Master Brewer of the month: Bryan Baird
The BAIRD BREWING COMPANY is based in Shuzenji (Japan)
and was founded in 2000 by Bryan and Sayuri Baird, who began to sell their beer in 2001.
Their production process features a Brewhouse machine and cellar equipment made by ROLEC, which contribute to shape the character of the beer.
Let’s learn more about BAIRD BREWING COMPANY thanks to this interview with the CEO and Master Brewer Bryan Baird!
Bryan, when did you start your career as a master brewer? Are there any funny stories you would like to tell us about this period?
I enrolled in the American Brewers Guild program in California in 1997. My Wife and I launched Baird Brewing in Japan in 2000. I have been passionately slaving away at the brewing thing for 21 years now. Our first brewing system was a sophisticated homebrew-like setup where we could only yield a single 30L keg per batch. We were the smallest licensed brewery in Japan (a ‘nano-brewery’ before there was even a name for it).
Which beer do you enjoy making best? And why?
We brew a huge diversity of beers and I love them all – just like I love equally my four daughters. The same philosophy and the same passion informs all of our beers so we truly derive the same satisfaction out of all of them.
You enter a beer store and can only buy 3 different beers that do not come from your brewery. Which would you choose and why?
*Russian River Pliny the Elder (just a phenomenally balanced hoppy beer)
*Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (you will never go wrong and never get tired of this beer)
*Orval (so complex, so interesting and so consistently good)
“Baird Beer – they say – is a celebratory experience in flavor. Our basic formula for the entire lineup of Baird Beer:
Balance + Complexity = Character.
The brewers of Baird Beer are dedicated to the crafting of beer that bursts with flavor and character”.
Is there a beer that you haven’t managed to taste yet and that you have been chasing after for ages?
No, not really. I have been brewing for over two decades now and I perhaps am less of a hard-core fanatical beer geek than I was in the past.
Outside of the brew house, what do you enjoy doing? In other words, what are your hobbies?
Beer drinking, physical exercise, reading and socializing with family and friends.
Do you think the aesthetic aspects of a beer bottle or can is important (artwork, label,etc. )?
Critically important. The first impression a packaged beer gives is visual. The aesthetic character of the artwork needs to give an indication of the character of the beer inside.
Which other brew master would you like to work with? Can you explain why?
Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman is my craft beer hero (both as a brewer and as a business owner). We have always aspired to be the ‘Sierra Nevada of Japan’.
Which advice would you give to someone willing to choose this profession?
Great craft brewing is a combination of deep passion and reverence for beer, on the one hand, and meticulous attention to detail, on the other. It is both art and science. One without the other will not yield consistently world-class beer.
Is producing beer technique only, or is there room for improvisation?
It is both. The big brewers are technically outstanding but they tend to lack that zest or irreverent innovation. Mediocre craft brewers tend to be all passionate improvisation and no technical know-how or skill. Both are critical if you want to craft a beer that is both balanced and complex.
The soundtrack of your day in the brew house.
A mix selection consisting of songs from the following artists: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty, REM, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band.
Of all the beers that you have tried, which would you choose for these occasions:
1. Christmas with the family: Baird Jubilation Ale
2. your birthday: Baird Angry Boy Brown Ale
3. a day at the swimming pool: Baird Wheat King Wit
If your favourite beer was a film, which film would it be? What features do they both have in common?
Rocky (the original). Bucking the system and fighting steep odds, working like crazy, dreaming big, and never, ever giving up!
What is your first memory about beer?
Sneaking one of my dad’s beer from his cellar with my pal, Matt, when we were both around 12 years old. It was a Stroh’s brewed in Detroit. I loved it – Matt wasn’t so sure.
Is there an expression about beer that you hear people say all the time and that you can’t stand? And why?
Within beer geekdom, I think this incessant search for the next shiny thing and an unwillingness to go back again and again to what you know is really good is disappointing.
A question of your choice: ask yourself a question that you would have expected but that no-one has ever asked you. And give yourself an answer.
Why is philosophy so important to good brewing? Because without one (and a well-thought one), you are lost as a brewer. Lost brewers don’t craft beer that truly stands the test of time.
Can a machine “make the difference” during the production process of a beer? In which way?
It can make ‘a’ difference. Brewing equipment is like the tools a carpenter wields. Show me a good carpenter and give him excellent tools and he will do a bang-up job. However, a really good carpenter will also do a pretty good job with mediocre tools. Give a bad carpenter really great tools and the lack of skill on the part of the carpenter will trump the quality of the tools he wields. Brewing is very much the same.
Which is the CFT Group’s machine you are using? Which are its main advantages for your production process?
We have a brewhouse and cellar equipment from ROLEC. The equipment design is sophisticated and the equipment is very well made. Moreover, the ROLEC team is very flexible and thus very competent at working with brewers to achieve the individual processing goals of the brewer.
Thank you Bryan! Finally, your greeting for our readers.
Please visit our beautiful Shuzenji Brewery on occasion of your next trip to Japan. We so look forward to showing you around our lovely facility and to sharing convivial conversation while imbibing several good pints!
Baird Brewing Company on the web: