The story of Draai Laag starts right here in Millvale, about 20 years ago. But back then, the story wasn’t so much about the beer. It was about science. Dennis was a 17-year-old science geek curious about critters. In fact, he was SO curious to learn about fermentation that he promised his strict, teetotaling mother he wouldn’t drink a drop of beer underage, as long as she let him make it.
For three years, young Dennis did everything he could to facilitate spontaneous fermentation and learn the science of beer, relying solely on sight, smell and the tasting notes of drinking-age neighbors to gauge his results. So a few years later, when he found himself between deployments in Europe, he was ripe to imbibe.
Dennis spent the early 2000s bouncing between village brewpubs, absorbing the deliciously complex ales and insights of the seasoned drinkers around him. On an evening at one such pull-your-own-pint brewery, he found himself in the basement looking at a junkyard, jerry-rigged brewing system. The mash tun was being heated over a small wood fire.
“You made THIS,” Dennis asked, looking incredulously at his pint, “on THAT?”
The brewer’s response would prove to be a revelation. “You don’t need shiny new equipment to make great beer… you just need to know how to make great beer.” And after all those years cultivating critters, testing out recipes on older friends and, finally, curating a palate of his own, Dennis had a few ideas. Upon returning to the States, he began to take fermentation even more seriously, studying winemaking with a scholar of Food Sciences and pursuing various advanced science degrees.
Dennis eventually left herpetology to study the core sciences related to brewing, finally translating ALL THAT SCIENCE into an expedited fermentation process and La Pienture, the first Draai Laag beer to create some buzz in the ‘Burg.
At this point, having been christened by the basement brew kettle of a hole-in-the-wall Brit brewer, Dennis would have been happy to make beer in rain buckets. And if it weren’t for all the schooling, some humble savings and the support of his wife, Jaclyn, he might be doing just that. Instead, he scrapped together and self-engineered an $800 brewing system and founded Draai Laag Brewing Company in 2009.