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From Kitchen to Brewery – Julien Lux Shares the New Glory Story

June 24, 2014

If you’ve tasted his beers, you’d think Julien Lux, founder of New Glory Craft Brewery, has been brewing for decades.  Always a clean finish and pervasively complex, each of his offerings reflects the work of an artisan.  Julien is a craftsman, parading around his tasting room with a wry smile, a humble attitude, and a constant drive to please the palate. I heard about New Glory from a friend.  Another new brewery in Sacramento, I thought.  I’ll get around to checking it out.  Then I got a call from a fellow craft beer enthusiast who had met Julien.  “This guy knows his stuff. Go check out the tasting room.”  On a whim, I found my way to the warehouse off Power Inn Road and ordered the IPA.  Clean and crisp, citrus notes, smooth finish, well-balanced. Then I met Julien.  My glass half-full, he approached my table and asked my opinion about the IPA. Let me be clear. He wasn’t politely asking for a compliment. He was asking for honest feedback. It was then that I realized he was different than most. I wanted to know his story.

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

Julien’s Story

Julien grew up in a small town in France, halfway between Paris and Belgium.  During the summers, he would explore his grandfather’s apple orchards.  These summer adventures foreshadowed his career path.  You see, his grandfather used much of the fruit for crafting ciders on the property.  From the time he can remember, Julien helped his grandfather with the cider process – picking the apples, letting them sit and rot, pressing them for the juice, and aging the juice in oak barrels for months.  “Now that I’m making beer, I understand the science of what was going on,” he reflected. Most of his memories are of fighting off his brothers to get the sweet juice coming through the fruit presser; but he also remembers his grandfather making other beverages.  He also made mead from local honey, and dabbled in distillation with apricot brandies. I asked him if he feels as if brewing beer was his destiny, given his upbringing.  “It seems like it was inevitable.”  

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

Prior to falling in love with beer, Julien fell in love with a woman, Erica, whom he eventually married. The two were exchange students when they met in high school, and at age 18, Julien decided to leave France to be with her.  He soon found employment with Markstein Beverage Co., a distributor for breweries such as Sierra Nevada and Kona Brewing. “When I moved here, I didn’t know anything about beer, to be honest with you.” In the region of France Julien is from, cider and champagne are the drinks of choice, not beer, so his exposure was limited. About 7 years ago, Markstein took their employees to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company for a tour.  This seems to be what changed his course.  He recalls rubbing the hops around his fingers and putting the rubbed hop-bits up to his nose. It was craft.  It was artisanal.  It was with the same spirit his grandfather worked. Julien remembers thinking, “Everyone at Sierra Nevada cared so much about the product. My grandpa was a small artisan making artisanal ciders. Now people here are getting into artisanal beers.”

“It was the most terrible beer ever."

Julien and his buddy left the brewery determined to try to make beer. So they did – 7 years ago.  They started in Julien’s kitchen, which of course led to brewing sessions in the garage. I asked about their first beer. It was a holiday beer, an English Strong Ale with cardamom, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and the rest of the spice drawer. “It was the most terrible beer ever. But we had fun doing it!” He still has bottles in his fridge. “Maybe I’ll crack open a bottle on New Glory’s 1st Anniversary.”  That’s where it all started. They brewed every weekend, trying to tweak their recipes.  They’d taste their beer, make notes on it, plan some revisions, and then try it again. 

Julien’s wife looked at him one day and suggested that the garage was constructed for the purpose of parking cars rather than storing brewing equipment.  That’s the day he realized he needed more space.  His father-in-law owned a warehouse close to Power Inn Road, and Julien asked if he could keep his equipment there.  What started in the kitchen before occupying the confines of the garage now became a warehouse-homebrew-haven.

