Brews News: know your local brewers

Head man at Green Man: John Stuart, head brewer at Green Man Brewery, says if he were a beer, he’d be a Robust Porter ... “because I’m kind of a stocky guy, and I can carry luggage like nobody’s business.” Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn

Here’s Green Man Brewery’s head brewer John Stuart in Xpress’ ongoing “know your local brewers” interview series.

Green Man Brewery was established in 1997 as the in-house brewery for Jack of the Wood pub. Former owners Joe Eckert and Joan Cliney-Eckert moved the brewing operations to a small warehouse on Buxton Avenue in 2005, adding a tasting room known locally as Dirty Jack’s. In 2010, Dennis Thies purchased the brewery and has since expanded brewing capacity, spiffed up Dirty Jack’s, and kept head brewer John Stuart very busy. Stuart and company are about to get even busier, as Thies recently purchased a property off Sweeten Creek Road in order to give Green Man more room to grow. The brewery will start bottling 750-milliliter bottles of their beers this year.

Here’s Stuart’s brew story:

Xpress: Who do you brew for and how did you get there?
Stuart: I brew for Green Man Brewery. I answered an Internet ad in 2006 and was hired in March of 2007. Fortunately, the brewery was bought by Dennis Thies in 2010, and I stayed on.

How did you first get into brewing?
Right place at the right time. In the ‘80s, there was a local microbrewery in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. I met their assistant brewmaster, Dave, through our area home-brew club. He taught me a lot about brewing, and I worked on the bottling line there, as well. A year later, another micro opened up close by, and they hired me as a full time brewer. Dave is now a production supervisor for Bridgeport Brewing in Portland, Ore.

When did you drink your first beer and what was it?
The first brewery I ever set foot in was when I was 5. It was the Falstaff Brewery in Galveston, Texas, where my family used to go to the beach every summer. I was too young to go deep-sea fishing with my dad and siblings, so mom and I went to tour the brewery. I remember the kettle and the smell. Mom said they gave us beer, and I’d like to say that it was “Southern Select,” a beer made there, which is on the inside cover of a ZZ Top album … but, it was probably a Falstaff.

When was your craft-beer epiphany and what beer were you drinking?
It was the summer of 1987, at Bert Grant’s Yakima Brewing and Malting Co. in Washington state. The pub had just opened, and I was waiting to go on a tour of the brewery. I looked up at a chalkboard list, and at the top was written “Cask-Conditioned Russian Imperial Stout.” I said to the bartender, “I don’t know what that is, but I know I want it.” He pulled one off of a beer-engine. It was amazingly rich, incredibly complex and one of my most enlightening beer experiences still.

What are the top three favorite beers you’ve brewed in the past year and why?
Green Man Imperial Stout “The Dweller.” See question 4.
Green Man Porter. I’ve brewed that recipe for Porter for about 15 years and I just never get tired of it.
Green Man “Fall Guy,” our Oktoberfest beer. It’s a German malt-based beer. It’s fairly complex, and it stands out from our regular lineup.

What’s a style of beer you haven’t brewed that you’d like to try brewing?
Well, not technically beer, but I have been fascinated with the sake brewing process for a while now. Our other Green Man brewer, Mike Karnowski, has made quite a few batches, and it’s a pretty fascinating beverage. Similar to beer brewing, but manipulating rice instead of barley.

What’s the biggest brewing snafu you’ve experienced (that you’re willing to talk about)?
In the ‘90s, I worked for a brewpub chain, and at our pub in Florida, my assistant accidentally un-clamped a valve from a serving tank and unleashed a freshly filled tank of our holiday ale onto the floor. The serving tanks were on a mezzanine level, so we had this beer waterfall going on for about 30 minutes. Also, it’s not a “brewing” snafu, but, while building a pub in Charleston, we needed to use a crane to lift 10-barrel fermentation tanks through a second-floor window. The crane had to sit out on the street, and after picking up the first tank, we realized it was about 20 feet short of the building. So, we had the crane operator swing the tank toward the opening like a wrecking ball, while we lassoed the legs with lift straps. Pretty hairy.

What do you like to do when you’re not brewing?
I’ve been a sailor for many years, and I still own a couple of boats. Recently though, my wife and I have been enjoying shotgun sports, sporting clays and skeet. We like to backpack, too.

If you were a style of beer, which style would you be and why?
Robust Porter … because I’m kind of a stocky guy, and I can carry luggage like nobody’s business.

If you weren’t brewing, what career(s) would you pursue?
Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery once said the three best job titles in the world were, brewmaster, astronaut and quarterback … Well, I don’t care to fly much, and I don’t like team sports, so I guess I’ll just have to stick with brewing.

Is there a question you’d like to ask other brewers?
Yes, there are lots … and I’ll get to all of them someday. One of my favorite things about brewing is that it is so complex that you can never stop learning about it, and one of my favorite things about brewers is that we never stop learning from each other.

— Anne Fitten Glenn can be reached at brewgasmavl@gmail.com

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