A beer with… Roger Ryman, Brewing Director at St Austell

As maltsters we have the opportunity to work with truly incredible people in the brewing industry. There’s really no other industry quite like it – the level of passion and dedication that goes into brewing is palpable – it’s part of what drives us forward every day to be the Home of Good Malt.

We shared this month’s beer with Roger Ryman, Brewing Director at St Austell. Roger joined the company 20 years ago and has been a part of the industry for over thirty years, making him a bona fide brewing expert.

Simpsons has a strong relationship with St Austell, like Roger, we’ve been a part of their story for 20 years – we even created Cornish Gold exclusively for them so that they never have to worry about their supply chain and getting St Austell to the people.

We spoke to Roger about his brewing career to date, changes in the beer industry, and St Austell’s special hooter…

 Tell us about your role at St Austell

On 6th April 2019 I will celebrate 20 years since I joined St Austell Brewery as Head Brewer.  It’s been an amazing journey as we have developed our brewery and our brand from a small family brewery to one of the largest regional brewers in the UK.

“Our recent acquisition of Bath Ales now gives me a second brewery to look after, and to fulfil most brewers’ dream of designing and constructing a complete new brewery.”

Simpsons Malt grows a Cornish barley malt exclusively for St Austell. Can you tell us more about this special malt? 

“I moved to St Austell from my previous role at Maclay’s in Scotland, where we had used a malt made from Maris Otter, so I made the decision to change St Austell over to this same malt.

“The first time we mashed Maris at St Austell, the whole aroma of the brewhouse changed.  I remain convinced that if barley variety can impact the aroma in the brewhouse so significantly, then it must impact on the quality of the finished beer too.

“Although the future of Maris now looks rosy, this was not always the case and in 2007 we engaged with Simpsons Malt to protect the supply chain. We set up the Cornish Maris Otter partnership with the aim of establishing a secure supply chain from Cornish growers direct to St Austell Brewery.”

What is your favourite Simpsons Malt?

“It must be Maris Otter Pale although our Cornish Gold (Munich style) malt is also special.”

St Austell is known for some fantastic beers. What makes St Austell beer so special? 

“We set out our brewing and brand values, which are the principles against which we measure all our decisions in the brewery.  In simple terms, we do things properly and we don’t compromise.  Our beer, and our customers are the first and last consideration in every decision that we make.”

What got you into brewing? How did you start out? 

“A bit of luck really – life is all about timing and seizing opportunity.  I started my career as a lab technician at Newcastle’s Tyne Brewery in 1988.  I was an unemployed student and got my first job through the Job Centre!  However, I quickly realised that brewing was for me, and after a couple of years with S&N headed north to Edinburgh to study for my Master’s degree in brewing.”

What changes have you noticed in the beer industry over the past 20 years? 

“Head Brewers seem to keep getting younger!  When I first became Head Brewer at St Austell I was widely championed as the youngest Head Brewer in the country at the age of 32.  20 years later I look around the table at brewers’ meetings and realise that I have been doing this longer than most!”

What advice would you give to brewers starting out in their career? 

“Join the IBD and sit your exams.  Passion will get you so far, but a professional brewer also needs their qualifications.”

What is the weirdest beer you have ever tried? 

“Probably my home-brew made from a Boots kit when I was 14.”

If you could only drink one beer style for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? 

“I would have to say that I would struggle without cask Tribute, but I also have a soft spot for Rochefort 10 and Duvel.  Three very different beers but all feature my favourite hop – Styrian Goldings.”

We hear there’s a steam hooter at St Austell brewery that sounds when it’s time for a tea break… please tell us more!

“In the olden days the steam hooter used to sound the working day, 7:00am at the start of the day, 12:30 for lunch and 4:00pm to go home.

“When our CEO, James Staughton took the helm he abolished the hooter as it was not consistent with modern work culture, although the good people of St Austell became disorientated and forgot to get out of bed or put the kettle on for their afternoon tea.

“After over 20 years of silence, James has asked that the hooter be reinstated, just once a day and just for nostalgia.  Nothing to do with working hours, we now brew 24 hours a day.”

Want to find out how Simpsons Malt can make your beer extra special? Take a look at our malt varieties, or get in touch with a knowledgeable member of our order team today.

Liked this discussion? There’s more where that came from! Check out A beer with… Tony Prior, CEBC.