Originally Posted on Mar 01, 2017
Brewing at Magic Rock commenced in 2011, the result of three people’s passion for beer: brothers Richard and Jonny Burhouse and head brewer, Stuart Ross. United by a love of great beer and the US craft beer scene the desire was to bring exciting and characterful beers to the market.
The initial market reaction to the beers and the first six months exceeded expectations and led to Magic Rock being named ‘second best new brewery in the world, 2012’ on the independent ratings site, Rate Beer. Since then, the brewery has continued to grow and in 2015 the brewery moved to a new site in Birkby, Huddersfield, allowing them to increase capacity and staff, as well as opening the Magic Rock Tap. We’ve been finding out more about the brewery with head brewer, Stuart.
Who are you/what do you do? I’m Stuart Ross, I am the Head Brewer at Magic Rock Brewing, I’m responsible for all the production side of the brewery, recipes and process, materials and ingredients, equipment service and repair, packaging and staff.
How did you get into this line of work? Simple really, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to work in brewery, it sounded like a good idea. I’d always liked good beer as opposed to industrial lager that my friend were drinking.
Where did you learn to brew? My first brewing job was at Kelham Island Brewery in Sheffield, starting in February 2004, I learnt the brewing process from the head brewer there at the time, he moved on later that year and left me running the brewery which wasn’t ideal with my lack of knowledge and experience but I got on with it and learnt a lot in the following year.
What was the inspiration for starting the brewery? Magic Rock’s founder, Richard Burhouse, had always enjoyed real ale and grew up on beers like Land Lord, then also enjoying local American hopped cask pale ales which were becoming much more popular in the noughties. He had also had some experience travelling to the states and tried some of the American IPA and pale ale styles which, when fresh from a local brewery, tasted much different from the regularly imported brands at the time. Richard started an online beer shop and started selling these American beers he’d had along with other British beers. I had moved on from Kelham Island and was now working in a small brew pub in Sheffield where I had much more freedom to explore other styles and experiment, I had also started doing more US styles and experimenting with kegs. Richard had seen what I was doing through the growing beer community on twitter and bought my bottles to sell on his site. We got on well, enjoyed the same types of beer so when he asked me join him in starting a brewery which would bring the US style of fresh super hoppy IPA style beer to UK drinkers I had to say yes.
Where do you see, or hope to see, the brewery in 5 years time? That’s a tough one, 5 years ago we didn’t see ourselves where we are now, I think and hope that we still be here (on the same site), we might have a bar or two, maybe a brewpub in another nearby town or city which we could use for experimentation and small batch beers, I don’t really know.
What I’m certain of is that we will still be working hard to maintain and improve the quality of the beer we are making.
Are there any other breweries which have influenced you? We had a lot of influence from the US breweries beers we’d tried stronger (then the UK norm) IPA’s, pale ales, stouts and sour beers.
Out of all the beers you brew, which is your favourite? Why is that? High Wire, it’s the original pale that we made.
What can we expect from Magic Rock in the coming months? New IPA’s and improved versions of occasional recipes like Custard Pie, our hoppy wheat beer.
The craft beer movement seems to be going from strength to strength. Why do you think brewing has been such a great success in recent years? Quality driven brewing with more technically qualified brewers coming into smaller breweries has certainly helped.
Many breweries are experimenting with adding unusual flavours to their beers. Are there any you think work well together and are there any you would like to try? Nothing that stands out right now.
What do you think makes a great beer? Clean fermentation.
What was your first drink and where were you when you had it? Probably a can of Stones bitter at home with my Dad.
What drink can you no longer face having had one too many? Taboo was the cheapest per unit when I was younger, it often made me ill.
What is your favourite style of beer? Session IPA.
If you have to pick, which would be your top three beers in the whole world? Acorn Barnsley Bitter would be in the top three.
What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk? I broke my foot falling down a bank.
Thanks to Stuart and Magic Rock for chatting to us.
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