Q&A with the Founders of Persimmon HollowOctober 9, 2014 | Category: Brewery Opening
By: Laura Sasaninejad
This week we were lucky enough to sit down with the mind and matter behind Persimmon Hollow Brewing Co. which is opening up this Saturday, October 11 at 2 PM in downtown DeLand. Founders, Andy Sistrunk and Robbie Carelli have been pouring their heart and souls into some lovely liquid for about two years now and we could not be happier for them as they begin to open their doors to the public this weekend and begin distribution with Brown Distributing in the coming weeks. Welcome to the Hollow ya’ll.
Laura (L): Tell us about the story of Persimmon Hollow, the idea and birth of it all?
Robbie (R): It was a long labor
Andy (A): A long cold night,
R: No room in the end. *Laughs*
A: It ended up being a C Section delivery.
R: Emergency C Section. I don’t believe we have time for the epidermal.
A: You mean epideral? Yeah, nice try.
R: I squeezed that one in there
A: Robbie and I have been home brewers for years, shortly after we met we brewed our first batch of beer together. Literally right after we met we each brewed out first batch of beer ever together. And kind of kept it that way.
L: The first batch for both of you?
A: Yes, the first batch for both of us was brewed together. And it’s been that way, we were instantly connected and drawn to each other. It’s this weird cosmic aligned thing.
R: He’s my Turk!
A: Yes, Turk and JD (Scrubs reference). Yes very much Turk and JD for the two of us. I am the married guy with kids. So that’s literally how it happened, we brewed our first batch of beer together. We met playing music. We jammed together and shortly after that I said, “Hey I wanna buy some home-brew equipment, I found a really great deal and it was something I had been wanting to buy for awhile. We bought a kit and brewed a batch of beer together. And it sucked.
L: What was it?
A: It was a Witbier. Wasn’t it a witbier?
R: It was a Witbier, extract kit. I mean it wasn’t..uh…it sucked.
A: Our friends drank it though.
R: We drank it.
A: Yeah we drank it, and our friends drank it. They were like, “oh this tastes like home-brew”. But we both had the bug immediately and starting doing research and brewing with your own grain. We both like gadgets, and we were like we can build some gadgets and make this work.
R: Don’t tell me we can have gadgets, because that will be something I want to do.
A: We commenced to building gadgets. We then brewed our first all grain batch and that batch turned out really good. People went crazy for it. And then we brewed our second all grain batch, the first one was a brown ale, porter type deal. The second one was a witbier. We entered the home-brew club here in DeLand and the home-brew club was entering the BrewHaHa in Sanford. They invited anyone in the club to the competition and we entered it. Sent a couple bottles of the witbier and send a couple bottles of the porter down there. And a couple weeks later, after everything happened, we weren’t even there. I was off on a retreat with my kids and I get a phone call, “hey you won”, “won what?” “you won best in show, you took the whole thing with your witbier”. I was like, “really?” “OK”. So that was the second recipe we had ever brewed, and that recipe today is our DeLand White Ale. We have never changed the recipe since. And it’s become a very popular beer with friends. And my family is not beer drinkers, if they do it’s light lager and they go crazy for that beer. And that is kinda where it got started.
L: When was this?
A: That was 2012. BrewHaHa 2012. So we kept brewing and that spring 2013 we did the DeLand craft beer festival. Which actually happens in these two buildings. *Talking about the warehouse we were in and the on next door*
R: The whole club sets up the home brew section. So it’s like a little corner, and a lot of people show up with really really good beer. We kind of thought that everybody brewed really good beer, because we were fortunate enough to know folks that brewed good beer. I had never really drank home-brew. Since I have had a lot of home brew.
L: I would imagine so!
R: A lot of it tastes like home-brew. We were fortunate to know a lot of really great home brewers. We were in the corner, pouring beer and some folks from Terrapin were there that year. Kate Lloyd. She is the director of casking, all the firkins and stuff. And she kept coming back and back. She came back and was like this is good, came back again and was like this is really good. She did another loop, she looped around 6-7 times in the festival and getting more and more excited. She wasn’t just looping in the home brew but the whole festival and getting more and more excited. And she kept coming back and having beer and finally her and boyfriend came up after it was done and said, “you guys really need to do something with this”. You know ego boosting stuff. This is the best beer we have had here. We didn’t really think too much of it. Then we had an opportunity to actually talk with her, once the noise and hustle and bustle settled down and she really poked us in the right direction. She was like, “I’m not just fluffing ya.” She told who she was and what she did and who she worked with. We were like yeah, we had always kind of talked about it but never really thought about it. We sat down. and we talked about it and brewed some more. (Laughs) And formulated a business plan. So we spent that next year and we basically went home from the beer festival and talked in the ethereal like, “what if we could open a brewery”, so we kind of had some of the ideas of what we would do. But then we sat down and did the nitty gritty. Fast forward a year and the craft beer festival has absorbed this whole garage, which we had just penned out the lease for. We were just outside that garage door, because all the Florida beer was here there was a big banner that said, “Welcome to the Persimmon Hollow”, it was a garage. We announced then that this would be our facility and got to pour the festival in our facility:
L: That’s awesome, so did you have the name already by then?
