Standing Stone Brewing Company has been producing craft beer in Ashland for over two decades. So, when the time came to recruit a new Master Brewer to take over operation of our 10 barrel brewery, which produces about 500 barrels (1,500 gallons) of fine brew each year, it was clear that we needed a professional who had the chops to handle the job. Part athlete, part scientist, part philosopher, Scott Saulsbury is just that person.
Tall and broad of shoulder, Scott has the athleticism to handle the physical demands of our second story brewing facility. With over 20 years of brewing experience, he has the know-how to tackle the scientific and technical challenges, and the heart to forge the future of Standing Stone’s brewing legacy. Although Scott has a resume that reads like a who’s who of Oregon craft brewing, he is very humble, hardworking and down-to -earth.
A typical brewing day could include anything from carrying 50 pound bags of grain up the steep steps to the top of the hopper, to making calculations for new formulations; from sourcing and purchasing hops, grains and yeasts, to raking spent grains out of the mash tank; from maintaining equipment to networking with other beer enthusiasts. Recently he took a few minutes out of his brewing day to visit with me.
Joan: Tell me about your “brewer’s journey”?
Scott: “I was going to graduate school at University of Oregon in 1993 when I got my first job as Assistant Brewer at Steelhead in Eugene From there, I moved to Bend and started at Bend Brewing Company then moved on to Deschutes Brewery for quite a few years. Back in Southern Oregon I helped Jim (Mills) start Caldera Brewing Company. After that, I worked at Southern Oregon Brewing Company for about 8 years from 2008 to 2016. And finally, I was at Ram Brewing in Medford for the last year and a half…”
J: That’s a pretty impressive resume. What drew you to brewing in the first place?
S: I was studying philosophy, English and Ancient Greek, and I realized that I wasn’t going to be an academic and I needed to get a job. I sort of hit that early nineties wave of brewing getting more popular, and I was able to make a career out of it.
J: So, as Standing Stone was getting started as a brewery in 1997, you were already on your brewer’s journey. You were part of that movement in the nineties when the craft brewing community was really being established in the Pacific Northwest…
S: Yep. Eugene was sort of a popular place.
J: What is it about brewing beer that speaks to you? What do you like about it?
S: I’ve done it for so long now, that it’s hard to imagine not brewing. Initially, during the Deschutes years and the startup of Caldera, that there was a lot of creativity. A lot of new types of hops were becoming available. And it’s pretty fun. You get to play with big tanks and hoses, and make a mess; there is that blending of art and science. You can crunch the numbers and calculate how things ought to work out. And then there’s always that extra remainder that is sort of just winging it. There are not as many variables as being a chef, but you get to make something that people enjoy. And that’s always great.
J: Yeah, for sure, that’s the bottom line, when people say, “Oh yes, this is so good. Thank you so much!” So, what is your brewing philosophy? What do you look for when you are creating a beer?
S: Drinkability, or integration of flavors, as opposed to something that is distinct…like really bitter or really coffee-flavored. Something that has a more integrated flavor profile and also something that dries out and has a clean finish.
J: How’s your palate?
S: I can taste distinctions that most people can’t… but sometimes that doesn’t work in my favor because I start to focus on imperfections or defects over enjoying the beer. But that’s part of it. It’s one of the best ways in the process to see if everything’s going okay, you know, tasting it out of the fermenter and tasting the yeast.
J: And that’s where the science meets the art.
J: How do you go about creating a new beer?
S: Well, there are style guidelines that you can follow. There’s a range. Like making that IPA [Tempest, for example]. There’s a range of gravity, hop character and desired alcohol in the result. You have sort of a rough range that you’re playing in. You can do some bitterness calculations for hop addition, or for the color that you’re going to get, what sort of malt character you’re looking for….I sort of back into recipes a lot because over the years of brewing I just know how to fall into that range.
J: Let’s talk about stepping into this position at Standing Stone, a brewery with a 20 year legacy of craft beer and with several flagship beers – I ( heart) Oregon Ale, Milk & Honey and Twin Plunge Double IPA . How do you approach that?
S: My goal is to maintain the consistency as much as I can with the flagship beers, and then like with the Tempest IPA, bringing in something that both the staff and customers have been asking for…. I also want to bring in some other flavors and see what takes. Try to get to where there are a few more special beers on all the time.
J: What are your plans for the future? How will you make your mark here at Standing Stone? What can we look forward to?
S: I have some traditional leanings. I plan to have a Pilsner on most of the time as well as maintaining that IPA, and possibly bringing on a porter that becomes a flagship brew…. And then just be available to hear what people want…