Have you ever heard the expression “It takes a lot of beer to make wine”? With nearly 500 wineries and counting, we’ll let you do the math when it comes to just how much beer must be consumed within the Napa Valley. We sat down with Napa Smith Brewery’s assistant master brewer Stein Servick (yes, that’s his real name) to talk brewing, beards, shenanigans, and the biggest beer mistakes we are all making.

NVFF: Tell us more about your science background.

Stein: After undergrad I worked in the lab at Vanderbilt for almost two years.  We did circadian rhythms and sleep problems.  Genetics stuff.  From there I went to University of Florida.  I think I hold the record for spending the longest time in graduate school and then saying, “Screw it.” I had been teaching there for six years, I had gotten lots of grants, but I wasn’t there to be a teacher.  The whole reason I was there was because I really enjoyed the science. I enjoyed asking the questions and going out and digging something up with pipets and gloves…the wet work.  But all I did was sit in my office and write papers.

NVFF: So you get to do all of those things, the parts you like about science, with brewing?
Stein: Well yeah… I have that practical brewing knowledge and they (Napa Smith Brewery) have this big beautiful lab. No one’s asking me to write a grant.  So anything that I do here I get to do it because it’s fun and we need to do it.

NVFF: How do you think Napa Smith is different from other craft breweries?
Stein: It has this time-honored tradition of Don Barkley.  I think there’s an amazing opportunity to sort of blend the tradition of brewing with the forward thinking and development of the craft.  Once we can hit that space I think we’ll just kill it.

NVFF: Any brewing related injuries?
Stein: All of them. [Starts pointing out scars] Sodium hydroxide burns—those are the worst.

NVFF: How about beer drinking related injuries?
Stein: Well I’ve got some amazing stories about tequila but we wont talk about that.

NVFF: What’s the biggest misconception about brewing?
Stein: That it’s easy.  There is a lot of talk about it being an art, and it is, but it’s also a deep, deep science.  Another thing people don’t realize about production brewing like this is that unlike home brewing when things go wrong, they REALLY go wrong.

NVFF: What’s the biggest misconception about beer?
Stein: That you don’t like it.  So many people think they don’t like beer, when in reality they haven’t tried many to begin with.  It’s an amazingly transformative drink; it can be this big heavy deep chocolate stout, it can be super crisp and light, it can be hop forward and intensely bitter, it can taste like oranges, it can taste like grapefruit… So my question for those people is always, “Well, what don’t you like about beer?” Because I bet going off that I can find something you do like.

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