What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
Standing Stone Brewing Co. in Ashland, Ore. recently hired me as their brewer. I’m back in a small pub environment where I started 13 years ago. In ’96-’97 I had traveled for eight months throughout Europe and the U.S. While drinking beer everywhere on my travels, I slowly realized that I could be one of the people brewing in the pubs I was visiting. At the end of my travels I was living at home with my parents, having spent all my money traveling. While my dad was wondering about me getting a job, I began doing informational interviews with brewers. One of those interviews was the proverbial right time/right place moments. Both my enthusiasm and, as I learned later, previous bartending experience, landed me a part-time assistant brewing job at Sioux Falls Brewing Co.
What’s new at Standing Stone?
Me. I only started in mid-January of 2010. So with just over two months on the job, I’m probably the newest thing happening in the brewery. With Standing Stone’s openness, we are debuting specialty beers that they’ve never had in the past. Beyond that, a new project for the restaurant is a heat recovery system. We’ll be harvesting heat from all of the refrigeration units to heat domestic hot water for use throughout the restaurant and potentially the brewery. We’re expecting to save $1,000 per month in gas costs.
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
The advice and willingness to share. Once you get to know others, it’s easy to pick up the phone and call with a question to help solve an issue or simply to get feedback. Also, my wife and I just finished a three-and-a-half month Home Free Tour in late 2009 where we visited lots of breweries. People were always very open and willing to share their time by showing us a behind-the-scenes look at their brewery, having a pint, or even offering a place to stay. There are lots of fabulous people.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
Play with our dogs. We have two Labs, Belle and Hops, who love to play. Sometimes my wife accuses me of getting more rambunctious than them. Hiking through the woods is a favorite pastime, especially with the dogs. Now that we are living near mountains, lots of opportunity exists for this. Reading also keeps me fairly occupied—both books and magazines. We also do lots of entertaining at our house from impromptu invites to formal dinner parties to potlucks to big parties with live music like our Summer Soulstice party.
What’s your favorite beer and food pairing?
I love basil. Take a water cracker, top it with some tart chevre, add a good-sized leaf of lemon basil and eat it while sipping on a wheat beer, preferably a German hefeweizen. For people who are new to the food and beer pairing experience, I really like to introduce them to a fruit lambic alongside a simple brownie.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
Acquiring the guts to call and ask my wife out after first meeting her. That first date has led to a fantastic marriage, an introduction to having dogs (I never had dogs before and now I’ll never not have dogs), and the best ongoing adventure I’ve ever had. Just behind that, though, I’m also quite proud of the art exhibit/show that I put together at the local arts pavilion for proposing to her.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
While I rarely have the same beer in the fridge over any length of time, until I moved to Oregon you would find Summit Extra Pale Ale in my hand a lot. In the latter part of our Midwest stay, Bell’s Lager made a regular appearance as well.
What’s the most exotic travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
Bali, Indonesia. During college I took a one-month study/travel course in Malaysia and Indonesia. Being under 21 and able to drink legally seemed quite exotic at the time. I don’t remember the brand of any beer I drank other than it was mostly pale lager. This trip was also my first introduction to Guinness Foreign Stout.