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Photo courtesy of Pan Kythe Szubielka

Last weekend, the Guild Master of the East Kingdom Brewers Guild passed from Mistress Sylvia du Vey to Master Magnus Hvalmagi.  To mark the occasion and educate the populace about their brewing opportunities, the Gazette posed questions to the outgoing and incoming Guild Heads.

Please give us a brief overview of the guild and the role of the Guild Head.

Mistress Sylvia: The guild head has a duel responsibility to both be a cheerleader and an effective administrator.  It is important to encourage brewers of all experience levels to participate and stretch for that next level of excellence.  It is pretty critical to make sure that the guild is as welcoming and accessible as possible.  That job belongs to all of us, but most especially the Guild Master.

The administrative piece involves a lot of record keeping and communication.  We have quarterly reports to file with the MOAS as well as records on every brewer who has paneled anything in the past three and a half years.  Those records are updated and sent to the brewer each time they panel a new item, along with notes about their next steps.  Good records are essential in helping us move forward as a group, especially one that spans such a large geographic area.

Master Magnus: The East Kingdom Brewers Guild is a kingdom-wide organization whose aim is to support and expand historical brewing arts in the East. We have members all over the place and lots of expertise to help brewers develop and hone their craft – and also, we have lots of good things to drink. 😉

The Guild Head is sort of the general administrator (we file a quarterly report with the MoAS), and is also the sort of the leader/visionary/what have you of the Guild. We provide vision, guidance, direction, encouragement, support, and all that good stuff.

Which activities of the guild excite you the most and why?

Mistress Sylvia: I am super excited that we have been able to provide so many opportunities to panel and progress within the guild. Members are able to get very specific feedback about what they are doing well and what they can do to improve in their craft from other brewers who are equally invested in medieval recreation.  There is still work to be done, especially in the farthest reaches of the East Kingdom, but we are working on that by utilizing the SCA pony express and remote paneling opportunities.  This is less than ideal, face-to-face is always better, but remote panels are better than no panels.  I love that our guild is a work in progress and that we are continuing to strive to meet the needs of brewers all over the East.

Master Magnus: Brewing in general excites me, and experimental archaeology in particular excites me – so for me the guild is a really exciting place! – but I think the coolest thing we do is our Paneling process. We have a well-developed rubric, and we sit down with a brewer and their work and perform a critical evaluation, with the goal of helping them improve as a historic brewer. It’s a pretty intense process to be honest, but it’s a really powerful tool that can help a brewer make great leaps in what they’re doing.

How has the guild changed over the last several years?

Mistress Sylvia: When I was promoted to Guild Mistress, it was the hope of my predecessor, Mistress Suzanne de Londres, that I would pull more brewers into the guild and reenergize the work that we do.  I think that we have accomplished those goals.  The guild is definitely more active and more visible.  We are trying to be active and supportive of the kingdom with our art.  Additionally, we have more digital presence, including an email group, Facebook page, and a new and improved webpage.  Our webpage houses our guiding documents, which is a good resource for brewers all over.  The biggest change?  We are super busy!

Master Magnus: When I joined the SCA years and years ago when rocks were soft (in 2010), the EKBG was in a lull. Sylvia took over and revitalized the Guild as a whole. She started pushing for more panel opportunities, more presence, and regularly scheduled activities at events all across the kingdom. I’d say there’s been a big jump in activity and presence in the kingdom lately.

Are there plans for growth or new activities in the future?

Mistress Sylvia: It has always my goal to lay a foundation that another Guild Master could capitalize upon. We have a really nice infrastructure in place with our policies and procedures.  The guild is primed and ready for our next steps. The transition to a new guild master began about a year ago in order to make sure it was seamless and healthy for the group. I am anticipating continued growth and more fun under Master Magnus’s care.

Master Magnus: I have a four-part Vision for the Guild, which I’ll be sharing with Guild members and generally advocating during my tenure (this is a subtle hint saying that if you want to know what my vision is, you should come play with us). I’m looking at what I call a “Blue Ocean” strategy – we’ve got all these eager active brewers with lots of ideas and cool research, so let’s start exploring! I’m looking to expand the scope of the things we support in the Guild – non-beverage items like tools and bottles, pure research, non-alcoholic beverages, and a host of other things – as well as to empower the local branches to really grow and have a presence in their area.

I’d also like us to play more with the “mainstream” A&S community – the prevalence of dry sites sometimes limits where we can be, but there are ways to work around that.

Beyond that – I dunno, maybe we’ll form a vast trade empire and start minting our own currency. That’d be cool. 🙂

Please tell us a little bit about your own work as a brewer and what about the activity interests you.

Mistress Sylvia: Mead making brought me from a lurker into a fully participating SCAdian. I am anticipating that my retirement from being Guild Mistress will allow me to focus a little more on my art.  Several years ago I changed the policy that brewing laurels would automatically become grandmasters in the guild. Instead, they become masters and must continue to brew and panel to become grandmasters.  This will be my next project as a brewer!  I have to panel ten period beverages outside my specialty (mead). I expect that process will take a few years to complete.  More brewing!

Master Magnus: How long ya got? 🙂

The tagline I’ve been using (when I want to sound smart and impressive) is that I do “experimental archaeological reconstruction of pre-11th century northern European fermented beverages.” Really, I consider myself an experimental researcher with a particular interest in reconstructing the material reality of pre-modern brewing systems and techniques. I want to put my hands in every part of the process, figure out how and why it worked, and see what came out of that. Very nitty-gritty experimental archaeology stuff. Because, well, I’m a nerd and that’s what gets me excited!

Sometimes I actually make beer/mead/cider/weird stuff somewhere in there.

I also do stupid things like ferment Snickers candy bars because why not. A word of advice: don’t.

What one thing do you wish everyone knew about brewing in the East Kingdom?

Mistress Sylvia: There is room for every brewer, modern, medieval, ancient.  We all have something to learn from each other.  That being said, in order to move up in the guild, one must begin to brew with a medieval mindset.  If that seems intimidating, no worries!  There is so much help available, just ask!

Master Magnus: That it’s super easy to get into! We have brewers and local guilds all over, and we love when new folks show up and want to learn.

Mistress Sylvia: Finally, I want to shout out to the brewers of the East Kingdom Brewers Guild.  You placed a lot of trust in me to help the guild grow.  I so very much appreciate everything that members have done to support me and the EKBG.  When I reflect on the work we have done, I am humbled.