We’re extremely honored + excited to announce that Brewmaster Will Meyers has won the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing! This award was established in memory of the late Russell Schehrer, a founding partner and the original brewmaster of the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, CO. Russell was one of the pioneers in the craft brewing industry and one of the industry’s early innovators. We are so proud of Will and this recognition of his creativity, excellence in brewing and willingness to share his knowledge within the community.
You can read his acceptance speech here:
It is a great honor to be named to such an esteemed group. These brewers have been a part of my personal pantheon, brewers I’ve looked up to, gleaned valuable information and sought inspiration from since the beginnings of my career. And I am blown away to join all of the past recipients in accepting this award.
Playing the role of husband or wife to a brewer is no easy task. So I thank my beautiful and long-suffering wife, Cindy for her unending support, for understanding that she married a brewer, and that “home at 6:00” can often mean 8.
Any good brewer is made better by the team they acquire, and I’d like to thank the nearly two dozen men and women who have brewed with me at CBC over the last 24 years. That so many of them have studied the craft and continued onward to pursue their own great careers in brewing makes me so proud. Thank you, guys, for being the best crew ever, year after year.
Of paramount importance to the idea of a creative or innovative craftsperson is the person behind or alongside them that says “yes” and offers them encouragement. Phil Bannatyne, CBC’s Brewdaddy and a true pioneer of the brewing industry, has always provided this encouragement – regardless of how wacky some of our ideas have been. The phrase “Hey Phil, I’ve got a great idea!” has been a running joke between us for a long, long time. So thank you, Phil, for always saying yes despite all logic, misgivings, and concerns about ever turning a profit.
Phil and CBC offered me my first paying brewing job, after I had been volunteering around New England as an earnest young homebrewer. As luck would have it this job afforded me many early opportunities that were unusual in other breweries in that day. Working with Phil and with CBC’s first head brewer Darryl Goss, who created Tripel Threat (the first Belgian-style beer produced in the U.S.), exposed me to beer styles outside of the English ales and German lagers found in early microbreweries. The opportunity to try to recreate these beers without many resources or much information – long before the internet and without even many books or articles on these subjects – was exciting to me and my course for adventure was set.
We had access to dozens of yeast strains thanks to a neighboring microbiologist and our homebrew club, the Boston Wort Processors, and we brewed authentic Bavarian-style hefeweizens, saisons, and sahtis in the early ‘90’s – and not always to great reception.
We began our barrel program in 1998 with great thanks to our friends across the river, Jim Koch and his team at Boston Beer, who offered us excess cooperage and advice. We began right away to experiment with wild yeast and bacteria thanks to our enthusiasm for lambic beer and Flemish ales. Inspired to culture yeast from bottles and pitch into wood, we were further encouraged by our friend Michael Jackson, the great beer writer.
We learned about anaerobic sour mashing from Greg Noonan (Vermont Pub and Brewery) and our pals at Dieu du Ciel! (Montreal, Canada), and then further refined this process as one of the early creators of kettle-soured wort thanks to our desire to investigate the production of acid-profile beers in a clean brewery setting.
And we created the first American solera system for beer when we created Cerise Cassée, thanks to exposure to Spanish sherry making techniques by my encyclopedic winemaker friend, Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars (San Francisco, CA).
I mention all these people to show that inspiration for and production of creative, inspired beers is rarely achieved in a vacuum. We constantly ask questions, and attempt to refine ideas from other pioneers in order to make our beers and our processes uniquely our own. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, “If we in Cambridge have seen far, it is because we stand upon the shoulders of giants.”
We discover truths by building on the discoveries of others before us. The role of brewers helping other brewers has never been more important, even today when thousands of new breweries have opened and competition amongst ourselves has become fierce. I do believe in the rising tide that lifts all boats. But I also believe, in the context of creativity, that information shared should require that the recipient attempt to create something different, not simply to clone the work that their predecessors have achieved. “All art is either plagiarism or revolution,” said the artist Paul Gauguin. So the truly creative will revolutionize where others would merely copy.
With the desire to create and innovate comes the acceptance of risk and acknowledgement that not everything works out despite our most heroic efforts. We carry the responsibility to be ardent in our pursuit of the creative but also to be honest in accepting our defeats.
In closing I’d like to say thank you to the members of our great community of craft brewers, for the support I have received throughout my career and which I can only hope I succeed in retuning in kind. There are no words to express how truly humbled I am to be recognized by my peers, as this year’s recipient of the Russell Schehrer Award. Thank you.
Brewmaster, Cambridge Brewing Company
April 12, 2017