Favorite Brewers’ Favorite Brewers, Part 2

Welcome to an ongoing BREWVANA series, Favorite Brewers’ Favorite Brewers. The project is simple: I ask some of the industry’s most notable brewers to share which brewers they most admire and why.

You’ve probably heard of Mitch Steele. He’s the brewmaster at Stone Brewing Company, where he brews a string of aggressive, arrogant and impressive beers. He’s also the author of IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale.

BREWVANA: Who is one of your favorite and influential-to-you brewers in the industry and why?

MITCH STEELE: Two people that I think have really shaped my career and my approach to brewing:

1. Professor Michael Lewis (UC Davis). Michael Lewis has taught hundreds/thousands of today’s best brewers. He is uncompromising in his commitment to brewing consistency and quality. As a brewing science student at UC Davis in the 1980s, I was indoctrinated into what it takes to brew a quality beer consistently, and these are focuses that have remained with me through schooling and in subsequent brewing positions at Anheuser-Busch and Stone Brewing Co. I also appreciate the fact that Michael Lewis likes to stir the pot in the craft brewing industry, and he’s not afraid to let brewers know that they might not be as good or as technically sound as they think they are. This is something every brewer should take to heart—even if you don’t always agree with his stance, his points are well thought out and worthy of further discussion. I think he has taken it on as a personal mission to not allow craft brewers to become complacent or smug with their success!

2. Steve Wagner: I absolutely loved and sought out Stone’s beers before I got the job here. Stone IPA was (and still is) one of my favorite IPAs. Except for my homebrewing projects, I had never brewed beers with the sheer flavor intensity that Stone is known for until I got here. Stone approached hops in the brewhouse differently than I had experienced in prior positions, and their brewhouse hopping and dry-hopping amounts were much higher than anything I had ever done before. I have used the past and current Stone brewing procedures as a starting point for the recipes that I have done in the last seveb years. I have been inspired to try ingredients, quantities and processes that I had previously might have thought were crazy. No limits—that’s one thing I’ve learned from Steve. In addition, Steve has given me a tremendous amount of creative input, and now I am using his approach with me to do the same with my brewing team. And he has supported m  fantastic opportunities to brew at other breweries and in other countries. You learn so much from traveling to other breweries.

(I really had trouble picking contemporary brewers as favorites because there are so many of them that I admire and respect. My “short” list includes Vinnie Cilurzo, Tomme Arthur, Patrick Rue, Ron Jeffries, Peter Bouckaert, Ken Grossman and John Keeling.)

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