Bottle & Tap: The Not-so-Mad Scientist at Black Laboratory Brewing

A lot of scientific advancements have come out of a two-car garage: DIY biology, the Macintosh I, the warp drive a guy built in Omaha (dream big, right?). Black Laboratory Brewing is also run by two scientists operating out of a garage, but their efforts focus not on taking man into hyperspace but putting a great beer in his hand.

Owners/brewers Tim Castaneda and Jeff Weihe first met in a more conventional lab, applying their respective backgrounds in microbiology and biochemistry to quality control research on food. Castaneda was already a homebrewer by then; after an offhand mention of his after-hours hobby to Weihe, they quickly decided to apply their experience to bringing out beers that would meet the standards of two demanding control groups: beer nerds and Joe Six-Packs.

Castaneda cited two Texas breweries in particular — Real Ale and Saint Arnold — as inspiration.

click to enlarge Black Lab got their start through Break Fast & Launch. - Courtesy
Black Lab got their start through Break Fast & Launch.

"Real Ale can make a beer like Fireman's 4 ale and also make a beer like Blakkr and they're both great," Castaneda said in an email to the San Antonio Current. "Same with Saint Arnold: you can enjoy a Weedwacker and also have a Pumpkinator. But most importantly, they're always consistent. Every time I have one of their beers I know that it will be the same."

So far, Black Laboratory's output reflects this interest. Eminently drinkable styles like their California common and strawberry pale ale get equal time with the duo's wilder styles, like the stout brewed with vanilla extract and Costa Rican coffee or the maiboch with juniper and honey adjuncts. Every beer benefits from a scientific division of labor: Weihe, the chemist, scrutinizes water pH and the impact of fruits and spices, while Castaneda (the microbiologist) maintains a micro-Frankenstein's castle of yeast cultivation.

Castaneda and Weihe got an early operational boost from Break Fast & Launch, a San Antonio startup incubator. Castaneda credits the program with fitting their beer-making dreams to a business plan, teaching them in eight weeks lessons they would have otherwise taken months or years to master.

Thus equipped, Castaneda and Weihe started taking their brews to the public. Recent outings have found them serving complimentary pints to Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center's young professionals organization, Generation Ñ and the Westside arcade joint Dreamonoid's. Black Laboratory also linked up with the San Antonio Cerveceros homebrew club to bring some micro-brewed options to a Scorpions match in October.

Black Laboratory is taking it easy for the rest of 2015 to move from the garage to a commercial location. Happily for us, they have two more public events scheduled before New Year's, so keep an eye on their social media channels for the details. It's by far the tastiest way to study up on your science.


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