesome story and, um so many people come from home brewing to, um to just, you know, kind of falling in love with that process and being like, okay, it's, it's time to make this the, the full-time job. Um when you got started home brewing in China, like, um what was the scene like there? Like was it difficult to find ingredients or was there like a community of brewers or was this like you had to kind of strike out on your own and like discover everything for yourself?

John Pemberton:

there was hardly any scene at all. I think there was two other guys that were home brewing as well. and another couple of guys up in Dungan, which was quite far away. so that was literally it. I remember the first home brew competition actually in Hong Kong and I think there was like six or seven people turned up for it. And this like 10 years ago, I now look at the scene there now. It's huge. Um getting raw materials is, that was a challenge. That was a big challenge. I used to air freight the hops into Hong Kong, and my wife would hang her across the border up to China cuz we couldn't get'em into China. and then for malt, I had to buy 25 kilo sacks from Wireman up in Beijing and have it shipped down. so yeah, it was like malt everywhere, way too much malt for my needs, but it was the only way to get it.

Alex Violette:

It's just now dawning on me that you're a procurement guy. Yes, So this was probably, you know, where like, you know, I was like, how do you get ingredients? This was like your training. This is second nature. Yeah.

John Pemberton:

It was the same when I moved here. Actually, it was really hard when I got here. I mean, that was before you guys had opened as well, right? So, um I moved here in 2013 and I tracked down Titan and I remember sitting down with Van all those years ago explaining craft beer to her and explaining what home brewing was and explaining that it's gonna happen. It's gonna come sooner or later, you should be ready for it. And convincing her to bring in specialty malts, which she very kindly did.

Alex Violette:

we had to do some importing ourselves in the uh the early days. a little bit of it. and then, you know, we, we are working with the same people, but that is, for me, one of the, the best parts about having so many breweries in Vietnam now is that everything's available. We now have like suppliers just saying, Hey, we're gonna bring this in. Is anybody interested? And, it's not hey working with, like, Titan for example, that was, I think the first company that we worked with, other than importing our own stuff. And it would be like, okay, plan out what beers you wanna brew, how much of the ingredients you're gonna need, what kind, nine months ahead of time

John Pemberton:

Yep.

Alex Violette:

And so it was a really, really difficult to be creative just because of the logistical limitations. And, and that I think is largely just kind of faded away in Vietnam. It's, it, you can, yeast, hops, malts, very good variety.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. We've come a long way. Hell of a long way. It's so much easier now. I mean, remember when we first started, it's like even getting glasses and stuff done. Everybody's, so, where'd you get your glasses? Where do you get your bottles? Where you get this? Where'd you get that? Everybody sharing the information.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. Trying to explain, uh what a growler is, and, and where to find these jugs.

Mischas Smith:

So speaking of years ago, importing our own, Dave and I were in Hong Kong, I think for a festival. And, uh there were some hops that he wanted we couldn't get in Vietnam. So we met up with Percy, packed up our bags, taking'em across board. I'm like, Dave, are we, are we hop smugglers? He said, Misha, we're looping pirates.

Alex Violette:

speaking of importing hops, what's your favorite country to import hops from?

John Pemberton:

Ooh, interesting question. we are very US centric, so I lean more towards the US hops. although we do do a lot of New Zealand hops, which are a lot of fun just cuz they're so different. but I'm, I'm, yeah, I'm a classic ci mosaic kind of guy personally, so yeah. US hops all the way.

Alex Violette:

way. Yeah, they're, uh workhorse is worldwide. it's kind of cool to see that, that there's something to these types of hops when they work in all of these different countries simultaneously through wildly different, you know, um flavor pallets like that. These ones just seem to work for pale oils and IPAs. Yeah.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I love the fruity floats. The fruity notes and the stuff. Galax is another favorite of mine, but Galax is so hit and miss one year, it'll be outstanding. The next year it'll taste like sacks and, yeah.

Mischas Smith:

Tastes like once Sir

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I realized after I said that

Mischas Smith:

if I've ever heard that phrase. before.

John Pemberton:

It does, it tastes like, Muslim sack

Mischas Smith:

Oh, like a, like a burlap sack.

John Pemberton:

That's the one, That's the word I'm looking for.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. I'm, I'm scared of Galaxy sometimes because it's so good and it works and then you put it in your recipes and then boom, it's 40 bucks a pound. Or you just can't find it and you're like, how do you replace this hop that's so distinct.

John Pemberton:

You just

Mischas Smith:

feel like I've had single hop Galaxy beers that were like super funky and Yeah.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. Well that's why we pulled. so Sacrifi was a single hop galaxy, golden nail when we first started. And it's lovely. That was one of my home brewing beers. I just loved that beer. But, yeah, you just couldn't trust the reliability of, galaxy. So we pulled it cuz it got annoying.

Mischas Smith:

So, John, like anybody who's been to your tap room or seen your branding online, know that heart Ds has a very distinct, look and, and feel. can you talk to us a little bit about, the thinking behind just from the name of the brewery to the, the kind of branding, guidelines that you guys must have come up with? what message were you trying to send

John Pemberton:

