Sunday, 08 April 2012 20:04

Homebrewer Highlight: Ross Steinberg

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Ross Steinberg is the focus of my first homebrewer highlight. Having lived in Los Angeles, it may come as no surprise that he now brews beer for bands such as Prong, Ministry and The Swingin' Utters. Cool.

1. When did you first start appreciating craft beer?

The summer of 1994. I moved to Ft. Collins, Co. and was introduced to both the New Belgium Brewery and Odell's Brewery.

2. What was your first craft beer/brewery?

 Odell's 90 Schilling was my first. Went right to the brewery tasted it and bought a growler filled with 90 Schilling.

3. What sparked your interest in home brewing?

My love for the beers that were being made in Ft. Collins. They were/are amazing. From the big two in Odell's and New Belgium to the now gone HC Berger and CooperSmith's Brew Pub, their Horsetooth Stout is incredible.

4. How long have you been brewing?

I have been brewing for 18 years.

5. What was your first home brew?

It was a beer called Stonewall stout that I made with my college Ice Hockey Goaltending partner Adam Mims, who is from Colorado.

6. Have you entered any competitions? If so, which ones? Have you won or placed?

I haven't done any competitions for the reason that I am always asked to submit my recipes. I have worked very hard at all of my recipes and have not wanted to divulge them without copyrighting them first.

7. How often do you brew? At least one a week. Before my now four year old was born it was more like three times a week. My wife, Wendy, also has issues with the smells associated with brewing so I try to keep it to one day a week now.

8. What has been your favorite homebrew of yours, to date?

It has to be my Damager Pale Ale and my Old Doc McCoy's Scotch Oak Oatmeal Cream Stout. Damager is everything I always wanted in a beer. It's more citrus, than spicy in the hops. A higher percentage of Caramel Barley and it is dedicated to a great friend and amazing musician, Tommy Victor of Prong. Doc McCoy's is a beer that combines my love of Stouts and Scotch. It is a great beer to relax with, but it's not a beer for Arizona summers, it is quite filling. It is a tribute to the AZ Diamondbacks team Doctor Roger McCoy. He is a hockey team mate who almost never would have a beer only Scotch so I made this for him.

9. What is the wackiest / most interesting thing you have brewed with?

Elderberries, I was trying to do this whole Monty Python Holy Grail thing. The only thing I accomplished was it was a beer you should "Run Away!" from.

10. What is the strongest beer you’ve brewed?

A 9.2 smoked ale called Eagles Claw. I call it a bridge beer. When you want to get from point A to E without having to go through points B, C, and D. Drink this. The smoked flavor really kills that sweet alcohol taste strong beers have.

11. Where/How did you learn to brew?

After my first batch with my goaltending partner I started to dive head first. My local beer supply store, Home Brewers Connection, in Tempe, was so helpful. I was always calling and stopping in for help. Otherwise, it was just trial and error.

12. What are your favorite craft breweries – say top three-five and why?

1) Odell's Brewery - They were the brewery that set me on my path. I will always have a soft spot for their 90 Schilling and Cut Throat Porter.

2) Four Peaks Brewery - Great beer that I have been privileged to watch grow since they opened. The beer and the people who run Four Peaks are awesome. Kilt Lifter is a beer that always inspires me to brew better. Also, I feel it is important to support local breweries.

3) New Belgium Brewery - I was going to the brewery when they were a small operation, not the beautiful brewery they have now. The people there were always letting me sample the beer and showing me around the brewery and explaining the brewing process over and over again to me. Through the last 18 years New Belgium has made some incredible beers that always inspire me to brew better. They also are trying to improve on being as green a brewery as possible, like using wind to generate power.

13. How did you meet Tommy from Prong/Ministry and how did you start brewing for them?

I met Tommy in 1990 when I was working for the LA Kings. The Kings were pushing getting their logo out in the market through the music industry. I would show up a shows and hook the bands and crew up with shirts, Jerseys, shorts, and whatever. They would all wear the stuff on stage or in videos. I was 20 at the time and hockey and music were my life. I was meeting bands like Metallica, Rush, Motley Crue, Yes, Guns N' Roses, Tom Petty, MotorHead, and Ozzy, to name a bunch. I was able to make some great friends through that, none more than Tommy Victor from Prong, who from day one treated me like a friend, not some guy with free swag. I wanted to create a beer for Tommy as a tribute for all he has done for me through the years. I always hook up with Tommy when he is here in AZ on tour. One day I just started bringing my beer to the shows and hooking up the band with it. I would use their artwork on my labels and everyone really liked it. More importantly they all liked the beer. Prong has really cool artwork that looks great on bottles. I have made five beers for Prong now. The fifth was unveiled here in Tempe, on March 24th when Prong rolled into town on tour. It is called Revenge Ale after a track on the new album. Any time I know a guy in a band that is coming to town I will brew a special batch for them or bring a bunch of my beer for a tasting. A few months back I had a great time doing a tasting for a killer band from up in the Bay Area, the Swingin' Utters. They were in town with the Reverand Horten Heat. The guys were great and enjoyed tasting some of the beers I make for other bands.

