I sat down with Ray Edgar the new Head Brewer at Square Tail Brewing Company in Amherst, Maine. Gary and Sharon Cresswell, the Owners of Square Tail announced they were looking for a new Head Brewer on Facebook on November 19th and by November 24th had announced that an offer has been made and was accepted. Ray came highly recommended from brewers around the Greater Bangor area, he obviously left a mark with his activity in the homebrew community so I wanted to meet up and find out a little more about Ray.
So tell me about you, are you from this area?
I was born and raised in Jackman, Maine. I graduated high school, I was in the Air Force for ten years, I was in the Gulf the first time around in 1990-1991, I got out and was an EMT for ten years, went back to college and became a respiratory therapist, and now I’m a professional brewer.
I have a son, he’s a 20 year old Marine in New Orleans, his name’s David.
So how did you get into craft beer?
Well, I read “How to Brew” online, the science was coming together and it was something I always wanted to try and that’s how I got into homebrewing. When I was in the military it was Mickey’s and Schlitz and all the $10 stuff you could drink, but as I got older, you know when you travel a bit you get to find it, I even bartender in Anchorage when I was in my 20’s, this was back in the day, in the 90’s they had Pyramid on Tap so I got to see some of those west coast beers pretty early.
How long have you been homebrewing?
I am in my sixth year now, I started as most homebrewers did with a 3 gallon extract batch on an electric stove in a rental apartment when I was going back to college, at the same time I was starting to take some science classes for my studies, I was taking biochemistry and biology and that kind of stuff, so it all ties together.
Have you ever brewed commercially before?
Do you have preferred styles you’ll focus on?
I’m a traditional homebrewer, I tend not to get off the page very far and we are going to do English, Scottish and Irish styles, we’re going to do UK beers but with the homebrewers feel so you know, there will be a couple of taps of experiments and pilot batches, a big IPA, everybody has to have one, traditional with a twist I guess.
I have to ask, because in Maine when people hear English Style they expect a certain flavor profile, will you be using Ringwood Yeast?
No, there will be no Ringwood in my brewery.
Will you continue to brew established Square Tail beers or are you completely rewriting the menu?
We will brew beers that are very similar in style to the current lineup but we’ll be moving in a more traditional direction. People love the Moose Jaw IPA, they loved it, but in the spirit of moving forward the names will change but the styles will stay the same.
So you’ve got recipes ready to go?
Yes, I’ve got recipes, the math has been done, all the gravities have been planned, all the grain bills are all figured out for sizes.
What is your goal or vision for Square Tail?
My Vision initially is to brew consistent, clean, high quality beers that are true to their origins, that’s it, because if you do that right the rest of the details will take care of themselves.
What challenges do you expect to find with this new venture?
Well anytime you take over from an established brewer there’s expectations from your existing followers, so that’s the challenge, to prove that I can make beers that are widely acceptable.
You have a full time job, will you be splitting time or working full time at the brewery?
I did, I only have the one job, I have resigned my position, I gave up medicine to make beer for a living, It’s crazy man. If you love what you do, you’re not working.
You spent some time in the brewhouse with Asa from Orono Brewing and Clay from Marsh Island, what did you learn?
Process, how important it is to drive process so your results are repeatable and measurable.
What are you planning to brew first?
Best Bitter and an Irish Red and those are going in the Fermentor on Wednesday, I acknowledge those are safe, in the middle beers, but I’m going to gather a lot of data from those first two batches. PH wise I’ve done my water tests so the first two beers are educational.
I’d like to Thank Ray for taking the time to chat with me, as with any change in process a leap from homebrewing to commercial brewing will be challenge but he’s taken the time to brew with some of the other brewers in the area, he’s taking the steps to make his transition successful and I look forward to seeing what he does in his new role as Head Brewer for Square Tail. Ray’s first beers will be hitting tap lines on December 26th, Boxing Day, for those interested in meeting Ray and trying his beer.