Um so we wanted something that was dark and edgy that people wouldn't forget. so, and we wanted something that would link us back to Saigon loosely. so we were toying with Apocalypse Now, but that was a little bit obvious. And also, you know, there's a rather renowned bar so we were, I was actually in a car in the middle of China somewhere, on a call brainstorming it, and I said, well, why don't we go with harder darkness? I mean, that's the story behind Apocalypse Now. you, you got the Apocalypse Now Linked Know Saigon shit still running in Saigon as the opening lines. so it kind of had, did what we wanted. It had that salute link back to Saigon. It was dark and edgy for sure. so we then decided that we spin the whole brand off the book. it's my favorite book, apocalypse Now is my favorite movie. and so. So all the beer names come from the book. and the actual branding was, we were sitting on a wet Sunday afternoon around in my apartment brainstorming it, drinking beers. And, I was trying to, we wanted to take the brand back to sort of that age. So the book was written in 1897, I think, something like that. so we wanted to link it back to that era. so we wanted the branding to have that old antiquated feel to it. and I remembered as a kid, my, my mom's family are fairly wealthy and they had this big playroom for the kids up in the attic, and all the cousins used to go out there, this dusty, creepy, ghoulish kind of place. And I remember these piles of books from like the 1930s with the woodblock print on the front. And so I kicked that out as an idea. And then we googled harder darkness. And literally on the first page there was a woodblock. Copy of the heart of Ds book. I was like, that's it. So, that's how we ended up with that, that look and feel. that's why we use the faded colors and everything as well. so we wanted, so all the names of the beers come from the book and then all the actual labels. the art comes from the passage that the names picked from. So it has to be two name, two words together in the book. So when you see us do the ipa, you know, we've run out of names, So two words together and then, yeah, so then the label's inspired by that passage, Brad guidelines, it's actually taken on life of its own. it guides itself. It's quite, it's, it's quite spooky how it's become just this entity. It's like working with another member of the team. and my head designer, how I think it's safe to say is the absolute keeper of the brand. I go to him for advice and I'll check with him before I do anything, just to make sure that we're on point.

Mischas Smith:

But the, so the, the attitude was there from the beginning and then the name and the, the look and everything flowed from,

John Pemberton:

yeah. So basically that's my common retort is is it in the book? If it's in the book, we can do it. If it's not in the book, we're not doing it.

Alex Violette:

So, I'm just thinking about that. the book, there's not, there's not a sequel coming out. Right. So there's, there's like a set amount of material in this book, but you can read it or interpret it different ways or I guess like, you know, if you've got a beer that's like more aggressive, are you looking for like a more aggressive section of the book or,

John Pemberton:

we actually pull out a bunch of names at any given time, so we'll pull out like 300 names and we'll have a list. But, the brewers do have fun with it cuz they often, they'll get to name, they'll name the development beers themselves. if it's a core beer, then I'll be involved in picking that name. unless Brewers have done a great job on the development name in which we'll keep it, and they do, they, they use it to poke fun at us or to just sort of make statements. It's quite fun to see what they come up with, and they do try and tie into the beer style. so yeah, it works well

Alex Violette:

that sometimes that little bit of stress can really spark the creativity. We, um we, we've always incorporated non-traditional ingredients from Vietnam into our beers and, you know, there's, there's so much out there, to work with, but sometimes like that would, you know, inspire like thinking about a flavor that I hadn't before, trying to like incorporate this ingredient into the beer. And then, and then vice versa. Sometimes you're running out, you're like, I need to go to the market and to see what's out there, running out of ideas for this. But it's good to have that, that consistency that you stick with. And sometimes the stresses of that can breed the, the creativity.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mischas Smith:

So, John, knowing, craft brewers as I do, I'm sure you've had some interesting suggestions. Have there, have there been any names for beers that you've just had to reject?

John Pemberton:

no, cuz nobody gets our naming convention and hardly anyone's read the book. So yeah, and it's only 110 pages, but I don't think we'll run out of names anytime soon cuz it's super, super dense. It's a really like, amazingly well written book.

Mischas Smith:

Also breaking news with the ghost of Joseph Conrad is releasing a sequel

John Pemberton:

you know, the best fit was, we, so this whole brand is so carefully curated and put together. Right. we actually opened our tap room on Joseph Conrad's birthday and we didn't realize until a year later

Mischas Smith:

funny,

John Pemberton:

So, December 3rd is Conrad's birthday and that's when we have our anniversary party every year. Now,

Mischas Smith:

if they wrote it in a movie, you wouldn't

John Pemberton:

believe it. Exactly.

Alex Violette:

I was, I was just thinking back to what you were saying about like, you were sitting around trying this beer and like, we're gonna open a brewery. Right. but the tap room was there from day one, right?

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I think, I tried to do both at the same time. I'll never do that again. Um so, uh I was doing construction work on the brewery and the bar at the same time. I got the brewery across the line first. so that opened in. I think we put up our first beers out at the end of October. but I didn't get the tap room open until December.

Alex Violette:

Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Um we, we were never really, we knew we needed like a showroom I guess. so we were originally thinking have some taps in the office and that was our original location, which turned into our first tap room. but it was very, a conscious decision, I guess, that we knew we needed some sort of experience to explain what, our brand was about, what our beers were, about, why they were special and, and just what are your thoughts on that? You know, operating tap rooms as well as distributing the beer.

John Pemberton:

I'm with you on that. I mean, that's the same reason that we opened the tap room. I had this epiphany one night. We sort of woke up in the middle of night, well, we gotta open a tap room. We gotta have some sort of marketing face for the world. Also. I think it's sort of, I mean, we are all early movers in the market, right? So I think it was part of my thinking, and that's why we have 20 taps, was, um I think it's our duty to bring the world of beer to Vietnam and to expose the Vietnamese to all the different types of styles and flavors and everything that are out there. that's why we do so many different brews. so I think it is important. I think they are, very important marketing fronts and it's also where the customer can come and sort of touch on, feel and interact with a brand. I always say my floor team are one of the most important teams because that's where the customer actually meets us. and having them well trained in beer and understanding how to talk about beer and explain beer and introduce beer to the Vietnamese, I think super important, is one of the most important jobs we do. I think, how do I feel about running bars versus distribution? the older we get, the bigger we get, the much more challenging it becomes. yeah, I've just actually been planning the 2023 budget. Oh my god. It's just a nightmare now. And literally four different companies, right? so it is become a quite a challenging beast.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. The. The, the tap room though, I, you know, credit to you guys. It's an awesome tap room. And, what we were going for when we opened ours, I guess we had like just one rule and it was, make sure you could pick it up, take it over to Colorado, drop it down, and it would be a spot worth going to in that place in terms of the beer quality and the staff knowledge and like the, the atmosphere and things like that. and it seems like that a lot of the breweries that were opening up, around the same time as you all took that kind of approach where it was like, we're not gonna cut any corners. We are gonna have this super high quality best in class. Like the branding is there, the beers are there, obviously the staff training. And I think it's just really, really cool to see in Vietnam. because not everywhere that you go is like the, kind of like early class of brewers have it together like that from day one. And I think, customers see that. Yeah.

