Desert Island Beers – Mitch Steele, U.S.A.
This weeks Desert Island Beers is a massive coup as it features none other than Sir (well if a UK citizen he would be) Mitch Steele, brew-master at the world-famous Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, California which was named “The All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine in 2008…AND 2009! “The most popular and highest rated brewery – ever!” (I just wish I could get their beers more often over here!)
I was saving this post for the New Year and an upcoming series of Desert Island Beers on U.S. Brewers, but whilst researching this article I learnt that today, 31st December is Mitch’s 50th birthday! So what better birthday present than to be castaway on a Desert Island with your favourite beers. Happy Birthday Mitch!
Mitch was an Enology major at the University of California, Davis in the early ’80s when he found out about the wine-making curriculum there and took an introductory wine-making class. Later he discovered the Brewing Science program and was in a microbiology class when Dr. Michael Lewis guest lectured and provided a brief overview of the brewing process and Mitch was as they say hooked! The idea of combining art and science in crafting wine and beer seemed like a perfect fit for him.
When he graduated, a recession had hit and brewers weren’t hiring and the only craft brewers of any note at the time were Sierra Nevada and Anchor so he ended up making wine in the Central Coast region of California for eight years. About five years into the wine-making stint he hooked up with Bill Millar, who was starting the San Andreas Brewing Co. in Hollister, California. He took Mitch as his brewer, and Mitch brewed there at weekends and during his time off from the winery for four years.
After four years of brewing as a second job, Mitch decided to make brewing his chosen career and got a job with Anheuser-Busch in Colorado. He figured (correctly) that A-B would be a great place to learn how to manage the brewing and fermentation processes and he ended up at A-B for 14 years and says got to do some really great and fun things with them and learned a lot; but at the same time was really itching to get back into craft brewing.
An active home-brewer during his time with Anheuser-Busch, Mitch joined Stone Brewing Co. in 2006 and has managed the brewing and packaging operation at Stone Brewing Co. as it has grown from a 48,000 bbl operation to 150,000 bbls in 2011.
Mitch is also the author of the recently published IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. (If you haven’t read it – do so – use your Christmas gift vouchers, sell other stuff on EBay, but buy this book).
Hi Mitch; it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on our Desert Island; which 5 beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded here and why?
Brasserie d’Orval – Orval – (Florenville, Villers-d’Orval, Belgium – 6.2%)
“Orval. To me, the perfect Belgian beer. Just an amazing blend of flavors, and the Brett character that comes out as it ages is sublime.”
Fuller Smith & Turner PLC - London Porter – (Chiswick, London – 5.4%)
“Fuller’s London Porter. Amazing when fresh and poured on cask. The malt flavors just burst so nicely out of this beer, it’s like the aroma you get from being right there in the brewhouse and having just mashed in. My absolute favorite dark ale.”
Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon – Head Hunter IPA – (North Olmsted, Ohio U.S.A. – 7.5%)
“Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA. I’m an IPA fanatic, and that’s why there are two of them on my list. Matt Cole’s IPA from Cleveland, Ohio is one of my favorites. He’s done such a great job nailing the west coast vibe, and he wins major awards with this beer every year.”
Victory Brewing Company - Victory Prima Pils – (Downingtown, Pennsylvania U.S.A. – 5.3%)
“Victory Brewing Prima Pils: a wonderful Pilsner, a bit hoppier than traditional European versions, but has the same flavors that make an authentic Pilsner great, unique, and one of my favorite styles.”
Stone Brewing Co. – Stone IPA – (Escondido, California U.S.A. – 6.9%)
“Stone IPA. This was one of my favorite IPAs before I joined Stone Brewing Co. and is still one of my favorites. I drink this beer almost every day. I simply cannot imagine not having it available.”
“Probably Prima Pils, because I’ve experienced how difficult it is to brew a great Pilsner, especially at the craft brewery level. Prima Pils is a fantastic representation of the best aspects from both old world lager brewing traditions and the current craft brewing revolution.”
You can also take one meal to go with your beers, what would it be and why? Is it a ‘last supper’ or a perfect pairing for one of the beers?
“A selection of artisanal cheeses, 1-2 cheeses for each beer. There is no better pairing in the world for me than delicious cheese and full-flavored beer.”
You have a CD/MP3/long player but you can only take one album. Choose wisely!
“An impossible question. The only thing that exceeds my passion for great beer is my passion for rock and blues. If I can’t take a mixed tape (or CD), it would be a really tough choice between The Beatles, Revolver, The Allman Brothers, Live at The Fillmore East, AC/DC’s, Powerage, Flash and the Pan’s, Lights In The Night, Creedence’s box set, The Grateful Dead’s, Without A Net or Cream’s, Disraeli Gears. The Sheepdogs are a great new band from Canada that I like a lot. If limited to one, I’d probably pick Revolver, because The Beatles’ music changed the world.”
The Beer Book
“You might be waiting a long time on your lonesome on the desert island, so we will automatically allow you a few books to keep your mind busy. You can pick between two beer books and two tomes:
• ‘The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food’ by Garrett Oliver, or;
. Beer by Michael Jackson; plus;
• The Bible, or;
• another appropriate religious or philosophical work
“I would take Garrett’s book. It is not just about pairing food with beer, this book is among the best books about beer that I’ve read. I’m not sure that everyone realizes that this book includes a very thorough review of beer styles and beer history. I’d take this book, or if allowed my own recently published book “IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale”.!
Lamb, by Christopher Moore. Described as “The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” this book taught me more about Jesus Christ’s life than any other book I’ve read. Plus it is laugh-out-loud hysterical.”
The non-beery, non-philosophical book; you can also take a something a little less taxing on the brain, what would that be?
“Stephen King and Peter Straub: The Talisman. I love Stephen King’s work, and this book is one of the best. Criminally underrated.”
The Luxury Item
What luxury item would help make your stay on the island bearable?
Thanks Mitch for taking the time out of what must be an incredibly busy schedule to be a castaway. For more information on Stone Brewing Co. and their beers see their website here or follow them on Twitter here and Facebook here or to see what Mitch is up to follow him on Twitter here.
Have you tried Mitch’s favourite beers? Let us know and very many thanks to him for taking part and being our castaway for the week.
This article was simultaneously posted at Real Ale Reviews on 31st December 2012 as part of a collaboration on ‘Desert Island Beers’.
Tags: Brasserie d'Orval - Orval, Desert Island Beers, Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon - Head Hunter IPA, Fuller Smith & Turner PLC - London Porter, IPA: Brewing Techniques Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale., Mitch Steele, Stone Brewing Co. - Stone IPA, Victory Brewing Company- Victory Prima Pils