By Don Priest | email@example.com
Chief cook and bottle washer are appropriate ways to describe Roger Noguera, owner, operator and brewmaster at the Pine & Palm Brewery. This graduate from Fresno State’s Entrepreneur Program does it all with pride, panache, and an artist’s passion as he
His typical week is 6 ½ day marathon, beginning Monday & Tuesday with paperwork and servicing sales accounts. Wednesday is about getting everything ready for the week and running the bar at night. Thursday he brews. Fridays he cleans the tanks then runs the bar again that night. Saturday he’s back to the bar; and finally, on Sunday, he pops in to check on things, then goes back to bed. All for the love of beer!
His journey into professional brewing began with the simple desire to drink beer. “My buddy got into it in college, and he got me into it after graduation,” he said. ‘Then we just did it. It was fun to make our own stuff up and drink way too much. It was a good summertime activity, hang out by the pool, drink beer and swim.”
Things might have gone on this way if economics and that entrepreneurial spirit hadn’t kicked in. They home brewed until they decided that it was too expensive, “We did the math, and we saw that if we could do 30-gallon batches and we could sell three kegs to accounts, then we could get free beer for ourselves.”
That idea evaporated when Fresno County told him he couldn’t have a home-based brewery. So he did the entrepreneur thing again, ran the numbers and decided to launch his own enterprise. “I looked into the used market on beer equipment, and it holds 95% of its value so. I figured big capital is secured. If I had to sell it, I could sell it for basically what I paid for it and be OK.” With that, he found a space, bought the equipment and did most of the installation himself. “Yeah, I’m kinda handy,” he says.
He now brews about 200 gallons a week for both in-house and distribution customers. He has a few regular rotating beers, like the blond ale, the porter, and the 69 double IPA (a big favorite). But he mainly brews what he calls 1-offs. “I’m always trying something new,” he says. “I Like making the kind of beer that I like to drink – the styles that I want, playing with flavors that I want, always trying to do something slightly new. Pushing myself to do new beers that are different and better than the last ones that I’ve done before.”
Roger also experiments with different aging technics. He recently put up an imperial stout in bourbon barrels, so the beer will pick up the oak and whiskey flavors and build up the depth. “It’s much more mellowing,” he says. “It blends the flavors, the chocolates come out more, and the beer becomes more harmonious with itself.”
All of this blending and brewing and searching for unique flavors can be directly attributed to the rising interest in craft beers. “People just want better beer,” he says. “Just like they started wanting better food.” To accommodate this demand and secure his niche in the marketplace is why he challenges himself to keep things fresh.
“I want people to know they can come in here twice a month once or once a week and always find something new on the menu. We try to keep our beers moving. A beer should last no more than a month. That keeps it fresh. Keeps it new.”
You might think that someone who is immersed in beer almost 24×7 would look for another beverage to relax with after work – maybe someone else, but not Roger. “When everyone leaves, and I lock the door, I pour myself a beer – that signifies the end of my day,” he says, then adds as an afterthought, “Oh, and then there’s the other one when I get home on my couch. That’s when it’s finally over. “