There’s a new brewer in town and his name is Matt Gundrum. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Mr. Gundrum is a friendly fellow who is very easy to talk to. He was kind enough to speak with us about his journey in the world of craft beer and how it led him to New York.
After talking to Matt one thing becomes clear, he is exceptionally passionate about brewing. As the new Head Brewer for Port Jeff Brewing Company Mr. Gundrum is focused and determined. He has lofty goals, hoping to brew EVERY recognized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP)beer and to bring either a World Beer Cup or Great American Beer Festival medal to Port Jeff Brewing Company but more importantly home to Long Island.
Matt’s first experience with “craft beer” came while working at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. The brewing bug caught Matt quickly after he was legally allowed to try a beer. “It was really when I sat down for my first flight of (Iron Hill) beers on my twenty-first birthday” he said. That sampler was an eye opener for Matt. After sitting down and experiencing those beers he, “…started to gain an appreciation and knew that this was what I wanted to do.” From there it was a matter of getting in the door.
I got my sights set on a medal. I want to win a medal for this brewery and for Long Island.
After briefly working at a steak house Mr. Gundrum found his was back to Iron Hill as a bartender. His chance to move to the brewing side of things came when Iron Hill was looking for help cleaning kegs. He, “jumped in to start doing that”, eventually moving over to the production side of the process. After taking this initial seemingly insignificant step Matt ended up right where he wanted to be after trying that first flight of beer. His first official title was assistant brewer given to him in 2006.
Seven years of experience were gained working at Iron Hill. You see Matt did not have any experience with brewing before hand. “I still to this day have never homebrewed a single batch of beer.”, was a curious statement for us to hear. We are used to brewers having some type of brewing experience before turning pro but Mr. Gundrum was ready to swing for the fences from the moment he stepped into the brewhouse. Matt is proud to say, “(He) got right into professional brewing and never looked back”.
The luxury of the home or hobby brewer is the freedom to experiment. If a batch comes out a little off it doesn’t matter you either drink it or dump it. In Matt’s case he was not afforded this margin for error. Each beer he brewed would be served to the public. The drive and desire is evident, “Brewing is a passion of mine and I do want to be one of the best.”, Matt takes his profession seriously. As such he likes to mix things up and, “Does not like brewing the same beer all the time.” which is a good thing for those looking variety.
Mr. Gundrum is hoping to be able to brew many styles which have yet to be brewed by Port Jeff Brewing Company. Previously at Iron Hill almost every styles passed through his fermentation tanks. One beer he is particularly proud of is the Dead Ryes Ryes-n-Bock a recipe which was completely reworked based on Matt’s knowledge of the style. This beer is going to be entered into the World Beer Cup and is a Roggen Bock.
There are limitations at Port Jeff (there is no hot liquor tank) so the mash-in (adding grain to warm water to convert starch into sugars) is done a little differently. Mr. Gundrum is meticulous in throughout the process giving everything a little more time. “Maybe I don’t need to let the mash rest for 60 minutes but I do.” He gives everything the time and care it deserves resulting in a high efficiency (sometimes rocking the boat on the Dinghy Series).
I still to this day have never homebrewed a single batch of beer.
Favorite style? “Whichever one I am drinking at the moment” he says, “there is no style he dislikes.” which means if you like a style Matt has an appreciation for it. His hefeweizen, a new style to Port Jeff, was on tap when we stopped by and it was a really tasty interpretation. Matt’s creative options are open at his new job and he has full control to branch out into uncharted waters. With production looking to expand that does not mean a stall on new beers. In fact Matt hopes, “…to brew beers that have never been seen in the Port Jeff area before.” and he is determined to win a medal.
A few things to keep an eye out for include a Double Red IPA, an Irish Dry Stout (which should be out soon), more barrel aged product and sours. Matt, “Personally loves doing sour beers.” which is a good thing for those who like their beer with a puckering bite. Some of the Port Jeff Porter has already made it’s way into barrels for aging (see you at the release?).
Speaking of the Porter it is a favorite of his to brew from the classic line-up. Matt enjoys brewing darker beers, how they make the brewery smell and the taste of the wort. With most of the classic beers (aside from the Dead Ryes) a few tweaks were made to tighten things up. The Porter what we consider their flagship and one of Alicia’s favorites, has not been changed. Mr. Gundrum is not coming in to fix what does not work, he is not trying to reinvent the wheel. His aims are to make sure everything that is working works perfectly and what is newly created meets his high standards.
Aside from all of the beers and styles he hopes to move through his system he is also hoping to collaborate with other local breweries. Matt amiable personality and love of all beer should allow for some great partnerships and pairings with other breweries. He looks forward to, “makking Long Island part of the beer drinking map.” and we do too.
Matt came to Port Jeff Brewing Company because his friend and Port Jeff owner/brewmaster Mike Philbrick offered him the job. Matt says he enjoys Long Island and so far we have been enjoying his beers. We look forward to seeing the different styles he produces in the months and years to come. There are sure to be a few home runs coming out of this small local brewery in the near future.
Which styles would you like to see Matt and Port Jeff Brewing Company release?