For today's Brewer of the Week we head off to Sheffield in England, home of stainless steel, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and a growing number of craft brewers, including Stuart from the Crown Brewery.
Name: Stuart Ross
Brewery: Crown Brewery
How did you get into brewing as a career?
A friend of mine was head brewer at Kelham Island brewery and asked me I fancied a career change. I didn't know much about beers other than British cask beer was better than keg. I took the job and 10 months later he left and I was in charge, I was very inexperienced and learned a lot very quickly.
What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?
That's a hard one, the brewers I admire most are the ones with the technical qualifications and knowledge, but qualifications aren’t everything. The ability to make it up as you go along is a good one for micro brewers who often brew different beers. To brew the same beer perfectly every time requires focus, a perfectionst with excellent taste buds.
Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?
I never home brewed before working at Kelham. I have done a few home brews since working at Crown but only as test brews. The only one to make it full scale brew was the double mashed HPA28° which I did the test brew for early in 2009, the idea is to mash with strong wort instead of water. I did the test brew and I got 1115 ish but it only fermented to mid 1030's so was very sweet, I ended up leaving the brew it the fermenting bin in the brew house right though the middle of summer until I tried it one day and thought it tasted ok, I had just acquired a soda keg and decided to test it with this beer. The result was that the sample I gave Pete Brown persuaded him to make it his 2nd favorite beer of 2009, so I had to do a full scale brew.
What is your favorite beer that you brew?
My favorite regular brew is Samuel Berry's pale ale 5.1% I think its a bit like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?
I really enjoyed brewing Brooklyn Smoked Porter at Kelham, I loved the beer, it was a very unusual recipe and Garrett (name drop) came for the first brew day (to make sure we did it right).
Of the beers you brew, which is your favorite to drink?
Well as most have said before me its the beer I have in my hand, I'm just finishing of the last of a 1 litre bottle of Brooklyn Heights 5.8% my American style pale Ale brewed with Apollo & Summit hops. In a week or two my favorite beer will probably be Middlewood Mild 3.8%, a nice simple traditional beer that I brewed a couple of weeks ago. My favorite ever beer (that I brewed) is my India Pale Ale mega hoppy with Target and Chinook.
How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavor, ingredients and method?
If your trying to brew to an exact style then its very important. Modern craft brewing requires a mixture of different styles of brewing. Flavour must be genuine.
If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?
Stef from Thornbridge is the main one, we've been talking about it for a couple of years now, one day it will happen. But I'm open to anything I'll brew with anyone for the experience I'm still learning collaboration or just a brewday at a different brewery. I’ve been lucky to have brew days at a few different places, Jennings, Cameron’s, Thornbridge (recently and in 2004 before Stef and Martin joined), I even went to Southern Tier in James Town NY State for a couple of days.
Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?
Mmmmmmmm loads of beers I've yet to come up with.