December 29

Q&A with Assistant Brewer Roger Cuzelis

If you've ever peeked back into the brewery or had a tour during the week, you've likely seen Roger scrubbing tile, cleaning tanks, hauling malt, or any of the other myriad tasks that go into making beer. Roger plays a huge role in turning out our delicious beer, and he does it all with a smile. 

How did you get into homebrewing?
I recall a moment I was sitting outside on a summer evening enjoying a beer and wondering, “is this actually something I can recreate at home?” At the time I had a couple of friends that were casually home brewing and I would hear about their adventures in the hobby. I picked up John Palmer’s How to Brew and Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing and read them front to back before I ever switched on the stove. I bought all my equipment soon after on Craigslist and was off to the races. I got bit by the homebrewing bug and never looked back.

You spend a big portion of your time at work cleaning. Do you keep the same standards of cleanliness at home? Well...I would say my cleaning standards at the brewery surpass my standards at home. Let's just say it's an active "work in progress." Cleaning and sanitation practices come from my home brewing experience. That's the advice I always give to beginners looking to start or improve their craft: focus on sanitation. It’s impossible to make quality or great beer if cleaning and sanitation aren’t your top priority.

Brewing is not always a glamorous job. Most of the time we’re cleaning with dangerous chemicals, lifting heavy bags, getting covered in yeast, shoveling steaming spent grains. It truly is a labor of love. That said, it sure beats a desk job!

Do you have a favorite beer or style to brew? Why?  
It usually varies with the seasons. Right now I’m having a lot of fun playing with different hop varieties and methods for brewing New England inspired hoppy beers. Otherwise I really enjoy brewing saison or farmhouse styles. There’s something romantic about letting the years in those styles go wherever they want without suppression. With almost all other styles, we spend so much time and usually temperature control to hold the fermentation at bay, but with saison fermentation, it often works best unencumbered.  

As Assistant Brewer at a botanic brewery, you brew with a lot of wild ingredients. Any that have surprised you or that are particularly fun to work with?  
I'm amazed by the flavors we’re able to extract using stems and leaves. I always viewed those ingredients as by-products, and indeed, they’re things that are often discarded. It has really shaped and changed the way I think of using botanic ingredients in our recipe development.

If we opened your beer fridge right now, what would we find?  
I mostly drink seasonally, so you’ll find some big stouts to get me through Chiberia's winter. My go-to six packs are Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils or Spiteful’s Alley Time Pale Ale. You’ll pretty much find either one in my fridge year round. But don’t stay for long!