Beer brings people together.
Whether you’re sharing a pint with an old friend or spending a brew day with your buddies in a garage, beer is a common thread.
Nothing is truer for Tony Schneider and Dave Morrow, the two lead brewers at Tattered Flag Brewing and Still Works in Middletown.
For four years they attended the same high school, played in the same marching band, and even worked the same job, but never crossed paths until brewing brought them together.
Now, they work side-by-side to create exciting, fresh and consistent beers at Tattered Flag.
The hobby of homebrewing was the start for both brewers, but each took a different path to get where they are now.
Though Schneider’s first brew was with a Mr. Beer Kit (a gift from his wife), he found his calling for brewing while taking a cross-country trip where the couple hit 150 breweries in 40 states.
“During the trip was the first time I thought that I could do this for a living,” said Schneider. “When we got home, I applied to every brewery in Pennsylvania and ultimately got a job with Artie at Appalachian Brewing Company in 2013.”
Schneider spent two years learning the ropes of large-scale brewing at ABC, along with a stint at Battlefield Brew Works, before starting with Tattered Flag in 2015.
Morrow, on the other hand, homebrewed for 10 years before getting the call from Tattered Flag owner, Matt Fritz, to come aboard.
Fritz was familiar with Morrow’s brewing abilities from beers that Morrow would bring to a mutual friend’s pool party every summer.
“When he called me to talk about brewing, I didn’t think it was real,” said Morrow. “I ignored it until he called me back a little later and asked me to bring over some beers to test.”
Morrow brought 10 test batches to try, which included current Tattered Flag favorites like Ball Gunner Black IPA and a Triple Mango IPA that ultimately became Manghost.
Intense beer education
Before getting the keys to the mash tun, both Schneider and Morrow went through several months of intense brewing training at renowned facilities across the country.
Morrow took the UC Davis Brewing Science program to hone his brewing skills and knowledge on a larger scale.
“There was a lot more science involved in the class,” said Morrow. “It wasn’t too different from what I was used too, but it showed how labor-intensive brewing larger batches can be.”
While Morrow was on the West Coast, Schneider was on the other side of the country in Vermont getting his own dose of brewing education from the American Brewers Guild.
The two then spent time together in Asheville and Vermont participating in a variety of classes that focused on everything from science to safety.
“The owners knew they had the business background, but they wanted professionals to make the beer and be experts on it,” said Schneider. “We don’t claim to be experts even now. but they wanted us to have as many steps to making good beer as we possibly could.”
“Brewing with them Black Cap helped because it showed how you want to do the exact same thing every time,” said Morrow. “You don’t want a customer coming in and telling you that one batch of TMI tasted completely different than the last batch.”
Brewing with freedom
Schneider and Morrow keep their mainstay brews consistent and true to style.
The TM IPA is a juicy, hoppy IPA that has become a staple on their tap list along with other favorites like Aleways RemAmber, Teutonic Knight Hefeweizen, and their signature Manghost Triple IPA.
Schneider said Manghost is one beer that reflects their particular style of brewing.
“We were going to bring a Triple Mango IPA to Little Big Beer Fest until we heard someone else already was planning that, so we threw ghost peppers in it,” said Schneider. “It kind of became our thing to say, okay what else can we add to this beer to make it a little bit different.”
Whether it’s fruit, specialty malts or hops in different places during brewing, Tattered Flag has experimented with a lot of different ingredients.
“That’s why we were all for this idea about making a strawberry and basil beer,” said Schneider.
Tattered Flag has an ever-rotating list of beers with something for everyone. On the day of our visit, the selections included refreshing blonde ales to a wheat beer with fruit and peppers in it.
“If we had our way, there would be six or seven IPAs and a couple of pepper beers on at all times,” said Morrow. “But we find if we keep a few traditional styles on, then we can create pretty much whatever else we want.”
The brewers work collaboratively on new styles and recipes with inspiration coming from all around.
“I could be listening to a podcast, reading an article or drinking a new beer when I get an idea,” said Schneider. “I’ll work our the recipes and bounce ideas off Dave and then we work together to create the beer.”
While their focus is keeping beer on tap at the brewery, Tattered Flag is starting to ramp up production to can some of their more popular beers.
Their first cans off the line were El Rey Dorado Double IPA soon to be followed by TM IPA and Teutonic Knight Hefeweizen.
“We’re hoping to get 30-barrel fermenters here so can keep the core beers on while filling the small fermenters with different styles,” said Schneider.
Tattered Flag also recently started selling bottles of their Single Malt Whiskey; vodka will be available in the near future as well.