After months of gruelling training and early mornings I’m proud to say our brewer trainee will be officially promoted to being a brewer.
I met him for this interview in the lovely Radnor Arms in Bouverie Village, Folkestone on a sunny September afternoon to talk about how he got into craft beer and what his influences are.
Just as we started chatting Careless Whisper came on the pub sound-system. This is noteworthy because every time we get access to a PA or sound system this is the first song that he puts on, his lucky song. This would not be the impression you might get when you meet Ryan in person or see his photo.
Pete: It’s a sign! George is watching over you, Ryan, it’s all going to be ok..
Ryan: It’s just funny now every time this song comes on people look at me.
P: It’s certainly an unexpected choice for you. Why do you like George?
R: I saw him with my Mum when I was 15. My Dad was going to go with my Mum but he couldn’t go because he was so ill. So my Mum asked me to go and being 14-15, I said I didn’t want to see him, but I did it for my Mum. Listened to a lot of George Michael over the weeks leading up to the gig and ended up getting really into it. It was at Wembley Arena and me and my mum had a great time. We literally still laugh about it all now. Now look at me – puts Careless Whisper on at any opportunity possible!
P: So let’s start at the beginning. You were saying you always used to drink Lager. When was the first time you tried craft beer?
R: So I worked at Googies Art Cafe when I was about 21-22 and they had Neck Oil on and I remember standing behind their standalone two tap T bar in the old restaurant and I remember asking someone for a Lager and they said they didn’t have any but said: try some of this. I tried Neck Oil by Beavertown and that was it. Love of craft beer just started there. Googies they got in Bloody Hell Blood Orange IPA, Gamma Ray and load of different craft breweries. I stopped drinking Kronenbourg or Fosters because they just didn’t appease my taste buds anymore.
P: So you can totally understand the people we are trying to convert on a day to day basis who maybe come up to our taproom and want to try something and we don’t have lager, and you can kind of explain to them in that way.
R: It’s still quite a tough thing to do as you know. If lager is all you know it can be really hard to turn that person’s head to try something different. But with the kind of products we developed over the summer like Life In 3D (Session Pale Ale lightly hopped with Mosaic) that kind of caters half to those kind of drinkers, being slightly Lagerish. So people can understand there is more to life than drinking Budweiser or Peroni.
P: It’s like a gateway drug
R: hahahahaha yeah. Well from craft beer I then started drinking real ale. I always thought that ale was an old person’s drink and would never enjoy it. I tried Blue Top by Old Dairy and my mind was blown. and that was it. That started my craft ale journey through Beavertown and Old Dairy.
P: How did you meet Bryn from Drink Folkestone (seminal craft beer shop on the Old High Street that Ryan worked at, sadly now closed down).
R: Oh yeah Bryn, one of my favourite human beings in the entire world. So Bryn and Amy moved down from Holloway, North London and they came in the Pullman because Bryn was an account manager for Cave, a distributor throughout the country. He came in and I said to him, oh so what you after, we’ve got craft beer here and went to start talking to him and he said ‘No offence but I already know about it, I work for one of the suppliers’. We got chatting over the bar over a mutual love of craft beer and he told me about Drink Folkestone in the early stages, how he was going to open a craft beer shop. From that moment on we became great buddies. I helped him paint walls and door frames, anything and from that we became really good friends. From the start I spent about 6 weeks in there and tried about 120 different beers. I ended up working for him and that helped my knowledge of craft beer. I’m nowhere near him but i’m getting there slowly but surely.
P: When you were there. What were your favourite ones that come through the shop?
Truck Trail by Alpine beer co an APA with fresh pine needles in. One of the cleanest flavours I’ve ever had in my life. I’m dying for someone in the UK to replicate that.
P: just to mention, you have been going round woods, stealing fresh pine needles from trees , which you have managed to put into some test brews and see what we can do
R: It’s not trying to make an exact replica, it’s trying to put a Docker spin on it. Using as much fresh produce that you had put in, especially for free, foraging, if its just sitting there.
P : You mentioned Half Acre to me, I think in Brooklyn – did you discover those guys at Drink Folkestone?
R: No, I’ve just fallen in love with their Instagram and their artwork on their cans. They are just throwing weird things in beer like cauliflower or broccoli. Other breweries I discovered at Drink Folkestone were Belching Beaver and Modern times. Belching Beaver do one of the best beers known to man, an orange and vanilla IPA, fantastic. They’ve also done a collaboration with one of my favourite bands, Deftones, called Phantom Bride. 7.4% in a 500ml can and it was one of the smoothest beers I’ve ever had at that percentage. Modern times do so many styles, I really like the American market, I think they are a step ahead. But not to discount the English breweries. Brew by Numbers, another one of my favourites, they‘ve really nailed down what they have got. Their citra is insanely good. Then you’ve got the Kernel, also from London. Another really amazing brewery that blows my mind every time I try something new. Gypsy hill. Magic rock, Cloudwater, Verdant , they are just some of the best breweries we have in England, obviously not discounting Docker. The English market is catching up.
P: But also having their own spin on it. Do you have any dream collaboration brews you would love to do?
R: Love to work with Magic Rock, think what they are doing is fantastic. Boutelliers in Faversham, Omnipollo, Buxton, White Hag – the place that did the Mint Macha and Lime Green Tea Sour that we tried at London Craft Beer Festival.
P: Yeah, talking about LCBF which other ones did you really enjoy
R: Admunsen brewery. Partizan. There were so many. Verdant obviously, I’d love to collab with them, I think what they are doing is amazing, quite hazy and quite murky. I think that enhances the flavour.
P The Buxton one with Omnipollo in the slush machine, the sour, oh yeah…
R: Yeah totally. Also Left handed giant were good. Sierra Nevada obviously. Lervig, they were so good. Apart from that for me was quite samey. Seems there is a certain way of brewing at the moment that everyone seems to be doing.
We then proceeded to drink a few more All in Jim by Time and Tide, another great local brewery and chat more.