Marla Cimini on August 3, 2016 1 Comment Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise line. Meet Colin Presby: Carnival Cruise Line’s First Brew Master at Sea Beer lovers who enjoy traveling the globe will now have a new reason to take a cruise vacation. The US craft beer industry has officially made its debut at sea, aboard Carnival cruise line’s newest and largest ship, the Vista. Featuring a state-of-the-art brewpub called the RedFrog Pub, the Vista is the first North American cruise ship with an onboard brewery. It is run by beer professional Colin Presby, who holds the title of the company’s first (and only) Brewmaster at sea. Originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, Presby attended Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA where he earned a BA in mathematics with a minor in chemistry. He honed his brewing skills early in his career and now, at 32 years old, he oversees all brewery activities aboard the ship. The Vista is the company’s largest vessel, with fifteen decks and enough staterooms to accommodate nearly 4,000 passengers. The maiden voyage took place in early May, 2016 and the ship is currently cruising the Mediterranean, with plans to return to the US for Caribbean cruises this winter. Weighing more than 133,000 tons, the Vista is over 1,000 feet long, and offers an array of world class entertainment, such as the world’s first shipboard IMAX theater, and the innovative “Skyride,” a fun personal pedal-powered mini-car suspended on a track above the ship, offering passengers incredible views of the ship and the surrounding seascapes. On the Vista, the RedFrog brewery features tropical-inspired décor, with 150 seats throughout the bar, several booths and high top tables — and another 100 seats outside on the spacious lanai. The brewery also serves up an array of Caribbean-style food that pairs well with the beer, such as coconut shrimp, conch fritters and burgers. Recently, Brewmaster Presby took some some time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his unique (and arguably, very enviable) career. His answers below are taken from a two-part interview, both in person onboard the Vista ship in May 2016 and via email while he is currently at sea. Some answers may have been edited for space. Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise line. Which beers are you currently brewing and serving on board the Carnival Vista Cruise ship? We are currently brewing three distinct beers: Thirsty Frog Port Hoppin’ IPA, an American style India Pale Ale brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops for a firm bitterness and citrusy, tropical aroma; Frisky Frog Java Stout, an easy drinking coffee stout; and Thirsty Frog Caribbean Wheat, a refreshing wheat beer styled after a Belgian “witbier” that is made with coriander and orange peel. How did you decide on the particular style of beers that you brew and serve onboard? We were seeking to provide a variety of full-flavored, yet approachable beer styles. Particularly when sailing in warm climates, a refreshing wheat beer was an easy choice, the IPA is the most popular style of craft beer, and we thought a coffee stout might be a fun dark addition to the lineup. In the near future, I will be expanding our offerings with one more regular production beer, as well as single batch specialties. In general, I want to brew fun styles that can be enjoyed in the island vibes of the RedFrog Pub and Brewery. Please tell me more about your Port Hoppin’ IPA. If you are into craft beers, you know that funny “hop” names are kind of “in,” so we have our own. It is brewed with a lot of very assertive American hops. In this beer, you get that nice citrusy, really hoppy and pungent aroma, and it comes in at right around 6 percent alcohol. Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise line. What do you think this brew pub means for the cruise industry? This is a great step forward for both the cruise industry and the craft beer industry because it is recognizing that guests are looking for great craft beers, variety and fresh beer. The best way to meet that demand is to make it here — because we are delivering the freshest beer you are going to have on any cruise ship anywhere. It’s made here, you see the process and you can engage with the process. You can hang out and talk to our bartenders, and I’m always available to chat about beer. It’s that great experience that really fits the Carnival model. What have you learned in your first few months as brew master on Carnival? The biggest learning experience for me was adapting to shipboard life. Ship life brings with it a lot of learning opportunities — including ingredient sourcing, supply chain challenges and fitting brewing operations within the structure of ship. How much beer have you sold so far (since the first sailing of