Quaff Bros. takes collaborative path to brewing

Quaff Bros. takes collaborative path to brewing
Posted at 12:00 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 12:00:10-04

You won’t find Quaff Bros. on the map, although they are all over the place.

Quaff Bros. is based out of the Party Source in Bellevue, but there is no actual Quaff Bros. brewery. Instead, co-founder Danny Gold has created a network that utilizes barrels provided by the Party Source to make limited-run beers with collaborating breweries.

The “brotherhood,” which began eight years ago, has produced more than 40 high-end beers and includes more than 20 breweries.

“When I started here over eight years ago, I asked, 'Why don’t we have our own private beer label?'” Gold said. “I was told to go figure it out.”

He did. Gold, who buys beer, cider and mead for the Party Source and the taproom for Ei8ht Ball Brewing, is well known and respected in the local beer community. He began his journey with Quaff Bros. by taking barrels to Mt. Carmel Brewery in 2008, which produced the first Quaff Bros. collaboration, Jones IPA.

“Danny is a good friend of mine,” said Tyler Hill, the brand experience manager at Braxton Brewing Co. “He is super intelligent and super respected in the beer community. As intelligent as he is, he’s even more beer savvy.”

Since then, the project has expanded greatly. From this year heading into 2017, there are close to 30 more Quaff Bros. projects underway, coming from breweries as far away as Belgium to as close as Zanesville, Louisville, Athens and Lexington.

“We’re never going to be too big. You’ll never see us in Kroger,” Gold said. “But for the last two and a half years, we’ve been selling out at releases. We’ve been more adventurous. We’re very curious, very right brain and left field.

“It’s a really unique relationship,” Gold said. “It is very much a brotherhood. We see eye to eye on things, and there are no egos involved. I have the utmost respect for and complete trust in the local brewers.”

Among the most successful collaborations Quaff Bros. has done are Brown Chicken Brown Cow with Listermann Brewing, Blue Melvin with Fifty West, and Under My Plum with MadTree.

“It’s a process, because there is no timeline. The timeline is when the beer is ready,” said Gold. “It’s much more of a collaboration than delivering barrels and waiting for beer to be ready. We taste the barrel three or four times before a decision is made.”

The Under My Plum collaboration exemplifies this spirit.

“Danny and I agreed that we wanted a dark, full-bodied, high ABV beer to go into the highly sought-after barrels," said Simon Kretchik, who manages the barrel program for MadTree. "This was right at the time we were brewing our dark barley wine and thought the chocolaty full flavor from the beer would blend nicely with the vanilla, oak and dark fruit flavors present in the barrels.

“The barrels were emptied within 24 hours before we filled them with Ye Olde Battering Ram. After some time aging we were picking up heavy dark fruit and stone fruit flavors from the beer and wanted to add something more," Kretchik said. "We thought plum would be a great addition since it was already giving a strong presence in the aged beer. We played around with different titration levels and landed on just a slight amount to be added to the barrels as to not overpower the booziness and chocolate flavors coming through. Then, for spits and giggles, we made a 1/6th barrel that was about a quarter-way filled with plum puree to make a one-off plum bomb.”

The Blue Melvin series with Fifty West also exemplifies the unity of the community. Gold worked at the Heritage in Mariemont, where Fifty West is located. The Melvin family owned the Heritage, so as a salute to them, the name of each beer brewed by Quaff Bros. and Fifty West will always include Melvin.

Gold credits the Blue Melvin with helping to build credibility for Quaff Bros.

“Blue Melvin was a stout aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels,” he said. “I just saw one – a 2-year-old beer – trade for a case of week-old Zombie Dust.”

Although the barrel-aging process makes replicating beers challenging, Quaff Bros. fans can be on the lookout for second runs of Brown Chicken Brown Cow and Blue Melvin.

Gold credits the Cincinnati craft beer community with helping to pull off this unique enterprise.

“You probably couldn’t do this in other places,” he said. “We are in bourbon country, so the barrels are cheaper, available and Kentucky doesn’t have ABV laws. Another gypsy brewery, I can see that, but not the barrel portion. There’s a special culture here. We play a small part in it, but I wouldn’t trade that part for the world.”

Quaff Bros. Brewery Partners

Breweries that have partnered with Quaff Bros. include:

  • Blank Slate
  • Cellar Dweller
  • Fifty West
  • Listermann/Triple Digit
  • MadTree
  • Rhinegeist
  • Rivertown
  • Mt. Carmel
  • Rock Bottom
  • West Sixth (Lexington)