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Q&A: Kelly Ryan of Thornbridge Brewery

Kelly Ryan is a kiwi. He’s also a brilliant brewer instrumental in the storming success of Thornbridge Beers in recent years. We had a chat with him, and here’s what he had to say.

How did you become a brewer? I studied Food Science and Microbiology degrees at university and did a couple of postgraduate papers in Fermentation Science and Flavour Chemistry. They both fascinated me and my love affair with beer began.

When did you have your beer epiphany? Tasting Duvel and Chimay beers in a class with our brewing professor, the late Jean-Pierre Dufour. The flavours and aromas were like nothing I’d tasted before and JP’s enthusiasm for these beers from his homeland was infectious.

What was the first beer you brewed and what was it like? The first beer I brewed was actually a lager on a continuous fermentation system in New Zealand for a big brewery. My first craft beer recipe was an Irish red ale called Ramberg that was full of lovely, rich caramel malt flavours and hints of berry hop.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a brewer? Trying to brew and sell amazing homebrew!?

If you could have a beer from another brewer, what would it be? Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. Love the complexity.

What’s your top hop? Nelson Sauvin… New Zealand hops rock!

What’s the secret to good brewing? Eat and drink anything you can. It helps you understand how flavour and aroma work together.

What is British brewing doing right/wrong? Right… they’re brewing some cracking cask ales. Wrong… they’re not embracing brewing in its entirety. For example, the foreign beer bar shouldn’t be the highlight of the Great British Beer Festival, British beer should. We all need more innovation.

Favourite beer and food match? Thornbridge Kipling and creme brulée

Which country is making the best beer in the world at the moment? An easy one. The US. Tradition doesn’t hold their brewers back. Lucky buggers…

Advice for any home-brewers out there? I’m a Kiwi… it has to be use more New Zealand hops!

How much money have you got on you? At the moment… 22p! Just been to the Sheffield Tap and bought a couple of pints with our new brewer, so I’m skint!

What’s the hardest style of beer that you brew? Anything below 3%. It’s a fun, but difficult, challenge to pack a world of flavour into a small beer.

Who would win a fight between a lion and two cobras? Easy peasy! Two cobras! One would pull his mane and the other bite his tail. A lioness? That would be a different story…

What’s your idea of happiness? Will children read this? Nah, to be honest it would be for people to never say "I don’t like beer" again. That and the banishing of fussy people from this world. Fussy people suck.

Minstrels or Revels? Revels. I like surprises.

Whisky or gin? Tough one that! I actually remember getting drunk as a youth on a cocktail of both! I love a G&T on a summer’s day… so refreshing. I love a great scotch, too!!!

Favourite wine? As a style… Pinot Noir.

What was the last CD you bought? The Dead Weather – Horehound

What was the last decent film you watched? Avatar in 3D… the graphics ruled!

Can you tell us a joke? Keep it clean, mind. What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt…

If you could have a beer with anyone from history who would it be and which beer would you choose? Pliny the Elder with Pliny the Elder (Russian River in California do amazing beers!!!)

Ben McFarland, 20.08.2010

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