A simple phrase that read ‘Almond Beer’, written down in two separate notebooks, unknowing of each other, lead to hundreds of almond industry members toasting to California FFA. That was the scene at Temblor Brewing Company in Bakersfield earlier this month when the 2019 Almond Leadership Program took over the brewery.
“We have to do a special project and you’re allowed to team up with someone. On our second day of orientation, Lucas and I were bouncing off ideas and we realized that we both wrote down ‘Almond Beer’ in our notebooks,” Famoso Nut Grower Representative Dominique Camou said. “We agreed that if we were going to do it, we would do it together.”
Camou and fellow leadership program participant and Grow West’s Director of Crop Protection Lucas Schmidt decided this would be their project and why not try to get almonds into the craft beer craze. “You know we are both connoisseur, not experts, and given that almonds are a pretty versatile nut, why not? Why hasn’t someone tried this?” Schmidt said.
The duo set out on a process that likely was a bigger challenge than they expected. Being from different areas of the state, the two initially thought of trying different brewers in their respective regions. Then the project took a hard left when Camou met Temblor Brewing Company Co-Owner, Don Bynum. “Temblor just opened the door, wide open, and we found a home,” Camou said.
Camou and Schmidt orchestrated a donation of two different varieties to Temblor’s master brewer to experiment with. One of the first things they noticed was that the two varieties, Monterey and Fritz, made two different tasting beers. “We had a taste test right here (at Temblor),” Camou said. “They did 20 gallons of Monterey, 20 gallons of fritz and of the 16 participants in the program, 11 voted the beer made with Fritz almonds tasted better.”
Both Camou and Schmidt voted for the Fritz beer. Camou said he could tell the difference, not in the taste of the almond beer, but the smell. Schmidt said they made sure to make the test as scientific as possible, “we asked the guests not to make any sounds. We didn’t want to throw off what anyone was thinking.”
That night, ‘On The Fritz’ beer was born once the group settled on the name. Temblor said they would do an official release for the beer at their Bakersfield brewery, but Bynum and the group had one more idea before the launch. “Temblor approached us and asked which non-profit organization we would want to donate a $1 per-beer-sale to,” Camou said. “With the leadership program, we have to raise $20,000 for California FFA, so we chose them.”
That decision turned a fun project into a legit fundraiser. Camou and Schmidt contacted their respective vendors about donating and the Almond Board of California sold decals and ran a 50/50 raffle at the event. Hundreds of people showed up to Temblor Brewing Company to taste ‘On The Fritz’ brown ale which the brewery tapped in both the standard CO2
The numbers are still being added up, but coordinators said the event raised well over $10,000 that night through all of the donation avenues. Aside from it turning into the successful fundraiser, Schmidt said the project has been a wonderful way to bridge the agriculture industry and general public and forge relationships he may not have been otherwise exposed to. “We were blessed to partner with someone of (Temblor’s) caliber…I wanted to get to know some people outside of my area,” Schmidt said. “It’s one small project that has just ballooned up and the amount of support from the industry that we have received has been unbelievable. The personal connection, to get to know someone out of my area like Dominique has been a fantastic part of the process as well.”
Listen to Camou and Schmidt’s entire interview.