Brewmaster Steve Parkes

529621_440284909399361_1009101825_nIn 2012 Steve finally opened a brewery of his own, which is what this website is all about. The culmination of a career, that has taken him from a small Scottish mining town, across two continents, and to the top of his profession. The Drop In brewery allows Steve freedom to express himself. There’s drinkability in every beer which harkens back to early on in his career when he brewed exclusively cask ales in England. There’s innovation in the new styles he’s willing to try brewing. There’s humor and pop culture references in the beer names. There’s awesome music in the tasting room. Here’s some of his history in case you’re interested.

Steve Parkes holds a degree in Brewing Science from the prestigious brewing school at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. This 3 year undergraduate degree course is taught by some of the world’s most respected authorities in brewing science. Tisbury7One of the breweries Steve operated in the UK required that he build a working brewing system from old dairy equipment in a short amount of time; Steve learned improvisational skills that would serve him well in his new venture. After 6 years honing his brewing skills in the UK, winning awards and gaining valuable management experience, Steve took up the challenge of starting a new brewery in the USA. The British Brewing Company began brewing in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland in 1988, with used equipment and a lot of improvisation. Oxford days edit Early success with a British style draft beer was compounded two years after with the introduction of bottled product. The brewery was under-capitalized from day one and despite never losing a single account due to poor beer quality was sold in 1992. Oxford Class is still being made today by Heavy Seas brewing in Maryland.

Steve then moved to Arcata, California where former NFL footballer Mario Celotto recruited him to oversee the expansion of his brewpub into a distributing micro-brewery. During the early part of his tenure as brewmaster for the Humboldt Brewing Company, Steve gained valuable experience planning the construction of the new facility in an adjacent building, and at the same time brewing and bottling on a very small scale for the brewpub. Once the production of the flagship brands Red Nectar and Gold Rush began in 1993, it was soon apparent that the facility would need to be expanded to account for the huge demand. Over the course of the next 3 years Steve organized the expansion of production to account for annual sales of 19,000 barrels of beer. This took Humboldt Brewery out of the category of micro-brewery and into the regional specialty brewery category; it was the first brewery since Sierra Nevada and Anchor to do this in California. In 1993 Red Nectar Amber Ale won a silver medal in the combined pale/amber ale category at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, behind Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This was the largest category at the festival and has since been split into separate categories (pale and amber ale). Later a new beer was added called Gold Nectar Pale Ale which immediately won a silver medal at the California State Fair (no gold was awarded). The brands are still being made to this day by Firestone Walker in California and continue to win awards.

steve-labLater in the year 1996, Steve and the brewery staff acted as brewer mentors for The American Brewers Guild (ABG) in Davis, California. This school specialized in education and training of craft brewing employees. The feedback provided to the Guild by the students after the course raised their interest in using Steve to help teach some of their classes. In early 1997, Steve accepted an offer from the ABG to become a full time faculty member. He immediately began creating course material and preparing lectures for the courses offered by the school. One of his earliest roles was in teaching the short weekend course focused on “How to Open a Brewpub or Microbrewery”. Steve’s role was to cover the technical details needed to set-up and operate a micro-brewery. Over the course of the next two years Steve was directly involved in teaching almost 300 students as part of the Guild’s various course offerings.

Between 1998 and 1999, Steve became involved in a project to develop the craft brewing industry’s only internet based education program. This endeavor meant that Steve acquired an entirely new set of skills involving technical writing, computer programming, and thorough knowledge of the web-based community.

In early 1999, the owners of the ABG approached Steve and offered to sell him the assets of the school to allow him to continue to run it as his own business. Since that day Steve has continued to own and operate the ABG as an internet based school, and in the process acquiring the necessary skills to run a successful small business.

Later in 1999, Steve was offered the role of quality control brewer with Wolaver’s Certified Organic Ales, a national contract-brewed organic beer. As part of that role, Steve has audited several of the participating production breweries while developing and implementing a quality control system for the company.

In 2003, Wolaver’s purchased the Otter Creek Brewery here in Middlebury, Vermont, and Steve was appointed as head brew master. When Steve took over, Otter Creek Brewery was experiencing falling sales due to a variety of issues which Steve was able to reverse immediately. Over the course of the next 5 years the Wolaver’s brands were incorporated into the production in Middlebury, and the brewery grew by 50%. Steve continued to innovate new styles, while winning GABF medals as well as personal awards. He hosted many beer dinners and maintained a high industry profile in craft brewing.

As owner and faculty member of the ABG, Steve has had the opportunity to consult on various brewing projects, including both brewpubs and microbreweries throughout the United States.

steveSteve Parkes is an industry figure. He has been a regular speaker on the National Craft Brewers Conference and National Brewpub Conference stage. He is a Great American Beer Festival, and World Beer Cup judge. He has hosted the Institute of Brewing Studies “Ask the Expert” Q & A forum and is a former member of the IBS troubleshooting committee, and National Board of Advisors. He was technical editor of the highly successful Brewpub magazine, and contributing columnist to American Brewer Magazine, and All About Beer magazine. He has contributed material to two brewing science textbooks, including the chapter on brewhouse practices to the Master Brewers Association of the Americas book Practical Handbook for the Specialty Brewer Vol 1, and provided several entries to the Oxford Companion to Beer.  He has served as a technical editor on several textbooks published by the Brewers Association. He has served as chairman of the Northern California Section of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and Technical chair in California and New England. The Ronn Owens FM radio show hosted Steve twice a year as their featured beer expert guest. In 2009, Steve was awarded the Russell Schehrer award by the Brewers Association for Innovation in Craft Brewing, the industry equivalent of a “Hall of Fame”.

Steve has also dabbled in local politics and has served as a Selectman for the town of Salisbury from 2011-2013 achieving the high honor of overseeing the Town landfill, and earning him the nickname in his own family of “King of The Dump.” Honestly that’s the real reason they call him that.