Owner of Emerald City Beer Co.
(Editor’s Note: This is part of a series in which we scoured the country to find 30 innovative brewers and beer professionals under 30 years old, each of whom hopes to further the scope and breadth of the American craft beer scene.)
Rick Hewitt, 30
All About Beer: Tell us about your brewery.
Rick Hewitt: Emerald City Beer is an American lager brewery located in Seattle’s Old Rainier Brewery—a Seattle landmark and historic lager brewery. Our flagship beer, Dottie Seattle Lager, is a copper colored American lager made from Washington-grown barley & hops. We’re Seattle’s only dedicated lager brewery and have been pouring since August 2010.
How did you first get into brewing?
I started brewing when I was 22. My parents are foodies that love a good wine, so when I went off to college I applied that same level of culinary interest to the beers I was discovering. Living in Seattle, there are a number of great local brewpubs and two are walking distance from campus. I’d meet the brewers occasionally and slowly began to realize that I could brew too.
What was the first beer you ever brewed and where did you do it?
I brewed my first batch of beer in my college apartment with a buddy after watching the Super Bowl in 2005. The day before I had bought an extract amber ale kit and some starter equipment from Bob’s Homebrew in Seattle.
What’s your favorite beer style?
Do you have a mentor in the brewing world?
No, but I’ve learned a lot from the books and success of Steve Hindy and Tom Potter (Brooklyn Brewing), Jim Koch (Boston Beer), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head). Don’t have any formal mentors in the brewing world.
What inspires you when you’re brewing?
I live for that fresh bread smell of the mash and think it’s fun to explore what different grains, other then just barley, do to the taste, aroma and color of the final beer.
What do you attribute to your success?
The Seattle craft beer community is a great place to launch a new brewery, there are many knowledgeable and enthusiastic bar owners, distributors and beer fans that have embraced us, but we would not have been successful if it wasn’t for the hard working, dedicated friends, family and staff who have supported the idea of a brewery dedicated to making session lagers.
What do you think drives the popularity of craft beer?
I think people know quality and what flavors and tastes appeal to them most and while we can all agree on light beer styles, drinkers are responding to having a variety of high-quality beers available. Exploring what you like and don’t like with your family and friends is part of the fun and naturally people are choosing to drink the beer styles they prefer most.
In general, how do you think the next generation of brewers will shake up the craft beer world?
I think today’s generation of brewers defined what a craft beer is in the minds of the general public. When I was born, the U.S. had less than 100 breweries and my parents didn’t grow up with an established craft beer industry. I hope the next generation of brewers can grow upon that foundation and establish craft beer as an affordable luxury in the minds of the general public, fundamentally shifting beer culture away from the foreign-owned, low-quality beers that dominate today.
In particular, how will you contribute to that shake up?
Our goal is to brew beer for the uninitiated, converting the unenlightened to the world of craft beer while still appealing to beer geeks looking for a high-quality lager alternative to the heavier ales more common in today’s market. Our lagers, like most mass-produced beers are light, crisp and under 5% ABV, so that they are refreshing and sessionable to drink. Our lagers, like most craft ales, cover a range of different flavors and are made here in the U.S. with barley and hops grown by our farmers.
Last one: Cascadian dark ale or black IPA?
Black IPA is clean and clear, but I’m a fan of using Cascadian dark as the style name.
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