With their “That Old Black Magic” dry Irish stout claiming a gold medal at Craft Singapore’s Asian Beer Medals, Little Island Brewing Co is the toast of the town. We caught up with their head brewer, Steve Spinney, to get to know the man behind the beer.
My first beer was a West Country bitter, an English cask ale. I loved it so much, I decided that I liked real ale as opposed to commercial ales and pilsners.
I first started brewing when I was 24 years old. I was living on a farm and wanted to be self-sufficient – support myself and my family based on my own means. That meant growing my own vegetables, raising chickens and producing my own beer. I learnt how to brew from books and improved with practice, as you do with most things.
I worked for two years in a brewery in the Midlands in England when I was 38. It was very different from homebrewing and I learnt how to work with large quantities there. I had my own restaurant in Indonesia at 40. During the economic slump following the tragic Bali bombing, I started to brew on a commercial scale for the locals. The business in Bali ended in 2012 but a chance encounter with Francis Khoo (Little Island’s “Island Chief”) in Bali brought me over to Little Island. He had tried one of my established craft beers as well as a new brew, a golden ale, and as they say, the rest is history.
Try as many beers as you can to understand the flavors and complexities. Try as many hops and grain mixtures as you can since it’s easier to experiment with small batches. Have a good feel for what you like and do it with passion.
I want the public to be educated on how they can enjoy craft beer as it’s just full of amazing flavors, aromas and colors.
When I’m working on the brew, the temperature gets to such a point that I can feel my brain cooking. I’m very hands-on when I work. It’s vital for me to be able to touch, smell and taste the product so I can control the brew.
The drinking, if you’re a good brewer!
I would be a chef – I love cooking and have been producing hams, sausages, bacon and pies.