Friday, May 28, 2010

Brewer of the Week

We are close to home for Brewer of the Week, very close to home in fact. Starr Hill is a brewery in the little town of Crozet, just to the west of Charlottesville and is the place where on occasion you will find me behind the bar of the tasting room waxing lyrical about beer.

Name: Mark Thompson
Brewery: Starr Hill Brewing Company

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I studied biology at James Madison University and then moved to Portland to work at the Norwester Brewery, this was in the 1990s, basically I was in the right place at the right time. After Portland I went to work for the Mile High Brewery in Denver, Colorado.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Being the kind of long haired crazy professor! Brewing is half science and half art, so you have to be able to deal with both.

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

Not really.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

No, it would be like washing windows for a hobby if you were a professional window washer.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I really like the hoppy beers, and at Starr Hill that means Northern Lights, our IPA.

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

Nor’Wester in Portland Oregon circa 1993. Fresh out of Siebel institute I developed a Mai Bock recipe from soup to nuts. It was one of the one receipe’s that I sat down and did every calculation. The receipe was over 6 pages long with all kinds of math formulas. In addition it was the first lager beer that I ever made commercially. I was vindicated when several years after I left the brewery that beer won a silver medal at the GABF.

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

Again, Northern Lights is the one I drink most of.

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

Has more to do with the feel of the brand. The liquid has to be great to begin with but if the brand does not make you feel good holding it in your hands it will not sell. I have no problem buying German variety hops grown in the US or using domestic pilsner malt instead of floor malted European malts. Beer is a very simple beverage that is best with local ingredients.

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

Local ones. We are planning on doing a collaborative beer for the Brew Ridge Trail with Devils Backbone, Blue Mountain, And South Street.

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

Sierra Nevada Celebration

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