Managing Director of the craft beer brewery Bierwerk Gerstenfux
Dr. Santiago Ramírez Aguilar was born and raised in Mexico City. He graduated from high school at the German school and immediately afterwards began studying biology in Germany at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. In his doctorate in Potsdam, he specialized in plant research and worked for several years in basic and applied plant research. During this time, he lived in Berlin and experienced the emergence and development of the German craft beer scene in the capital.
Even as a teenager, Dr. Santiago Ramírez Aguilar was very fond of beer brewing and wine making. At the age of 16 he undertook his first domestic brewing attempts – with moderate success. During his studies, he acquired a few books on home brewing and continued to hone his technique in the dorm. After many tries and years of practice, he managed to continually improve the product of his hobby as a brewer over the course of time. His biochemical and microbiological knowledge was of great benefit to him.
At the age of 35 he finally took the plunge and founded his own brewery, Bierwerk Gerstenfux, in Nürtingen, Baden-Württemberg. Since then, Dr. Santiago Ramírez Aguilar does everything in his power to keep his passion for brewing burning through the development of the company.
On what occasion did you drink your first beer?
I stole my first beer from my grandfather‘s cellar when I was 13, together with a couple of friends from school. Then the three of us hid in my room and drank two bottles of beer. It was fun and enough for us to be well and drunk.
What was your most important experience in a brewery / industry?
Overall, my most important experience in the industry was the creation of my own brewery, with all its difficulties, but also with all its successes: from the installation of the system (mostly self-installed) and the first few brews, to the registration of our beer brand, to the first contacts with the customers and all the positive feedback from the people I met through the brewery.
Your motto in life? Your recipe for success?
Don‘t give up, be optimistic, keep going.
Who would you like to meet?
With the first brewers of mankind in Mesopotamia or in ancient Egypt.
What does it take to get you as a new BCI member? What can the BCI do?
The BCI could promote the further development of beer, the types of beer and the education of the general public about beer. Furthermore, the BCI could promote collaboration between small and large breweries and thus strengthen the diversity of beer in Germany.
What do you see the most important achievement of modern brewing technology?
The rediscovery of the variety of flavours and aromas that can be achieved by using hops, especially special hop breeds. Equally important is the knowledge about the large selection of yeast stems and other microbiological cultures that can have a major effect on the taste of the beer during fermentation.
Which brewer / brewery, which beer impressed you?
As a youth, I was a fan of the „Modelo“ brewery in Mexico, which produces some good beers, many based on the German model. Later, during my studies, the Bavarian breweries like Andechs, Tegernsee and Augustiner fascinated me with their beers. I also learned a lot about what you can do with craft beer from breweries like Stone or Heidenpeters in Berlin.
You have three wishes – what would they be?
1. In our region, I would like to focus on selling our beers and expand to having our beers stocked in supermarkets.
2. I would like to open a brewpub in Stuttgart.
3. I would love to do some collaboration brews with our local brewing friends.
What would you change in the world?
I wish that the competition between countries, ideologies or ethnic groups would stop. If everyone cared about doing the right thing and getting the greatest benefit for the community, things would be better in the world, for everyone.
What do you regret?
If I could live my life again, there are some things I would do differently. But then, I would certainly make other mistakes and then I would certainly want to change a few things. But it‘s still interesting as a mind game. There isn‘t really one particular thing I regret about my life. I think you always have to try to make the best of the opportunities you have. And if you decide on something that might later be seen as a „mistake“, that‘s still the only thing you could do. You didn‘t know any better at the time.
What question would you ask yourself? And the answer:
What would you like to see in the development of the beer industry in the future?
I would wish that natural ingredients would be dealt with much more openly in the development of new types of beer. With its variety of plants, nature has many options that have so far remained unexplored, because the beer laws in Germany which so far only allow malt (especially barley and wheat) and hops as ingredients. However, there are many other grains for which methods could perhaps be developed to produce tasty fermented beverages. For example, Japan and other Asian countries have sake and other alcoholic beverages made from rice. However, these go through a very different “brewing” process than beer and are therefore not really directly comparable.
It would be an enrichment if one were to try, for example, to breed corn or rice varieties that can be malted like barley, without using artificial methods and using the possibilities available to biology. Or if, for example, one would make special breeds from related plant species of hops, such as hemp, that enable cultivation all over the world and that can be used for normal beer production.