John Pemberton:

yeah, I mean that was, that was another part of our thinking was I, I mean, we wanted to be an experience. We, we are bringing the whole craft beer experience to Vietnam, for the Vietnamese to experience what it actually like. So, yeah, I mean we did exactly the same thing. I wanted to pick up. I picked up a craft tap out of San Diego and dropped it in the middle of Saigon, basically. Um I always feel really proud when customers leave reviews. Like, wow, I could be in San Diego right now, or I could be in Portland. I think that's, that's the high praise. It means we've done it. Right.

Mischas Smith:

I think all of us in this room agree that the quality of the beer is the alpha and the omega, the alpha and the omega of any craft brewery. Could you talk to us a little bit about that? Cause like, Sometimes we get bogged down in like, you know, off flavor sensory sessions and it's like, I like on flavors. I'm like, can we talk about good beers? Why? Why do you think it's so important to lead with quality?

John Pemberton:

well, I think everything, I mean, my entire career has always been about quality. everything I've done has to be top, in my, yeah, my previous jobs. Oh, you are also asking the customer to pay a lot of money, right? If you, if you're in a country where normally a beer's gonna cost you 30,000 Don and now you're gonna charge'em 115,000 don for it best, you give them a really cool experience and a high quality experience. couple with the fact who wants to drink bad beer? I mean, really it's just not worth it. There's enough beer which will give you a minging hangover and just taste mundane. the whole point of craft beer is to, for me, it's to challenge the way you look at beer and, and way people think about beer. and I think it's beholden upon us to just do the best job that we possibly can and put out the best flavors that we can. I mean, we are um we are very much a late edition hot brewery, so we don't have places to hide. You can't screw that up cuz there's lots of delicate flavors. yeah.

Mischas Smith:

Life's too short to drink bad beer.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I only drink beer. That's worth getting fat for

Mischas Smith:

There you go.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. It's, and when you're doing beers like that, one of the things that I really enjoy about, brewing, brewing them in Vietnam specifically where it's not, you know, insanely popular yet, is that a lot of people are trying these for the first time and, and it almost feels like a weight. Like if somebody's gonna try an IPA for the first time and it's not good. Man, that's, you just let yourself down. You're just like, this person might not even get into craft beer. If the first craft beer they try isn't a good quality, then you're almost like shooting yourself in the foot before the race even starts. and I know that, in Saigon especially, there's just such a high density of quality craft brewers, and I think it's, from what I say, I'd like to hear your thoughts on it, but it seems exponential in that, you know, like you start out, you're doing things the right way. More brewers start up. They're also doing things the right way, focusing on quality. And there's probably somebody in your tap room right now making the decision to start a brewery and that being the standard.

John Pemberton:

Yeah, I hope so. I hope it keeps going. I've definitely seen an improvement, over the years as well. I mean, when we first started there was a few dodgy beers out there. but now it's definitely everyone's up in their game. It's great to see. and I, I'm dying to see some of the smaller breweries sort of rise up and sort of come up and challenge, challenge, you know, the bigger breweries today. I mean, I mean, none of us are that big right now, but I mean,

Mischas Smith:

relatively big

John Pemberton:

Yeah. Exactly.

Alex Violette:

Well, it's the, the type of challenge that, uh that is productive. I think this has come up a few times on the, the podcast already, but, it's healthy competition. It's competing for making better quality beer. It's not competing to, you know, pay somebody to not serve somebody else's beer or raise to the bottom in terms of like the cost and the price and all of that. It's, man, that beer was really good. I gotta make sure ours is really good and it kind of just like helps the whole scene push up and it's, it's cool to see that happening, this early in it.

John Pemberton:

Yeah.

Mischas Smith:

So that was, like heard of Darkness, east, west Bell, go. You guys all opened like around the same

John Pemberton:

time. Yep.

Mischas Smith:

And I remember at that time like. People, friends of mine or other people in like, oh, are you, are you worried? Are you guys worried about? I was like, no, I like good beer. Like I'm, I'm more worried about somebody releasing beers commercially that aren't good and calling them craft. Like, that's, that's the only thing that keeps me up at night is a, as someone in the craft beer industry, is, I'm not worried about more good beers, I love more good beers. It's just more options to drink. But yeah, it's people releasing

John Pemberton:

calling Hogar craft beer

Mischas Smith:

there's, there's that. Yeah.

John Pemberton:

that still makes my head hurt.

Mischas Smith:

Or just like a smaller craft brewery that doesn't have their shit together yet. And like they're releasing beers that just, like you said, there's some dodgy beers out there and there were more years ago than there are now. Thank God we're moving in the right direction. But yeah, that's more good beers. I think we can all agree it's a it's a positive development.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. And, the, the community here for me has seemed, very, very supportive, especially where you're not really, able to have like a formalized trade organization. Right. but it seems like everybody kind of hangs out at the same spots and helps each other out. So, so when somebody has a beer and they're just getting started and it's not the best, it seems like somebody lets'em know. Yeah. And then they're like, oh, okay. And, and by the way, here's how you might be able to fix it. And it's like constructive feedback from within the group.

John Pemberton:

I think we will been very good at that actually. It's, you know, every time somebody gives me a beer to try, I'm like, I'm gonna be brutally honest with you. I'm gonna tell you my absolute honest opinion. Are you ready for that? Because a lot of people aren't, and a lot of people can't take that. But I think it's our duty to do that. you shouldn't tell someone it's a good beer if it's a bad beer, and if he's got an infection, tell him what the infection is and how to fix it. and hopefully next time around, it'll be a better beer.

Alex Violette:

Absolutely.

Mischas Smith:

Speaking of that, um about smaller breweries and like hoping they get bigger and better. Like, I dunno if you guys have been to the Hop Horizons new tap room yet.

John Pemberton:

Sadly, I've not made it outta there yet. Okay. Looks beautiful

Mischas Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. It's a great space and I didn't know that they were making a lager until I went there and it's really good beer and like doing a craft lager correctly, I'm sure we can all agree is not the easiest thing to do and these guys really knocked it outta the park. So that's,

John Pemberton:

that's, yeah, I love what they do. I think that for me, I find them inspirational cuz that's really the first proper Vietnamese all Vietnamese, outfit I believe that are doing great beards.

