Friday, 24 September 2010

Meet the Brewer : Kelly Ryan

Like so many talented superstars nowadays he chose to break the news to us a week ago over twitter, Kelly Ryan announced that he's leaving Thornbridge to go home to New Zealand. I have to say, my first reaction was shock, after all he's put himself about in the craft beer scene over here and it seems like he's been around forever. My second reaction was sadness, as part of the Award winning Thornbridge team Kelly has been at the forefront of craft beer in Britain for the last 4 years and so I wanted to give him a shout out before he went. If you haven't met him he's cool, funny, generous with his time and a fucking talented brewer, ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Kelly Ryan, the best brewer not to have signed The Rakes wall...yet!

1) How did you get into brewing?
Unlike a lot of brewers, I  never actually homebrewed! I studied Food Science and Microbiology degrees at university in New Zealand and ended up doing postgraduate papers in Fermentation Science, Flavour Chemistry and the like. I had an incredible professor, the late Jean-Pierre DuFour, one of the most passionate beer people I’ve ever met and one of the guys that had been involved in setting up the Masters of Brewing Science program at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. I still remember a flavor chemistry lab where about 8 of us sat around doing a sensory analysis of the three Chimay beers and Duvel. I was hooked! Straight from university, I got accepted into a 2 year Trainee Brewer program with DB Breweries in New Zealand, spending most of this time at Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka.

2) How long have you been at Thornbridge?
It’s flown by, but it’s been very close to 4 years now! It’s amazing to think that when I began, we were brewing in a week what we brew in one brew now! From 57 000 pints a year to 2 000 000 pints a year… makes me really proud.

3) Who’s your brewing inspiration, and why?
I have so many! From my old professor, JP through to guys like Doug Odell from Odell Brewing and John Keeling from Fullers. In fact, I’ll list them! Agostino Arioli from Birrificio Italiano, Dom and Colin from Marble for being so passionate, Mark Tranter from Dark Star… he’s just a legend, Stuart Howe at Sharp’s, a crazy genius, Jeff Rosenmeier at Lovibonds, a guy who realizes the importance of amazing keg beer. Can’t forget to mention Martin Dickie from Brewdog of course, I cut my microbrewing teeth with him and Stef in the early days!  Most importantly, the team at Thornbridge, gonna miss those boys!

4) What was the first beer you ever brewed?
The first beer I ever brewed… would have been something at Tui in New Zealand. I’ll just guess and say Tui J Over here, it was either Highlander or Piper’s Gold up at Fyne Ales in Argyll, Scotland. Still one of my favourite breweries in the UK. At Thornbridge it was a tasty Irish Style Red Ale called Ramberg, nice balance of red fruits and toffee malts… can still taste! Mmmmm…

5) What’s your Favourite beer style?
Tough question! I love big hoppy IPAs, but can’t get enough of Lambic, Gueuze or any sour beers. I love what breweries like Russian River in the US are doing with this style. I also love a hoppy, fresh Pilsener… Birrificio Italiano’s TipoPils springs to mind…

6) How do you view the craft beer scene in Britain?
Interesting question. Part of it is shackled by tradition and part of it is breaking free from this and educating the drinker with it. Even in the four years I’ve been in the UK, there has been so much change. Jaipur was one of the hoppiest UK cask ales I had tried (making it easy to accept the job!), but times have changed since then, which is awesome. UK brewers are growing in confidence, looking across the oceans to the US craft beer scene and to Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Germany and the fascinating beer styles that exist over there. Small breweries here are brewing up some great lager-style beers, something that was usually just the domain of the big boys. Craft beer is a niche product, it costs a lot to make, a lot of time and effort goes into it, I think people who enjoy food and drink are beginning to understand this and realize the diversity that exists within the UK. Cask ale in itself is such an intriguing and unique product and it originated here! I think British people should embrace that part of their culture a lot more.

7) Is there a hop you want to brew with but haven’t yet?
I would have said the American Citra hop, but we were lucky enough to get a sample this year and do a 10 barrel brew with it called Larkspur. Probably a bit biased, I know, but it is without a doubt the best cask beer I have drunk this year. Phenomenal!

8) What irks you about the beer scene in Britain?
That some people won’t try a beer due to close-mindedness or lack of wanting to learn. Ignorance and arrogance frustrate me. If I have to hear something along the lines of certain beers been made with chemicals again… aaaargh! I used to work at a large brewery! What chemicals are you talking about!

9) If you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jeepers creepers! Tough question! Orval.

10) What are your plans for the future?
Well, after four amazing years over here with Thornbridge and almost eight years away from home in New Zealand, it’s time for Cat and I to head home! Got a few potential brewing things lined up in New Zealand and really looking forward to charging it and getting people excited about great beer over there! The craft beer scene in both NZ and Australia is amazing at the moment, so it’s gonna be great. Saying that though, I’m going to miss everyone I’ve met over here and the great time I’ve had at Thornbridge. I wish I had a doppelganger!

11) Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I once ran around famous International English rugby player, Rory Underwood and scored a try.

I'd personally like to say a massive thanks to Kelly Ryan, Brewery Manager and Rugby legend! Not only for taking the time out  in his busy schedule to answer these questions but also for giving us such great beers over the years and although I'm looking forward to getting some NZ beers from him in the future, the British brewing scene will be that much duller without his presence.


Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

Only heard it the other day as well, he’ll be missed, a great guy and brewer, nice to see Orval get the heads up.

Thomas said...

Really sad newws, feel the UK brewing scene has just rolled back a little. Hopefully he'll be making craft waves again for the NZ scene and giving them what he gave us. Was lovely to meet him at PRE-ZBF. Such an awesome guy. I'll drink an Orval over the weekend in his honour.

rabidbarfly said...

He's not fecking dead Tom!!

Leigh said...

Sad news - a true character, and always takes time to answer queries in person; which,although simple, is rare in a brewer. And yes, Orval's a great choice.