Ryan Schmiege, Cascade Lakes Brewing

New Beers in Process at Cascade Lakes

Ryan Schmiege had been the assistant masterbrewer at Deschutes Brewery for 15 years before coming on board with Cascade Lakes Brewing in 2019. At Deschutes Brewery, he managed brewing operations, the barrel-aging program, whiskey and cider production. In his first interview since taking on the role as head brewer at Cascade Lakes, Ryan tells us his favorite beers, his flops and new beers we can expect soon.

When did you first become interested in brewing?

About 20 years ago when I was attending the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, I began home-brewing and exploring craft and imported beer with my roommates and friends. Anything new or different we found, we would try.

Who were your early mentors?

My sister refused to buy me beer before I was of age unless it included something other than typical domestic beer … so she gets a lot of credit. There are lots of people I could include here. Larry Sidor—Crux Fermentation Project’s brewmaster and founder—had the biggest, early impact on my brewing career development, especially with regard to process improvement and management. Brett Porter, director of innovation and brewing with The High End, helped me greatly with personnel and schedule management, and problem solving in a brewery. Later on, Karl Ockert was a big influence on my perception and use of continuing education and exploration and use of less familiar technologies.    

Were there any surprises along the way?

Tons and there continue to be all the time. The rapid consumer adoption of all things craft beer was so fast, I found it astonishing and exciting. Not too long ago, for example, you could barely sell a sour beer, now they’re everywhere. The willingness to adopt new technologies among independent brewers has been impressive. The continuation of collaboration and sharing remains impressive and sometimes surprising. The reaction of suppliers to develop products with autonomous brewers in mind was unforeseen. The influence that craft brewing in the United States has had on other cultures is fascinating.

What do you consider your best brewed beer so far?

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be part of teams that have brought some of the world’s best beers to consumers. Of recipes I call mine, in 2011 Bourbon Murder, was honored with a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in the Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Stout category. I’m very proud of a beer called Hugh Hefner’s Jacket, which was a smoked helles. Since joining Cascade Lakes Brewing Company, we’ve brewed a keller pilsner which we’re very excited about. We also have a new offering set to release soon called OG Kush that has all of us salivating.

What was your biggest flop?

I once attempted to make a malt liquor IPA. It was … unsettling.

Do you have a favorite style of beer to drink?

I love drinking pilsners, stouts and smoked beers above all. However, I enjoy exploring anything brewers have to offer including all of the IPAs out there.  

What’s on your wish list for new Cascade Lakes beers?

Very soon we’re adding to our lineup a Northwest-style pale with pungent aroma called OG Kush. We’re really jazzed to be getting into barrel aging, which I love and hasn’t been done here previously. We’ve got some great ideas for sour beers to bolster our portfolio, too.