Mischas Smith:

someone can fact check us on that, but I think you're right.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. well I guess Hebrew mask could probably argue they came first, but I, I've, F's passion for what he does is like absolutely inspiring for me. We need more people like him around. And Kai.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. It's great seeing, people start it for the right reasons.

John Pemberton:

Quality, yeah. And he's always been so passionate. Even when he got brilliant, you know, it was, uh just his passion for the beer and this tap room was always contagious for me.

Mischas Smith:

Yeah, no, brilliant. Was a great spot. We all sad to see it go, but yeah. When, when I found out the owner of this craft beer bar, I was like, he's gonna make his own be like, oh, oh, that's great. Can't wait to try

John Pemberton:

them. Yeah.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. I'm thinking about the, the quality. Um it's also for me, like the, the quality of the experience.

John Pemberton:

Yes, yes.

Alex Violette:

And, sometimes people are really getting into, you know, the craft beer because of the flavor. And then I've seen people at our tap rooms that get into craft beer because they like the community Yeah. That exist around that tap room. And then that is how they get introduced to, to drinking craft beer. Yeah. Do you guys see that as well, or?

John Pemberton:

Very much so. I mean, it's, I mean, we, we don't have to deal with too many drunks, know? And I think the difference is, you know, you, you drink the cheaper macro beers. To get drunk, whereas craft beer, you're drinking it from the experience. cuz it's, you know, everyone's different and you're looking for different notes and different flavors. And for us it's just about coming together. It's about, you know, we have no TVs in our tap room. I think you're the same way. Right. which means that people actually interact with each other. And that was, that was super important for me when we put the bar together. I wanted to be somewhere where friends would gather, and you enjoy that entire experience and then you link the beer and the brand back to those happy, good times. for me, craft beer is a very emotive connection to the, to the customer. I mean like I think back now, Sierra Avada and do Fish Head, those beers mean so much to me because they've been with me in good times. You know, I'm hanging out up on the lake in upstate New York with my mates and stuff like that and all these memories that are tied to these beers. So, I think it's part of what we have to do is create that experience and create that connection.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. Um and not many fights.

John Pemberton:

No, I think we've had I think two. Two that I can remember.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. Very odd. And then, um and then when you, when I go in and walk up and meet someone, right? I'm not sure, if there's a theme of conversations that you can pinpoint that happens at your tap rooms. But I'll walk up and say, hey to somebody or just hear what a table is talking about and they're talking to each other about which beer they like

John Pemberton:

the most Yeah.

Alex Violette:

or why this one has this aroma. It like, having that variety of interesting tasting beers is like a conversa or a conversation starter for a lot of people. It, and that's, that's one thing that I've seen at our tap rooms. Is that the same at your guys' place, or, I know you guys have a lot of like, live music and like cool vibe. You know, it's a very distinct vibe at your

John Pemberton:

tap. Yeah. I love that vibe. It's, I know I'm biased cuz it's my tap room, but honestly our tap room on a Friday night is the best feeling in the world cuz everyone's just having such a good time and the vibe's so good. Everybody's just enjoying the beers, enjoying the company, enjoying the music, the, and watching the team just serve that room so smoothly as if, you know, it's just awesome feeling.

Alex Violette:

Absolutely.

John Pemberton:

your pale. Am I defined beer?

Mischas Smith:

Third Best Pale in, in Asia

John Pemberton:

Oh

Mischas Smith:

you. It's funny, like the dream alone wins gold every year and we win bronze every year, I think, in the payout. And the silver keeps rotating. So we're constantly the first and the third best you and us. And the second place keeps going to someone different.

John Pemberton:

Oh, our dream alone is hands down my favorite beer. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Mischas Smith:

I, that surprises me. I I would, I would've guess you'd picked like a, one of your massively hopped ipss.

John Pemberton:

No, no. I, I still love Kurts. that's actually the last of my home brew beers, which is still in the range. but it's, I mean, we end up drinking so much that the big beers just don't work for me. you just get slaughtered So dream alone at 5.7 is my session beer. Well then I have to say I was drinking our beer yesterday, going back to the, to the craft Lagos. I, I very rarely drink it. And I had it yesterday cuz it got served me by mistake at another tap in

Mischas Smith:

Oh, sorry. The, the

John Pemberton:

beer. Beer,

Mischas Smith:

yeah. Right. So I used to, I was drinking our beer the other day. I'm like, which one? John

John Pemberton:

That's why we call it beer. beer. in the tap room.

Mischas Smith:

yeah, yeah. beer.

John Pemberton:

So, and that's, yeah, I mean that's, yeah, craft lag is actually, it's it's a big category sneaking up. I think everyone I know that's making them now and most of the, most of the breweries I know doing them, it's become their best seller. It's interesting. We seem to come full cycle on the hop front.

Mischas Smith:

So speaking of categories, I always bring this up for Alex's benefit. do you have any thoughts about low and no alcohol beers?

John Pemberton:

what's the point? I,

Mischas Smith:

So, I, I was always with you. Alex was talking about non-ACO beers for a long time and non craft beer, and I was like, I don't think I can sell that. Like, I don't think there's a big enough market for it. But he got me to come over to the, the light side, I guess with the, our newest beer's, 2.2%. And I never thought I'd have a low alcohol beer that I'd like.

John Pemberton:

Is that your Chang

Mischas Smith:

want Yeah. The Chano, the

John Pemberton:

I haven't tried that yet. I haven't tried it. I'm not sure that Vietnam's gonna adopt them. I mean, they're selling like crazy in Hong Kong, you know, we brew for gu so, and, and they they get one made in, they get it made in Europe and they ship it over to Hong Kong sells their pay, their alcohol free pay sells more than their regular pay. That's nuts. Yeah.

