Q+A: Eric Bachli, Brewmaster at Sixpoint

We're Drinking Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass - with our very own custom beer 🍻 Yes: the #DumboWeisse was brewed by our favorite Sixpoint Brewery for the #DumboArchway, and is available exclusively at Dumbo Station.

Sixpoint's Product Team did a deep dive into the classic German Hefeweizen style and worked on some new techniques to take this beer next level. It's smooth and easy drinking, a little fruity, well balanced. Perfect for a summer day in the Archway!

We sat down with Sixpoint brewmaster Eric Bachli to learn more about how he went from bio engineering to brewing, beer trends he's excited about, and what went into the making of the DumboWeisse.

Eric, tell us: how does one become the brewmaster at Sixpoint?

I have a background in bioengineerinf and exploratory science spanning a decade. When I joined the brewing industry, I wanted to bring my innovation to brewing.  I love brewing all kinds of styles, historical beers styles and innovative beer styles. I really got started when I became the head brewer for Trillium Brewing Company in Massachusetts.

I knew Shane Welch, the former brewmaster and owner of Sixpoint, and he brought me on in 2017 to be a brewmaster alongside him and help innovate and design new beers. I’ve turned Sixpoint–which was always an innovation brewery since its founding in 2004–into a hyper-innovative brewery. I'm always pushing it to the next level.

Sixpoint was one of the original breweries in Brooklyn and in New York City. We’re all very proud of that fact and proud to be in New York City and represent the city through our beer. I think that the additions to the city are really awesome. Having all of these diverse brewery sets and the style interpretations are great. I think it can only make us stronger as a whole in the city. My excitement really comes out of future collaborations and working together with each other.

What does ‘pushing it to the next level’ in beer mean?

Sky’s the limit. We constantly test. We’re brewing three to five batches a week of innovative pilots. We brew across the board of styles and some don’t even belong to stylistic class. So new styles. Totally new.

I’ve turned Sixxpoint–which was always an innovation brewery–into a hyper-innovative brewery. I'm always pushing it to the next level.

What’s the process for developing new recipes?

We use a little bit of historical influence, but ultimately it’s a collaborative team setup that we have. I’ve got a team of 5 people–actually more if you extend it to the whole brewery, throughout every department. We get together and talk about different ideas. Everyone can have an influence on what beer we make. Whether it’s me, or it’s someone in the finance department, or operations. We have an innovation roundtable every week and everyone’s welcome to come to that table and join.

We tested about 50 new beers last year, releasing them in limited quantities here in the courtyard, but the number of actual recipes we have goes way beyond that.

Was there an exact beer or moment where you had a beer that made you think ‘this is what I want to do with my life’?

I have many moments that have excited me, enlivened me to want to pursue and be the best in the business. One of the best experiences I've had was with Dageraad Tripel in Belgium. That was a really eye opening experience, a very textured experience. From walking into a small courtyard in Bruges and going in and having a Tripel, which is a classic style, and having it executed to perfection with a lemon meringue-like head–it was so beautiful. Moments that this opened my eyes: beer drinking is about the whole experience.

And how much are you brewing at once when you test out a recipe?

We’ll typically put it to a discussion. I encourage everyone to never have the mindset that it ‘must be’. It kind of goes with our ‘Mad Scientist’ philosophy: it starts out as a vision or an idea. Then we’ll actually sit and use a recipe formulation sheet that we designed in-house and we’ll build the recipe together. We’ll put in all the inputs and that’s the first iteration. We’ll do a one barrel batch on that. Even if the beer comes out great, we’ll probably tweak it a little anyways. Depending on the tweaking, we’ll probably do another one barrel batch or we’ll do a 20 barrel batch.

I’ve done anywhere from just one barrel going to 20 barrels going to 50 barrels to 100 to 200 and all the way to 500 barrels. We’ve done the whole gamut because our distribution and our scale is so different for our markets that sometimes it’s a 500 barrel batch and sometimes it’s a 20 barrel batch. That’s pretty exciting to see something born out of sitting at that table and scale the way it does. We do quite a bit of volume. The new brewery we’re doing is all about innovation.

Tell us about the new brewery!

{The current} brewery is really cool. It was designed from piecemeal components in 2004. But I’ve custom designed the whole new brewery. Every component from the brewhouse and the cellar to the tasting room.

How does one develop one's palate for beer?

Drink a lot of beer! We have bottle shares and people are constantly bringing us beer. I have a field education specialist. His job really is to be skilled at tasting and be knowledgeable across the board with beer stuff. He comes here every week and leads the group in a tasting session. Last week we did Pilsners–we went through all possible styles of Pilsner, from American made to the classics. The group discusses its style, its place in the industry now, their thoughts, and how we would create our own version. We do that constantly on top of tasting different portfolios of beer. All of my brewers like to drink thankfully! It’s really important.

Today and tomorrow I’m doing some visits in other restaurants and bars and other breweries. That’s my way of kind of staying in tune with the industry and also see what’s going on. At the end of the day the consumer, the people who drink our beer, the fans, they’re the reason why we’re in business and the reason why we brew. So it’s really important to understand the palate shift and how the palate develops because it’s changed within the last five to six years.

Is there something that has surprised you in that shift?

I think the biggest thing that surprised everyone and, now it seems like it’s almost commonplace, is the New England IPA. I really started early with that style at Trillium, bringing that to scale. It was a totally new style that I think was only recognized a couple of years ago. It’s a relatively new style but very powerful. It’s shaped the way almost every brewery in the U.S. is brewing now and even around the world. When I was in The Netherlands a few weeks ago, I saw breweries making New England Style IPAs! I think if you’re in tune with the consumer, you’re constantly trying and innovating. I think this is the most progressive American brewing has ever been.

From a layperson’s perspective it seems that way. The whole sour trend’s awesome. Do you have a sense of what tipped that off?

I started making sours a number of years ago. Mostly barrel aged but I’m seeing more kettle sours. That’s just stainless steel aged processed sours and they’re fruited. I see a lot more of that. It could be a palate shift. We’ll see where it goes.

Ok! Tell us about the DUMBOWEISSE!

The DumboWeisse is a really exciting project for us. It’s based off of a beer we had previously made called Apollo, which was a crystal weisse, basically a filtered hefeweizen beer. We brew with a more rustic approach here. No real filtration here. We wanted to match that by bringing Apollo back, but also changing some of the flavor profiles and enhancing some of the fruity esters and the spicy phenol you find in the beer. It's definitely a perfect beer for a hot day in the Archway.

And finally, do you have a favorite Sixpoint beer? Is that even allowed?

Oh definitely. I think there’s a lot of favorites for me. Ones that really stand out are the deeper passion projects. I like working with wood and sour beers. Funky Spritzer is the one we just put out, it's a sour beer aged in wine barrels and fermented with grape juice. So you get a lot of wine characteristic out of it. Meltdown was one of my favorites, which we put out last year on a larger scale. That’s a new IPA with Mosaic and Mandarina hops, which makes it a really punchy profile.