Brewer Bytes with Shipyard Brewing Co.
An Interview with Jason Silevinac, Brew House/Cellar Room Manager
Posted on 4/2/2013 by Chops
Maine is very well known for its scenic coastline and delicious crustaceans. And for beer fans, it is also well known as home to the Shipyard Brewing Company. Based out of Portland, Shipyard first started as a tiny brewpub out of Kennebunk in 1992 and has since blossomed into a regional staple. They are currently the third largest craft brewery in New England and the 15th largest in the United States. And on top of being a pillar of the American craft beer scene, they also have a vibrant sense of humor. Allow me to introduce you to Jason Silevinac, Shipyard's Brew House/Cellar Room Manager, who was kind enough to offer up some Brewer Bytes.

What inspired you to get into brewing?

I was a cook in the brewpub, Gritty McDuff's, in Freeport Maine in the mid 90's. I had just started drinking beer and began with the likes of Icehouse, Natty Ice, and anything else that had the suffix Ice. I fell in love with the smells of the brewery when they mingled into the kitchen and I thought the brewers themselves were interesting guys. I asked the brewer if I could work for free, doing the work he didn't care for, and he quickly obliged. I did a terrible job and he pointed out every flaw; I was amazed and smitten at the same time. I later bought Michael Jackson's VHS videos, "The Beer Hunter," and the vision of religion, society, and camaraderie tied into beer set the standards for me.

What do you feel sets you apart from other brewers?

If you saw our plant then that would be easy. We're set to do well over 130,000Bbls this year on very little brew house automation. Our coppers are direct-fired and when we check the volume we use a graduated closet rod that I bought from the lumber yard down the road. I use a Sharpie and a ruler to mark it up based upon the dimensions of the coppers themselves. Our fermentation vessels are open-topped and hand cleaned every time. A brewer climbs in to scrub it down; anywhere from 1x300Bbl vessel to multiple 300Bbl vessels (each vessel takes 3 hours to clean). Our yeast is hand-cropped from our fermenters using a plastic stick with a plastic "dishpan" attached to it. We harvest 100-500 pounds from each vessel and harvest up to 5 fermenters per day. We use 1 yeast strain for the brewery and are pretty set in our ways with it.

What breweries do you respect the most?

I've always admired Anchor Brewing and Fritz's view on brewing. I greatly admire Tim Hall at The Ship Inn for his outstanding British Ales and his steadfast approach to beer and food. Everything that I've had from Sly Fox is dynamite. And lastly I admire the things that Alan Pugsley of the Shipyard taught me. I was a fan of high-gravity beer until he brought me to the UK and I had an outstanding time with a pint in my hand at all times. I also appreciate his approach about technology in brewing summed up by the line, "Our beers tasted fine 30 years ago and we didn't have those technologies then, so why do we need them now?"

What are your favorite beer styles?

I generally prefer lower alcohol beers such as bitters, milds, pales, helles lagers, dunkels, etc.

What advice would you give to a new craft beer fan?

Watch out with what you think you know. If you learn false information from someone and then pass it on then everyone will have learned false information. We assume our "teachers" our knowledgable but there are too many goons out there spewing goofy stuff. I once had a spoiled beer and told another person that it was an American Sour; they thought it was dynamite because I told them it should be... But obviously the best thing about getting into craft beer these days is that you have loads of options to choose from and the best way to learn about beer is to drink them.

How do you feel about beer reviewing and its impact on the industry?

I read a review about a CD player I wanted and everyone said it was too hard to operate. I bought it, pulled it out of the box, and was using it in 5 minutes. Not everyone who reviews something knows what they're doing and you have to take reviews with a grain of salt.

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Jason Silevinac, Brew House/Cellar Room Manager at Shipyard Brewing Company
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