Friday, May 7, 2010

Brewer of the Week

For Brewer of the Week we head back to the UK, to Bakewell in Derbyshire, perhaps more famous for the pudding named after the town (it is not a tart, I am repeatedly told by friends from Derbyshire), but certainly gaining a stellar reputation in the brewing world as well, as home to the Thornbridge Brewery and beers such as Halcyon and Jaipur.

Name: Kelly Ryan
Brewery: Thornbridge Brewery

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I had finished a Microbiology degree and was doing a Food Science degree under the late Professor Jean-Pierre DuFour. JP (as he was known) was a Belgian brewing professor who headed up the Food Science department and his passion and love of beer was both enthralling and captivating. I did a couple of postgraduate papers on Fermentation Science and Flavour Chemistry with him and realized I was hooked. I then got accepted into a 2 year Trainee Brewer scheme with DB Breweries in New Zealand and the rest is history!

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Passion. You need to be curious and innovative and instinctive and absolutely love what you do. Couple that with the fact that brewers make beer, not money and it becomes absolutely essential!

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

No, I never did any homebrewing at all. I went from a scientist who enjoyed beer and learning about the science of brewing straight into a massive production facility. In some ways, not being a homebrewer was an advantage here as working for a big brewery as a trainee means you don’t have a lot of chances to get creative and develop recipes. That’s why I love being a craft brewer!

If you did homebrew, do you still?

The closest I get to homebrewing is playing around with experimental beers on our UK 10 bbl Hall brewery… Homebrewing on a mass scale.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Tough question! Currently it’s a beer that I’m trying to perfect called The Light (a 2.9% dry-hopped light ale). This type of beer is a real challenge. It’s about exactly balancing flavours and mouthfeel and aromas with little margin for error. Small beers are the toughest to brew… you can’t hide behind massive malt or hop flavours as easily. I love the challenge!

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

Probably Fyne Ales Highlander. It was one of the first ever craft brews I did and is a wonderful balance of delicate hop and delicious malt.

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

I really like our New World Brown Ale, Ashford, as a session beer though am rather fond of Kipling, our 5.2% South Pacific Pale Ale. Must be my body craving a taste of New Zealand and those incredible Nelson Sauvin hops!

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

One of our brewery's catchphrases is “a contemporary take on traditional thinking”. I respect tradition and authenticity and am stoked to be part of one of the world’s oldest professions but the brewing industry has always been about innovation and pushing the envelope, whether it be through harnessing the latest technology or just pure experimentation. We constantly do a lot of research into old brewing practices and ingredients. It’s up to us as brewers to make these a bit more contemporary through their use. Most people today wouldn’t be that keen on beers such as “Cock Ale” where they would throw a rooster into the boil… we tend to be a little more reserved that that when it comes to authenticity. I much prefer playing around with herbs, fruits and spices to get fantastic breadth of aroma and flavor. But balance is also key!

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

So far we have collaborated with Brooklyn Brewery, Epic Brewery in NZ and Dark Star Brewery. We’re working on doing something with Odell’s Brewing from the US later in the year which is really exciting as I rate Doug’s St. Lupulin as one of the nicer beers I’ve tried and his Red Ale, 5 Barrel Pale and IPA are fantastic too! It’s also going to be really fun to work with someone who has the same hopback as us. Hopefully we’ll learn a lot from him about optimizing its use for hop aroma and flavor. I also think it would be great fun to do a collaboration with Dogfish Head. I love the drinkability of their beers even though they use some crazy ingredients. Very inspiring.

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

Would have to be Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. The most fascinating aroma of any beer I’ve tried, through the use of a massive South American hardwood vat. I love this beer!!!

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