For a man destined to become president of a brewery, Allan Conger didn't get off to a very good start. In 2004 he blew up his first attempt at brewing a porter at home.
"I didn't measure everything like I should have," Conger said. "My wife kicked me out to go brew in the garage."
His wife Alicia forgave him though, and in 2015, the Tucson born-and-bred couple opened 1912 Brewing Co. on the west side with Allan as head brewer.
1912 is a stone's throw from Dragoon Brewing Company, but far from being rivals — Conger found the Tucson brewing community a very supportive one. He served in the Marines with Ten Fifty-Five Brewing co-owner Chris Squires, who he credits with being a great source of inspiration and advice.
"I like the camaraderie," Conger said when asked about the difference between home-brewing and commercial brewing. "Other industries are dog-eat-dog. Craft beer is all about helping each other rise and collaborating all the time."
The other main difference between brewing at home and brewing as a business is the intensity of the work involved.
"I knew it would be a lot of work, but I never imagined it would be this much of a grind," Conger said. "It’s a blast, but it’s a lot of work."
While Conger's wife and daughter are directly involved at the brewery, other family members chip in too. Past helpers include his mother, son-in-law, and son's godmother. Even his six-year-old son Braydon has got in on the act by coming up with one of the crazy names they give to some of their beers.
"My wife came home late from work one evening. She said, 'Hello, anyone home?' And Braydon rattled off without hesitation, 'No, it’s just a bunch of random voices from a secret raccoon.' Moments after the laughter died down, he turns to me and says that would be a great name for an IPA. This is the same kid that can smell an IPA or a gose and tell the difference."
Conger himself invents most of the other distinctive names, which include Troop Leader's Cookie, Say Again Your Last, Darth Hazious, and the award-winning Naughty Naranja. He admitted sometimes being amazed himself by the names he came up with.
"I get my inspiration either from music, movies, military, and my kids," Conger said.
As well as crazy names, 1912 specializes in original infusions and combinations of flavors, holding regular beer infusion release events at the brewery. A recent combination was a Baya Gose — a sour beer made with marionberries, raspberries, and blueberries — infused with chocolate. Conger credits the whole team for coming up with some of their beer recipes and infusion suggestions.
"That is really the whole team," Conger said. "I encourage them to think of off-the-wall ideas. Nothing is too outrageous."
Not every experiment works out well, though this doesn't worry Conger.
"You learn more from failure than you do from success," Conger said. "I had a couple sours that were good ideas on paper but didn’t hit it out of the park, like a liechtensteiner-gose of sorts that wasn’t all that popular."
1912 has also developed a reputation for sour beers. Their current range includes brews such as Off the Leash, a brown ale with blackberries which is aged with Pinot Noir-soaked oak staves. Howling Dingo, a collaboration with Uncle Bear's Brewery in Phoenix, is a golden sour that uses oak staves from Sauvignon Blanc barrels to flavor the beer.
Additional sour beers are on the way, too.
"We have an Irish whiskey sour and an Irish whiskey stave-aged red ale coming out for St Patrick’s Day," Conger said. "We're already working on our anniversary sours, too."
To celebrate their third anniversary on July 4, Conger is brewing what he described as three brand new and off-the-wall sours, and an all-new hazy IPA.
"We're doing a beer for each year we've been open and one more for luck," Conger said.
So although his first experiment didn't go down well with his wife, what are the pros and cons of working together as a married couple?
"The cons are that when I get in trouble with my wife at work it follows me home," Conger said. "But the pros are that we have been a team so long as a couple that we know each others' strengths and weaknesses. We know how to lift each other up when needed."
1912 Brewing Co. is located at 2045 N. Forbes Blvd, Ste 105. For more information, call (520) 256-4851 or visit 1912brewing.com.