Monday, November 28th, 2016

Q&A with Double Mountain brewer Matt Coughlin

Ron Swarner

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Double Mountain Brewery brewer Matt Coughlin puts muscle into his brews. Photo courtesy of Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom

I’m not sure how it got past me. I’ve hung out at Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom in at least a dozen times over the past three years. I’ve sat before the Hood River, Oregon, brewery’s founder and head brewer Matt Swihart in his extremely efficient brewhouse. I’ve driven there just to have their pizza (and beer). But, while finalizing details on the Double Mountain’s Dry Cider South Sound debut party Monday, Dec. 5 at Peaks and Pints the brewery’s sales executive Jeremy Hatch dropped a name from my past, as well as the past of many a South Sounder — Matt Coughlin.

As publisher of the Weekly Volcano during those years, we covered Coughlin’s “funktry” band what seemed like on a weekly basis, whether he filled the former Panamonica’s with his combination of funk and country or blew the minds of The Swiss’ crowd with his soulful roots-rock sound.

The name drop makes complete sense. Coughlin performed throughout the 2000s in our neck of the woods with his band, “the Growlers.” Coughlin is a brewer at Double Mountain.

Mind blown.

I reached out to brewer/musician Coughlin, a man raised by folkies in Montana who taught him to play piano, guitar and sing.

PEAKS AND PINTS: When did you first start brewing beer?

MATT COUGHLIN: I attempted my first home brew while in college, a porter, I think. I was working grounds crew at the time, and a foreman mentioned he had some extra gear to get me started. It all went downhill from there. After college a good friend and I got in to all-grain brewing and experimenting with different hop varieties and yeast strains. It was a blast. Some of it was good, some, well, we learned from.

PEAKS AND PINTS: What prompted you to become a brewer?

COUGHLIN: Brewing was something I enjoyed. Maybe it was my experience in the service industry, but I also enjoy when folks can gather together to have a good time, catch up, talk politics, weather, whatever.  Beer can bring people together, can provide a level playing ground, and start a conversation. Beer complements meals, music, and celebration well.  I wanted to provide that.  And I wanted to provide a quality example of it.

PEAKS AND PINTS: What’s the day of a Double Mountain brewer?

COUGHLIN: For me, I’m an early guy. I show up and start the brew day off anywhere from 3:30 to 6 in the morning. On a brew day, that means mashing in, sanitizing a fermenter, stocking the pub, counting yeast viability, weighing out hops and quality control on our taps.  When more folks come in I may slide over to a rack or operating the bottling line. Everyone is cross-trained, so we’re not doing the same thing every day. The brewhouse is not very automated, so we get a workout stirring and bailing the mash. There’s always something to do. It’s funny to think, I’m heading to work at times I would have been coming home from a bar gig.

PEAKS AND PINTS: Tell me about Double Mountain’s new Dry Cider?

COUGHLIN: It’s pretty much Swihart’s baby at this point, but the brew crew and I handle the making of it. After pasteurization, we get the juice in to a fermenter at the proper temperature, and pitch an appropriate amount yeast. As with many things, it’s the quality of the ingredients that makes the difference. We’re using great local apples, and using our house yeast strain. The turnaround time from pressing to fermenting is minimal. We try and give the ferment the best chance possible to perform well. If we kept it clean, the rest is up to the yeast and time.

PEAKS AND PINTS: What’s the vibe when you perform in Hood River?

COUGHLIN: Man, folks like to have a good time here. Even if they’ve never heard of me, there are bodies on the dance floor or in the seats. Maybe it’s a smaller town thing, but I like to think this area is unique in the way it supports music. They appreciate it. They listen. They get down and boogie.

PEAKS AND PINTS: Will you be able to attend the Dry Cider release party in our joint Dec. 5?

COUGHLIN: I wish I could be among the Double Mountain crew. Alas, someone has to make the beer (he laughs).

Peaks and Pints will host Double Mountain owner Matt Swihart and the South Sound release party for Dry Cider at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5. In addition, Double Mountain Imperio Stout (nitro) and Meadowlane Farmhouse Ale will pour for the first time in Washington state, right from the Peaks and Pints’ Western red cedar tap log. Also on draft will be Double Mountain’s Devil’s Kriek Lambic and Fa La La La La Winter Ale. Swihart and the Double Mountain Brewery crew will raffle off their goods, too.

LINK: Tell Facebook you’ll be at the Double Mountain Dry Cider release party Dec. 5.