Q&A with Peak Organic Co-Founder Rob Lucente

Lucente at Drink Craft Beer’s Spring Fest in April. Peak served samples of their Simcoe Spring Ale with fresh hop cones.

Today Maine’s Peak Organic Brewing, in operation since 2006, is in house for a tasting from 5 to 7 pm, so in the spirit of learning more about this brewery and the peeps behind it, we decided to ask co-founder Rob Lucente a few questions.

How did you and co-founder Jon Cadoux meet?
Jon and I attended the same summer camp in New Hampshire as kids. We both ended up working at camp in the summers during high school and college. We remained friends outside of camp in the winters and both ended up attending colleges in New England. On weekends, we took turns driving to each other’s college to brew beer. Post college, we continued to homebrew in the Boston area where we both worked in other industries. After working with some awesome organic ingredients (hops and barley), and realizing that nothing available in the market tasted as good as our homebrew, we decided to make the shift from our normal “day jobs” to pursue our love of crafting delicious beer. As they say, the rest is history.

What do you love about this industry?
Honestly, there is something we find so gratifying about sharing our delicious liquid we brew with others. Even before commercially brewing, we would always have “tasting parties” where we could get feedback from our friends. Nowadays, we are fortunate to have some amazing local hop and wheat farmers and we can showcase their incredibly delicious, locally grown ingredients. Peak actually uses more New England ingredients than any other brewery. We love that, and will always strive to support local family-owned farms.

How many people work at Peak?
We’re fortunate to have so many awesome employees. I haven’t done the official tally recently because we are growing so fast, but between sales, marketing, events, brewers, and our office we have well over 20 kickass employees. We’ve grown more than 50 percent in the last year, with no slowing in sight!

From what we understand, brewing beer that can actually be labeled organic is pretty difficult.
Difficult is an understatement. In addition the the brewery being certified organic from the USDA, the farmers who provide us with hops and barley also need to carry the same certification. That’s where things get really admirable. By choosing to grow organic, our farmers sometimes have to undertake a three year certification process…it can really get pricey to receive that coveted USDA Organic seal. However, the finished product and the organic hops and barley that our farmers grow are world class.

Speaking of ingredients, are there any new or interesting vendors that you’ve started working with?
We’re fortunate to have some amazing partners out there, including Taza chocolate in Somerville, MA, Valley Malt in Hadley, MA, Herb Lyceum in Groton, MA, Old Friends Farm in Amherst, MA, and Blue Heron Farm in Lincoln, MA to name a few. My favorite new ingredient we are working with is local organic ginger and my all time favorite is organic, fair trade certified espresso, roasted and brewed by our friends at Coffee By Design a few streets over from us in Portland, ME.

You’ve created the first “Fair Trade” certified beer. Which ones are they and what exactly does that mean?
Yes, our Espresso Amber Ale was the first organic, fair trade certified beer in the US. We insisted that we find a partner that could provide us with espresso from a company that treated their coffee farmers with fairness in an economically fierce coffee market, where sometimes larger companies would not compensate these farmers fairly.

What new and exciting brews are on the docket for Peak in upcoming months?
We have so many new recipes that we are working on literally every day. Until we deem any beer absolutely 100 percent delicious, we won’t release it. We will never rush a beer into the market.

What is a typical day or week in the life of Rob Lucente like?
We all wear so many hats working at Peak. On any given day we could be brewing, visiting on and off premise accounts, riding with our distributor partners, or working a killer beer event or in-store tasting. Basically we do it all. We wouldn’t have it any other way…there’s plenty of time to rest when we’re dead!

How have you seen the craft beer landscape change in recent years?
It has been so awesome to get to know so many new folks at emerging breweries. Seeing and talking with so many people who have taken the same career paths that we took absolutely validates what we are doing. Craft brewing is here to stay, and the entrepreneurs and craftsmen who work in this industry are showcasing the American dream.

How have consumer tastes changed in recent years?
I think craft beer consumers are totally digging hops these days. Citrusy, aromatic American hops. Just thinking about them is making me thirsty for some right now! Also, we are seeing tremendous growth in our session (less than 4.5% ABV) offerings.

Are you ever going to make more Oak Aged Taza Stout? That stuff is the shiz!
Fo sho! Keep an eye out for this gem at the end of the year…

Five beers you’re really digging right now?
Tough question. I’m digging so much these days. To be fair, here’s what’s in my fridge right now: Backlash Salute, Baxter Pamola Xtra Pale Ale, Notch Left of the Dial IPA, Mayflower Porter, and Cisco Summer of Lager. I’ve got the New England thing going on in the fridge.

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