Interview: Colin Presby, brewmaster on Carnival Vista

Interview: Colin Presby, brewmaster on Carnival Vista

Cruise Adviser recently spent seven nights on Carnival Cruise Line‘s Carnival Vista on a sailing from Rome to Athens. On board, we spoke to Colin Presby, brewmaster at the Red Frog Brewery.

Cruise Adviser: What is Red Frog Brewery and why have Carnival decided to have it on board?
Colin Presby: The Red Frog Brewery is the first brewery on a North American cruise ship. The craft beer movement in the US is incredibly popular and this is our effort to bring good, fresh, high quality beer to our guests.

Why is there such a large focus on the beer on Carnival Vista as opposed to the wine and spirits?
Historically in the cruise industry there has been a lot of focus on the wine and spirits and on Carnival they have fantastic wine and spirits people and the bartenders in Alchemy Bar [on Carnival Vista] are amazing, so this is an exploration into the world of beer, which is where I come in. I’m making some recommendations so that we can move in a great direction into bringing beer on board. The logistics have made it difficult to get fresh, high quality beer on ships due to long lead times for ordering and transportation is a challenge, so beer has only been commoditised large brands on most ships. This is cutting out the logistics of transporting beer across the world and problems with final product by making it ourselves.

What does being a brewmaster entail?
On board it’s a little bit of everything, working with staff from throughout the entertainment and food and beverage side to try to incorporate beer within a lot of different areas, but the core of my responsibility is brewing the beer and ensuring quality. I have to keep everything at its peak so involves a lot of brew days. There’s a lot of testing and cleaning, I scrub floors and hours polishing the copper on the brewing cylinders so is very varied.

carnival vista

Where would you like to see the brewery developing from here?
We have a lot of room to incorporate beer on the Vista in a lot of different ways, I would like to get some kegs on board to have beer in other bars and I’m investigating the logistics of how this can be done. There’s a lot of good places that we can sell this beer and I would like to have it in the atrium bar to promote it on embarkation days so customers have access to it from the moment they get on board and for them to know that they can have access to freshly brewed beer on board, which will be mindblowing. There is also an opportunity to incorporate this into food preparation and I have had discussions with our executive chefs about the potential for beer paired lunches and dinners or using beer as an ingredient. One chef would like to make a coffee stout sorbet, which sounds exciting. We will keep the core brands but I would like to make some Brewmaster Reserve beers, using ingredients from ports of call with limited runs to keep variety.

Is there any scope to expand the brewery?
Not physically but they built us a lot of tank space to brew different beers. There is potential in new ships and we are already making recommendations for the Vista 2. It is a massive feat getting the tanks in here and set up and it has to be installed very early in the ship making process.

What are your favourite parts of being Carnival Cruise Line’s brewmaster?
The people, which is also what I loved about being a head brewer in a small brew pub, where I can see customers drinking the beer I made and being able to interact with them and talk about the beer as well as leading tours. It’s fantastic to talk to customers from all over the world about beer, some of them home brewers themselves. My co-workers are also fantastic, a lot of the brew side is new to them and want to learn about it.

What parts do you least enjoy?
I would say the polishing of the equipment but I’m beginning to find it very relaxing and therapeutic. The biggest challenge is adapting to the ship logistics and ordering ingredients a long time in advance, having to predict what demand is going to be like in five or six months’ time, with little existing data as we haven’t had a brewery at sea before. Craft beer drinkers are different from standard American beer drinkers. We have brewed a lot to begin with so we are ahead of demand and will learn as we go along. We’ve already learnt a lot about how different types of customers affect demand.

How have you had to make an adjustment from brewing on land to brewing at sea? What are the biggest challenges?
A lot of the process is the same although when we hit rougher seas in the Caribbean we will have more challenges with yeast settling and beer clarity. We do have to factor in water and energy consumption as the ship has a limitation of how much it can produce. All on board water is from the ship processing plant that uses desalination and reverse osmosis creating a particular water profile which we have calculated our beer on – so as long as the water profile remains the same, there shouldn’t be an issue.

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