Welcome to our inaugural Know Your Brewer interview. Every week we’ll interview the creative minds behind some or North Carolina’s most delicious craft beer. This week we are happy to have our home town brewery’s Master Brewer Steven Lyerly, from Olde Hickory Brewery. OHB is well known for its Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout “The Event Horizon”, its BBA “Lindley Park” , its IPA “Death By Hops” and many others routinely on tap at all THREE of their taprooms in Hickory, North Carolina. So grab a cold one, sit back and enjoy.
North Craftolina: Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the craft beer industry and how you got to where you are now?
Steven Lyerly: Like most brewers I started as a homebrewer. I was fortunate enough to have been in the right place at the right time, when Olde Hickory was opening. The ownership of the company took a chance on me. I did do some inter ship brewing / training with another brewer to learn what to do on a commercial scale. During the first year at Olde Hickory I met my business partner Jason Yates, another homebrewer/beer lover. We were laying plans to build our own brewery when the ownership of the company approached us with an offer to sale. And here we are.
NC: One of your most popular beers is the Event Horizon, can you tell us the inspiration behind that beer?
SL: We started playing around with aging beer in barrels in 2005. One barrel here, one barrel there kinda thing. Some of those were stouts. We liked the way the bourbon / oak notes paired with the roasty coffee – chocolate notes in stouts. I designed EH to pair with the barrel. It is a totally different stout than the other stouts we brew.
NC: What is your favorite thing about being a brewer?
SL: I like it when people enjoy the beers we make. We put a lot of hard work into all of them, and we are proud of them. When someone takes a sip and has a big smile, or tells us how much they like our craft, it really makes it all worthwhile.
NC: Any special plans in the future of Steven Lyerly or Olde Hickory Brewery?
SL: We plan to keep on keeping on. We are always experimenting and trying to come up with new beers, new methods. We just installed a small pilot system. We are having great fun with that!
NC: Have there been any released or soon to be released beer from your small pilot system?
SL: We have a test IPA on tap right now. We’ve been playing around with different combinations of hops and yeast. We have a BA stout in the pilot tanks now, but that won’t be ready until August or so. Speaking of releases, we will be releasing 3 sours March 25, at the brewery.
NC: What do you wish you knew when you started compared to what you know now?
SL: Everything! I’m constantly learning and working to improve. I wish I had the knowledge and equipment 20 years ago that we have now. Our original equipment was used dairy stuff cobbled together. We made it work, but it was work. We have constantly reinvested in our company and our employees to strive to improve.
NC: When you’re not busy brewing awesome beers, what do you do?
SL: Spend time with friends and family. I really like to ride motorcycles. Any chance I get to hit the back roads and enjoy that’s where I am.
We’re very gratefull to Steven for his time and answers. We hope next time you see an Olde Hickory Brewery beer on tap or on the shelf, you’ll give it a try and enjoy the craft that made it possible. Remember: Drink Local, Stay Hoppy!