Paul Vieira ducks into the refrigerator to pull a tasting glass of his original-batch traditional pilsner. He sets it next to a taster of his crystal-clear golden pilsner on the bar in his taproom, Peaks N Pines. The traditional pils looks off-white, more like pear cider than beer, though no less clear. Both have respectable body and mild earthy spice from German-grown Tettnanger hops.
"You can't hide a flaw in one of those [beers]," says Vieira. "That's why I love the lagers and the pilsners. If I'm doing something wrong, it's going to come out."
Even if Vieira, a Regis University instructor by day, has been homebrewing since President Jimmy Carter re-legalized the practice in 1978, Peaks N Pines still marks his first time brewing professionally. The question, then, is how his beers are so good just three months after opening.
"It's not secret sauce," he says. "You've got to give the yeast what it needs to do its job."
Foremost, that means fermentation temperature, controlled by computer. That, as much as sanitizing his equipment, makes for consistent, quality beer.
Vieira doesn't use a bank of heritage yeasts — all of his come out of dry packets, the same typically used by homebrewers. He just adds a little extra yeast to get things going quicker.
His grains come from major American, English, German and Czech roasters — nothing too boutique. He's all-but-exclusively using pellet hops from traditional growers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. But he uses a swathe of different hops to stay true to style and region.
Indeed, Vieira and assistant brewer Mike Hagan start all of their recipes with Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines for the base style.
Vieira does have a few tricks. Rather than let air into his wort as he pumps it to the fermenter, he keeps things air-tight and adds straight oxygen, cutting out one more place where stray microbes could invade. He also carbonates his beer in the fermenter, versus in the keg, adding another degree of control and consistency.
In all senses, Vieira says his approach to brewing is "skill, not luck."
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