Mischas Smith:

But I'm saying like, There is gonna be a market for it in Vietnam, cuz we've already seen with our 2.2% that it's, it's now our second most popular beer Wow. At all of our tap rooms. And it even outsold Jasmine a few weeks not. Yeah. So it like, we were surprised by how well it's taken. but so to Bring it back to Hod on the back of that, has there, has there been any beers you released that you were shocked by? Just how popular they were right away? Or conversely something that you, like, a beer that you really loved, that you're really proud of that just didn't really perform that well?

John Pemberton:

well, dream was a runaway success from day one.

Mischas Smith:

sure. But you must have known that that was like right. everyone who tried that beer early on was like, yeah, yeah, this is gonna, this is gonna move a few units.

John Pemberton:

It actually was a really slow beginner though. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It took a while to pick up and people wanted to pull it from the range, and I was like, Nope, nope, nope. Hold the line, hold the line, hold the line. And it finally, finally took off. loose Rivet. That was another one. But I mean that, again, that was a no brainer. And I mean, that was, That was the, that was our second shot at New England. I really liked the first one, vast Country. but our, but our brewer back then, Pete, he was like, nah, not good enough. Not doing that again. Give a shot at it. I'm gonna come out with another one. And then he came out with loose reit, which was fantastic. and when he do Miss Pete was a lot of fun. Yeah. what else? the mistress, I was always sad that that didn't do better.

Mischas Smith:

cause it was a double.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. And I think that's why it didn't do better cuz it was such a high ABV and pricing.

Alex Violette:

I I was thinking back to that though. You were just saying, you know, the paleo, because if you know you're drinking Kurts all the time, then you're in trouble. Right? I've seen a lot of people, at our tap rooms that love like Jasmine IPA because of that. Yeah. They're just like, I only had three and I feel awesome. This is great. Like, you don't have to have, you know, like this, this high volume. They really enjoyed like the, they saw it as like a, a point of value. Like, oh, you get one and it's a little bit more expensive, but the flavor is awesome and it's like, got two beers inside there. This is Perfect.

Mischas Smith:

But one of my favorite memories of this whole craft beer experience in Vietnam read a Saga Outcast Craft Beer Festival. I was behind the bar pouring beers, and this Vietnamese guy is like, you know, middle-aged. He comes up and he is like, this is your beer. I'm like, yeah, I'm the sales guy. You know, I work here. He's like, I love your beer. I'm like, thanks man. That's great. He's like, yeah, when I drink Heineken, I don't get drunk until two 30. I go home. My wife is very angry when I drink Jasmine ipa. I get home at 10 30. The same drunk. My wife's very

John Pemberton:

happy.

Mischas Smith:

And I was like, that's the best advert for craft beer I've ever heard beer

Alex Violette:

for, for a healthy marriage. But no, I, I see that. So, like you've been, you know, you're, you're a beer connoisseur. You, you have a brewery, you know, and you get into it and you're drinking beer all the time. You go for like, some of the lower alcohol options, but then the people getting into beer, they're just like, you do it. Right. Right. you don't taste the alcohol. You do a nice clean fermentation and, and it's not you. The amount of flavor is immediately obvious, but the alcohol might not

John Pemberton:

be. Yeah. Yeah. Our guys are very good at that. The high ABVs or you can't taste it. Dangerous. Dangerous beers like strawberry dary did. It was a 8.5%. sour. It was absolutely gorgeous, but terrified me.

Mischas Smith:

can we talk about sours? Of course. Cause I, I love sour beers. I think a lot of us at Pastor Street do, I think obviously a lot of craft brewers are very passionate about sour beers. Haven't really taken off in Vietnam yet, in my estimation. Do you think, like, do you have any theories on why that is or like what we need to do to get sour beers out there more?

John Pemberton:

sours

Mischas Smith:

I love sour beers.

John Pemberton:

no, I'm with you on that. I'd love to see more sour beers in the market. and I think that they will take off eventually. I think it's just a case of time and, more people getting into craft and more people exploring craft more. we used to do them quite regularly, before Covid, for the tap room, mainly just small batches. but during Covid I put a stop to it because I found them just sitting on the taps forever. It's like, obviously the locals don't want this. We can only sell it when we got the tourists in town town. so we'll, we'll ramp it back up again and I think now we got tourists back again. So, it's probably time to start ramping that up again. But we're about to do, so we've just done, you know, we did the tilling barrel-aged series, the shadow and the. so now we've done the two turns on the casks. we'll be turning those casks over to some fun, experimental sour. So you'll see a lot of sours coming out hod over the coming year.

Alex Violette:

That's also fermented sours.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I wanna do wild fer mens, but can't break the brewery.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. it's, it's.

John Pemberton:

you know.

Alex Violette:

but you know, in theory, I mean, the stuff that you use to kill your a yeast, so it's not in your logger tank. It does the same job to anything that could be in those barrels. But, if you make a mistake with the ale versus lager, maybe the, flavor isn't gonna be too crazy. You know, it'll be a little bit different, but you get some lag yeast into your fermentation who's gonna pick that up? But you get some bread in there and you're gonna taste

John Pemberton:

it. Yeah. It could be an expensive mistake.

Alex Violette:

So what I've seen with us doing sours is that it takes a while for, somebody to like, I don't know if it's the, the naming or the, the intensity of the flavor, but I feel like there's sour food in Vietnam. but once people discover it, it turns into like a go-to forum. So we were looking at like, do you rotate, this Peter on or off? And you know, like if you're just basing it on the sales, right? And then, but if you look at like, how many people, is that their favorite? A and we see a lot of people like with the sour, so we're trying to, you know, just, kind of like carry a torch, I guess. It's like always keep a sour beer on, like, like give people the opportunity. do you have any beers like that, that you guys are doing where you're just passionate about this style and you're like, Hey, we want to get it out there. And it's like, it doesn't make sense for some different reasons, but you want to give people the chance to try it?

John Pemberton:

We, yeah, I mean our blinding sunshine range, that's meant to be every quarter that we put one of those out. that's, that was the plan before covid anyway, to try and push that. so basically similar, it would be a similar level of sourness in each one. And we just change up the flavors, different fruits and stuff like that. So keep the theme going. we still, we're still doing that and I think we will get back to a place where we are doing those on a regular basis again. we know that they're not gonna be the best sellers, but, but first of all, it's not a job just to make beer, to sell it. Right. I mean, it's, we are there to educate and to share with the experience as well. So I do see it as an important thing to do. So we'll get back to that.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. Having the, the variety, obviously. I mean, when we're making beer, we wanna make beer that people want to drink. Yeah. And one of the beers that I love drinking is a brown nail.

