Tis Friday, so that means that it is Brewer of the Week day! This week we head off to London and to a brewery so new that at the time of the interview they were still in the process of doing their logo!
Name: Phil Lowry
Brewery: Saints&Sinners (currently brewing at the Brew Wharf, London)
How did you get into brewing as a career?
Never really considered brewing a career, rather a skill within the passion that I have for beer and the beer industry. For my full time, I work at Beermerchants.com and Cavedirect, a specialist on-line beer retail website and a large family owned beer import and distribution company. This keeps me very busy during the week and then I get to brew at the Brew Wharf with good friend Steve at weekends. He works at Gadds of Ramsgate. We were looking for a brewery to produce our beers, a space to research and time to develop ideas and test the waters. Where Brew Wharf was looking for a part time brewer, we took the chance and seemingly a few beers in, and the beers are going well.
I actually started brewing by accident, coming from winemaking family, I actually got to brew whilst I was a student, a loose connection in thought process on the part of a needy brewpub manager “I knew how to make wine, I could make beer”, where I was naïve enough and brave enough to just get on with it, until a more formal brewer was engaged and I moved on to bigger things. I really enjoyed the process, the control, and the result; but most importantly seeing people really enjoy the results of your labors.
What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?
Somewhat mad. I think most brewers walk a different path to many in life. Not that this is a failing, but more an insight into the demands of brewing is on a human. Primarily intelligence is a clear requirement. But there is also clear indication toward the dichotomy of requirements upon a brewer:
We need insight and knowledge on the artistry of combining organic materials; hops, malt, water and yeast in the right proportions, to achieve a desired, interesting and at the very very least a drinkable result. Then packaged to be enjoyed and sold to a demanding public. We also have to have knowledge of flow, process engineering, and more than rudimentary repair on the fly skills to get through a brew day. I would also suggest that working in such an environment, where breweries can be in places on the fringe of the working building, we can hide do what we like as long as the beer is good and on time! It’s very much an indication of “left and right brain” make up. Not to mention the analytical skills!
Combine all those demands, with modern communications, being fit and healthy, we’re a strange bunch for sure. Perhaps it could be boiled down to being a bit geeky, a bit techy and a bit foody. Oh and having facial hair!
Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?
I have always homebrewed, more so with Steve. It’s really been resource for us to get flavours that we like, as for upscaled? Not really, but beers will be coming soon more akin to what we drink, although I would still brew what we brew on the big system if I was brewing at home.
If you did homebrew, do you still?
To be honest, it’s a time thing. We really love brewing, but we’re both busy people. We have thought about using the old 100 litre system as a pilot brewery, but considering that the big system is only 750 litres, it’s really a pilot system anyway! We might use it to experiment in time, but now, its gathering dust.
What is your favourite beer that you brew?
We really liked Hoptimum, a bright hoppy pale thing – 5.2%, citrusy drinking beer – brewed to really test the water with hops. We followed up with a simpler, yet complex in flavour, 3.8% pale, called GoldFish bowl – that was brewed to see what the reception was for a malty, lighter beer; really can drink loads of that! Steve and I like to brew beers that are balanced, yet try to have complexity, and are drinkable. Steve, being American, and I spend lots of time there, we do tend to use American hops, but this is not to say that beers brewed with UK hops are boring; we just like the citrus, piney twang! All said, we are brewing a mild for May, which will more than likely be an heirloom styled brew, we have some special hops that we will drag out for that little number. Then I would expect a version of Insomniac out of our brewhouse.
You’ll see more hoppier styles than malty styles, from me. Where as Steve is also into Maltier and spiced brews.
If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?
Both Steve and I have brewed at a couple of other breweries, a semi-collaborative thing, but formal work – a couple, mainly grunt work, was ok; put that down to experience and cleaning techniques, very important, but damn hard work! Steve works at Gadds of Ramsgate.
Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?
Really, it’s the one in hand at the end of the day. Brewing at BrewWharf is very compact, very hot and very hard work – so pretty much anything afterwards really hits the spot! I do tend to err toward the hoppier end of the spectrum.
How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?
Brewing for authenticity isn’t something that sits in a recipe, for me. It’s more a personal philosophy – am I going to do those amazing hops justice by hiding them under a really pungent phenolic yeast? Or the like. I tend to keep things true and simple, driven by lots of research and insight, and pestering Justin, Jeff, Eddie and Kelly, Mike and Fergus with dumb newby questions.
If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?
I would like to extend the collaborative beer idea to more than one brewer, working three or four ways – really getting more cooks in the kitchen to spoil the broth! We have a collaborative with Jeff coming up, really looking forward to that. We’re game for anything, and I hope Kelly from Thornbridge, Dom from Marble and a few others come in a have a play. They’ll probably teach me loads!
Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?
Phil: Blind Pig, from Russian River & Denogonizer from Drakes
Steve would say: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout & Bells Oberon.