Ernesto Igot, the Filipino head brewer at Peabody Heights Brewery, possesses flair that's hard to replicate. In front of Peabody's eight tanks, Igot interrupts himself to explain the name of the brewery's hop cannon, used for pumping doses of hops into fermenting tanks. "I named it HOPTREK, because the hops will go where no hops have gone before," says a grinning Igot (or Ernie, as he is known to colleagues). Behind HOPTREK, metal clamps and gaskets sit soaking in a plastic container labeled "VULCAN POOL." Elsewhere, Peabody's yeast-collecting kegs are titled "KLINGON KEGS." It's not affection for Star Trek, Igot explains, it's just for fun.
Educated in chemical engineering, Igot began brewing in the Philippines in the late 1970s for San Miguel Company, an international brewing company with outposts throughout Asia; he ascended the corporate ladder, from brewing supervisor to high-up-the-chain jet-setting executive. In 1997, he and his family packed up for the States. He found a position brewing at Heavy Seas (then Clipper City), where he worked until May 2012 (disclosure: this writer worked with Igot during his tenure at Heavy Seas), when he took on the head brewer position at Peabody.
The custom-designed brewhouse at Peabody initially came with automated controls, which old school Igot requested be removed. Despite decades as a desk-bound manager at San Miguel, he now spends much of his week manning the mash tun, lauter, and kettle. (An additional brewer works afternoon shifts.) Peabody brews six times a week, keeping its eight tanks full with the lineups of the breweries participating in Peabody's co-op: Full Tilt Brewing; Mountain State Brewing Company from West Virginia; Fin City Brewing Company from Ocean City, Md.; Public Works Ale, whose wooden-obelisk tap handles are proliferating across town; and Baltimore-Washington Beer Works' RavenBeer, which already had a name in Baltimore's beer market, having been brewed under contract at Clipper City since 1998. Igot also crafts the recipes for Public Works Ale's expanding lines of beers (they have an IPA and an APA out in addition to their Red Cent Amber).
Igot says that, by volume, the most popular brews are Full Tilt's Baltimore Pale Ale, and The Raven and Tell Tale Heart Ale, but on this particular afternoon, he's brewing the second-ever batch of RavenBeer's new The Cask: a "Bricked In Double Bock," according to the beer's purple Poe-themed label, illustrated by KAL, the longtime Sun editorial cartoonist. (The beer would have been named The Cask of Amontillado, but the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau rejected the name, fearing that purchasers would confuse the beer with wine.) He pauses in the brewhouse to watch the wort boil, and as the dark liquid intermittently sprays through the kettle's internal calandria, Igot approves of it: "This one, I'm already satisfied."