Smokehouse Brewery announces new head brewer

Nicholas Dekker, Columbus Alive contributor

Smokehouse Brewing Company announced Monday the hiring of a new head brewer. Sam Hickey joined the brewery about three weeks ago. He previously worked for three years as an assistant brewer at Mystic Brewing in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Hickey was raised in Dublin and attended the Midwest Culinary Institute in Cincinnati; he's also a level-one cicerone, a designation similar to a sommelier for wine. At Mystic Brewing he trained under a biochemist and specialized in yeast propagation and bioculturing. He was involved in creating Mystic's Vinland 2 beer, which was brewed using yeast cultivated from the skins of blueberries. The brew won a gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival.

Smokehouse owner Lenny Kolada sees the hiring of Hickey as a necessary step in the growth of the brewery. "With craft beer being as alive as it is now, we can't rely on just brewing Scottish ale and pale ale," he said.

On Hickey's first day at the Smokehouse, Kolada bought him a microscope, which he joked, had never been necessary before at the brewery.

While Smokehouse will continue making its popular mainstays, Hickey will experiment with Belgian beers, sours and even gruits. A gruit is "what beer was before beer was beer," Hickey said. The brews were popular before hops became the most common flavoring-agent in beer, when different mixtures of herbs were used instead.

One of the first new offerings, which Hickey helped finish brewing, is the Cloistered Shadow, a Belgian strong dark ale.