Despite his undoubted standing in the brewing industry Roger Ryman was always a very approachable guy. But it was still with a bit of trepidation that I asked him back in 2018 if he’d consider doing a collaboration beer with a small brewery, Bohem, of which I’m part owner.
When I briefly explained the situation – for starters we’d never done a collaboration, we were producing only small volumes, our base was in North London and not sunny Cornwall, and we used unusual double-decoction kit – he immediately agreed to do it without any questions.
We’d both had a few beers that night, attending a bottle conditioned beer tasting at the White Horse Parson’s Green, so when I contacted him the following day to just check that he was indeed serious about trekking up from Cornwall to London, I partly expected him to back-track.
But that wasn’t the man. He reiterated how he would love to take up the offer of spending some time at the brewery and that using the double-decoction kit would fill a niggling gap in his extensive CV.
Even though he was a very busy man Roger’s professionalism was evident from the off. This brew might only be a piddling 2,000 litres – at a time when St Austell had brewed over 43 million pints the previous year – but it had to be the very best that he could make it.
Numerous conversations took place between the Bohem brewers and Roger – both before brew day and also when the beer was in the fermenting vessels – as he was going to leave nothing to chance. That wasn’t his style.
Needless to say the final product – named Otakar – was of exceptional quality. Roger Ryman’s fingerprints were all over that beer. (Here’s the piece about brewing Otakar).
But what was more interesting and valuable to me personally – much more than how well the beer ultimately turned out! – was that the collaboration presented me with the opportunity to spend the best part of a day-and-a-half with Roger.
The night before the brew day we spent a tremendous, very full, evening at the Bohem Tap Room, followed by a day’s brewing, and then early evening when the beer was safely in tanks I took Roger down my local pub, The Great Northern Railway Tavern, for a few pints (thirds actually) before he had to head off.
Over these hours it was a great pleasure to hear of Roger’s story in beer, how he developed the iconic brews that brought about the renaissance of St Austell (who certainly struck lucky when taking a chance on the new lad), and the great success that he had achieved.
Not that you’d have known much about the latter though because he was more about passion than self-promotion.
It was a privilege to have spent that time with Roger. He was not only a big and very under-stated guy in the brewing world, but above all that he was simply a thoroughly good bloke.
Glynn Davis, editor, Beer Insider