14. How often do you brew specifically for Ministry?

Not too often. I make a couple of tribute beers for Ministry and I make them year round. Anytime Al from Ministry or his wife Angie asks for some of his beer, "Uncle Al's Cover Up Ale" or "Last Call Hefeweizen" I get it to them. I never am in a position where I have to make it special for him.

15. Favorite Prong/Ministry album/songs?

Favorite Prong albums are all of them. I love Prong always have. If I were to tell someone which three to buy it would be Cleansing which has the song "Snap Your Fingers Snap your Neck", Power of the Damager, it's the album/song that inspired my beer Damager. The third would be the album set to come out in April, "Carved Into Stone" Tommy was nice enough to give me the demo last year and it is amazing. This album is going to kick ass.

Favorite Ministry album is Psalm 69. If you like Industrial Metal this album is for you. I still use listen to Ministry before every hockey game I play in. Some of favorite songs are Let's Go, Waiting, Lies Lies Lies, and their version of Mississippi Queen.

16. Do you brew for any other bands?

I make beer for guys in a lot of bands, not for the bands themselves such as Soulfly, Danzig, and MotorHead.

17. Any plans to make this more than a hobby?

It is the dream. I would very much love to do this professionally. I am very lucky to have my wife Wendy support me in this. She is amazing and without her I wouldn't be able to even consider opening a brewery.

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Tommy from Prong is one of Ross's regular 'customers', so to speak. Heavy metal icons are also appreciating the homebrew and craft beer revolution.

1. Prong is back. You guys just played the Avalon last month – in February.  How was that?  Do you have an upcoming show?

That was a great show. Then we went to Sacramento then Reno opening for Testament and those were even better! we have a small run coming up in small clubs:
Mar 21  Ruby Room   San Diego, CA, Mar 22 Viper Room LA Mar 23 LVCS VegaS, The Clubhouse  Tempe az, Mar 25  Ventura, Mar 26 Slidebar  Fullerton CA, Then in April we do a US run with Crowbar

2. Tommy, you used to work at CBGB’s years ago – do you think there are any clubs in business today that are anything close to the CBGB hardcore/punk scene of the 80s?

I don't really know, but I doubt it. Things have changed so much. CB's heyday was prior to the internet, even DVD's etc. People had to go out more to see live music or experience any type of underground

3. You have a new record coming out – Carved Into Stone.  It’s coming out April 24th, correct?  What is different about this album?

Well we hired a really accomplished producer in Steve Evetts. He kicked our asses. We made the best record we could. Tons of work on the songs, lots of planning and preproduction.

4. Switching to beer. How did you and Ross meet/how do you know each other?
I met Ross when he was working at the LA Kings shop. He came around to some Prong shows way back in the day and got me some swag. That was at the time when the Silver and Black thing was in. I would  wear  Kings stuff before Raiders stuff. He hooked me up with a nice cap and a killer Jersey as well as Kings jams. I can't believe I wore shorts on stage at one time. Ugh! He 's always been a good friend since. One of the smartest dudes I know. AND a lot of fun to hang with.

5. When did you start enjoying craft beer?  

During the recording of our record "Cleansing". We were recording the overdubs up in Seattle. Terry Date our producer turned me on to Pyramid Ale.He would say "This stuff is brewed by some old hippies, It's so awesome."  We would laugh at their old label together. I definately looked like it was designed in a Grateful Dead type fashion. I don't drink it much anymore since they modernized their label. I like Sierra Nevada better . They have stuck with their cornball label.

6. What are your favorite U.S. craft breweries/beers?

There's so much stuff out there that I stick to the standards. Lagunitas Pale Ale is always a no brainer. Their Pils is nice too. I stick to Stone when it comes to IPA. Their Imperial Russian Stout kicks ass too, but officially my favorite is Craftsmen 1903 lager. Obviously I live in California. I don't think this stuff is bottled.

7. When did Ross start making beer for the band?  

It's been going on for like 6 years now.

8. What are your favorite beers of his?

He has a nice stout. He calls it Old Dr McCoy's. He has one called Damager, after a Prong song. That was my fave and he dedicated it to me. It's a nice straight forward hipster style light lager. Good Cream Ale too. Reminds me of old school Genesee Ale from upstate NY. Metal God is really good, too.

9. Did he name the beers or did the band?

He comes up with the names.

10. What’s your go-to beer when on the road touring?

Awesome question. With band guys that's always an argument. You have to usually put beer on the rider that won't shock guests and won't annoy promoters with it's price. So you have to go adjunct lager. That can be fun though. I've just requested "a local lager" just to see what we get. These days theyre aren't many of the old local mass quantity beers like Piels and Olympia unfortunately. You can get anything from Yuenglings, which is okay, to Shiner Bock, which is good. I think I'm gonna ask for Bud Lite Platinum now because of the 6%. Most dudes want Corona because the females can hang with it.

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