Podcast Episode 145: Stephen Kirby of Hogshead Has Some Strong Opinions on Cask Ale

The existence of Denver’s Hogshead Brewery is further evidence that passionate, opinionated brewers tend to make great beer. Founder Stephen Kirby is outspoken about what he loves and doesn’t love in brewing. In this episode, he lays it all out there.

Jamie Bogner Jul 24, 2020


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“When we opened, everyone said ‘You can’t open a brewery with three beers,’” says Hogshead founder Stephen Kirby. “And I think the answer to that is ‘You can if they’re good ones.’ I think the truth’s out—I only make three beers. You’ve got guys who want to make everything. I make bitter, I make porter, I make mild.”

That approach of doing only a few things but with an obsessive focus is highly unusual in today's beer market, where everyone seems to want everything, all the time. But Kirby is straightforward about his motivations—he’s in it to brew the beer that he loves and wants to drink. True to his British roots, that beer is what he grew up with—traditional cask ales. Kirby doesn’t hold back, sharing his views on a wide range of subjects, including:

  • Why brewers should have the “bollocks” to name beers what they are
  • Selecting hop varieties for balance in flavor and aroma
  • Underpitching English strains at slightly lower temperatures for proper yeast flavors
  • Innovation versus tradition
  • British versus American takes on IPA
  • How carbonic acid impacts hops bitterness
  • Building small beers with big body while avoiding the impression of sweetness
  • How water chemistry affects English beer styles
  • Mash regimens to benefit head retention
  • Using controlled oxidation through the life of a beer to tell a story

“I brew the beer that I love, and I invite you come come over and have a pint,” Kirby says. “As a business model, it sucks, but it’s good for the soul. If you’re not making the beer you love, why the fuck are you doing it?”

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].