We had the chance to sit down with Mark and Debbie of Six Pack Brewing to learn more about brewing, the inspiration behind their beers, and their love for what they do.
Mark was a home brewer for about fifteen years before a local brewery opened and was hiring a head brewer. He had always planned on opening his own brewery one day, and on January 1, 2020, he did exactly that with business partners Debbie and Liz, creating Six Pack Brewing. Despite a planned opening for the Fourth of July 2020, COVID caused opening to be delayed until November 2020. Even then, their store capacity was restricted to 25 percent of its full 40 person limit, for a total of 12 customers at a time.
This wasn’t the start that they had envisioned, but things have steadily been improving since those restrictions were lifted, allowing people and dogs alike to come into the taproom. That’s right: Six Pack Brewing is actually named after Mark’s first pack of six dogs, as seen in the logo of the silhouettes of different dogs. (He explained that he didn’t have all six of them at once, though.)
“And pretty much all the beers – not all, but most of them – are named after my dogs,” said Mark. “So we’re very dog themed, dog friendly. It’s all about dogs – you come in, you’ll see pictures of all the dogs. We actually have a dog wall, where if people bring in their dogs, we take a Polaroid picture of them, and they go up on the wall.”
The brewery’s theme doesn’t detract from its product though: “We put a little bit of a twist on all of our beers with the way we brew them to differentiate ourselves from other breweries. We use alternative brewing methods, different yeasts from other places, and we take traditional styles and change them up.”
How does Mark come up with his ideas for new beers? “I’m very experienced,” said Mark with a laugh. “He’s a mad scientist!” said Debbie, entirely complimentarily. Mark gave an example of both of these descriptions with his plan for the 2022 Ocean State Beer Fest’s farm to keg theme. “They’re encouraging breweries to make a unique beer with either locally sourced or locally foraged items. We basically smoked some of our own malt on a smoker. Then I foraged juniper branches, harvested the yeast from those branches and fused Juniper into the process of making the beer, then fermented it with the yeast. We don’t actually make the yeast – the wild yeast is already there on the branch. We collect it and grow it out into a usable amount.
“But we don’t do that for all our beers, just for these sorts of special occasions,” Mark added. “We also use commercially available alternative yeasts – there’s an old practice of brewing from Norway, where they had this yeast called kveik, and just about every farm had their own strain. And they would basically dip a piece of wood into the beer as it was fermenting, hang it up on a clothesline to dry, and they would actually use this infused wood for their future beers just by dipping it into the new batch. This style of yeast has become available over the past three or four years in this country, and a lot of the big yeast companies have started doing isolates of them to remove any of the bacteria and to make them available for commercial brewers. They ferment very warm and very fast and give very unique flavors to the beer.”
In response to a question about what people should know about Six Pack Brewing, Debbie said, “They should know that we’re awesome! And that we’re here – I think we get a little overlooked because of the way people drive on this street and where we’re located. But once people come in, experience the space, and try our beers, they love it. Mark’s really good at keeping a variety of different styles of beer available – we’re not necessarily all IPAs or all sours.”
Mark’s experiments have also taken him down the road of fruity beers as well as something they called a series of sorbet sours. One of the especially fruity beers is named Froggy’s Shenanigans, after Mark’s late Jack Russell. “This one is named after my dog, Elliot,” said Mark. “His nickname was Froggy because he used to jump up and down like a frog. He was very mischievous and always got into trouble, so when we tasted this beer, we thought, ‘Froggy’s Shenanigans would be the perfect name.’ We basically just took our base sour beer and added a ton of fruit to make it a very refreshing drink on a hot summer day.”
And if you’re wondering, the series of sorbet sours are exactly what they sound like: beer that tastes like liquid sorbet. “I’m a big BJ’s shopper,” explained Debbie. “I raised many sons and so always bought in bulk. And there’s this cool product that BJ’s has in the ice cream aisle that’s a box of different sorbets, where it’ll be half orange flavored, half lemon flavored, or half pineapple or half coconut. And all of a sudden, I see this look come over Mark’s face, and it’s the mad scientist. His brain is churning. He comes in and he goes, ‘Oh my god, I know what I’m going to do.’ And he stands there in the kitchen with his extraction devices trying this, trying that to make a sorbet series. And he did!”
Beyond the science and flavors, though, their favorite part of their work is interacting with customers and seeing the reactions for the first time when they sample the beers.
You can check out Six Pack Brewing at 87 Gooding Avenue in Bristol, Rhode Island.