On a brisk February day, with snow still on the ground, I pull into the parking lot of Logboat Brewing Company in Columbia, MO. The modern building that houses the brewery and tasting room is tucked away off a main road, where you’d need to know it was there to find it. As I walk toward the front door, I make my way past “The Boatyard,” a fenced in grassy area on the property just waiting to be filled with day-drinking bags players once the weather warms up. I’m there to meet Head Brewer Josh Rein, the mind behind every beer that passes through each fermenter.
As I wait for Josh to join me in the tasting room, I take notice of the one-of-a-kind decor. The first thing that stands out is the craftsmanship of the wood bar and tables. The wood for each is Missouri Heart Pine and was reclaimed from a 19th century schoolhouse in Kansas City (yes, really). The walls feature an interesting mix of original artwork and dinosaur figures sitting on the windowsills. Behind the bar, wood planks showcase the available beers on tap and the faucets are attached to black metal pipes, adding to the “rustic industrial” look. Just as I start to get thirsty, Josh arrives and offers me a Bobber Lager as we sit down at the bar to begin our chat.
Name: Josh Rein
Position: Head Brewer, Logboat Brewing Company
What’s your favorite beer brewed by Logboat?
My go-to has always been Mamoot. It’s our Mild Ale and it’s a recipe I put together years ago as a homebrewer. It’s something you can drink every day.
What’s your favorite local beer that’s not brewed by Logboat?
That’s such a hard question because there’s so much good local beer. I have a fondness for what Urban Chestnut’s doing because I have an appreciation for the German technique in brewing. I haven’t had a beer from them I don’t like. With that being said, we have fantastically talented brewers all across the state making great beers and we get it all fresh so it’s very hard to pick a true favorite.
What’s your favorite non-local beer?
This is actually an easy one for me. Pfriem Family Brewers in Hood River, OR make a pilsner that I would drink every day of my life for the rest of my life if I had access to it. Going to Hood River and drinking pints of their pilsners in their tasting room was one of the most glorious experiences I’ve ever had.
How did you end up as a professional brewer?
I started homebrewing in 2003 and I went through the normal paces of getting the startup kit and brewing extract. I got into all-grain brewing in 2006 when I was living in Eugene, OR and befriended a neighbor who was building a brew sculpture in his garage. He had taken some Siebel courses, had a lot of knowledge and he taught me quite a bit that summer while we were having fun making beer. When I moved from Oregon back to Missouri I left with a desire to make this hobby a career. I actually grew up in St. Louis, MO and we didn’t have access to brewers like we did in Oregon. This was back when Ninkasi was just getting started and when you went to their brewpub, the owner was brewing beer and selling kegs at the same time. Seeing that kind of passion kind of helped get me in the direction of ‘this would be something I’d love to do for a living if I could.’ In 2009 I got an opportunity with a local brewery to just help out getting them up and running. I helped them build the place and in return, they let me come and hang out and help brew the beer. You know, I got my foot in the door and it kind of took off from there. At the same time, I was baking bread at Flat Branch and the owner there was asking me for help so I began pitching in there, too. So I went a few years at both Broadway Brewery and Flat Branch doing keg-dog cellar work stuff, cleaning kegs and moving them around and helping out with brewing beer. In 2012, I was planning on moving from Columbia to St. Louis but then I began speaking with the guys opening up Logboat. They were picking my brain for a few months as part of an interview that I didn’t even know I was part of and eventually offered me the Head Brewer job. I’ve been here ever since.
What’s a typical day like for you at Logboat?
Brew days vary depending on the shift I’m doing. It’s at the point now where we’re usually doing two turns on the brewhouse, meaning we brew two separate batches. If I take the early shift, I get here around 5:30 in the morning and by 6:00 we’re doughing in. That shift is typically done brewing by 1:00 in the afternoon but there’s a lot going on in the morning. You’re getting your mash dropped in, making sure your fermenter is all set up and sanitized, get everything vorlaufing, get ready to run the kettle, then, after the kettle is started you run to the grain room to start milling for batch number two. There’s a lot of running around for the morning crew. The second shift comes in around 11:00am and helps clean out the mash tun from the morning and then drops in the second batch while the first shift is finishing all their peripheral things like harvesting yeast and doing a lot of cleaning up. We brew about 4 batches a week now on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the rest of the days are spent packaging and doing cellar work. We’re actually getting some new 60 bbl fermenters in April that will allow us to brew a lot more beer.
If it’s not a brew day for me, I roll in around 8:00 in the morning and leave the brewing to our other two brewers, M.J. and Bryce. M.J. just came on board about a month ago and we’re really excited to have him. Bryce has been here since the first summer in 2014 as an apprentice and he volunteered a lot of his time that summer. He’s a very technical brewer and he’s very detailed oriented in his processes and I appreciate that. So, if I’m not brewing, I’m checking gravities, making phone calls, sending emails, doing inventory, making sure my orders for the week are all set, and while that’s going on, I’m doing cellar work. There’s always time to pick up a broom and it needs to be done by somebody so we all pitch in.
What’s your most favorite and least favorite beer to brew?
Mamoot’s my favorite. It makes the whole building smell like a coffee shop and that’s first and foremost why I love brewing it.
My least favorite beer to brew is going to have to be split between a couple. Running the mill for Snapper, our IPA, is a big pain in the butt because the mill is slow and we’re heaving bags into it and that’s back-breaking. It takes about an hour to mill that beer and it’s the beer we make the most of. Lifting 2,000 pounds of grain for that beer each time we make it sure is hard work.
Our stout, Imperial March that we brewed for the first time back in October, the mash stuck real bad. It was so compacted that the three inch gap between our rakes we run to keep things loose and the bottom of the mash tun was completely compacted and was not letting anything drain out. We had to open the door up and scrape a spot out for things to drain and that just opened up the floodgates. We ended up with about half of the mash on the floor and that was probably the worst experience I’ve had on a brew day. The mash tun is designed to run a beer that’s about 14 plato but that beer comes out at about 25 plato so it’s a lot for the system to handle.
What are some upcoming beers from Logboat that you’re excited about?
We kind of talked about Imperial March already so I’m excited about that. I’m even more excited about the barrel aged version we’re doing of Imperial March with Knob Creek barrels that’s coming along nicely right now.
Our plan this year is to release a single batch beer each month. We just got a 22oz bottling machine in here last fall so we’re now doing the 22oz bottles. In the tank right now, we have a mocha stout called Bennie that we have sitting on cocoa nibs that we got from Patric chocolate here in town and for the coffee we used a local roastery by the name of Fretboard. We took those two ingredients and applied them to a 9% chocolate stout with lactose.
We just brewed a double red ale called “Jupiter’s Moons.” Last year we did a 20 bbl batch but we need it back in our lives in time during the Cardinals’ baseball season. That’s where we got the name actually because the Cardinals play their spring training games in Jupiter, Florida.
I’m also excited because I’m playing with a yeast I’ve never worked with before to make a farmhouse beer for our 2nd anniversary. I’m excited about what might come out of that if we can squeeze it into our tight production schedule in time.
We’re also going to try and get a Double IPA going in the summer time. It won’t be just a bigger version of Snapper, it’ll be something altogether new.
Finally, I’m not sure how much I can really disclose but we’ll be brewing a collaboration with 4 Hands this June for a midsummer release. I don’t want to give away too much other than that but we’re really excited to work with them on a beer that’ll be great for the summer. We’re all really pumped about it.
If someone’s never had a Logboat experience, what’s something you want them to know about your beer or your brewery?
We as a group started this company more to build a community and to create a place that people can rally around for their community. Beer is a social beverage and that’s the overarching idea of how we operate. As a business, we’re a lot deeper than just making a bunch of beer that tastes good. More importantly, I want people to know that we’re having a whole lot of fun. We’re reinforcing the idea that Columbia is a real fun town and it’s a really positive place to be. We made the choice to operate a business here for a reason. People work their asses off all the time at their various jobs to take care of their families and it’s nice to produce a beverage that helps people relax. We get to see it firsthand in the tasting room and it’s a really great feeling.
Logboat Brewing Company’s Taproom is open from 3pm-10pm Tuesday-Thursday, 3pm-12am on Fridays and from Noon to Midnight on Saturdays. While they don’t have a kitchen, you can bring in your own food or keep your eyes peeled for food trucks that are known to stop by a few times each week. If you’d like to drop in for a pint or have any questions, see below for their address and additional contact info.