From South Africa to Yonkers: an interview with brewer Mike Ginsberg
Like many breweries out there, we wanted to brew a special beer for the holidays. Around this time of year, you see a lot of porters and stouts, as well as the more festive spiced lagers and gingerbread beers. Luckily for us, we have a brew team with highly creative minds (not to mention access to awesome ingredients).
Enter Mike Ginsberg, our resident South African brewer. He sparked the idea for our 2015 holiday beer and, with some help from our Head Brewer Sharif, was able to mold his thoughts into a very intriguing brew. We sat down with Mike to talk about GingerRed Rooi and more.
Yonkers Brewing Co.: How did you come up with the idea for GingerRed Rooi, a rooibos-ginger red cream ale?
MIKE: “Rooibos tea is a thing that I, along with other South Africans, like to drink. It has a very unique flavor. Even when I was back in South Africa, I was always planning on making a rooibos beer, maybe a porter or a stout. I still wanted to make it happen when I came here, so when I went home for a visit I picked up a kilogram with intentions to brew something at Yonkers with Sharif. We discussed the in’s and out’s of putting tea in a beer and went from there.”
YBC: How did you decide that your rooibos beer would be a red cream ale?
MIKE: “It has a lot to do with how much I like the Irish Red that we make; I really wanted to expand on that. I think the rooibos plays well with and compliments the darker malts. Also, this time of year everyone makes stouts and porters, this is something completely different. It’s a little more interesting and I think the creamy texture will suit the red ale base.”
YBC: What kind of flavor profile will the rooibos bring to the beer? How will the rooibos and ginger complement each other?
MIKE: “They will complement each other very well. I think the earthiness of the rooibos will play well with the toffee notes of the red ale. The ginger will round it off nicely; there is a lot of dry heat that comes from ginger. It should balance the beer out a bit.”
YBC: You moved to the US from South Africa just over a year ago. What is the beer culture like in South Africa as compared to America?
MIKE: “The beer culture in America is much more advanced. South Africa is in its craft beer infancy. There are a a lot guys making good beer in South Africa, but they are still catching up in the variety department. They are making positive strides, all they need is time and experience.”
YBC: What made you decide to leave South Africa and pursue your dream of being a brewer in America?
MIKE: “Essentially, I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing and I needed a change. A BIG change. So, I got the crazy idea to enroll in a brew science & engineering course and take it from there.”
YBC: So now you’re here at Yonkers Brewing, living that dream. What is the most important thing you have learned since you started brewing here?
MIKE: “It’s really about honing the craft and gaining more experience with the brewing process, because you can only learn so much from books. You have to experience both messing things up and getting things right, while learning how small changes can make big differences and how a brewery works day in, day out.”
YBC: GingerRed Rooi is a completely different concept, one that I know you are very proud of. While Yonkers Brewing Co. has been known to make approachable versions of a variety of styles, this is a bit of a departure. We are definitely starting to do some more adventurous things here; how have you seen the brewery grow over the last year?
MIKE: “I think we have grown a lot and we’ve played a lot with the beer here. We have always stuck to that approachable beer model but taking that into things like our “sour” Fallen Fruit: it’s not like sucking on a lemon, but it has a nice tartness to it. It’s an extra dimension. When we first started a year ago, we only had our lagers and IPA and now we have made 30-plus beers, working our way through a lot of different styles.”
YBC: We decided to brew GingerRed Rooi as our holiday beer; why that rather than a spiced lager, gingerbread beer, winter warmer or the like?
MIKE: “I think the color is festive, but for me rooibos and ginger are a very winter-warming combination. It’s like you brew yourself a cup of rooibos-ginger tea and that’s a great way to warm up on a cold winter night.”
Look out for our very special holiday brew in a couple weeks! Sharif and Mike are very excited to share this festive treat with everyone. We hope that this interview gave you a little insight on one of the guys who make the magic happen, as well as a glimpse into where we are headed as a brewery.
Stayed tuned to social media to find out exactly when GingerRed Rooi hits the taps!