MittenBrew had a chance to sit down with Ray Sherwood and Corey Paul from Sherwood Brewing Co. to pick their brains on— what else — beer! From favorite beers to brewing process and beer in general, Ray and Corey told us why they’re all about beer.
What did you do prior to brewing?
Ray Sherwood: “My degree is in telecommunications, video and audio production, so I worked at a production house for about two years. There were a lot of aspects I liked about it but overall at the end of the day I wasn’t like, ‘I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow!’ It didn’t really grab me. I wasn’t really cut out for long and thinkless hours.”
When did you fall in love with beer?
RS: “I was never a Bud Light or Miller Lite guy. I have a brother who’s about four years older than me. And he was always had bottles of Guinness laying around. Even then, it was extraordinarily bitter and I didn’t have the pallet for it. When I did start drinking beer, I didn’t have the apprehension to try new beers. I was always interested in trying new beers. By the time it got to my 21st birthday, I wasn’t doing shots at the bar. I was going out and getting some beers at the party store, going back to a buddy’s dorm room and trying all these new beers. I probably had my first homebrew when I was about 18 so I was aware of the homemade beer at that point as well.”
What’s your favorite style to brew?
RS: “There’s different aspects of it. One of my favorite beers to mash in is the (Alaskan) Sister Wit. It’s a Belgian white ale. It has wheat malt, oatmeal malt. To me, it has the best smell. Overall, I really like the challenge of brewing lagers. It’s one of those styles of beers where the nuance and the dark and balance of all the flavors are so important. Some people out there gravitate towards IPAs. And IPAs are great but they’re really one dimensional beers if you think about it. It’s all hops. Something like a lager and trying to balance each flavor and making sure you go through the proper aging steps, to get rid of any diacetyl or off flavors so at the end of the day you’ve got a beer that has a nice malt flavor and hop presence and is well-balanced. There are lot more things happening in a lager than a basic ale.”
Corey Paul: “That’s why I like brewing Pale Ales. That’s my favorite. Achieving the proper balance of a pale ale. So many people say they brew a pale ale but really they just give you an IPA. Brewing a well-balance English or American style pale ale and achieving that proper malt and hop balance I think is almost as hard to brew as a lager.”
What’s your favorite style to drink?
RS: “That’s kind of seasonal for me. I always like dark beers, porters, stouts. I always like pale ales. If I go to a new brewery or something that’s one of the first beers I want to try. How’s your balance? You can learn a lot. You should be able to taste the yeast flavor, get the balance of the bitterness level. The pale ale uses a good amount of all the ingredients. You could try their lightest beer but it might be their slowest mover depending on where the brewery is. A pale ale is probably a pretty good seller no matter where you go.”
Do you have a favorite beer of all time?
RS: “That’s the all-time question. Your pallet, it matures. It just changes so much. I always like that I could get Sierra Nevada almost anywhere. Great beer, classic beer style. In terms of big beers, marquee beers that people wait in line for and silly stuff like that, the other one that has impressed me is Pliny the Elder. That really impressed me that they were able to capture a lot of flavors and make it so drinkable and well-balanced.”
CP: “Probably the first one I ever drank because it landed me in a position of brewing beer for a living.”
You touched on waiting in line for beer releases. How do you feel about that?
RS: “It’s interesting. I don’t know how I feel about that as far as the industry goes. I suppose it’s great for Michigan beer because there are several Michigan breweries that are successful with that. I don’t see that being something we ever do here, but I also don’t feel like it’s something I would ever do on a personal level. It’s a very unique thing. I think on some level it creates separation. I don’t think that’s the direction I would want to see the industry go in. You know, everyone creating these extreme beers and being a super-exclusive type of thing.”
What is your favorite Michigan beer or brewery?
CP: “I like Lilly’s Seafood out in Royal Oak. I think he makes great products. He’s a restaurant first. He’s got a small little brew system in the back and he’s got everything in the basement in the cellar. It’s not all about beer, its seafood first. But he makes great beer. I think it’s one of the best in the state, for sure. I’ve never had a bad beer there. I think it’s fantastic.”
RS: “There’s so many different breweries out there. It’s hard for me to keep track of all the breweries. I go to all of these beer festivals and I feel like a beginner. We were right around 70 (brewery in Michigan) and now I think it’s right around 160-something and it’ll be 200 before the end of the year. I’ve always like New Holland and Founders consistently. Their Centennial Pale Ale. There’s just almost too many to touch on.”