8×8 Q&A: Cloudburst and Bubble Lab

As the 8×8 Collaboration Festival (November 3rd & 4th) gets closer on the horizon, our 8 pairs of brewers from Greater China and the Pacific Northwest are starting to get their collaboration beers ready. Over the next few weeks we’ll be checking in, asking 8 questions to each pair to learn a bit more about them and try to get a hint of what beers they’ll be sharing with us…  This week, Steve from Cloudburst Brewing in Seattle and Marco from Bubble Lab in Wuhan:

Q1: Where are you from, and how did you get into brewing?
Steve (Cloudburst Brewing): I’m originally from New England – I was born in Boston, raised in Connecticut, and educated in Maine. While in Maine, I spent a Summer working at Allagash Brewing in Portland and decided this was the industry for me.  The people, the passion, the physical labor, and the blending of science & creativity sealed the deal.

Marco (Bubble Lab): I was born in Taiwan, but I have spent most of my life in China and States. When I was living in Shanghai after coming back from U.S., one of the brewpubs my friend and I always enjoyed visiting was Boxing Cat. That was how I was inspired to start homebrewing, and eventually find work in their brewery, and now start my own! That’s how everything started to take off at Bubble Lab.

Q2: Tell us about three of your favorite beers made at Cloudburst/Bubble Lab. What makes them special?
S:
 Happy Little Clouds is our lightly dry-hopped Pilsner – it’s special because it’s the only beer we brew year round. Everything else we brew is essentially a one-off. For our pilsner we take pride in trying to improve and replicate the delicate and difficult style, and usually it takes about 8 weeks from brew to package.
Grande Mocha Nonfat Latte is an oatmeal milk stout with cocoa powder and house-made cold brew from a local Seattle roaster. It tastes just like it sounds!
Precious Freshious is our first barrel aged beer – it’s blend of French Saisons aged in white wine barrels. It’s a clean beer – so the oak is subtle and bright, with a dry finish.

M: Definitely the Bubble IPAGolden Porter and Vanilla Imperial Stout.
Bubble IPA is our flagship IPA that I spent the most time perfecting. It uses 98% Maris Otter which is my favorite Pale Malt, and a combination of 4 hops that provide a beautiful tropical aroma. It has a great balanced from both malt and hops, so it remains easy to drink.
Our Golden Porter is a specialty ale that I brewed together with my friend Seth Collins. It’s a blonde ale brewed with flaked oats, lactose on the hot-side and Colombian coffee beans, Bolivian cacao nibs, and Madagascar Vanilla beans on the cold-side. If you close your eyes, have a sip, you would think it’s a porter with all those flavors of a dark beer, but it’s actually light in color.
My Vanilla Imperial Stout was inspired by Mikkeller’s Vanilla Milk Shake, one of my favorite stouts of all time. My version is a like that beer’s little brother, with a lower abv that makes it more sessionable, so one can have several pints of this delicious thing in one go.

Q3: Where do you draw your inspiration from as a brewer?
S: Everywhere! Our city, our music, pop culture, our brewer friends, food, cocktails – there’s inspiration everywhere if you’re paying close attention.

M: Traveling. I try to go to as many places as I can, drink as much beautiful beer as I can, and then brew my own interpretations of what I experienced.

Q4: Have you ever used Chinese ingredients in a beer? If not, is there one that’d you’d like to use in a future brew?
S: Yes, I’ve used 5 spice mix in a beer before – it definitely needs to be well integrated into the base beer flavors to ensure it’s still balanced.

M: I once brewed a Sichuan Peppercorn Saison in Lexington Kentucky with Brandon Floan, head brewer from Ethereal brewing, but never get the opportunity to taste the finished beer… sad, I know! I would love to try brewing with some Chinese fruits in the future, especially in a sour ale.

Q5: Why did you decide to join 8×8, and what makes you excited about traveling to Beijing?
S: I’ve never been to Asia, let alone China – so it was a no brainer, once in a lifetime opportunity for me to go. I’m excited to learn more about the craft beer industry and craft beer drinkers in China.
M: I’m always excited to have an opportunity to collaborate with breweries from overseas. Collaborations always sharpens one’s skill and helps spark more ideas!

Q6: Agreed! Have you guys made a recipe for your collaboration yet?
S: We’re planning to brew a Triple IPA – something around 9-10% and hopped with American varieties to the MAX.

M: Steve brews some of the best IPAs along the West Coast in my opinion. I visited 20 breweries on my road trip there last month, and Cloudburst’s IPA was the BEST out of all the IPAs I drank. I love hoppy beers, so naturally we decided to brew one together, and since 8X8 will be held during chilly November, I asked, “Can we go big?”, and Steve replied that of course we can. So I kid you not, it won’t just be BIG – it’s gonna be YOOGE!

Q7: We’ll have to watch out for that! Now, can you tell us what your ideal pairing between beer and Chinese food would be?
S: A dry-hopped Pale – something light and refreshing but fruit forward hops and bitterness to cut through spice.
M: Wuhan 烧烤 (grilled skewers) with a cold IPA during the hot sweaty summer – you can imagine…

Q8: Seems you’re in agreement on that one. Last question, in addition to 8×8, what else do you have planned for your brewery through the rest of 2017?
S: We’ll be doing a couple festivals across the United States, and are currently gearing up for Fresh Hop Season!

M: Bubble Lab hasn’t been lived up to the “Lab” part of its name recently. We haven’t experimented with as many new beers as I would like, so for the rest of the year we’ll be catching up and making some new creative brews, including our 8×8 collaboration with Cloudburst!

Sounds great, thanks for your time, guys!
Look out for more updates on 8×8 in the coming weeks, and to get your tickets click here!