R: We did have it by then, we were kicking around some stuff. We’ve got a really kick ass, er awesome.
L: Kick ass all you want.
R: Fuckin awesome. We had a really kick ass designer that we had known personally for a really long time.
A: Clark Orr is his name
R: Clark Orr, It’s not only the brand image itself but he kind of helped us articulate the vision we have inside of our head. He is a brand manager.
A: The origin of the name Persimmon Hollow was the original name of DeLand. DeLand was called Persimmon Hollow until 1876. There were wild persimmon trees growing in the area. And this is actually a low spot, were in the hollow. Clark is the one his family is fifth generation DeLand and he said did you know the real name of DeLand is Persimmon Hollow? He just crossed his arms and looked at us, and makes this face. We looked at him and we were both like, there it is. That’s the name of the brewery. It means something for the locals and it’s a great brand for anybody.
L: You guys are really big into the community, right?
A: Robbie and I are both members of local rotary clubs. We donate beer and our time for the rotary Wild Game Feast. This year we raised about $70,000 and all goes to local charities. There is another event that raises money for charity called Glamour and Gore that goes on, on Halloween in the warehouse next door. We will be donating beer and time this year, and we will have costumes going on in here. Robbie’s rotary club does an event every year, Black Tie and Blue Jeans Banquet, and we pour beer there as well. All the beer is donated and raises money for local charities. We have also done a dictionary giveaway at a local school in town. DeLand is a tight knit community.
L: Let’s talk beer, what can we expect from Persimmon Hollow?
A: Beer wise, we are going to roll out in distribution with is DeLand White, our white ale, where it all started, the flagship. Next is the Paddlewheeler Red, a hoppy red. Then Funky Freddy Fitz, which is the belgian stout. And Beach Hippie is our IPA.
L: So these will be your main core beers that you will roll out with distribution?
A: Those four, then seasonally right now we will roll out with our pumpkin which is called Sleepy Holler. Our tap room manager who also works in the back, Sam is an adjunct professor of Literature at Stetson.
R: He is a linguist.
A: Yeah, he’s a linguist. So, the cheesy low hanging fruit promotional line of sleepy holler
R: He is a cunning linguist
A: He is a cunning linguist, be careful how you say that. But the promotional line, low hanging fruit from sleepy holler is, “it’s so good you’ll lose your head over it.” It’s cheesy
R: It’s gouda
A: So gouda you’ll lose your head over it
A: Drunken Monk is the other one we will be coming to market with pretty regularly when we don’t have a seasonal, that is our spiced Belgian Quad. And, then here in the taproom we will have a lot of small batch beers. Right now we have a Lemon Juice Blonde Ale. We just finished up with a BBQ Brown Ale, which is brewed with smoked malt, molasses, pablano peppers and sea salt. On Fourth Friday Art Walk in downtown DeLand we are going to have a small batch beer that will be Art in a Glass. That event is all about local artists, we are going to try and get local artists to display their art in here on fourth friday as well. The St. Petersberg Museum of Art has asked us to do a special beer later in the year for Art in a Glass this spring. I love to cook, Sam who works here loves to cook, Robbie loves to eat what we cook, that’s how that goes. Art in a Glass really works well for us because brewing is cooking, it’s just cooking over a long period of time. The idea of playing with different ingredients and doing things like that on a small scale, there is always going to be beers the consumer can’t get anywhere else they can get here. We want to use our beers in distribution to do that, to get them to come to the taproom, come see downtown DeLand and get something here they can’t get anywhere else.
R: That, and we get to brew. Go ahead twist our arm.
A: If we didn’t have this building and didn’t have all this equipment and we didn’t have a business, guess what we would be doing? We would still be brewing every weekend. It’s literally what we were doing before we had a business plan. Before we had a business I literally said to Robbie, “Hey let’s see if we can brew 100 gallons of beer, 5 gallons at a time, just you and me. That’s 20 brew days.
R: We blew that out of the water
A: Yeah, it ended up we started going together and starting brewing 10 gallon batches, and we had brewed 100 gallons of beer before the first quarter of the year. In 10 gallon batches. But for hobbits to brew 20 brew days a year, that’s a lot of beer for a hobbits to do. But that’s literally what we would still be doing.
R: I mean I spent all yesterday reading about how to grow hops at home. Now I know. And now I will.
A: I am about to buy a house and it’s got a perfect place to grow some hops. Let’s see if we can get some hops to grow up the side of the house.
R: I will have to impart on you my knowledge.
A: I was going to say, I think you are going to impart on me you’re coming over to help me plant hops with your knowledge. Yes, no?
L: With food.
R: Someone should feed me.
A: My wife feeds you all the time.
R: I am hungry right now.
A: My phalanges are in danger, Robbie tells me that my phalanges are in danger. Cause when he gets hungry he is going to eat my fingers.
L: So Robbie, tell me about what you guys envision about the taproom?
R: We wanted to create a space where people felt welcome to come and hang out. As Andy said we are both musicians, so we very much encourage artistic expression. So we want to have a space where people feel like they can express themselves artistically and be in that environment. So like Andy said we will have local artist displaying art, we may do some poetry reading kind of stuff. We want to try and make is not your typical Friday night.
A: He is going to do a fiction writing workshop here.
L: Tell us about the dining room tables.
R: Yeah, so we were racking our brains trying to figure out what we were going to do. Furniture is freaking expensive. Especially restaurant furniture. I had a couple of dining room tables in storage from a house I used to live in. Well Andy and Meoghan, his wife, what they do is feed a bunch of people. A lot. I mean outside of just me, but, the kind of community that comes around a dining room table or just a table in general. When it’s shared is a really powerful thing. Not only for them but the community they have created. We wanted to try and extend that to here. And so we put the mix matched finding room furniture to hopefully make it feel, and have that sense of community, somewhere they can come and have great conversations and feel like they are not that far away from the comfort of their own home. And build community and have that feeling.
A: Yeah Meoghan and I, if you boil our mission in life down, one of the things we want to do is our home to always be a safe place. We feed a crew every Tuesday night and weekend cookouts. When we had almost 1000 Facebook followers we put it out on, “hey we’re cooking out and brewing at the house this weekend, if you want to come, send us a message and we will send you the address”. We have had random people come, as long as they aren’t a creepster or something they’re welcome to our house. Robbie is a creepster and we let him in.
R: I have a key
A: A good friend of ours, actually a guy that we have a bigger relationship with that we’ve actually used a pot of his for home-brewing.
R: We straight bogarted it.
A: A 20 gallon pot, we’ve used his pot for years. He came in here when we were first starting to set everything up and he brought a friend into see it and he goes, “I want to show you DeLand’s new living room.” And that’s kind of resonated with us and we’re like that’s exactly what we want. Anybody to shows up here to feel comfortable.
R: I hope we’re doing something right, the vibe is right. We have heard similar sentiments from some other folks. And that’s what we want.
A: That’s the vibe and the feel and what we want. *Sam walks in* Sam is our tap room manager. Sam manages our tap room manager and run social media. He is also great at digging grain out of the mash tun and things like that. *Talking about mannequin Monday*
R: Oh did they decide if they would jump out of a plane with a mannequin?
S: As far as I know
R: Let’s set it up, let’s get it going. I’m not jumping out of no damn plane.
L: Let’s discuss the Grand Opening on Saturday?
L: It’s a block party isn’t it?
R: Yeah, 2-8 PM. And the party will continue outside. Everything starts at 2 and will be open the whole time and stay open till 12. There will be a food truck and cupcakes for the first 300 people featuring PH beer. There will be BBQ, live music.
L: Anything else?
R: People can go on the website and preorder 5 OZ tasters which comes with 2 beer samples. There will be a draft van outside and the bar will be open for regular pours and cash sales. We will accept 5 oz tickets in here. There is no price to get in, it’s free to come. But the commemorative glass for sale online.
A: There will also be a tap takeover @ Cafe Di Vinci on the patio. 5 beers on tap there, during the block party and all night.
For more details on the brewery, their beers and the Grand Opening this Saturday, October 11 at 2 PM goto: