What's your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I'm currently the head brewer at Rohrbach Brewing Co.’s brewpub [in Rochester, N.Y.] and mainly in charge of recipe formulation, new beers, cask-conditioned ales, etc. I jumped into the craft brewing industry when I started interning at Rohrbach's in 2008 while attending the American Brewers Guild. I attribute much of my love for beer due to all three of my brothers constantly having me try new brews and homebrewing together, so I decided to make it a serious career decision while interning. After interning for several months, I was hired by the company and began brewing at our brewpub and restaurant!
What's new at Rohrbach?
We've begun to crank up production at both the brewpub and the production brewery thanks to a few newer and larger fermenters. We currently have 14 tap lines running at the brewpub where we get to put on a wide assortment of ales and lagers, along with a few unique specialty batches. We're beginning to look at bottling our specialty beers in 22-ounce bottles, and we're also trying to add a complete grain-handling system (silo, augers, hoppers) at our production brewery. Finally, we're also beginning to expand distribution outside of Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.
What's the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
Establishing friendships and relationships with the vast number of people within the community. From beer pairings to brewfests, tastings, tours, and new beer releases, you can always meet tons of passionate brewers, beer aficionados, and people just starting their journey into craft beer. I have quite a few phone numbers and e-mail addresses from people who attend every single Rohrbach event, and they consistently ask me questions about beer every single week.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
Beer, beer, and more beer. I recently gave most of my unused homebrewing equipment to one of my older brothers, and we're planning quite a few beers for this summer. From old favorites (Peanut Butter Porter) to a few new ones (Chocolate Chipotle Firecracker Stout), we try to push our creativity when it comes to beers. I'm also starting to delve more into wines and meads, and there's no better way to experience those beverages than to share a few bottles with friends and family.
What's your favorite food and beer pairing?
Pale ale and extra sharp cheddar cheese! It can be a definitive pale ale like Sierra Nevada and a local cheese like Yancey's or Heluva Good, or it can be an English-style pale ale like Sam Smith's and an expensive import. Cheddar cheese and pale ales were made to be together!
What's your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
My biggest accomplishment not related to brewing beer would have to be the fact that the entire past year has gone completely as planned. I got married to my high-school sweetheart, we bought a 100-year old farmhouse near our families, and we just picked up our 12-week old Maine Coon kittens. Life just keeps getting better and better!
What's your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
My absolute favorite beer in the entire world is Steam Whistle pilsner, produced in Toronto. I fell in love with the beer when I went there to watch the New York Yankees play the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. It’s crisp and grainy with a sharp zip of noble hops. I would probably drink Steam Whistle every single day if I could!
What's the most memorable travel destination at which you've had a chance to sample the local beer?
I had the chance to travel to Sheffield, England last October to learn how to brew the flagship beer Pale Rider from Kelham Island Brewery. I've never been to Europe before, and the eight-day trip honestly felt like a dream. I had the chance to try a ridiculous number of cask-conditioned beers while I was there, and also had the opportunity to brew Rohrbach's Scotch Ale on their system as well! Since coming back to the States, I frequent the real ale pubs here in Rochester, because now I truly believe that beer is supposed to be drunk from a cask.