John Pemberton:

Ah.

Alex Violette:

And it's like one of my, not only like one of my favorites to brew, but I just really enjoy drinking brown nail. But it seems like wherever, wherever we try it,

John Pemberton:

Yeah.

Alex Violette:

It just never catches on. And I'm just like, but some people really like it. We need to have a brown nail. Yeah. Yeah. And like, that's one with the sour beers. I'm, I'm still keeping that alive, trying to give it a chance. But the brown nail it just,

John Pemberton:

have you tried Steersman? They're dark course

Alex Violette:

I do. I've actually talked to them about this

John Pemberton:

I'm putting it on the tap room.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. It's delicious. Like, I, I love it. Like, and I love that there's a brown nail out there that you can, that there's an option for

John Pemberton:

that. Yeah. And it's the same with reds too, right? Reds don't sell. I love reds, but they just don't sell. Don't understand that bit cuz it's the intensity of the flavor in those lovely dark berry flavors you get from the malts. But no, just don't sell.

Alex Violette:

That's why you put in 20 taps.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. Well that's our birth story as well. It's that beer that, that Steve brought around that night that got me into brewing. and it was the first beer that I ever brewed was a red. so we, we put that air every now and then is our, savage heart, Indian red.

Mischas Smith:

I just wanted to push back a little bit on something Alex said. we make beers that, what did you say? We make beers that we think people wanna drink.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. I've like to, I'd like to ask.

Mischas Smith:

you made a do and wheat beer

Alex Violette:

and people keep asking for it. Yes,

Mischas Smith:

they do.

Alex Violette:

don't have to like the flavor, you can like the novelty.

John Pemberton:

I don't have many rules for my brewers, but that's one hard fast rule is nour be, has ever come out the heart of darkness. Ever But fair play for you for

Mischas Smith:

doing Every once in a while it comes up, I'm like, oh, we should do that. I just throw my body in front of it every time. Like, no, no, But

Alex Violette:

that is, 90% of it is you're trying to listen to what, people are saying. Like, Hey, what flavors do they like? like what could be an interesting way to create, a flavor and a beer that they might not have had? That might be the next new thing. And that's where, you know, like we, we brew beer for people to drink, not for the brewers cuz it's your personal favorite style. Right? But then sometimes there is something like this sour beer, this you know, like brown ale, red ale. cool to see that. what are your thoughts on the amount of taps. It sounds like 20 taps, it's come up a few times, right. I have my own thoughts on it, but I'd like to hear like, your thoughts on the variety of beer and, and why that's important. or not important.

John Pemberton:

It, it? Yeah, it's an interesting one cuz it, it definitely com complicates things for sure. coming up filling 20 taps all the time is not an easy task and it puts a lot of pressure on the brewery. and it means I have to have more brewers. So it's a little bit more of an expensive way of doing things. But go back to, back to what I was saying earlier is like I do think it's beholden upon us to be doing this and to have all these different styles, so that the customer can experience that. So that's why we have 20 taps cuz I really just wanted to bring the full experience And also the other part of it is, I think it's like I don't control my brewers. they do whatever they want to do. So all of our r and d brewing, that's all them, they call the shots. I mean, every now and then I'll have ideas and things that I want and I'll ask for and I'll brief out a rough recipe for. but they can literally walk in in the morning and go, Hey, I wanna brew this today. And then we've got this massive hop library up in the brewery as well, so they can literally come in and do whatever they want. So I wanted it to be a playground for them, because the more we brew, the more we understand, the better we get. Also, how boring, I mean, you probably know it must be really boring to be a brewer and brew the same four beers all the time, with no variation. So I think it's important for their creativity and I think we're a better brewery for it, because there's this constant experimentation going on, and no controls on them.

Alex Violette:

Yeah, it definitely is a part of the creative process, keeping, keeping that passion there. And then one thing that, that I've noticed is that traditionally, you know, un waddle places in the world have different, ways that that bars and restaurants operate. But in Vietnam it's standard for the brewery to provide the draft equipment, you know, and then you start having your tap room with, with more taps, right? and then all of a sudden you're seeing that. that customers appreciate having that variety of like, draft beer. And I've noticed that, from, from the early days where it was like, okay, we're gonna expand. How do we buy all these kegs or something like that to now it's like places saying, Hey, we, we built our own giant core with 30 taps, and they don't wanna put on like four taps of one beer. Yeah. They want 30 different beers. And it seems like, a really cool thing to like spread the, the expectation of customers that you can try different things, but then as you said, it's also dangerous because, you're always making something new, which, inherently has, has those struggles.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. Well, I mean, it's more, it's just more the workload, right? I mean, it's, it takes a lot of time to produce all those beers and we do roughly a hundred new beers a year. so that's, that's a lot of work.

Alex Violette:

Absolutely. So a hundred, that's two per week.

John Pemberton:

Yeah, a lot of work. but fun. And it's fun for me as well. Cause I walk in the tap room, I've got no idea what's gonna be on tap, so it's exciting for me as well.

Alex Violette:

so I wish I should talk to Niall about this. should Yeah. Yeah. so

Mischas Smith:

Niall not our producer. Niall Niall, Niall Woods, one of the talented brewers from Heart of Darkness.

John Pemberton:

Hey. Yeah,

Mischas Smith:

We can, we can talk to our producer, Niall anytime we want.

Alex Violette:

So I'm just, is there a theme to the new beers? Like, or, is everything have to be brand new or do you like bring back some of the ones that you've done before? Like some crowd favorites?

John Pemberton:

yeah, so we, we tend to do, so, we do throw back Thursdays every Thursday. Those are crowd favorites and team favorites. we may be a little bit biased on that, on that range. it's the stuff that we all like, for the most part and the stuff that's sold best. we, it's, it's interesting cuz over the years now we do have a few of these seasonals that we've done or just, nanos that we do for the tap room that people just rave about and just want, so yeah, we, we put'em out periodically.

Alex Violette:

so at, at Heart of Darkness like that, the next beers that you're gonna offer year round or the next beers that are seasonals Yeah. Or the beers that are seasonals. And then, and then aren't there anymore? is that how they all start? this, one small batch and then it's like everybody request it and then it's there on the Thursday and then it's like, Hey, we'll do it as a seasonal.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. So, yeah, for the most part it's like that. sometimes we just, I mean like the river was very much created, And then, dream Sensation, which will be our new core beer, which we'll release next year, is actually on tap at the moment. It's gorgeous. that was also sort of a conscious decision to make it. but the rest just, yeah, they grow organically for the most part. yeah. But we've just been sort of playing around with the range a little bit, more for the international distribution, stuff that our distributors are requesting from us, which, you know, we've then developed for them and then like, oh, actually that's some pretty nice beer, so we might as well just do it everywhere. so yeah, a bit of both, but mainly it's organic.

Alex Violette:

Yeah. for us it's very much like the, the tap rooms are, like, like you said, marketing, you know, it's providing a really cool craft beer experience and then also like laboratory, figuring out what flavors resonate, which ones don't.

John Pemberton:

Yep, exactly.

Mischas Smith:

I know you guys do a lot of contract brewing for different countries, different breweries. But on, on the opposite side of that contract brewing spectrum, I know you guys are brewing it to behemoth in New Zealand with Andrew, shadow Tanner. And, was just, I think I know the answer, but for our listeners, like, what, why would you choose to do contract brewing in a country rather than the more traditional export method of brewing it at home and then shipping it?

John Pemberton:

it's an, it's extremely expensive right now to ship, right? So when we started doing that, all the freight rates were went completely outta whack. So there was no, we were actually gonna start exporting down, some of the seasonals and also beer, on just masses of beer But, yeah, it all became prohibitively expensive. and so Andrew's like, I wanna brew it. So, of course, I mean, we are huge, huge fans of Behemoth and Andrew Child, so, if Andrew wants to make our beer, I'm actually honored that he does it. So, yeah, it's fantastic and it's, it's gone well. It's working out nicely. It's just really nice to be in New

Mischas Smith:

Zealand Yeah, it's amazing how prolific they are as a brewery. Like every time I go to Singapore or any other country, it's just shelves full of behemoth beers, all different, like, and every time there's like, oh, I've never even heard of that one. I've never seen that before. And obviously like living here in Vietnam, we don't get it. But even then, like going overseas and seeing 20 different beers in cans on shelves from one brewery behemoth, it's, it's amazing.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. I thought we were crazy. He's way crazier than us.

Mischas Smith:

Yeah. And for me, like just logistically, like for you and for Andrews, it's just like the artwork, like to do all those different, do all those different, I'm just like, I know what a headache it is for us to design a new label and like get it all, get it all, you know, fine tuned. And then, yeah, so to see all these new seasonals and cans all the time for you guys, I'm just like, thank God I don't have to deal with But obviously it's great for your customers.

John Pemberton:

I love working with him though. He's he is an absolute joy to work with cuz he just, I mean we, we made a beer. These go to 11 and the reason we called it these go to 11 cuz that's what it's like working with Andrew Child's. Like if you can take it to 10, he is like, nah, it we're gonna go to 11. Like con Jan. Nah, more hops lows more hops than that. Just, he sends these recipes and I'm just like, are you, are you sure about that Andrew?

Mischas Smith:

But, but always in balance. Yeah. Like, I've never had one of his beers that I was like, oh, that's too much. Like, no matter how hoppy they were, how big they were, I've never been like, come on man. It's all, they're always good.

John Pemberton:

Yeah, no, he's a, he's a very, very talented man. Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Violette:

So I've never had a, um one of your beers brewed in New Zealand. I'm, I'm assuming that you've had that plenty of times. Do you have a favorite

John Pemberton:

Well, they're all the beers that we make here anyway, so actually some sauce. That's one of the ones that, that's one of the crowd favorites we had to bring about regularly. I know, almost, almost killed loose rivet and replaced it with some, so just to piss everyone off But, because it's 50 50, you either love some so, or you love loose rivet. It's really weird. but anyway, Andrew decided that he wanted to lead with some source, so that's actually in market down in New Zealand. And then, the other thing is like every, nobody believes in Pales. Everybody thinks that, IPAs will out sell dream alone. Every, every time we go into a new market, everyone's, I'm not so interested in the Payal. Can you call it an ipa? Like, Nope. It's a pale la it's staying a Pale la and they take it because it's our best seller and they take it cuz it's a tasty beer, but nobody believes it's gonna sell. and then it becomes the biggest seller in the market for them, and beats the IPAs. But, but Andrew took that same approach, but not because of IPAs versus, pale Laos, but because everything in New Zealand is hazy. So he hazed up Dream alone. That's what Dream Sensation is. and then we made it here and was like, Ooh, that's really, really good. So, so it's going cool here too. So that's actually New Zealand innovation coming back to Vietnam. Yeah.

Alex Violette:

So they're, they're all different beers?

John Pemberton:

No, no, no. So they, so they do Kurts, loose, loose rivet. They've done, dream Sensation and some, so, so those four, and then they've also done futile purpose as well. So Yeah. The cucumber. Pilsner. Yeah.

Alex Violette:

so I, I was asking like, can you taste the difference?

John Pemberton:

I've only tried them once, so Ollie, Ollie went back to New Zealand, and he brought back a four pack so we could try each one of them we nailed it. I mean, it's, yeah, I was super happy with it. Even Kurtz bang on. So, so they're basically the same beers that we make here, which is why I love working with Andrew Charles. You can trust that he'll do it, right?

Alex Violette:

Oh, yeah. Working with. The amazing brewers, you know, the beer's never gonna be bad. Yeah, exactly. At the, at the leases it might be different, but they're both different in good ways. And um you know, we see that with, some of the stuff where you're using fresh fruit, you have to constantly adjust. And as brewers, we are all doing it with hops. So year to year. So, how do you guys do that? You have hop styles that are core brands and and there's different hop harvest every year. Yeah. Right. So, have you guys adjusted the recipes over time or is it always making it taste like the last batch? Or is it saying, Hey, people are enjoying Hoper beers? Maybe over time Dream alone gets a little bit happier as, as it goes on.

