Friday, March 7, 2014
By TOM ATWELL
Alan Pugsley, founding partner and head brewer at Shipyard, is stepping down from the company.
Alan Pugsley plans to consult and lead brewery tours to England.
"I have always heard," Pugsley, 54, said in a telephone interview, "that if you are going to take a new direction in your life, you should do it in your early 50s. That way, you have enough time left to do something."
Pugsley remains master brewer at Shipyard, but on a consulting basis. He goes into the brewery about two days a week, he said, while also working as a consultant for other breweries through his Pugsley Brewing Projects International.
He has also made arrangements with Shipyard's co-founder, Fred Forsley, to sell back his 20 percent ownership in the company.
"It's a lifestyle thing," Pugsley said. "I've always said that I never worked a day in my life, but it was getting to the point where I was working, spending all my time in front of a computer when I'd rather be on the brewery floor. So Fred and I came to an amicable financial arrangement that is good for both of us, and I can move on to this new step in my life."
Pugsley is selling his stake in the company at a time when business is doing very well. Shipyard is the 15th largest craft brewery in the country and the 23rd largest brewery overall, up from number 16 and number 24, respectively, in 2011, according to the Brewers Association.
Pugsley said that as Shipyard has grown over the years, he has hired some good brewers to do the work he once did as he spent more time on the business side of the brewery. Because of Pugsley's stepping back, those brewers will have a chance to expand what they do.
As a consultant, Pugsley will be going back to the kind of work he did when he first came to the United States from England in the mid-1980s, when he helped breweries such as Geary's, Gritty McDuff's, Sea Dog and Federal Jack's -- the birthplace of Shipyard -- get started.
"That continued through the '90s until about 2000, when the shakeout happened in the first wave of craft breweries," Pugsley said. "I decided then to take a step back from that consulting because there was not enough business, and focus on Shipyard."
A new wave of brewery openings has hit recently, and Pugsley is helping design and build them again. He is working with Davidson Brothers brewery in Glens Falls, N.Y., build a new brewery in Queensbury, N.Y., in addition to some other projects.
Pugsley is planning to lead some brewery tours to England through Virgin Vacations (virgin-vacations.com/Pugsley.aspx), although he said the first tour is going to be put off until next fall. The details proved too complicated to set up a tour for this September as originally planned, he said.
Pugsley also collaborated recently with Ringwood Brewery in England, where he trained, on a new beer that is being sold now in the U.K. but not in the U.S. He believes it will be coming out next spring.
Ringwood "had an opportunity in marketing and in the brewery to release it last spring," Pugsley said, "and they put it out last spring almost entirely on draft. I don't think Fred and the team had the capacity then. Once we hit spring and summertime, things get crazy filling Pumpkinhead orders and everything else."
I will be looking forward to trying the new beer. I have enjoyed the Independence Ale Pugsley created with Banks Brewery (a sister in the Marston's chain with Ringwood), and I expect the new beer to be the mix of English and American beers that my palate prefers.
Because I was going to be interviewing Pugsley and it was on sale for $13.99, we bought a Captain's Collection Variety Pack that included three each of Shipyard's Old Thumper, Export Ale, Monkey Fist and Summer. I had been drinking a lot of Belgians and hoppy Americans this summer, so it was good to go back to my English roots.
Old Thumper remains my favorite of the group, an extra special bitter at 5.8 percent alcohol that Pugsley brought over from Ringwood. Shipyard Export at 5.1 percent is a crisp and easy-drinking blond ale, while Summer at 4.8 percent is a crystal-clear wheat beer with a hint of hops.
Monkey Fist, an American-style hoppy IPA at 6.9 percent alcohol that came out last year, replaced Fuggles IPA in the mixed pack. This is the first Monkey Fist I'd tasted since it came out, and I liked it more than I remembered. Despite being hoppy, it is well-balanced, and that is what I prefer.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: