Friday, April 16, 2010

Brewer of the Week

This week's Brewer of the Week is really the epitome of every homebrewer's dream, becoming head brewer at a craft brewery - though I am not sure how many would cross the Atlantic to do so!

Name: Stephen Schmidt
Brewery: Head Brewer, Meantime Brewing Co. LTD

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I as so many other craft brewers in America was a fanatical, obsessive homebrewer (brewing about 2X+ a week). I managed to impress the owners of a brew pub opening it’s doors in my hometown (Syracuse, NY USA.) to bring me on as the assistant brewer.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

To me the most important characteristic is having a passion for brewing. If you have that it will also drive your motivation to learn, your creativity and your attention to detail... all crucial to being a successful brewer.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I guess my answer to question 1 covers part of this one. There are a few of my recipes that have made it into full scale production (Barley Wine, Porter, American IPA, etc). However those were at the previous breweries I brewed at. However I might slip one into the line-up at Meantime in the future, we’ll have to wait and see.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

If you can consider a 5 hectoliter batch homebrewing ......then YES!

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Currently it is the London Porter, love that beer. However with the coming of warm weather the Helles is starting to gain in it’s preference.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

I have worked in 3 other breweries (Empire Brewing Co., Cambridge House Brew Pub & Redhook (Portsmouth, NH)). For Empire Brewing my favorite brew was the Kölsch. Brewing a clean yet flavorful lighter colored beer really builds your skills as a brewer. Not to mention 16 years ago that was an unheard of style in the US. For Cambridge House my favorite was the American IPA. Being a hop head and also putting a twist on the style I combined the best malts of the UK with the best hops of the US.. the result ..well I liked to call it a “New England IPA”. It even got a runner up in the GBBF 2 years ago for the International section. Hands down though the most fun brew for me was brewing the Treblehook Barley Wine for Redhook. Brewing a double mash, first runnings barley wine, with 10 hop additions on a top notch 120 hl brew house was well...... a brewers dream come true!

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

See question 5.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

To me it depends on what you are trying to do. If you are trying to represent a traditional style then I think authenticity is very important. However if you are brewing anything else to me it is all about creating the flavor, aroma and visual profile you want. That means calling upon all of your tools and bag of brewers tricks to accomplish that goal, regardless of tradition. As far as ingredients, you should always use the highest quality ingredients available... no compromises!

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

That is a tough question.. Currently I have been in talks with my friends at the Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth NH USA (where I used to live). We have an idea about doing one connecting New England and the UK, we’ll have to wait and see how that works out. There are also some other of my US brewing friends who have expressed an interest so not sure, but once the new brewery is up and running there could be a few collaborations.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

That is easy... Sierra Nevada Pale Ale!!! Those guys are the best brewers in the world as far as I am concerned.

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