John Pemberton:

Niall does a fantastic job of keeping everything in line, and adjusting it all. I mean, that guy's scary, smart. so I don't see much flavor drift in our beers. dream alone can drift a little bit, but that's more about, cuz it's a single hop, it's mosaic and Mosaic can drift around a little bit too. so that impacts it sometimes, but for the most part it's bang on point. and then when Niall took over the brewery, it was really funny. It was, Dwayne never let me mess around with loose rivet. And there was something that I really wanted to take the hot burn outta loose rivet. And, I said, cool Niall that one day after DNE had left, I'm like, right now Dwayne's gone. Can we, can we, can you do me a favor? Can we sort something out for me? Loose rivet? He's like, yeah, what do you want done? I said, I really want you to just like, make it a little bit creamier, a little bit smoother. Take out the hot bend the hot burn at the back and just fruit it up. Make it really, really juicy. He went, cool, cool, cool. Love that idea. I'm like, great. When, when do you think you can put that batch down? He went, oh, you can try it next week. I did it last week. So and then, and then a few weeks later, sat in the tap room, was sitting with customers and discussing some beer we were gonna make and I was trying dream, I was drinking dream alone and I just ordered the drinking. Bloody hell. And Niall was there. I'm like, what did you do? And he just had this cheeky little grin on his face. Oh, I might have taken some of the, bittering hops out and moved them to the back and I might have made a bit fruitier. A bit juicier. It was absolutely beautiful. so yeah, he tweaks things a bit, but I think for the most part he does a really good job of just adjusting for the hops and, making sure that it all tastes the same.

Alex Violette:

Yeah, I've thought about, that with like things like Sierra, Nevada, paleo and I was just like back in the US and then drinking and I'm like, I, I swear it tastes like, like more hop aroma coming outta this thing, but I'm like, not even really sure. It's been like, you know, a couple years since you had the last one. And, and yeah, I think, styles definitely evolve over time. And the hops, obviously, they're, they're

John Pemberton:

different each year. Yeah.

Alex Violette:

and always interesting to hear how people kind of like say that what is the style? What is this beer? Is it, is it gonna be the same 10 years from now? And, and usually we're just trying to, to keep it tasting like the last batch.

Mischas Smith:

So, every guest we do a little fact or fiction.

John Pemberton:

Okay.

Mischas Smith:

I'm gonna make some statements either about you or your business or just beer in general John Fact Fiction, you have a preference for hiring tall white men to work at Harder Darkness.

John Pemberton:

I guess that's a fact. it's quite funny walking into a room with Chris and I had Chris, Ben and, and, Rob. Yeah, and I feel short and I'm six two

Mischas Smith:

Rob's a beast.

John Pemberton:

He's a big point. It's not my design though, it just happened.

Mischas Smith:

John Factor fiction. Kurtz is insane. IPA is the best IPA in Vietnam.

John Pemberton:

Well, I mean that's a question, a taste, isn't it? And I'm very biased. True.

Mischas Smith:

John Factor Fiction. You once described your partner Andrew Stevens as a marketing genius.

John Pemberton:

Did I?

Mischas Smith:

I think you did.

John Pemberton:

Well, he has done a great job, to be fair.

Mischas Smith:

So you're not gonna stand by that marketing genius.

John Pemberton:

Marketing genius. I don't, I don't think it's fiction. I didn't say that, did I?

Mischas Smith:

I? think

John Pemberton:

He's excellent at what he does.

Mischas Smith:

You were doing a presentation at, I forget which Subaru, but it was, it was about marketing and I'm pretty sure you slipped that your partner Andrews, is a bit of a marketing

John Pemberton:

genius. Okay, well, fair enough. Yeah, I mean, he's done a good job. We've given credit

Alex Violette:

he obviously truly meant it

John Pemberton:

to be fair, my hangover factor was a 10 that day.

Mischas Smith:

don't, I remember you mentioned

John Pemberton:

that. Well, that was brutal

Mischas Smith:

John. Factor fiction, innovation and adaptation is essential for any craft brewery.

John Pemberton:

fact. Absolutely. we can't stand still. We gotta keep innovating. You gotta keep moving it forward. I mean, that's the whole spirit of craft at the end of the day. Right. And that's what I love about the American craft beer scene. It's just always push, push the envelope, try something new, try something different. No fear, just go for it.

Mischas Smith:

John Factor fiction. There is a heart of darkness taper in Cambodia.

John Pemberton:

sort of fact, I

Mischas Smith:

guess is it a

John Pemberton:

it's Africa. It's, It's, not ours though. it's. that's an interesting place,

Mischas Smith:

right? That's, that's another one. We'll let people Google.

John Pemberton:

Yeah. my understanding, it's now some sort of weird, transvestite part, right? It's gone through this

Mischas Smith:

That's one that will let people go.

John Pemberton:

It's an interesting place. I've not been to it yet. I do want to go though.

Mischas Smith:

Okay. So my last one is a is a guest factor fiction. This was sent to me from someone else, John Factor Fiction. Ashley Roper is a better pool player than you are

John Pemberton:

Oh, it's fiction. Oh, pure fiction. I wipe the floor with him.

Mischas Smith:

That's not what I heard. Oh,

John Pemberton:

got witnesses, mate. He's still bitter about that night, isn't he? He used to come down and play pool again if he still got passport. That is

Alex Violette:

yeah.

Mischas Smith:

Okay. I wasn't there. I don't know. Well, that's been beer stories. our producers, Niall Mackay of, Seven Million Bikes podcast. Our theme music is written and performed by Lewis Wright. Thanks, Alex, as always.

Alex Violette:

Thanks, Misha John. Great conversation as always.

John Pemberton:

Thank you

Mischas Smith:

guys. John, thanks

John Pemberton:

pleasure.

Mischas Smith:

Cheers, and thank you for listening.