New Glory’s Story

When Julien started homebrewing 7 years ago, he never thought he’d make a career out of it.  He didn’t get into it for that.  He simply loved ingredients, cooking, and enjoying the culture of craft-beer enthusiasts. So why not just keep homebrewing at his father-in-law’s warehouse?  Why take the risk of quitting a stable, well-paying job to take on the demands of an upstart brewery in Sacramento? In 2011, Julien realized that he had coincidentally developed two skills – marketing and selling craft beers, and also brewing beers.  Why not combine the two? There also happened to be a market for craft beer in Sacramento.  He felt that a few breweries had really begun to tell a great story in Sacramento – Rubicon and Hoppy Brewing Company have represented our city well.  But he also felt like we could keep getting better. “Sacramento deserves to be on the map. We should have a Russian River, or a Stone, or a Firestone in Sacramento.” He quit his job and founded New Glory.

“Sacramento deserves to be on the map. We should have a Russian River, or a Stone, or a Firestone in Sacramento.”

They needed a brew-house and they needed beers.  The brew-house was easy.  His father-in-law’s warehouse he’d used to store his equipment and homebrew? That’s where the brewery is.  During the interview, Julien looked out at the warehouse and said that he used to homebrew here.  Then he said, “Actually, I still homebrew here. I still consider myself homebrewing, just on a bigger scale.”

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

They also needed to make notable beers.  Julien doesn’t care to be a mediocre brewery in Sacramento.  “If there’s anything that could lead to a decline in the craft beer movement, it’s having a lot of mediocre breweries in our city.  We deserve better.” When asked about how he creates such complex and clean flavors for a variety of beers, he explained his Research and Development sessions.  Julien assembles his team to select a beer style, create a detailed wish-list of flavors and aromas, and then they go buy some notable beers of that style to taste and talk about which offerings have the desired notes they want for their beer.  Then they develop a recipe, brew it, and revise it with tweaks to the ingredients and brewing process until they feel satisfied with the final product. “When you drink my beer, I want you to experience all the layers of complexity. I want someone to decode the beer.”

The beers on draught at the tap-house change as often as Julien’s creative juices flow, which is often. The American Country Farmhouse Ale and Rapid Fire Red Ale are his flagship beers.  That makes sense, since he’s been brewing those from his earliest homebrew days. Julien holds firm to the belief that New Glory will produce drinkable beers from a variety of styles. He mentioned that 80% of the market-share are non-craft beer drinkers.  “When you ask them why they don’t like craft beer, they say it’s too hoppy or too bitter. They equate craft beers to IPA’s, and that’s simply not true.” New Glory’s vision is to show people there are a variety of beers for a palate to explore, and the best way to promote those craft beers is to use the best ingredients, tweak the recipes for continual improvement, ask the customer for honest feedback, and make small-batch beers in the most artisanal way possible.  

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

Photo credit: Nzube Okemiri

New Glory’s Future

Julien still can’t believe it’s been a year since officially opening on June 28, 2013.  This Saturday is the 1st Anniversary. New Glory brewed 540 barrels of beer in the first year, compared to the 200-300 barrels that most upstart breweries do in year one.  But there’s a lot of work to do still, and some great things to look forward to. Julien will be expanding his operations with the purchase of 40-barrel fermenters, and will be expanding distribution into Fresno and San Francisco. In addition, by the end of the year, look for 22 oz bottles and 12 oz cans.  Yup, cans are good. Julien also didn’t forget to praise his team.  He raved about Matt, James, Haley, and Erica and how much they’re shaping the future of New Glory. Of course, he’s not only an artisan brewer, but a humble guy. “If someone told me 2 years ago that I’d be sitting here today in my tap-room doing an interview, I’d say you’re crazy!”

 “I touched every ingredient in that with my hands.”

From orchards to hops; from marketing to brewing; from novice to artisan; Julien Lux’ passion to use his hands to create the best tasting beer in the world is helping shape the story of beer in our great city. Toward the end of the interview, Julien looked at the ale in my hand and said, “I touched every ingredient in that with my hands.” Realizing how that sounded when spoken out loud, he apologized and said, “I hope you aren’t grossed out by that.” On the contrary, that’s how it’s supposed to be done.

Thanks Julien. Cheers, Sacramento

Nick

Follow Nick on Twitter at @nicsbrewreview

You can email him at nick@beersinsac.com