It’s time to meet another one of our Lawson’s Finest team members! He is the brewer responsible for the Oktoberfest that is available on draft in our Taproom. This is Ray Connery.
What is your name, where are you from, and how long have you lived in Vermont?
My name’s Ray, I’m from central/northern New Jersey, and I’ve lived in Vermont since 2014.
What is your role at Lawson’s Finest Liquids?
In 2018 when they built the Brewery here in Waitsfield, I started out cellaring and now I brew here.
How did you get into the Beer Industry?
I was working at a beer store in NJ when I was 22 and I didn’t know there was so much craft beer out there. I started trying all these different styles and choose one a week. So, if I was doing brown ales, I’d bring home 6 brown ales, try them all and find out what it’s supposed to taste like. Then I started homebrewing and got a job at Otter Creek bartending and was able to jump into cellaring. Craft beer brought me here [to Vermont] but I always wanted to move here.
What are your top 3 Lawson’s Finest Liquids beers?
Nothing like a Scrag Mountain Pils! I also love Chinooker’d, and Fayston Maple Imperial Stout on a nice cold night.
Any specialty beers that are high on your list?
Oktoberfest’s are always one of my favorite styles, so I do love those and I’m proud of that one. But also, [one of our Cellarman] Brian’s Phoebe was great, and I’m excited for [one of our other Brewers] Chris’ Schwarzbier too, that was really good when he first did it a few years ago.
Speaking of Oktoberfest, you led the charge of ours and just brewed it. Can you tell us a little more about your concept behind that beer and how it came out?
I brewed it for the first time last year, just thought it was one of those beers that was missing from our lineup, and talked to Scott, our director of Brewing Operations, and he said write up a recipe and go brew it in Warren. Last year, I liked it a lot but decided to bring down the ABV a little bit. It was at about 6.5% and I wanted to give it a little more drinkability, so, this year, it comes in around 5.3%. Otherwise, it’s the same recipe, just scaled down a bit. There are also two different styles of Oktoberfest. You have Marzen, which is a little more amber color, and Festbier, which is a little more pale color. Both are malty and I like both of them, so I wanted to go right on the boarder of the two. It has the drinkability of a Festbier and some of the more complex qualities of a Marzen. I just didn’t want to make it too sweet and am happy with how it came out.
If you could create one beer to be remembered by, what would it be?
I would love to do a Saison. It’s a pretty broad style and you can do a lot with it, but if a Saison’s done well, it’s one of my favorite styles and it’s something we’ve been talking about doing in the Brewery.
Smaller pilot batches or bigger volume batches?
I do like both. Here we have the 1 bbl, 7 bbl, and 35 bbl and the 7 bbl is my favorite system to brew on. It is a lot more work and physical labor but it’s a treat to get to have that size.
Can you tell me a little more about our 1 bbl Pilot system?
Yeah, Julie, our Brewery Lab Manager, and I just did a batch on that! We did a wet hopped ale with some hops she brought in from her property. I usually use it once or twice a month. We get about three logs per batch and it’s a great way to try out new recipes and have some fun. You never know, you could make something great and then scale it up to the 7 bbl system. For example, that’s how Little Sip started and our new Super Session. (Two of our most produced beers). It’s a great playground, and a great way to get a recipe down without having the risk of dumping a lot of beer.
Time for a speed round!
Favorite ingredient…Hops, malt, or yeast?
That’s tough. If I had to choose one, hops.
Favorite strain of yeast?
Classic US-05 (Ale yeast)
Favorite thing about brewing?
Mixture of art and science
Least favorite beer style?
Black IPA’s! But Big Hoppy is so good [laughs]. They’re usually way too roasty or overly bitter but Sean did it right. It’s one of the most impressive recipes we have.