the Vista ship in May 2016)? Right now, we are selling about 1000 liters of beer per week. I expect that number to increase (and maybe even double) once we are sailing Caribbean itineraries out of the US ports. Are you finding that your cruise guests are craft beer fans or just curious about it? We are seeing a little of both. A lot of cruise guests are avid beer fans, and others are familiar with the fantastic cocktails we make in the Carnival’s lounges, so we are showing them what we can make here and introducing them to our beer. What do you think surprises the cruise passengers when they step into your brewery? The brewing equipment is very visually exciting! Since we are the first North American cruise line with a brewery on board, guests don’t really know what to expect. I love seeing that “wow” reaction as they walk around the corner for the first time and see the glass and copper brew house or the whole fermentation cellar. I understand you are now offering brewery tours for passengers and they have become rather successful. Right now, I’m running three tours each sea day for a maximum of 12 guests for each tour. Since our Mediterranean cruises are very port-intensive, we usually only have one or two sea days, so brewery tours are a hot ticket here! In your port visits, have you found any “beer-inspiration”? I’ve made an effort to seek out the good beer places in and around our ports of call. That way, I can chat with guests about the best places to get craft beer. It’s also made me quite popular with other crew members who are going ashore! Any future plans for new beers and events, etc? We just received some new kegs, so in the very near future I will be able to put our beer in kegs so we can serve it in other bars throughout the ship. I really want to see guests walk onboard on embarkation day and try a Caribbean Wheat or Port Hoppin’ IPA under the Dreamscape (in the ship’s massive central atrium) as soon as they board! This will enable them to experience the awesome, unique aspects of the Vista right away! Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise line. What is your favorite beer, and why? My favorite beer that I make on the ship is the Port Hoppin’ IPA, because the assertive hop flavors and aromas remind me of the beer scene back home. Outside of the ship, my favorite beer in general is a really tough question. I’d have to say that Weyerbacher Merry Monks beer is one of my favorites. Since I personally worked at Weyerbacher, a brewery based in Easton, PA, early in my career, I have a good appreciation for the elegant simplicity of the recipe and the complex flavors resulting from balance and skillful use of yeast. What do you miss most about your Pennsylvania home? On a professional level, I miss the easy access to great beer. Pennsylvania has some of the best brewers in the US and fantastic beer bars and bottle shops. Craft beer in Europe is only beginning to catch on, so it’s quite challenging to find a solid, fresh IPA or American Pale Ale. And personally, I miss my tight knit group of friends, particularly the Berks County Homebrew Club. We’ve been able to stay in touch electronically to some degree, but it’s not quite the same. What is a highlight of your job? The best part of this whole experience has been the people! From guests who share stories of home brewing-gone-wrong to crewmembers experiencing American craft beer for the first time — to local brewers in our ports sharing their experiences. I met a brewer in Marseille, France whose pre-beer career had been on ships, so despite a language barrier, we discovered that we had a lot in common! Also, I get together on a regular basis with some other crewmembers, and we have a structured tasting of beers that we discovered in port. For some of them, it’s the first time exploring the flavors in beer and thinking about what they are tasting. Any future plans for your beer, such as adding them to recipes in the ship’s restaurants? I can give a confident, “not yet.” This came from an interesting conversation with the VP of Beverages. The one thing he asked from this whole project was he would be the first person to taste the beers before they go on tap. So, when the Java Stout was just about ready (on the first cruise), he arrived with four of our executive chefs, and we tasted out of the tank, and they loved it. The best part of that experience was that it began a lot of the conversations that I wanted to start. One of the chefs tasted it and said, “I could make a great sorbet with this.” And I thought, ‘hey, that’s fantastic.’ Another chef tasted it and said, “we could do beer-paired lunches in the steakhouse because beer and steak go well together, so that gives us the opportunity to explore that kind of combination of flavors of the beer and the awesome food we are making.” So, hopefully in the near future!