For more profiles, click here.

Brewer enjoys sweet rewards

Marty Mendiola has been asked a lot of questions since winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for his "Bumble Beer Honey Ale," including: "What kind of honey did you use?"

But the more important question may be, "What yeast did he use?" After all the yeast imparts far more flavor profiles than most other ingredients. The yeast choices made by the 31-year-old Mendiola, brew master at Rock Bottom Brewery in La Jolla, Calif., surely helped him capture the gold medal, as well as a bronze medal for his "Ragtop Red Ale."

Like many craft brewers around the nation, Mendiola uses his company’s own yeast strains. In the case of the winning GABF beers, he used Rock Bottom’s Scottish Ale yeast.

To get the most from the yeast, he has White Labs Inc. store and propagate it, so all he has to do is pitch it. This saves Mendiola the hassle of trying to operate his own lab. But more importantly, using White Labs has resulted in a huge increase in quality control.

(Mendiola was one of more than 60 White Labs clients who won awards at the 2000 GABF in Denver, CO on Oct. 5-7).

While it may be impossible to determine why the judges picked Mendiola’s beers, customers have said the honey ale imparts a clean, crisp taste. It does so despite retaining an alcohol level of about 6 percent. The red, on the other hand, has some sweetness that is balanced by spicy hops.

The medals have spurred sales.

"It definitely does help. When the average consumer comes in, they immediately want to try that beer. The medals give them one more inducement to try it. For the regulars, it also helped get everybody interested in the beer again," Mendiola said.

The awards may have been some of the best professional recognition that Mendiola has received in his three and a half years as a brewer. But he takes a lot of satisfaction in the other aspects of his career.

He became involved in homebrewing after working as a bartender. Inspired by the work of some of the brewers, Mendiola enrolled in the University of California at Davis’ Master Brewers program. After graduating he sent out 150 resumes.

He got three offers. Two were part-time jobs in California, while the third was a full-time position with Rock Bottom in Denver, Colorado. He worked as an assistant brewer there for two years before becoming brew master at the new La Jolla facility.

When he goes to work each day he routinely answers questions from inquisitive drinkers, including the one concerning the honey in his gold-medal beer. Nothing fancy here, said Mendiola.

"It’s ‘wild flower honey,’ made by a local honey harvester. It has no exciting flavors. In the past I experimented in small batches with exotic honeys, including something called Tasmanian honey, which gave the beer a very strange taste. So I learned that you want to use a honey that creates a light, clean beer."

Apparently, he succeeded.