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Q&A: Grant Fraley

Jul 17

Grant Fraley (far right) poses with The Boston Beer Company’s Jim Koch (third from left) and other mentorees from the Brewing the American Dream experienceship

Co-owner & Head Brewer, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers

In 2015, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers entered into an “experienceship” with The Boston Beer Company—the producers of Samuel Adams beers—via the Brewing the American Dream program. This business mentorship opportunity included an influential meeting with Boston Beer founder Jim Koch that helped ChuckAlek’s owners, Grant Fraley and Marta Jankowska, refine their business strategy and led to their decision to open a second location in North Park. The experience also birthed Time Hop Porter, a beer brewed in collaboration with Samuel Adams. It was released during several events in the San Diego area in 2015, providing valuable exposure for ChuckAlek. That business stands to get a great deal exposure starting today, when that beer is re-released in limited-edition Brewing the American Dream Collaboration Packs that will go on-sale nationwide. ChuckAlek’s beer wil share space with brews from fellow experienceship mentoriees Roc Brewing, Bosque Brewing, Woods Beer and Brewery Rickoli. We caught up with Fraley to get some insight on this big development and ask about his experiences with Boston Beer.

How did the concept for Time Hop Porter beer come about?
Porter has always been a passion at ChuckAlek and we’d experimented with a dry-hopped porter, as was traditionally in 19th century England. It turned out Eryn Bottens, who oversaw the impressive research-and-development nano-brewery run alongside the 10-barrel system at Sam Adams’ Boston brewery, also had interest in pushing big citrus notes from American hops on the back of a chocolaty British-style porter.

Have you interacted with other Brewing the American Dream mentorees?
I visited Boston and had the opportunity to meet the other brewers in 2016 as we all prepared to scale up our collaborations for the 12-pack release. It was really inspiring to hear the business journey of each of them and the impact that Brewing the American Dream has had on us all. Jim Koch’s book, Quench Your Own Thirst, was released not long before our visit and we had a great time chatting with him over some of the stories and lessons in the book while sharing beers from each of our respective breweries.

What led you to seek mentorship through Brewing the American Dream and what’s it been like?
Early in our company’s days, we received a small loan to kickstart distribution of our beer beyond our tasting room, which was funded by Brewing the American Dream through The Boston Beer Company’s lending partner Accion. We attended many events such as speed coaching and webinars, and caught wind of the experienceship program that recipients of Brewing the American Dream loans could apply for. Marta and I spend two days in Boston to kick off the experienceship, during which we met with many of the executives and brewers at The Boston Beer Company. We’ve maintained connections with several of them and they’ve continued to mentor us. Marta also had the opportunity to travel to Bavaria with members of the Pink Boots Society via a Brewing the American Dream scholarship, which was great given our big focus on German-style beers.

What do you think of the profits from the Brewing the American Dream 12-packs going to Accion?
Many of the awesome food and beverage businesses in San Diego have received loans from Brewing the American Dream through Accion in their salad days. It’s tough to obtain funding from the big banks when you’re just getting going, especially for a capital-intensive business like brewing. Accion also takes it a step further and engages with business resources to help their clients succeed. It’s great to be a part of giving back to their mission and the Brewing the American Dream program.

Will you have any events around this beer that San Diegans can take part in?
We are having a release event with Sam Adams this Tuesday, July 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at ChuckAlek Biergarten (3139 University Avenue, Northh Park). Time Hop Porter will be poured alongside hosted food by Nana’s Heavenly Hot Dogs (another BTAD loan recipient) with live music by Peter Hall. Details can be found online.

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