I was as surprised as anyone when Kelly Ryan announced that he was leaving Thornbridge and returning to his native New Zealand.
It's traditional to relate amusing and/or embarrassing anecdotes in posts such as these, but I only met Kelly for the first time in Manchester a couple of weeks ago so I sadly don’t have any amusing anecdotes to tell about him, nor have I drunk as much of his beer as many of the bloggers down south. What I can recognise even here is the disproportionate impact he has made in his few years in the UK.
From Fyne Ales where he got his first brewing job in this country, to Thornbridge where he made his name, and tangentially BrewDog who, rumour has it, tried to poach him to work for them, he's been central in the UK's new wave of brewing for the last few years. His passion for good beer has arguably been one of the fundamental elements in Thornbridge's success.
He has the remarkable gift of conveying infectious enthusiasm even through the mundane medium of blog comments, and was even polite beyond the call of duty about my plans to put mint in homebrew.
Stuart Howe from Sharp's put it better than I can. He claimed that Kelly was "being deported for being far too attractive and good at brewing." That about sums it up. New Zealand’s brewing scene is about to be enlivened a bit more.