Made in Orange County: Black Label Keg Brewing Co.’s Cold Brew

Photograph by John Cizmas

The strategic blend of 80 percent Colombian and 20 percent French roast coffee beans gives the cold brew from Fullerton’s Black Label Keg Brewing Co. a silky smooth, mellow taste we love.  We caught up with founder Donny Gaudiano on the process of bottling his sought-after brew:

Describe your brewing process.
We brew to order small batches for 24 hours and only grind coffee beans minutes prior to brewing. We also have a unique water system that filters out impurities which allows the coffee’s true flavor to come out.

What sparked you to launch the brewing company?
It started by accident at my restaurant, Pie Dog. I used to bring a 64 oz. thermos of my cold brew coffee to work every day. My beer buyer (now GM), showed up super hungover to his shift one day. He asked me for a glass of my coffee, and of course, I gladly obliged. I couldn’t have him interacting with our customers in that condition. After taking a sip of the coffee, he looked up at me and my regulars sitting at the bar with wide eyes and said, “Oh my goodness, this is amazing, and I don’t even like coffee.” This piqued the interest of all my regulars sitting at the bar. I let everyone sample my coffee, and before I knew it, I didn’t have any left for myself.

When did you decide to bottle your cold brew?
A lot of regulars began asking for my coffee. So, I decided to invest in a stainless steel kettle, a large stainless steel filter, and two corny kegs. I wanted to see if I could scale up my coffee recipe. On my first attempt, I was able to brew five gallons. Since it was housed in a keg, I decided to charge the keg with nitrogen. Around Spring 2016, I started selling my cold brew to Pie Dog guests. It was a hit. Some days, I’d sell more coffee than beer. Since Pie Dog doesn’t open until noon, people were either buying to-go cups of nitro coffee that went flat the next day, or writing me angry messages saying I needed to open earlier or start bottling the stuff. Bottling gave people the option to grab a few bottles and enjoy them fresh the next day.

What went behind designing the bottle?
When I was collaborating with Tricia Trinh from Kryptic Vinyls, I just wanted the design to be timeless, elegant, and classy, while being bold and strong at the same time. I believe the label design complements the fresh flavor of the cold brew.

How do you think your cold brew stands out?
We brew fresh to order. We don’t keep inventory of any finished product other than a few cases for the sales team. Every Tuesday is brew day, and we batch, bottle, keg, and deliver on Wednesdays. This way, once it lands in the store or restaurant, the product will be fresh. I just want to make fresh and delicious coffee without the pretentiousness.

At Pie Dog in downtown Fullerton, Honey & Butter, and other select O.C. retailers. $3 to $6, 12 ounces. Instagram: @blkbrew

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